I awake in a hallway, facing forward. The hallway is lit up, but I cannot see the source of the light.
To both my left and right are walls – I have just enough space to stretch out my arms without touching the walls. Looking at the walls next to me, they are bare walls made of wood with just a simple repeating design.
In front of me, the hallway seems to go on endlessly.
Behind me, there is a huge, gaping hole in the floor. The hallway’s walls and ceiling continue backward for about 5 feet before hitting a dead-end. The floor, however, is just plain missing. Peering down into the hole, I cannot see the bottom; it appears to be an endless abyss. For some unknown reason, the abyss scares me, and a desire grows within me to get as far away from it as I can.
I look forward again. Looking down the hallway, I notice that the hallway is not flat, but rather has a fairly steep incline. To move forward, I must hike as though trying to get up a hill.
I begin moving forward. As I progress through the hallway, I can feel my leg muscles getting a workout from the trek uphill. I slow my pace, and begin looking at the walls again. Surprised, I notice there are now picture frames decorating those blank walls.
Looking at some of the pictures in my immediate vicinity, I notice images of huge, open fields with coarsing rivers and crashing waterfalls. I feel a longing to run in those beautiful meadows. I move on.
The pain in my legs continue to grow from the upward trek. I stop looking at the pictures on the wall and focus on the pain in my legs.
Suddenly, perhaps because of my focus, the pain becomes overwhelming. I am barely able to move, but attempt to stagger forward anyway. I feel feint and my heart is heavy within me, when suddenly I heard someone whispering my name. Looking around, there is no one to be seen. A minute passes in silence, and then I hear the whisper again saying my name. I begin to wonder if I’m going mad. Another minute passes, and then I hear a third whisper, “Take heart, I am with you”. My legs and heart feel lighter, and I feel as though I am beginning the trek anew.
As I continue my trek, I stare at the floor, wondering who was my mysterious whisperer. Gradually, I come to the conclusion I must have been imagining it.
I begin looking around me once more, and realize that there are still picture frames mounted on the walls, and these pictures are different than the ones I saw earlier. I see three pictures on the walls near to me, and examine them more closely.
In the first, I see a mighty man with a spear in the center, with 400 dead men in soldier uniforms behind him, and 400 live men with the same uniforms in front of him who he is attacking.
In the second, I see a mighty man of valour and a decorated warrior, fighting back to back against a throng of many enemies. In the background I can see men running far off into the forests and hills, wearing a similar uniform to the mighty man and his friend, the warrior.
In the third, I see a sole man standing in what looks like a bean field. He is surrounded on all sides by enemies, but his face shows no fear, only determination.
Passing these pictures, I realize I am nothing like these mighty men. My legs are burning, and I simply don’t have the power those men had. A few steps later, and my legs buckle, causing me to fall. I lie on the ground for a minute and begin to sob.
Suddenly I hear a voice roaring the command, “Go.” The roar stuns me, nearly overwhelming me with both fear and awe. The voice sounded incredibly powerful – and indeed, its words strengthened my resolve and gave me the will to continue on despite the pain.
I begin jogging up the hallway. The pain is severe, but bearable now – I know I had a friend watching me. I knew beyond a doubt that the voice was real and I wasn’t just imagining it – the roar quickly woke me up to that reality. Moreover, both times I’d become too weak to continue on, this voice had given me the resolve and healing needed to press forward.
Now a desire began to grow in me to get as far up the hallway as I could, not just to get away from the abyss, but because I felt a friend was leading me forward, waiting for me somewhere up ahead. I wanted to see who was behind the voice.
I keep moving forward. I watch the pictures on the wall around me as they go by. The pictures seem to vary between two different theme. In some of them, I see a broken man suffering various types of torture and cruelty. In others, I see the same man, clothed in splendid apparel, sitting on a throne. In one of the pictures with the man on the throne, I see people kneeling before him, throwing something at his feet. I pause for a second to see what is being thrown. After a moment, I realize – those were crowns! The people kneeling must have been kings!
I press forward for what seems like hours before my strength begins to falter once more. I glance around expecting my friend, the voice, to speak up from somewhere and give me strength once more.
However… nothing. I stopped walking and leaned against the wall under a picture of that man suffering – it was a picture of him sweating blood. I thought that maybe the voice only showed up when I ceased my forward movement.
Again, nothing. I tried various other ideas that popped into my mind to make the voice speak again, but nothing worked. It seemed the voice wasn’t something I could get to speak out of my own will.
Distraught, I sag to the floor and cry. All the muscles in my body were throbbing in pain. I could not go further, and the one friend I thought I had found had seemingly deserted me. I closed my eyes and decided to just cease my forward progress and take a rest right where I was at. I still had my resolve to move forward, I just lacked the strength.
I fell asleep and dreamed.
In my dream, I was looking down on myself in the hallway from above. Suddenly, the man I had been seeing in all the pictures lately showed up next to me. He saw be, broken on the floor, and had pity. His eyes were beautiful, they have both a flash of fire in them, mixed with a sort of sympathetic pity – I felt as though I loved this man I had never met. Unexpectedly, the man picked me up on his back. I saw him stumble for a moment in pain of my added weight on his back, then move forward. He went forward and forward, many times the distance I had traveled thus far on my own. I saw pictures flashing by as the man move forward with me on his back. Looking down the hallway in front of the man, I saw we were getting closer to a door in the wall – it was perhaps a hundred feet away, and a great desire arose in me to pass through that door.
Suddenly, I awoke from my dream.
I was back in the hallway crumpled on the floor again. I found myself wishing my dream were true, wishing I had someone I could rely on to carry me forwards when I was unable to do so myself. My body still felt bruised and beaten and I felt very weak. I stood up, and looked at the picture under which I had fallen asleep. I was stunned! The image wasn’t the old one of the man sweating blood, as it had been when I fell asleep. Rather, it was an image of the man, with many diadems upon his head and eyes like a flame of fire. I suddenly felt full of joy, looking upon this picture.
Looking behind me, I noticed I recognized none of the pictures around me as ones I had seen before. Indeed, it seemed like I was in a completely different section of hallway than when I had been when I fell asleep.
Excited, I looked forward. Sure enough, just a little ways down the hallway I saw the door that had been in my dream. My dream has been true!
I felt like my body was given new life, and started moving forward, with my eyes on the door up the hallway.
Looking past the door for a second, I noticed a huge, onrushing column of water, filling the entire width and height of the hallway, coming toward me. It was a few thousand feet away but coming down the hallway quite rapidly – and I was still a hundred feet away from the door! I was not going to allow myself to be pushed back by this water, losing all the progress I had made. Indeed, I realized that this water would not only push me down the hallway to where I had started from, it would push me back into the abyss!
Gathering myself together, I remember the words of the whisperer, that he’d be with me. I felt my heart get light. I remember the roaring command I’d heard, and felt my legs get strong. I remember the pain the man from the pictures felt when he lifted himself on my back, and resolved not to let that pain be in vain.
I sprinted to the door, and got there much more quickly than I’d anticipated. The water had only traversed half the distance to the door from where it’d started, so I had time to spare.
I reach for the doorknob and turn it… to find it locked!
No, it couldn’t be!
I hear some laughter on the other side of the door, surprising me. There seems to be people talking – in fact, I recognize some of the voices! It sounds like three people. One is soft-spoken, and sounds just like the one who had whispered to me. The second is loud and strong, and sounds much like the roaring voice I’d heard. The third sounds warm and joyful, and I don’t recognize it.
I knock rapidly on the door, shouting out to the voices I recognized, “Friends! You who helped me on my journey to this door! Please, help me, do not allow me to perish and be thrown into the dark abyss! I want to be with you on the other side of this door. Let me come in to your presence and join in your laughter!”
The door opens, and I see the man from the pictures – the man who was both a sufferer and a king – grab my arm and pull me inside, slamming the door behind me. Barely a moment later, we hear the water rush past the door.
The man says my name, in that warm and joyful voice I had heard from the outside, and I felt at home. Following that, I hear a voice whispering my name from somewhere behind me, and my heart melted. Finally, I hear a voice roaring my name, shaking the very foundation of the room I now found myself in, and it filled me with strength. I realized now that the two voices were somehow connected with this man in front of me – this man, who had carried me forwards in my weakest moments towards this place.
I looked around and saw the beautiful meadows, coarsing rivers, and a crashing waterfall. I realize that this is the place from the first pictures I’d caught a glimpse of when I entered that hallway.
And yet, my desires have changed. I am filled with joy at being in these wide open fields, but now my greatest desire is to know the nature of the man beside me, and to learn how the other two voices I’d heard were connected to him.
I look at him, and see his eyes twinkling with joy at my wonder. He opens his mouth, and begins speaking…
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
-Sean David Kooyman