Once Man walked the path of life with two companions, though the law of life dictated that to walk with one required the forsaking of all others. Therefore Mans two companions were always at odds one with the other.
The first of Mans two companions had accompanied Man from the very beginning. He wore tattered clothes stained with grass and mud. He sported abrasions and bruises as badges of pride. His name was Youth.
Youth loathed the new addition to their pilgrimage as a condemned man despises the date of his execution. Youth held her beauty in disdain as he did the care Man took to ensure her wellbeing. Had it not been for Mans obsessive care, youth would have long since stripped the veil from her head. The enmity Youth bore was to none other than Love herself.
Mans path eventually made its way out of the even plains of the Genesis Plateau. They found themselves pounding down the foothills as gravity pulled them ever faster. The morning sun warmed their skin, removing the chill from their dew drenched garments.
Continuing their descent throughout the morning, they reached the base of the range at noontime. Love spied a downed tree at the edge of a wood and suggested a momentary respite for the weary travelers.
Man covered the dampened garments of Love with his cloak as they sat down to rest. Youth was not at all tired. He took the opportunity to explore their surroundings.
The brush is thick. Youth spoke, not nearly loud enough for the others to hear.
You can hardly discern the way in there.
Whats that you say? Man responded. And what is the inscription on that post there?
The rotted wood of the post made it blend with the surrounding shrubs. There were deep grooves in the post that looked as if some great Anakim cat had used it to sharpen its claws. Youth was just about to retort that he had seen no post when the sign caught his eye.
The Valley of Broken Hearts Youth read aloud. A shiver came over Love and she asked Man to verify what she had heard.
There was a moment of silence and worry that overtook the pilgrims. But a moment of silence was all Youth could allow and so he broke,
I have made note of others we have passed in our journey. I have seen them happy and content to abandon their procession of progress. If we proceed we will experience, the cost of which is innocence. Let us content ourselves in the abandonment of our progression.
Love, what think you? Man inquired in enigma.
Love answered, I have seen the exchange of innocence for experience. It is a high price. But there have also been those who have experienced without participation and have preserved innocence thereby.
To discontinue or even to retard our progression would be to arrest Mans blooming spirit. Man, you must proceed.
I could die in there! youth blew. His face began to glow like an ember in the fire.
Man rose from his uneasy repose. Love, too, may parish here. The snares of this valley have been set for the likes of Love.
Look. Look here at this fallen cedar upon which we have sat. See how lovers have engraved their initials in hearts together herein. See how they were later vandalized.
See you how the tree was hewn? Not with the skill of a woodsmens axe but with the rage of a jealous hatchet. She has all to lose here as well as you.
Then I will return to the Plateau! youth blurted.
Man was set aback. He paused momentarily before continuing with the tone of a beggar. The first steps I took in this journey were instigated by your curiosity. You have ever been my strength. It is inevitable that we must part but, not today. I implore you continue with me?
Youth hung his head and put his hands in his pockets. One foot swung like a pendulum; knocking a pebble around in the trail dust. Youth is eternal only in the second journey. He consented. So I will walk with you today and tomorrow for I will not die as one who abandons his friend.
The travelers then resigned themselves. Man lifted Love to her feet and received his cloak again. They stood in the shadow of the signpost peering into the shadows of the forest. All felt awkward so man began to sing in jest, One more river to cross. One more mountain to climb
Youth ended the stanza with, One more valley that I gotta go through before I leave my troubles behind.
All smiled uncomfortably. Youth took a deep breath. Let us be on our way!
Love and Man struggled to keep up with Youth at first. He barreled through the brush like a wild boar. Before long, however, the shadows of the valley overtook his boldness and checked his gate to a fearful pace.
In fact, the darkness was the first thing that worked on the courage of the three explorers. Even amidst the day, the anarchy of free growing briars overcast by black spruce reduced the light to intermittent rays of deception. The beams turned each shadow in Mans eyes as he walked.
The next thing was the sounds. The rubbing of cricket legs would mutate with every passing chirp until it hacked at Loves emotions like a two man saw. There was the rustling of partridge in the brush. But it, too, would distort ever so slowly until it echoed through the valley like indian elephants at the barricades of the Maccabaeus.
These, and many other sounds, seemed to begin at intermittent times, but over the course of measure, would crescendo together until it pushed the travelers to the brink of insanity. Then nothing. Not a rustling leaf until the crickets began rubbing and it began again.
As the sun began to set, paranoia enveloped the mind of Man. It was not a sense that he was being watched but a sense that Love was being craved by someone or something as one desires to devour during a drought. Ironically, Love felt that Man was being coveted.
Look lively! See you in the clearing ahead? shouted Youth.
The three beheld the remains of a hut. Fires of desire had gutted the inner walls and ceiling.
Who would dare attempt to live in such a place as this? Man asked.
Love responded, One consumed in bitterness would attempt to tame such a place; till they are consumed by it.
By this time the sun had disappeared behind the mountain ridge on the other side of the valley. There only remained a dim green glow about the valley as the remaining light seemed to emit from the leaves and branches.
The travelers were confident that they were all but valley but without the sun to give light and stars to compass their course they could easily get turned around in their wanderings. Consequently they all agreed to make camp within the walls of the ruins. There was no protection from the elements but the remaining structure seemed to provide a sense of security in the wilderness disorder.
Man prepared a fire. Youth exhibited the new additions to his collection of abrasions and lacerations. Soon they all settled down around the fire. Man and Love held each other close. Youth sprawled himself opposite the fire, rolling his eyes at their parade of affection. Exhausted by the days travel, they all soon slipped into deep hard sleep.
While asleep, an angel of Gabriels host imparted a dream unto Man. Within the dream Man stood in a crossroad, basking in the morning sun. As a warrior holds a fallen comrade, Man held a wounded Love in his arms.
A silver bearded elder stood before him in a divergence of the way. As Love and Man approached the sage spoke, Where are you going and how do you know the way?
Man responded, I know neither the way nor where I am going. I know only that there is a law upon my heart commanding me forward, even when it is at the expense of my friends.
There is no lasting peace in this journey, but a sword, which divides even the most intimate of acquaintances.
At this man questions, What is your name?
I am the request Solomon made instead of wealth and power; but receiving me brought him those things as well. I speak into the ears of the just ones when they are falsely accused. I give counsel to all who ask. I am Wisdom.
Please, oh sage to king and prophet, man reflected aloud, there is a divergence in the path. Which of these paths should I take? Speak to me. To the left I see a broad and easy path following the river through the cities of the lowlands. To the right I see a narrow and straight path leading up into the mountains where the ledges are thin.
Man motioned as if to continue speaking but knew not what more to say so Wisdom interjected, When there is nothing more to say, say nothing.
You must decide for yourself. You have experienced and so you must take from this valley, the path of pollution or purity.
There was a countenance of frustrated confusion adorning mans face so Wisdom continued with a slight smile, But, if you are to walk with me, you will ascend into the mountains.
I would walk with you, Man started, but experience has taught me that walking with one is to forsake all others. Love is my companion.
Wisdoms slight smile overtook the whole of his bearded face. God is the God of Love and Wisdom. All things are possible!
At that moment Wisdom motioned to the sky as if he expected something beautiful. Still pondering Wisdoms words, Love and Man fixed their eyes on the featureless blue sky.
Then it began; a million rumbling voices bellowing a fully diminished chord. All four winds converged above their heads. Before there was any opportunity for fear, the winds reached down and gently lifted Man and Love 2,000 cubits into the sky. They began to spin around each other until their bodies blurred. In this moment Love and Man became one. Man was transfixed in the winds, radiating with the glory and purity of Love.
Amidst this glorious dream Man heard the roar of Lust. As his body descended to earth he felt the jaws of Jealousy seizing his arm.
Man was violently awakened. By the time he had fully come to himself he was being dragged from the fire side by the horrid beast of Jealousy. The camp was under full siege by the demons of the valley.
Love screamed. The beast of Bitterness pranced about her, preparing to devour.
Youth was huddled in the corner of the huts walls, whimpering and crying.
Man dug the fingers of his free hand into the dirt, in a futile attempt to slow his abduction. Jealousy pulled Man over the rubble of the collapsed portion of the wall. His head bounced against a jagged stone. Then his fingers seized the stone. This had momentarily stopped the monster but soon the stone became dislodged in Mans had. The beast began dragging Man again in an attempt to hoard Man to itself. With all that remained of his life, Man hammered away at the beasts skull with the stone. A faithful blow pierced one of Jealousys oversized ears. The pain of the blow demanded of immediate emancipation.
Man laid prostrate and dazed trying to gather himself to further action. He rolled his head to the side when he heard a scream. It was the desperate cry of love.
The monster of Lust knocked Love off her feet with one swipe of his paw.
In this instant Youth sprang to his feat and dashed for the fire. He pulled a brand from the burning and charged Lust without checking his gate. Lust saw Youth approaching and met his charge with a powerful lunge. The bulging eyes of Lust made an all too accessible target. The burning ember found its mark.
Run! I will keep them at bay! Youth shouted valiantly.
Love attempted to rise but the wounds in her thighs prohibited her retreat. Man was now recovered from his daze and knew he had to gird himself to action. He scrambled to his feet and gathered Love in his arms in a single motion.
Just then, two lights, greater in strength than that of the fire, began to illumine above them. The pilgrims and the monsters paused to make notice. The first light was that of the rising sun stretching its rays from the Genesis Plateau in the East as a man might stretch his arms when rising from his bed. The second light was the white capped mountains of the western horizon answering back the light of the sun in the East.
This new development renewed the hope of the travelers and made the beasts more anxious. The travelers now had direction. The beasts were running out of time. The scent of blood and the screams of Love had enlisted every demon of the Valley in the chase.
Love spoke softly and feebly, If we make our flight to the West the suns rays will descend the western mountains and meet us at the edge of the forest.
Youth continued to battle Lust as he spoke, Yes! They wont enter the light. But you must carry her. When they see your flight it will ignite the predators and they will press hard upon you. If I do not stay behind to delay them, none of us will escape this tribulation.
Love opposed leaving Youth behind but Youth again interrupted, No time for debate. Youth is for war. This is my glory!
Man had never heard Youth speak with such boldness and conviction. Man knew His lifelong companion was right. I wont forget. Man yelled in resignation as they made their escape.
Love strained to hear Youths battle over the jarring of Man carrying her. Above the heavy breathing and the cracking of branches and the swooshing of leaves they heard Youths final shout. It was not the scream of the fearful but of the fearless.
For a moment, Mans mind was filled with regret for having brought Youth so far. But He could not dwell on this. Monsters seemed to be appearing from every tree and shrub of the valley. Loved looked behind and saw the blood matted face of Desire pressing down hard upon them with many other infamous beasts in company. Man ran feverishly.
The edge of the wood was in sight. Behind, Envy had come along side Desire. Just as one beast got close enough to overtake the travelers, the other beast would shove it to the side, buying man a few more seconds. Loved closed her eyes. Soon she could hear the breathing of the beast over the pounding of her heart. Desire moved in so close that the flames from its nostrils singed Mans woolen garment. The fearsome claws of Envy swiped the heal of Man.
In a final act of desperation Man leapt in the direction of the clearing and the approaching rays of the morning sun. Crashing to the ground Man and love scrambled toward the light. As soon as their bodies were within the warming rays, they collapsed with their faces to the ground, expecting to be devoured.
Despite the horrible raging of the beasts, they felt nothing but the warmth from above. Slowly they turned to look back. Though the sun was in their eyes they saw their pursuers in the shadows of the forest edge. Some shook the trees. Some beat their chests. Some nipped at one another in frustration. Others howled in rage at the rising sun.
Tenderly lifting her again, Man stood in a crossroad, basking in the morning sun. As a warrior holds a fallen comrade, Man held a wounded Love in his arms.