The Paths

There came a point along their path when it split into two. There was no telling, from where the path forked, where either side might lead, and so there was little too guide them in their choice. Nevertheless, they did not truly discuss it, not aloud. They simply chose one side and continued on their journey.

They would discuss later which of them had made the choice, but in truth neither of them knew whether they had followed or been followed, or whether either of them had made a real decision at all. Perhaps they had simply taken the path which seemed easiest or most natural.

It hadn’t seemed to matter much, at first, at least from the point where the path split. Both sides had looked identical. They both travelled in the same direction, so presumably, they would take the travellers to the same place. Yet as they travelled along their chosen path, it became, step by step, progressively more unpleasant.

It was not a hard path to travel, not really. They told themselves it could be worse. The footing was uneven, sloping off to one side or another, spliced through with roots and stones that dug into their soles. The trees hung heavy overheard, hiding the sun and sky and giving everything a grey, desolate cast.

They caught glimpses of that other path from time to time, through the dense growth of the forest. It called to them, for the golden glow of the sun fell upon it, and blooming flowers grew along its path.

“We should go to that path,” said Diu. “It looks much easier and more pleasant to travel upon.”

“We can’t,” said Ohn. “Look how thickly the forest grows between this path and that one. We would never be able to cross it.”

“If we can see the other path, surely we can cross through the forest to reach it,” said Diu. “We can simply go ahead until we can see the other path through the forest. Then we will know we are at an easier point of passage.”

“The forest is dark,” Ohn said. “It is dark, and thick with branches and thorns. Crossing it will be painful.”

“Walking this path is painful,” argued Diu.

“Not as painful as crossing the forest,” Ohn said, “nor as difficult. This path has been laid out before it. It is easy to walk upon.”

“It may well be easier than cutting through the forest,” Diu conceded, “but the path is not easy. Look down at your feet, and tell me they do not bleed from the rough stones and roots.”

“They do,” said Ohn, “but I know the rocks and pains of this path. I don’t know what pain awaits me within the thick of the forest. I suspect it will be worse. No, I know it will be.”

“You can’t know that unless we try to make our way,” said Diu. “Even if it is worse, we can see the light of the other path. Surely it will be better than this one. Surely it will be worth the risk the forest presents.”

“You can’t know that,” Ohn rebutted. “If I can’t know the risks of the forest, you can’t know that the other path is greater than this one.”

“That may be true, but I am willing to take the risk, if only to see the sun and feel it upon my skin,” Diu said.

They argued this way, back and forth, as they strode down the path. Time and distance passed until finally, they came upon another place where the forest between the paths was thin enough that they could see through to the other path and its sunlit flowers.

“I am going to cross the forest,” said Diu. “I will not waste this opportunity, Ohn.”

“Do as you feel you must,” sad Ohn. “I want to continue on this path. It is the one we chose, and the one we agreed on.”

“You should come with me,” Diu. “We will be happier there, and I will be happier with you by my side.”

With a resigned smile, Ohn said, “You can’t know that, but that shouldn’t prevent you from seeking your own happiness. I will stay on this path, but if you think the other path is better, you should make the choice you believe in.”

They embraced once before they parted, but they did part. Ohn continued on that first path, the one Diu would know forever as dark and dreary. Diu forged through the forest, grimacing in pain as branches and sharp thorns tore at his flesh, but believing all the while that the pain of the change was worth it.

Neither would know, in the end, which of them had made the right choice, or whether either choice was truly the right one, for the paths never met again.

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