“Julie is my sister, and all, but I just can’t help feeling what I feel”, Jamie said as the others scowled at her with a look of confusion and shock.
“I just wondered if, now that Julie is thinking more about us in her imagination, we’d have something more interesting than just this gray area with nothing to do.”
The older women supposed that Jamie was just showing her age in her thoughts. They would be lying if they didn’t admit the thought had gone through their minds as well, however more pressing was the lack of activity on the mountain. Julie wasn’t doing much in the real world, and that bothered G-ma and Mrs. Corum especially.
“It’s not good for an adolescent girl to just lay around all day”, Mrs. Corum would fret.
“I wish we knew what was going on out there, but I don’t suppose Julie is going to have any emotional interactions with someone if she isn’t going out.”, Replied G-ma.
Thus the two camps were established in a playful sense – the Wants versus the Needs. The Wants wanted to make sure that Julie was physically, mentally, and emotionally OK. Consisting of Mrs. Corum, G-ma, and Sara Beth, they firmly watched the mountain for any clue it might provide. Little activity was met with frowns and fear for what this may mean.
The Needs, on the other hand, needed something more than what they had here. Led principally by Jamie, with Ryan in tow, they couldn’t be bothered to worry about the mountains, their focus was on the here and now. The rivalry between the two camps seldom boiled over, however it was true that their priorities were different. Mara, for the most part, stayed impartial.
Jamie began to feel frustrated that she was the only one who seemed motivated to change her predicament in this space. She’d seen G-ma get a knitting bag, and could borrow Mara’s hairbrush, but she desperately wanted more. The mental games that Mrs. Corum tried to get her to do seemed foolish and less than exciting after the prospect of free stuff crept into her head. And while Ryan was on her side, he didn’t seem as interested as she was.
“Ryan, I don’t get it – you’re no fan of my sister, why would you not want her to give us things – doesn’t she owe it to us for keeping us here?”
“I guess, Jamie. But as long as I don’t feel like my insides are on fire, I’m not too worried.”
“Oh you’ll just go on those magical walks of yours, and then everything seems fine, while I stay here and rot. I love my G-ma, but I can’t take knitting 24-7 here. Maybe I’ll just have to go with you on a walk sometime”
Ryan thought over that statement, carefully choosing how he wanted to reply.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea”, he said, although a nagging thought in the back of his head told him it might be. That confused him.
“Why not?”, Jamie said in reply.
“Uh… because I like to be alone”, was all Ryan could come back with. That afternoon, he sat there, and became more and more perplexed as he thought about Jamie’s request. Why would he ever want her to learn about the light valley? It was the only thing that got him through this place, and he genuinely felt better every time he returned after it. His trips had become less and less frequent – it was almost as if the light was having longer and longer effects on him.
Finally, a voice rang out in his head, clear as a bell
Ryan almost tipped over backwards as he sat on the ground when he heard that. Take her to the light valley?
“Ryan?”, Jamie said as she walked up to him from behind.
“Uh… yeah?”, Ryan replied.
“I want you to take me on a walk… I feel like it would be good for me”. Jamie said, nervously.
“Uh… why?”, Ryan stammered.
“I don’t know, I just do… it’s almost as if something is pushing me to go for a walk with you. I keep hearing voices in my head telling me to go, and if I don’t go, I think I might go insane”.
“Then I guess we should go”, Ryan said, reluctantly.
“Maybe the mountains weren’t about activity”, Sara Beth said to Mrs. Corum and G-ma. Mara sat nearby as well, although she wasn’t too interested in the conversation.
“I suppose that’s possible, but it certainly seems like colors here mean something”, Mrs. Corum replied, with G-ma chiming in “Yeah, colors in the sky are emotions, colors on the mountain is activity”.
“There is just still so much about this place we don’t know”, Sara Beth said, while looking down to make sure Sonic was still at her feet in his ball.
In the days since G-ma got her knitting bag, she had become less and less interested in talking about the world around her. It was almost as if she was in her own little world, delighted and preoccupied. The other two women understood this, but at a time when they both seemed to disagree on the proper way to handle their situation, it had come at a bad time.
Ryan and Jamie had gone off for a walk together, and frustrated, Sara Beth left Mrs. Corum and G-ma and want over to Mara. Sitting down out of earshot, Mara asked Sara Beth what was wrong.
“I just don’t know what to make of any of this anymore”, she replied, “I think I might be getting close to a breakdown of my own”.
“I’ve been there”, Mara said wistfully, “know the feeling well”.
As the two sat together, Mara searched for a new subject to distract her friend.
“Want to watch a movie on my phone? I know it’s the same 3 as last time, but it’s still something”.
“Naw, not in the mood”
“What about Sonic – maybe we could play with him”
“Naw, I don’t think that will help my mood either”.
“We could go learn to knit”, the words burned Mara’s mouth as she spoke them, she really didn’t want to learn how to knit.
“Naw, I’m not in the mood for that either”. Mara felt a sense of relief.
“What do you want to do then?”, Mara asked.
This was very frustrating for Mara. She was trying to be a good friend, trying to help Sara Beth out, but it didn’t seem to be working very well. Was this what friendship was like?
Mara had never really had any friends in her pre-grey life. She’d been close to her parents before the events of the last five years started, and during those years, she hadn’t really wanted to get close to anyone since it always seemed that they simply turned out to be full of eventual pain. Now she had a friend, but couldn’t figure out how to be a good friend. This was just so frustrating.
“I don’t know how to be a friend”, Mara exclaimed.
“What?”, Sara Beth asked quizzically.
“I keep trying to cheer you up, I keep trying to make you feel better, and none of it works. I don’t know how to be a friend”, Mara said once more.
“You’re doing a fine job”, Sara Beth said. Seeing Mara’s confused look, she elaborated. “Friends don’t just exist to make each other feel better, Mara, sometimes they’re just there to help you out. To be there for you if needed. To support you. You’re supporting me. You talk to me. You help me. That’s all someone can ask of a friend”.
“Really?”, Mara asked.
A few moments passed before Mara spoke again.
“Sara Beth, what do you want from Julie? Jamie seems to want things, maybe Ryan too. G-ma got her knitting bag. What would you want?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it too much. I guess maybe something to read, or maybe something to wear other than my dress from school. What about you?”
“I only wanted one thing in the last few years, and that was a friend. I’ve got that now, so I guess I’m out of things to ask for.”
The two girls smiled at each other. Mara’s last line may have sounded corny to some, but they both knew how true it was.
“Where are we going”
“I told you’d ya it would take awhile to get there”
“Yeah, but where is ‘there’ – what are we walking toward”
“Apparently somewhere that you’re supposed to visit. Somewhere I ran into a few weeks ago. It made this place bearable for me, maybe you’re supposed to go there too and it will help you”
“Help me? Help me what?”
“Deal with this place. Deal with the boringness of it. Deal with being inside Julie’s head”
“It helped you?”
“I always come back happier, don’t I?”
“Yeah, I just figured that you were going a little bit more insane each time”
“Naw, this thing actually works… I don’t know how, but it seems to”
“How far away are we?”
“We’re actually pretty close – I recognize the sky here. It should be right over that hill”
“Good, So what is it?”
“It’s kinda hard to explain – I think it has something to do with how this place messes with your mind. This place really messes with it, but I guess in a good way.
“Yep, here it is, right over….”
“Where? I don’t see anything”
“It’s right here, or at least it’s supposed to be right here”.
The two intrepid explorers walked into the formerly light filled valley.
“It feels a little warm here”, Jamie said, walking around.
“Yeah… its supposed to be a lot warmer”, Ryan said, as he paced around the valley, “It’s not supposed to be like this. It wasn’t like this last time I was here. That wasn’t too long ago! Maybe 4 or 5 days.”
“What was it like before?”
Ryan described the light valley to Jamie, in the way that he’d always seen it, and the same way that Mrs. Corum and G-ma had found it long ago.
“Look up there”, Jamie said as she pointed toward the sky, “It almost looks like what you described – almost looks like a parting, but it’s really hard to make it out”.
Ryan looked up and saw the spot that Jamie pointed to. He looked down at where it should point to, using approximately the same angle he remembered from the last time. Sure enough, a tiny pinprick of light was still barely visible on the ground.
“Jamie – come over here – stand here”, he said, as he positioned her into the light.
“Whoa… that’s kinda… nice?”, Jamie said as she stood directly into the light’s path. Its power had clearly diminished. Gone was the stream of light that had intoxicated Mrs. Corum and G-ma, and had been the regular source of inspiration for Ryan. Now a weak version remained. Clearly something was wrong here.
“I guess stand in it as long as you can”, Ryan said, “Maybe something will still work”.
As it grew closer to dim, the light slowly faded even more. Finally it appeared to be gone, and Jamie walked out of it’s path.
“I don’t care anymore”, Jamie said, half resigned, half astonished.
“What do you mean?”, Ryan said.
“The whole way here, all I could think of was what wonderful thing you were gonna give me or share with me. I had decided that I was going to take it back to the group, and show it off – I thought you’d found something physical, like G-ma’s knitting bag. I’d imagined all sorts of things it could be – something obviously you would want to keep to yourself. But now I don’t care about it anymore. I don’t even care about getting stuff really. I guess I feel kind of happy, but not excited happy. It’s hard to explain.”
“No, I understand… it’s kinda what I felt each time I’d stand in the light. But now the light’s gone… almost like it ran out.”
They sat in the valley overnight, and the next morning, the light appeared again ever so slightly.
“We have to get back and tell the others about this”, Jamie said. Ryan wanted to protest. He wanted to save whatever was left for himself. But in the end, something pushed him from that. The light had helped him come to peace with this place. Perhaps that was it’s true function. Maybe it should be shared, whatever of it was left.