Her feet sank in the slick clumps of mud, traction non-existent. The muddied field lay before an imposing mountain. Rain pelted her face as she struggled to move the monolithic burden tied to her back. She knew the strength a task like this would take from others. It was the job of one who had an unbreakable spirit. One who wouldn’t be easily swayed or give in, one who would fight to their last breath. She’d stepped into the light, knowing that she was the only one who could carry such weight.

        Children’s faces flickered to her mind. They were but one of the many tools in her belt that propelled her further. Clothes hung off her, heavy, soaked and tattered, providing little protection. She was no better off than a forgotten scarecrow in a farmer’s field. The soles of her shoes had worn down to their inner guts — her feet cold, bleeding, sore, and blistered.

        The space between her shoulder blades felt like dried out sinew, tight and barely malleable. Her neck was taut and rigid and her spine locked in a vice grip. The pressure clenched harder with each step, threatening to grind the bone to dust. It was unyielding. The outside world cared not the pain she suffered, for they knew not what she suffered. This was her burden. If they saw the cracks — no. They’d have to stay masked too. She had been carrying on for so long, what was one more can of fix-a-flat for her soul?

        Lost in her pain and suffering, the fog curled and twisted, like a seductive dancing demon beckoning her forward. Her heart drummed in her ears, pounding like a toddler on a drum set for the first time. The height of the monster before her feet disappeared behind the heavy black pearl churning umbra of the heavens. She felt so small in that moment. Insignificant. Why had she thought she was able to do this?  Weakness overcame her body. Her knees kissed the saturated ground, mud splashing in her face. Pain radiated throughout her body, her heart shuddering its charge. Anguish streaked down her face, disguised by the droplets of water beating down upon her.

Insecurity tore at her, like vultures ripping into a carcass. She’d given so much already, yet more was asked of her. She would die upon this mountain. She was sure of it. There was no one to carry on this task in her stead. If she failed, so too would the mission. Too much depended on her. Peace rippled out from behind her with every step she took. A deep chill settled in her bones. The hair on her arms rose, electricity thick. A turbulent storm brewed at the peak of the formidable foe before her.

        A decision lay before her. Turn back now, saving what small pieces of her were left, or keep putting one foot in front of the other until the flame within was snuffed out. Which would you choose?

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