20 Jul Keeper of Eternity
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"Keeper of Eternity"Written by Chris Phoenix
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Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
Over the past millennium, science and medicine has advanced so far as to put miracles in the hands of men. Many of the diseases that were fatal merely five hundred years ago now have cures or at least treatments thanks to the brilliant minds of man. That being so, there’s still one fatal infirmity humanity has yet to overcome, and that’s mortality.
For those devoted enough, however, there is yet a way. Located just off the East Coast of North America somewhere is a shrine dating as far back as the earliest recorded civilizations. Lost to the ages now, there is but one path to this shrine, and it still sends its call, as if daring the hardiest of man to make that perilous voyage.
If you find yourself in Savannah, GA someday and think you’d like to play your hand at immortality, simply hop in your car and continue east out of town along E President Street and continue along it until it turns into Islands Expressway. If the forces deem you worthy, or if they’re simply in the mood to watch in amusement as you throw your life away, the sky will darken with rainclouds–even if it was clear and blue only moments before–and the forest about you will seem to glow. Keep your eyes peeled and you should see a turn-off into the woods a few minutes after this happens.
Now if you’re carrying a map you’ll probably notice this path is not indicated anywhere on it, but pay that no heed. Continue along the tight and densely overgrown path at a slow pace, for if you go off the road here, you’ll have no hope of ever finding your way out of this forest, and no tow-truck will ever find the turn-off to come retrieve you. Simply follow the path before you–for while there are many bends, there are no turn-offs from this one. The trees will only grow denser as you progress, until the limbs scrape like fingers along the top of your vehicle (you should probably note that it would be a very bad idea to undergo this journey in a convertible).
Eventually, after approximately forty-five minutes to an hour of driving, you should come to a dead end, where the trees tighten about you like a noose around a doomed man’s neck. If you have a GPS system in your car it will proclaim that you’re about fifteen miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Do not attempt to reverse at this point, for you’ll find that the path is no longer there. Check your watch, or your phone, or your car’s read-out for the time, for regardless of the time of day not a single ray of light will spill through these densely packed trees. If it is dark out, or if it will be dark out within the next few hours do not open your door, and do not turn off your headlights. You may turn off your car every so often to save gas, but you’ll want to crank it up again periodically to keep your battery from dying. If you let down your guard in this forest at night, you’re as good as dead.
If you were wise enough to start this trip early enough, and it’s still light out, you may exit the car at this point. You’ll notice the trees around you leaning in your direction, as if peering down at you curiously. In a loud assertive voice proclaim, “I am here to claim my fate, and none here shall stand in my way.”
You’ll hear a sound behind you. When you turn to look you’ll notice a small path that hadn’t been there before. Do not hesitate, do not question it, simply walk purposefully forward and start down the path before you’re trapped in that clearing indefinitely. The path may wind drastically, depending on which way you were facing when it was created, simply continue walking and do not look back, no matter how loud the rustling gets behind you.
You’ll soon find yourself ankle-deep in a swamp, and you may find the sound of frogs croaking a soothing change from the forest’s lively rustling. It would be most wise at this point to find the longest thickest branch you can, for the marshes of Georgia can hide the nastiest creatures in only a foot of water, so you’ll need to feel your way along like a blind man.
Only about 10 yards from the forest-line the land drops off into the ocean, and unless the forces are feeling particularly cruel you should be able to see the log poking up out of the water right away. If not, you’ll need to search, and it may take a while but once you’re near it there’s no mistaking it. Walk until you feel the ground break away beneath you, then get into the water. When you’re touching the log, you’ll want to take in the largest lungful of breath you can manage, then dive under and swim to the bottom as quickly as you can. It will be a long swim but do not turn around, even if you think you’re about to faint. Swim as fast as you can and keep going down, keeping a hand on the log until you come out the other side.
You’ll resurface in a pond in the middle of a dark forest much similar to the one you just exited, only just at the edge of the pond will be an ancient building of indeterminable origin. Go inside. Fires will be lit, marking your path to the shrine of the Keeper. A large statue, the likeness of the Keeper, will stand at the far wall and at his feet will be an empty bowl. Address the Keeper in a loud, confident voice, saying “I’ve come very far, and all I ask for is something to drink.”
His response will be a single, very personal question, and he will speak it directly into your mind, so listen carefully. When he has asked his question, do not take too long to answer, and answer only in the truth. BE VERY PRECISE WITH YOUR ANSWER. He will know if you’re trying to hide something. Once you have answered him completely, the bowl at his feet will fill with a strange liquid. This liquid will reflect the entire rainbow’s spectrum of colors, and it will bear no scent. You must drink this liquid, or you will never leave the forest alive. Depending on whether or not the Keeper liked your answer and deems you worthy, the liquid may be plain tap water, or a lethal poison. If it is the latter, you will only know once the symptoms begin to take hold. If it is the former, you will be free to leave.
The forest will part before you, showing you the exit, much like the years will part before you, leaving you alone to endure the eons. You will see your family and loved ones die, and you will see wars begin and end, but you will never die. You will see the sun explode and the earth burned to a cinder, but you will never die. You will know the true meaning of eternal life.
Credit: Chris Phoenix
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