Chapter 1 – Beginning is always a good place to start!

As promised, here’s chapter one of the novel, The Dream Hiker. I am excited to share this with everyone. Hope you enjoy and do share with anyone you think would be interested.

CHAPTER 1

“Jack.”

He heard his name as he tried to rush through the hallway full of students to his first class. He turned and spotted Mrs. Berkshire jostling her way toward him.

Concerned why that tough disciplinarian wanted to talk to him so early in the morning, he changed course and strode over to her. He realized he was losing precious seconds in his march to the classroom, but in his three years at Kalamazoo High, he had learned that when Mrs. Berkshire called, one didn’t have much of a choice.

She peered over her glasses as he got closer, and her raised eyebrows told him she needed an answer.

“Jack Treole, I read your log. It’s interesting and shows some introspection, but I hope it’s not something you made up to fill the entry.”

As she spoke, Jack noticed a hint of a smile in her eyes and guessed he was probably not in trouble.

“No, Mrs. Berkshire, it’s definitely not made up.”

“All right then,” she said slowly. “I’m fine with it, as long as I see enough depth in the thinking and analysis. Now, run along. You’re not trying to be late for your first period, are you?”

Jack smiled as her tone changed from stern to jovial, and he said, “Bye, Mrs. Berkshire. See you in class later.”

“Have a good day, Jack.”

Remembering all the distance he had to cover in the next few minutes, he turned around and hurried down the hallway, attempting to squeeze in a few extra steps into each second. As he sped along, he couldn’t help but dig into his backpack for a copy of the log entry he had written that morning on the school’s collaboration site.

Out of all the classes he was taking that year, he was having the most fun in Mrs. Berkshire’s Intro to Philosophy class, with the exception of the daily ritual of log writing. It wasn’t easy coming up with a worthwhile experience every day to write in the log. To make it worse, those personal musings then had to be shared with the entire class, as well as with a bunch of other Midwest partner schools that participated in the program.

That morning when he had woken up, he knew what he wanted to write about. It was a bit of a stretch to call it an experience, but he had felt it would still qualify. However, after the brief conversation with Mrs. Berkshire, he wasn’t so sure anymore.

On reaching the classroom, he skidded to a halt at his desk, relieved to see he wasn’t the last to arrive. Some of his classmates were still shuffling into the spacious room, which was bright with sunlight at that time of day. He noticed his teacher, Ms. Edgar, saying something to the students sitting up front, and then hurrying out of the room with a bunch of papers in her hand.

He let his backpack drop to the floor and, ignoring the sluggish chatter around him, settled into his seat. Taking advantage of the few minutes he unexpectedly found at his disposal, he quickly scanned through his log entry, hoping he wouldn’t find anything in there that sounded too fabricated, for it was an honest account.

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I was on a bus that was moving at a dizzying speed. The semi-darkness made it hard for me to see my surroundings clearly, but from the movement of the bus and the lurching in my stomach, I was sure we were winding up a mountainous road.

A few minutes went by and light gradually made its appearance outside, revealing that the shadowy lumps whizzing past were actually trees. I looked through the gaps in the vegetation and noticed a vast expanse of green cascading fields, way down in the valley. The bus continued on, higher and higher, and deeper into the mountains.

What was this place and why was I on this bus? I had no clue.

I glanced around the bus hoping to get some idea. It was a small vehicle, with worn-out seats and half-open windows. It was packed nearly to capacity. The people I could see were mostly young and dressed in warm clothes.

The bus hit a bump in the road at that point, and I was almost tossed out of my seat, onto the tall, brown-haired guy in front of me.

What kind of driving was that?

I looked at the driver, surprised at how indifferent he was to the discomfort of his passengers. I could see only his back from where I sat. His shoulders were jutting outside the seat frame and his long hair was flying in the air as he navigated the twists and turns with the ease of an adept ice skater.

Quite impressively, he showed not a moment’s pause or hesitation even at the sharpest curves. The deep valley and sheer drops next to the road almost seemed fake due to his complete disregard for the danger they posed. His confidence was so contagious that none of the passengers seemed worried to be hurtling at such a speed, on a precipitous course, in this rattling contraption of a bus.

In the seat closest to the front sat a cheerful young man in a vibrant-colored sweater. When he noticed me looking at him, his face instantly broke into a smile and the deep lines that appeared next to his eyes suddenly made him look older, much older. Strangely, he looked like he could be anywhere from twenty- to sixty-years old.

Just then, he stood up, trying to hold steady despite the maniacal swerving of the bus, and announced in a peculiar accent, “Ladiesh and gentlemen, hope you’re enjoying thish tour. Five more minutesh and we will be there.”

Where exactly were we going to be in five minutes?

I looked around to see if the rest of the people in the bus seemed as clueless about our destination as I was. It was hard to tell. There was a girl listening to music on her headphones. Why anyone would want to drown the splashing sound of mountain streams in the known familiarity of recorded music, I wasn’t sure. She was looking around, enjoying the sights, and didn’t seem particularly confused with the bus ride.

Sitting in the row ahead of her were two boys with maps and brochures, taking pictures of whatever passed by. In front of them was a really talkative Asian guy, who seemed quite obsessed with fixing his dark, straight hair every time the bus hit a pothole in the road.

As my eyes wandered off to the seat across from him, they met with a pair of large black ones staring directly at me. The unflinching gaze of the girl made me uncomfortable and I looked away.

Did she know something about the ride that I didn’t?

Just then, the bus slowed down and the ageless tour guide in the colorful sweater announced dramatically, “Everybody, we have reached the plashe.” He pointed to the left and continued. “Look out that shide. You shee over there the Kanchenjunga. It ish the third tallesht mountain in the world.”

All heads turned in the direction he was pointing and then there was a collective gasp, followed by a long silence as they all gazed in awe. I looked in the direction they were staring and saw nothing but a layer of clouds veiling a dark structure, probably the mountain.

That couldn’t be it, that didn’t seem gasp-worthy. What was I missing?

I looked again but saw the same cover of clouds, with maybe a slightly different layout than before.

The awestruck silence was soon replaced by excited chatter about how amazing it looked.

What were they all talking about? How was it that they could see it and I couldn’t? It was a mountain, after all. How could I miss it?

I rescanned the horizon, frantically searching from one end to the other and back again. I must have looked like one of those wooden owls in a cuckoo clock that move their eyes with every tick and tock of the clock.

As I shifted my eyes from left to right in one of those attempts, a sparkle caught my eye just above the clouds and I glanced up. And there it was…a huge, snow-covered peak, hovering above the clouds, shining brilliantly in the morning sun. It was truly breathtaking.

Then the realization hit me as to why I was having trouble earlier spotting that gigantic structure…we were in a land in which clouds were no longer the ceiling. I had stopped my gaze on reaching the clouds, because that’s what I have always done. But it was only when I looked above the assumed boundary, did I discover that unexpected treat.

That’s the play of our mind…boundaries. I am not talking about the physical kind, like the fence that keeps my neighbors’ dog from wandering out of their backyard, but the mental ones that contain our thinking. Could it be that there is a reality beyond what we are familiar with? We may just need to move past our thought boundaries, and I wonder what we will find!

By the way, if you are confused when I had the time yesterday for such a trip, this happens to be my dream from last night. Though unreal, it was for sure more interesting than anything else I experienced through the day.

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