Looking Back by Melanie Nilles

She looked back at the road. It had straightened since she set out walking it. All the curves had vanished, the dips and holes leveled out. The obstacles she had struggled so hard to overcome, sometimes until she reached the verge of giving up, had vanished.  Behind her lay nothing but a straight road to where she stood. The land was flat and barren, as if none of the tears and pain and moments of wanting to give up had happened.
Ahead lay deep valleys and tall spires and wide and sharp curves peaking out occasionally through mounds of boulders and dense foliage. The growl of predators rose from hidden places.
And yet she must go on.
"You can stay here," a sweet melodious voice said. "Take it easy, never hurt again."
She could indeed. It would be so much easier than all the sweat and blood and tears and the risk of failing to reach the end somewhere ahead.
"Where would that get you?" a deep, rich voice countered. "You would be stuck in familiar, boring territory, never changing, never growing. Always wondering what you don't know, what you could be."
"Ah, but you forget the injury and heartache. What about the ones you lost along the way? Those were tragic. You still show the scars of your suffering. You would never suffer again if you stay in this place." The sweet voice cradled her in its gentle embrace of comfort.
She didn't want to go through the pain again. It hurt too much. A growl from the road ahead startled her.
"But you triumphed over those difficulties and now look how far you've come. Can you really say you wish you hadn't faced those challenges?"
Yes, she could. And yet, if she hadn't, would she have made it that far? She could have given up her walk long ago and rested.
"You've come far enough. Enjoy what you've achieved. It's time to rest."
The idea of rest let out in a sigh that sunk her shoulders. Yes, to rest. Dangers and obstacles lay down the road ahead.
"You don't need to risk the pain again. Be proud of what you've done. That's enough for you."
"Only by facing the challenges on the road ahead will you know what treasures lie in wait. Go on, take the next step. You want to know." The deep voice boomed in a fearful thunder.
She looked back again at the straight, flat nothingness, her starting point far behind and out of sight. It all seemed so easy now, from that point, everything obvious to her.
Turning ahead exhausted her. Dark places passed over the road, obscuring it in shadow. She shuddered to think what dangers awaited.
"Go on. You've done this before. You'll reach the end, but you must travel that road to find it."
"What's at the end?"
Fangs gleamed from below yellow eyes in the shadows.
"What you most seek."
"Lies! You'd be safe here and comfortable."
"For a while. It never lasts if you stay in one place."
She heaved a great sigh and took a step forward. Inevitably, the argument would arise again, but for now, she walked the road.

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