The Pack

Photo by Fabian Mardi on Unsplash

A lone figure trudges through ice and snow. Frozen crystals cake his clothes and the pack on his back cuts into his shoulders. His whole body is numb and fatigue threatens to pull him into an endless sleep.  He can’t remember how long he’s been traveling thus weighed down, the endless white has blotted out all sense of time and memory. He knows he must soon find shelter or succumb to the cold and the burden.

A grey smudge stands out against the stark white sky.
Smoke. Fire. There must be a fire there. He rushes towards it as fast as his half frozen body will allow. A lone cabin stands in the endless white. He founders through the snow to knock on the door and a motherly woman answers. “Come in, come in. You must be frozen.” She bustles him inside and hurriedly knocks snow and ice from his clothes.

She pulls off his pack and coat and is about to take them away when he stops her, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to keep my bag with me.”

“Are you sure honey? It’s awfully heavy.”

“It’s all I have.”

A look of sympathy and understanding flashes in her eyes and she hurries away with his coat soon returning with a warm blanket. “Come in and sit by the fire, I’ll get you something to warm you up.” As he moves into the home he’s surprised to find that he’s not the only person to find his way in from the cold. Several others sit around the fire wrapped in blankets and holding steaming mugs. Packs of every size and shape rest on their laps or beside them as they listen intently to a man who paces back and forth before the fire. He stops as he sees the new arrival.

“Welcome friend.” The blanketed figures make space for the traveler on the couch and he sits. “What’s that you’re carrying?” He glances down at the pack in his hands, wishing the speaker hadn’t drawn attention to it.

“Nothing much.”

“Isn’t that heavy?”

“It’s alright, I’m used to carrying it.”

“In this frozen wasteland you have to be careful what you carry with you. Let’s see what you have.” He sets his bag down and opens it up. He pulls out a heavy black word.
He can’t even look at the next thing he pulls out even though he never goes anywhere without it. 
He keeps going.
Worthless. Lazy. Pathetic. Fraud. Weak.
Word after word, weight after weight, until his pack is empty and the space before the fire is littered with them.

“Friend, why are you carrying these?”

The man shrugs, “I don’t like to think about it.”

“Here, take these.” His host hands him one gleaming word after another.

The traveler looks from the beautiful words to the heavy black ones. How do I let go and pick up these new words?

“It’s hard to let go of what we’ve held so long.” The host scoops them all into the bag, new words with old. “You’ll have to carry them till you work through them, but I think you’ll find it lighter now.” With a warm smile he turns to address someone else’s pack, leaving the man to marvel at how much lighter his has become.

The girl beside him leans in and whispers, “Have you been here before?”

“No, you have?”

She nods and smiles. “Welcome, we’re glad you made it.”

For all those dealing with anxiety and depression. For all those weighted down by damaging things they believe about themselves. You are not alone.
I’ve been where you are.
Welcome, I’m glad you’ve made it.

1 Comment

  1. Best. Short story. Ever.
    I can’t lie, first I thought it was a story about a haunted house or hallucinations. Then I thought it would be some kind of bloody cult horror story…
    Then I was surprised by the lightness and at the same time heavy story.
    It was beautiful and very relatable. I loved it 🙂


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