The Platform, pt 2: A Short (Non)fiction Story on Encountering Ourselves

To read part one, click here

Sometime later, the Man returned to the platform. He found it unchanged as he stood on the burgundy carpet, scanning the rooms along the corridors. When he saw Fear at the far end of the right corridor, he invited Fear to join him.

As Fear approached, the Man noticed two other shapes accompanying Fear to the couch. They seemed to calm Fear, for he did not shake and writhe as before. Fear sat on the left side of the couch, and the two other shapes sat beside. The Man smiled at Fear and welcomed him back.

“How are you today?” the Man inquired.

“Much better,” Fear replied. “I connected with Joy today.” The Man now recognized Joy, sitting at the right end of the couch. Joy smiled and laughed, looking past the middle shape to Fear. “It is often hard to connect with Joy,” Fear continued. “She is usually out of reach for me. But when I saw Vulnerability today, I decided we should try to walk together for a while. It wasn’t long until Joy arrived.”

The Man now knew the middle shape to be Vulnerability. Vulnerability served as the connector between Fear and Joy. Fear spoke again, “I’ve not yet found a way to reach Joy without Vulnerability. Often I fear rejection and judgment, and I isolate myself in protection. If I do not reach out, I will not be rejected.”

Vulnerability chimed in, “I saw the look in Fear’s eyes as I walked the corridor today, and I thought I could help. I told him that if he took my hand, I could connect him to Joy. The three of us have spent some nice time together today.”

The Man smiled, and his thoughts returned to the promise he made to the Boy at the end of his last visit. “I wonder, since you feel more serenity this visit, would you mind if I spent some more time with the Boy you so faithfully protect?”

Fear whispered to Vulnerability and Joy and then replied, “We will give you two some time, but we won’t be far.”

The three rose from the couch, and Fear left the Boy to speak with the Man. The Man stood from his chair and sat beside the Boy. They did not talk initially, but instead looked out into the void behind the wooden chair in front of them. As they did, the void reflected the calm energy between them both, and it took the shape of a vast lake whose waters rippled gently from a light breeze.

The Man and the Boy moved down from the couch to the edge of the platform and dipped their feet in the cool waters of the lake. Still no words passed between them; the silence held a peace that needed not to be disturbed. After several minutes, the Man broke the silence: “What do you want me to know? What can I do for you?”

With eyes looking out upon the waters, the Boy reached over and took the Man’s hand. Immediately, a flood of memories passed between them. The Man saw pain, some of which the Boy had already experienced, and some that was yet to come. For one intense minute, the memories raced between them until the Boy released the Man’s hand and calmed his mind.

The Boy looked down at his own hands, and then peered up at the Man. “All that is coming?”’

“Yes,” the Man sighed. “You will go through a lot.”

The Boy paused, and then asked a piercing and haunting question of the Man: “What did you do to take care of us?”

The Man breathed deeply, remembering. “Not enough,” he confessed. “I wish I did more.”

The Boy’s head hung in sadness. “Okay,” he half-spoke.

“We will be okay, though,” the Man quickly encouraged, smiling at the Boy. “It will be quite a journey, but you will make it.” The Man stopped for a moment and reflected. “I’m sorry I didn’t care for you like I should have.”

“It’s okay,” the Boy reassured, and he leaned his head against the Man’s side. The Man wrapped his arm around the Boy, and the two sat there together in silence, watching their reflections move in the water.

After some time, the Man knew he needed to move on and speak with others there in the somethingness among the nothingness. He lifted the Boy back onto the couch and promised to come back again soon. As the Man stood and looked around, he noticed a solitary figure in the dark corner of one of the rooms. As he walked closer, he recognized the figure as Loneliness.

Loneliness was sitting on a bed, neatly made, with pink covers. Beside him stood a tall wooden wardrobe, and beneath him lay a dark brown floor. The Man knew this as a memory from not so many years ago, and he approached Loneliness slowly.

“What do you want me to know about you?” the Man asked Loneliness.

Loneliness raised his head slowly, and then shook it. Speaking softly, he said, “You don’t need Fear whenever you approach me.” The Man seemed startled at Loneliness’s words, but his shock increased as he realized that his left hand clutched the arm of Fear. He had, without realizing, dragged Fear with him.

“I’m not your enemy,” Loneliness continued with a sigh. “I’m natural. Everyone has me. Humans are social creatures. We are made for connectedness. I point your toward that!” The Man’s hand slowly released Fear’s arm. Loneliness continued, “I’m a motivator toward what you are made for. When you encounter me, see me as a reminder that it’s time to reconnect. What you choose to do with my motivation is up to you. You can choose to pursue destructive or constructive connections. When you approach me with Fear, you tend to choose destructive paths. Learn to see me as a friend not a foe. I can remind you to reach out and reconnect. Come to me with compassion, calm, and curiosity, and I believe you will soon find connectedness.”

The Man nodded and stepped forward. “I’m sorry I have seen you as an enemy, something detrimental to me. I did not know until now that I could approach you alone, without Fear. I didn’t know we could be friends. Thank you for talking with me. I want to come back if that’s okay.”

“Please do,” Loneliness replied. “I’ll be here.” The Man left the room and walked back to the platform. He looked around and saw more shapes appearing.

But they would be there another time; he had seen and said enough for one visit.

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