Journey of a Lifetime
“Journey of a Lifetime” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Muhammad Taha Zaffar, Arab Unity School, Dubai, UAE.
Journey of a Lifetime
I was confused and just wanted to fly out but as well so tired.
Dad had taken my hand, clammy with sweat, and was helping me through the endless bracken and bramble bushes that make up the amazon rain forest at the end of our practically deserted road. The wind whistles, and I shiver slightly under my jacket. I was tired and struggling to keep up. Dad’s strides were large and fast paced, while my petite legs struggled to keep moving. As we went deeper and deeper into the forest, I felt a sudden urge of distrust, and that maybe Dad had no idea where we were going either. I realized that I could easily let go of Dad’s hand and bolt back to our cottage, but my curiosity has got the better of me. I needed to know where we’re going.
I looked above me, to find that the sky was completely blocked out by grand, towering oak trees. I could practically hear the leaves whispering to each other and realized that the forest is more eerie than I had ever imagined. I almost expected ghosts to jump out of the verdant, overgrown grass behind the shrubs. I felt as though I’ve been caught up in a horror movie, set in a dark, haunted forest.
But suddenly, as I looked ahead of me, I saw where the trees give way to their hidden secret. The vegetation was parted, creating a clearing in the seemingly endless woodland.
And through the clearing beholds one of the most breath-taking settings I have ever seen.
The sky was a wondrous array of different shades of orange and yellow; you could become mesmerized and lost in its beauty if you stared at it for too long. And below it lies a river, as still as can be, amber in color from the reflection of the sky. I daren’t say a word, out of fear that I would break the glorious silence.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Dad said. I looked up at him, a radiant beam adorning my face.
Dad griped my hand a little tighter, and led me down to the edge of the river. Autumn leaves crunched under my feet, a refreshing sound after having heard the dull squelch of the leaves in the heart of the forest for the past half hour.
We settled down at the side of the river, sitting on our coats to spare the cleanliness of our clothes. I expected to feel cold after taking my coat off, but the scenery has filled me with so much warmth that the chilly breeze was ineffective. Dad and I held hands as we stared out across the water.
“Your mother used to take me here,” Dad told me. This suddenly grabbed my attention. Any thoughts of my mother intrigued me beyond belief. I never really knew her; she died when I was only about two years of age. But, I do vaguely remember a pair of warm, brown eyes, which I believe were hers.
“Tell me more,” I said, deliberately keeping my voice monotone, for I knew we were reaching a sensitive topic. Dad suppressed a sigh.
“She had lived in this area for nearly all her life. When we finally bought a place together, she guided me into the forest, in the way I have done to you tonight. She showed me the lake, but I could never truly appreciate its full beauty, for I knew in my heart that the woman who stood beside me was ten times more beautiful. It was here, in this very setting, that I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.”
I tried to fight off the urge to cry. I asked, in a shaky voice “What happened?”
Our eyes connected. “A few months later, I proposed to her. Right here, at the lake, under the amber rays of a golden sunset. And in about another year, you were born. Everything was perfect; I had a wonderful wife, a gorgeous baby daughter, and pure happiness.” He suddenly averted his gaze, turning to face away from me. “But she fell ill. So incredibly ill. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces, and I knew, deep down, that she couldn’t fight it. And one day, I woke up, and she was gone.”
My tears are flowing freely now, trickling down my face and wetting my cheeks. Dad turned back to face me, covering me in a warm embrace, and I understood the hardship he went through.
“I still have you though.” He said. The tears stopped, and I stared at him lovingly. “I still have my darling daughter, who I would do anything for.” He gently planted a kiss on the top of my head, before we trail back through the forest, to our warm, cozy house.
“I would do anything for you too, Dad.” And the image of his smile, at that moment, stayed with me forever.