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Elizabeth Hazel and the Day of Desires

Katie Humphrey


Have you ever felt alone? Misunderstood? Like your life is meaningless? Me too. When I was younger, there were days when I didn’t understand the point of my life or the point of anything, really. And that, my friend, is a dangerous place to be. For when you don’t realize that you were meant for something great—whether you believe it or not—you make choices that confirm the lie that nothing matters … including yourself.

So I invite you to take an exciting journey with Elizabeth Hazel. She knows exactly how empty life feels when nothing seems to work out the way she thinks it should, especially since she feels like she is less than perfect. Her life is full of problems, just like yours and mine; but things change for the better when Elizabeth is forced to confront her biggest fears.

That’s why she’s sharing her story with you. The best part, really, because it’s her eighteenth birthday as she embarks on an adventure of a lifetime—one that’s full of mystery, ­monsters, fear, and vulnerability. If that kind of stuff scares you or makes you uncomfortable, know that Elizabeth Hazel will show you the way.

Now it’s time to turn the page. Embark on this journey and find out what it’s like to face your biggest fears. You, too, can make your life better!

– Katie Humphrey, friend of Elizabeth Hazel

 

1: Interruption

Coffee

Sitting here at the coffee shop, the strong aroma of nutmeg, cinnamon, and espresso wafting past, reminds me that another day has gone by and my life has yet to begin. I’m just a girl, going through the motions, distracting myself because I’m secretly miserable inside. I always thought I’d be farther along than I am right now. There are so many things I wanted to achieve by this age.

Three more minutes and my break is up, and it’s back to making lattes and cappuccinos for busy, over-caffeinated New Yorkers. It’s mid-afternoon and my shift is over at seven, giving me another four hours of monotonous work.

It almost feels like I’ll never leave this place or do anything more with my life if I continue on this path. And between you and me, that’s a terrifying thought.

Now that school is out, I’m working full-time, making minimum wage at the same coffee shop I’ve been chained to for the last two summers. Just one more year at school and I’ll officially be free to do what I want with my life.

Living here in New York City after I graduate definitely isn’t ideal. I’ll barely be able to afford my own place, much less have money to do anything exciting. I’ll probably have to live with three other roommates, like my sister does, just to survive.

I already deal with enough pressure from school and my parents. It’s enough to drive someone mad, and I’ll admit that I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to that point. As a result of trying to do well in school and building toward a future I don’t even want, I’m always worrying. I feel stressed from having to be so perfect all the time, especially since I generally feel anything but perfect. I gained almost fifty pounds in the last few years of high school, which seems to utterly consume my midsection. I now secretly smoke to calm my nerves and to hopefully get rid of some of the excess weight.

I know what you’re thinking, but I’ve tried diets. All of them. I’ve cut carbs for weeks on end, consumed more coffee and caffeinated supplements than any sane person probably should, gone on fiber-only plans, and filled my body with pills that made me sick for days. Yes, I’ve been able to drop at least thirty pounds at a time, but I can’t stay on any of these regimes. It’s not that I’m lazy … Well, maybe I am. But mostly, I feel tired and cranky when I deprive myself, and it’s just not worth it. I’d rather be fat and happy, eating the foods I love and at least enjoying my life for those few hours between work and sleep.

I’m not interested in taking up a running habit or joining the track team at school, nor do I care to eat “healthy” foods. The doctor says I have a thyroid problem, which my parents believe is just another excuse for being fat. I’ve tried so many things out there to lose weight and fix my health problems, but nothing seems to work.

I eat a lot of fast food because I’m on a limited budget and I drink only when I go out with friends. It’s frustrating to look and feel this way, but I don’t know any other way to be right now. And I know it’s a strange thing to admit, but I feel like if I could lose weight or just look skinnier, my life would somehow magically change for the better. At least I’d be happier, and it’s probably the only way I’ll ever have a boyfriend.

Fun fact: I don’t really want to go to college. Don’t tell my parents, but their idea of me getting yet another educational degree after these twelve, long, and daunting years seems like a terrible idea. Plus, my sister just graduated from her alma mater and doesn’t seem to be doing any better with a degree.

The truth is, I know my calling is out there, but I can’t seem to make sense of it. I don’t really know what I’m good at, besides working an espresso machine. I’m afraid of the future, and I’m equally as scared of staying stuck here. I’m worried that nothing will ever change and just as fearful of making changes and leaving everything I know behind. Basically, my life is all contradictions.

That’s why I’m telling my story. I can’t be the only one who’s ever felt this way, and I don’t want to be the type of person who waits her entire life to do something big—to risk it all and find what I’m looking for.

I want to be happy. I want to be free, and I’m tired of hoping someone will come along and make it all better.

“Liz! Elizabeth! Elizabeth Hazel!”

I hear my name being called by Sandy Thomas, a girl I work with, and realize my break is already over.

“Coming,” I reply, letting out a sigh of mixed feelings. I’m bummed to go back to work but glad I don’t have to think about my life anymore.

As I start taking a few orders from customers, Sandy leans in and asks, “So what do you want to do for your birthday next week?”

“I dunno,” I respond. “I’m working that day, and I’m not looking forward to celebrating anyway.”

“Oh come on! We have to do something,” insists Sandy. “Let’s go out for a few drinks after your shift. I close with you that day. You can tell your parents you’re staying at my house.”

“Yeah, okay.” I’m less than enthusiastic, but I also don’t have the energy to fight Sandy’s pleading. Another year has come and gone in my life and nothing has changed. Oh wait, that’s not true. I gained another seventeen pounds this year. See? There have been changes, I think to myself. It just keeps getting worse. At least a few drinks will take away the sting of nothing to celebrate. Oh good, my slow decline into becoming an alcoholic.

“Your birthday is next week?” I look up suddenly, surprised by the question from a stranger’s deep, calming voice. It’s a man, maybe in his late forties, dressed in a black shirt and jeans, with dark, soulful eyes and equally bronzed skin. He’s tall and broad, and while his tone sounds mildly curious in an almost vulnerable way, his presence intimidates me. What’s even stranger is that something about him seems familiar.

I didn’t see him place an order with Sandy, nor did I notice his entrance into the coffee shop. Despite this, I decide to answer the stranger’s question and say, “Yes, next Wednesday, July fifth.”

“That’s an interesting day to celebrate a birthday,” the man replies with a hinting tone, as if he knows something that I don’t.

“Why is that?” I ask, suddenly interested to hear his answer.

He pauses and holds my gaze for a few moments before responding, “This year, on the fifth of July, is The Day of Desires. There are certain ancient, spiritual teachings that claim the idea that this day only comes along every two hundred years. It’s lucky your birthday would coincide with such a special day.”

I stare at him for what seems to be a very long ten seconds before awkwardly replying, “Ooookay. I guess I’m lucky then.”

“You are,” he says with a sly grin. “And I think this birthday will prove unlike any others.”

The first thought that goes through my head—besides, Call security!—is, What is he talking about? What kind of person goes around making creepy, intrusive comments to people he doesn’t even know? At the same time, a prickling thought tells me there might be something more to him. I reach forward for an espresso cup to make my next order, and his hand suddenly touches mine.

“Remember what I said, Elizabeth. The fifth is a day that only comes along every two hundred years. You’re going to find things are not what they seem on this day.” He smiles, removes his hand from mine, and turns to walk out. I stand there frozen, baffled by his last words to me.

Over the next few hours, I run our conversation through my mind over and over again. I realize he didn’t order a drink, and the espresso I was making during our exchange was for the next customer. How did he even know my name? He must have heard Sandy say it.

The whole thing seems bizarre, and I start to wonder if there’s some kind of conspiracy going on. I’m not typically paranoid, but having a random, possibly disturbed man know important details about my life doesn’t sit well with me. My brows furrow as I try to make sense of what happened, when Sandy interrupts my foggy daze.

“Hey Liz, we’re out of beans. Can you go to the supply room and bring up two more bags?” she asks.

“Yeah. Sure thing,” I respond. I’m glad to have something to do for the moment that allows me to shake off the anxious feeling I have from my wandering thoughts.

The supply room is located in the back of the store, under a trap door. It’s small, maybe 120 square feet, and it keeps our coffee and espresso beans fresh. I lift open the door and climb down into the dark, dry room, flipping the light switch on to find the two burlap bags Sandy asked me to retrieve. Once I locate them, I pick up the first bag. A shiver runs through my spine as I notice an earwig, now on the move, whose hiding space has just been compromised.

“Ugh!” I moan. This storage room suddenly feels like a reflection of my life. Cramped. Stifling. Infested. I grab the other bag and get out of there as quickly as I can, leaving the earwig untouched. I know I’m being dramatic about a tiny bug, but my disgust for the creature simply reminds me of my own life and how tired I am of the way things are turning out.

I clock out an hour later and go home. It’s time for a long night of rest. I have a couple of days off before I get the joy of working for six straight days, including my birthday.

 

2: The Legend

Forest copy

I wake up the morning of the fifth, my birthday, feeling groggy and a bit depressed. The past few days have been a blur of clocking in and out of work, going home, eating with my parents, and unfortunately tuning into the drama of my friends online. I know it’s silly to think I’d wake up one day in different surroundings with my life completely changed, but sometimes I wish it were possible. Especially on a day when I’m now one year older and in desperate need of rescuing.

I want someone to save me, to take me away from my life and myself, and show me the path to fulfilling my dreams. I lie in bed and think about what I would do if I had everything I really wanted. In another life, I’d be outdoors all day, always on exciting adventures, and finally making it on my own. I’d be in great physical shape and confident in myself. I would be able to do amazing things with all of the boundless energy I would have, and I would feel happy all the time. I would have friends who actually support me instead of focusing solely on their own problems. Maybe I’d even meet someone who loves me for exactly who I am.

The satisfaction and joy I feel in my heart from imagining a different life suddenly makes me uncomfortable. I roll over and wonder, Is this really something that’s possible, or am I just being unrealistic?

No one likes a dreamer, someone who can’t face reality in life and make the best of it. My father is always telling me to be more practical, to be reasonable about my future. I feel a twinge of doubt bubble up about my fantasies. Then the usual voice of defeat resonates once again in my mind, telling me my dream is not possible, that what I want will never truly be mine.

Warm tears well up in my eyes, and the feeling of hopelessness chokes in my throat. Then, as if to intentionally interrupt my self-pity, the words from the ominous man at the coffee shop wash over me like a powerful tide. My other thoughts dissipate as I rehearse what he said to me, letting their current continuously lap over me. “The Day of Desires … comes along every two hundred years … Things are not what they seem on this day.”

I begin to wonder about The Day of Desires. What exactly does that mean? I’ve never heard of such a day, though I’m pretty out of the loop with ancient traditions.

I roll out of bed, hearing my mom yell from downstairs for me to get up and get ready for work. I rub my eyes and make my way to the shower when, without warning, my mind and body are utterly paralyzed. I’m standing in front of the bathroom door, and I can’t move an inch. A white light flashes in my eyes and I’m blinded by a startling vision.

I’m suddenly standing in a forest surrounded by trees whose massive trunks soar taller than my eyes can see, their branches covering the sky. In the dim light of the forest I’m able to make out a blue force field glowing brightly, beyond which I can only see a stone monument of some kind. I feel something lurking deep in the woods. I turn my head slightly to see what creatures surround me, and the impact of a large force knocks me sideways …

I’m startled back to reality, stumbling from my hallucination paralysis by a hard shove. I look over and see Josh, my annoying younger brother, trying to claim the bathroom before I do.

“Hey, I’m in a rush this morning; do you mind if I use the bathroom first?” asks Josh, moving past me into the bathroom and turning on the shower before putting his things down on the sink.

“Well, since you’re already in there,” I say in a sarcastic, irritated tone. He’s clearly unaware that it’s my birthday or the fact that I, too, am in a rush to get somewhere.

“I’ll be quick!” he exclaims with his typical idiotic yet charming smile and slams the door in my face.

“Yeah, okay,” I yell through the bathroom door, “but I’ve gotta go soon too, so hurry!” I’m still distracted by the haunting image in my mind, so I don’t attempt to fight Josh on his rude behavior.

I walk back into my room and grab my laptop from the nightstand. I need to find out what’s going on with me, and with Josh in the bathroom, I have at least half an hour to find some answers. The vision that just consumed me still seems so real … it felt real. Yet I know I was wide awake, just standing in my house. Am I going crazy?

I open my computer, pull up a search engine and type in, “day of desires ancient spiritual information.” Only nine results appear as a result of my keywords, and, not surprisingly, none of them has even a remote connection to what I thought I’d find. There is one site in particular that makes me cringe just from the description, so I quickly erase my search and instead type, “wednesday july 5 day of desires.”

One result. And it is exactly what I am looking for.

The website doesn’t have any information as to who the author might be. I like knowing the source of any information I read, but my options are limited and I have a paralytic vision that I desperately need to explain, so I just focus on the words on the page in front of me:

Three thousand years ago there existed a group of warriors whose sole purpose was to bring peace and balance to a world once burdened by unending chaos. What set them apart from other warriors was simple: They fulfilled their destiny through spiritual mastery by first creating peace within themselves. Those who were called to this tribe would undergo a series of trials and challenges to test the combined strength of their minds, hearts, and spirits.

The ancient warriors endured two hundred years of continuous testing and hardship, devoting their lives to fulfilling this ultimate purpose. Once a warrior became fully-realized, they were then consecrated by the leader of the warrior tribe and given a grand celebration. This day was known as “Dies Desiderii”, which is translated in present-day English as “The Day of Desires.” On this day, the recognized warrior could choose any personal desire they wished to manifest into reality. This gift was intended to honor the warrior for devoting two centuries of their life to complete and selfless servitude. This was a time of peace and prosperity as the number of warriors was great and their mission to keep balance in the world thus thrived.

As time went on, the life span of the warrior was shortened and the trials and training that once tested a warrior’s strength and resolve became compromised. The world was thrown out of balance and could no longer be salvaged by the warriors who had once created peace. Fear grew in the hearts of men and spread like a contagious disease from nation to nation. Nature soon reflected the imbalance that existed in the minds of humans. The ones who were called to fulfill their destiny as a warrior became distracted by the chaos and the daily burdens that filled their lives. When there remained fewer than twelve of the original warrior tribe, they created a spiritual contract on the fifth day of the seventh month, declaring that every two hundred years “The Day of Desires” would take place.

Those born of the warrior bloodline on this day alone can invoke the spiritual contract on “The Day of Desires.” They are thus able to alter their reality by facing the trials of a warrior and manifesting a personal desire … if they choose to accept the warrior’s quest.

Once the quest begins, the training lasts until the warrior is able to fill their heart with peace where there was once fear. Only then can one become a true warrior and fulfill their destiny.

Saying I’m stunned by everything I’ve just read is definitely an understatement. I start to consider the legend. What if it was all real, and I were a warrior? I probably couldn’t undergo two hundred years of hardship, especially since my family history suggests that eighty is pushing it. Hmm. I don’t think I could even endure two days of challenges! But what if … what if I could have anything I desired?

I think about it more, and my mind wanders and fantasizes that maybe I could be a warrior, strong and beautiful, radiant and confident, dedicated to bringing balance to the world. Then I begin to hear those disheartening voices in my head again. They poke holes in my fantasy, making fun of the notion that I could ever be something worthy of a legend, much less a story worth talking about.

I shake my head and mutter to myself, “I don’t believe in silly legends, but I wish it were true.” I grab my towel, head to the bathroom, and wait a few more minutes for Josh to finish so I can get to work on time.

After banging on the door a few times, he finally comes out and says, “It’s all yours!”

Only cold water left. Perfect.

I wipe the fog off the bathroom mirror after getting out of the shower and look at my reflection with my changing, hazel-colored eyes staring right back at me. I haven’t been out in the sun for ages and my pale complexion seems to thoroughly enjoy promoting my indoor lifestyle.

My hair is an out-of-control, fuzzy mess from my recent attempt at growing it out. It’s an auburn color, about the length of my elbow, and it’s full of knots from the shower. I sigh at my appearance and run my fingers through my hair to pull it up into a damp ponytail.

I wish I were thinner, and taller, and tan, and more … ugh, just more. As I continue to criticize my appearance, I realize I’m running late for work. I put all self-judgment on hold and get ready to leave.

 

3: Darkness

Tunnel

Working on my birthday. It’s no secret that I don’t enjoy my job, but I’d be more depressed at home with nothing to do today except to wallow in self-pity. At least this is a useful distraction from turning eighteen and realizing that my life will never get better. That’s what seems to help me get through each day anyway: distractions. I wonder sometimes if that’s why I fantasize and daydream so much. Would I do it if I were happier? Would I need to mentally escape if I had the life I wanted?

I overthink things a lot. My parents and teachers are always commenting on it. They say I’m too young to worry the way I do, that I have my whole life ahead of me. But I don’t feel that way, and I don’t want to wait until I’m much older to be happy and do what I want with my life.

In fact, despite how “young” everyone thinks I am, I can’t seem to shake the idea that there’s something more meant for me right now. And after all, it is “The Day of Desires,” according to a creepy, random man and a crappy-looking webpage.

I’m sure I’m no warrior, but I at least know I’d feel at peace if things were different. Until this morning, I hadn’t really spent much time thinking about the desires I have for my life. I’m so used to always focusing on what everyone else wants for me, what annoys me, or what’s wrong with me. I think most people do this. And to tell the truth, it’s easier this way. It’s easy for me to think about the things I can’t stand and what I wish were different. When I think of what I want and really see it in my mind, my heart begins to hurt because I know it’s not real. Then I feel disappointed and confused because I don’t know how to change things. It’s a disappointing cycle.

My face starts to get a little warm, and I look down to hide the tears that trickle down my cheek. When I look up to wipe my face, he’s there, standing right in front of me. It’s the man from last week, and I jerk a little from the startle of his sudden appearance. He looks at me as if I know exactly why he’s here.

“Are you the decaf cappuccino?” I ask, ready to hand him the order I just prepared. He looks at me without responding. “Is this yours?” I ask again, uncomfortable from his gaze and somewhat irked. “Sandy or Mateo can take your order at the register.”

“It’s your birthday,” he gently states in his deep, throaty voice. He says it with a small smile, eyes locked on mine, as if I’m supposed to get the deeper meaning behind his words.

“Yes, it is,” I say and immediately break away from his gaze. I start preparing the next drink and someone squeezes by the man to get the decaf cappuccino. It looks like he didn’t order again, and he’s just here to taunt me.

He continues without noticing my obvious discomfort at his presence or my pretending to prepare another drink. “You know what this day means then.” I say nothing and he continues. “You will not understand my words now, but keep them in your mind, for you will need to remember them soon. Once darkness consumes you, find the sliver of light and locate the secret door. Enter the tunnel and walk its length until you find an opening above you. Find me there in the forest.” He finishes speaking and I look up at him for one more moment before he walks out the door of the coffee shop.

I stand in a complete stupor, wondering what in the world he’s talking about. It’s probably a warning of his wanting to meet me in an alleyway and murder me or something. I’m not a complete cynic, but this guy has me on guard. We have now entered the realm of stalkerdom.

Mateo Rodriguez, my other co-worker, comes over to me, likely to comment on the strange man. Instead, he asks, “Liz, do you mind switching our breaks? I need to run an errand. Is that cool with you?”

Ugh. I’m such an easy target when someone wants something, but the last thing I want today is to delay my lunch break. I reply, “Sure, Mateo, that’s fine. I’ll just take my break later. And listen, if you see that guy come in here again will you let me know? He’s starting to give me the creeps.”

Mateo looks at me, perplexed. “Which guy?” he asks. “That one over there?” Mateo points to a man sitting by the window, sipping his coffee and reading the paper.

“No,” I say. “The man who was just here, talking to me. This is the second time he’s come in here without ordering anything. He just says weird things and leaves.” Mateo still looks confused, and I add with exasperation, “Mateo, he was just standing here a few feet away from me! You didn’t see him?”

“Um, no?” he says with uncertainty. “I didn’t see anyone, but we were pretty busy.” I look away, dumbfounded. Mateo nudges me and says, “So, about that break …”

While I continue to work, I decide that the next time I see the man, I am going to alert one of my co-workers immediately. Though, strange as he seems and as insane as his monologues are, I start to consider our encounters. There was truth in his eyes both times he spoke to me. Part of me actually wants to buy into the things he’s saying. Maybe I just desperately need to believe that today really is special and that I am on the verge of something new and exciting.

A few hours go by, and after taking my break I am back to work for my final shift of the day. Sandy finds me in the break room, just as I’m about to tie an apron over my collared work shirt and khaki pants. She says, “Hey Liz, I got a few of our friends together and we want to take you to Foxy’s tonight. What d’ya think?”

“Yeah, sure, do you think we can get in?” I ask, worried that a bunch of underage girls trying to get into a local club will create a problem.

“Oh yeah. Derek knows the guy out front, so we should be fine,” Sandy assures me.

“Okay, yeah, that sounds great.” My mood has improved since this morning, and I am actually excited about meeting up with friends tonight for my birthday. My parents don’t mind me staying with Sandy during the summer, and her parents never seem to wonder where we go until the wee hours of the morning.

“Okay, perfect!” Sandy exclaims. “Let’s finish out early so we can sneak in more celebration time.” Before she turns to walk back into the main part of the shop, she adds, “We’re out of the dark roast, by the way. You mind grabbing me a bag? Oh, and don’t forget to turn out the light this time. You left it on last week, and Bob lectured us for like an hour the next day.”

Bob Flannery is our manager and a real stickler for following the rules. I can understand his aggravation at the light being left on all night long, but it bothers me that he yelled at everyone for a mistake I made.

I toss my apron aside and head for the storage room. As I walk down into the darkness, the earwig from last week comes to my mind. “Gross,” I mumble. Even though it’s a small insect, I ready myself for our next encounter and am prepared to smash it with my shoe.

I quickly feel around for the light switch and flick it on, then look around for the bag of dark roast. When I find it, I slowly lift it up, ready to see another bug. There’s nothing there, and I sigh with relief. I carry the bag toward the steps, but stop to turn back, remembering to shut off the light this time.

As soon as the light goes out, the trap door suddenly swings shut. The loud smack of the door startles me, and I quickly turn the switch back on, but there is no light. I drop the bag of coffee beans and move toward the trap door, finding my way to the steps, and attempt to push the door up. I shove with all my might but cannot open it. I think it’s a practical joke, so I start shouting for Sandy or Mateo to “cut it out and open the door.” When no one responds after a few minutes, I start to panic.

I bang on the door, screaming for someone to hear me, but no one comes. I’m trapped. What’s happening? I can’t breathe! I’m stuck here! My thoughts race and my breath becomes constricted and shallow. My mind swarms with horrifying images of me suffocating in here or getting eaten by a million crawling insects. I am on the verge of a breakdown when something sparks in my mind, words from the man earlier today. Once darkness consumes you, find the sliver of light and locate the secret door.

I draw a deep breath and my eyes search frantically in the darkness for any sliver of light. At first I see nothing but the vast and overwhelming shadow that surrounds me. Then I notice something peeking out from the floor. There’s a faint light next to what I’m assuming is a large bag of coffee. I pull the sack of beans away from the wall to find a three-foot crack running along its base. As I run my fingers across the tiny opening, I find a space where the flooring has a missing plank of wood, and I am able to wrap my fingers under the other side of the wall. This must be the secret door.

I pull the small, rectangular piece of the wall and it swings open toward me. It’s just big enough to crawl into the open space. Once through, I have enough room to stand.

I’m now in a tunnel, lit dimly by large lanterns that hang on either side of the dirt walls. To my right, I notice a small piece of wood nailed to a stake in the ground. I can barely make out its etchings with the light being so low, so I kneel down for a closer look. The sign reads, “Dies Desiderii.” The Day of Desires, I think. So it’s true. It’s really true. And this … this is where it all begins.

I can see about ten yards down the tunnel, but beyond that is complete darkness. I stand in the dank passage, my head nearly brushing the low ceiling. The space is only wide enough for four of me to stand side-by-side, I estimate—not much room at all. My thoughts return to the man from the coffee shop and his mysterious words. He was right. He told me to look for the sliver of light. He said there’d be a tunnel. What else did he tell me to do? Oh yeah, go to the end of the tunnel and look for a door above me.

I’ve seen movies where someone is in an unknown place and horrible things happen to them. I’m a little afraid, but I know now that my only path is forward. The farther I walk into the tunnel the smaller and narrower the walls become. The lanterns stop shedding light on my path, so I press forward into the shadows. The walls eventually close in so much that I have to crawl on my elbows in order to reach the end. I’m a little claustrophobic, so I close my eyes and move quickly to get this over with.

When I find the end of the tunnel, I maneuver myself onto my back and feel around for the opening in the dirt above. My hands find something large and circular that feels like metal. I push on it hard until it gives way and moves slowly upward. Part of it opens enough that I feel a gentle gust of wind flow down from the place above me. Leveraging the opening, I shove harder on the end that is now propped open. I am able to turn it on its side and ultimately push the whole piece out of its enclosure. I move it to the side of the hole it was protecting and grip the edges of the earth above me to pull myself out of the tunnel.

I crawl out of the hole and flop onto my back in the soil, trying to catch my breath. Pulling up your own body weight is harder than I thought, and yet I was somehow able to do it. It seems I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. I place the metal lid next to the opening of the tunnel so I can easily get back home. I stand up and take a moment to wipe the dirt from my arms and legs and try to get most of it out of my hair. Once presentable, I look up and am completely awestruck by my newfound surroundings.

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