While listening to the multitude of voices in his head, Richard sets out on a quest to find his way back home. Soon, Richard happens upon an ancient cabin and a strange American Indian who commits to helping him unravel the mysteries of not only the strange world he has landed in, but also the one he is attempting to return to. It is not long before Richard realizes that he must first learn the warriors way of life and unveil his true self before he can ever hope to find his way back home.
The Way Back reveals the tale of one mans unanticipated philosophical journey into a mystical forest where a warrior mentor helps him learn how to overcome his enemies, live in the moment, and listen to his inner voice.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.87(d)|
About the Author
Kevin Thomas is a graduate of NYU and holds a degree in English with a Specialization in Writing. A longtime believer that storytelling is humanitys greatest technological invention, he always knew he was destined for a career in fiction. Kevin grew up and still resides in New Yorks Hudson Valley.
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When I come to my senses, I realize that I'm wearing a backpack. Upon further inspection, it has enough food and water to last for a few days. But no compass. I have matches to light a fire, a flashlight, a rather big knife, and what appears to be a raincoat. I don't know how, but I'm dressed in the best outdoor clothes that exist on the planet: a wide-brimmed hat, brush pants, a wool shirt, and leather hiking boots. The only sounds I hear are the chirping of sparrows, the melodious song of a blue jay, and the chuckling of a pileated woodpecker that immediately reminds me of the Woody Woodpecker cartoons I watched as a child. Somehow, I feel he's laughing at me.
The sun is either rising or setting. I'm not sure how to look at it. But I'm optimistic. My mind wakes up again and begins to ask questions.
Where am I?
How the hell did I get here?
What the hell do I do now?
I look down at my feet and wonder if they still work. I have been standing in the same place since I arrived. I get an idea. Perhaps if I click my heels together and say, "There's no place like home," three times, I will be magically transported back to my home. Back to the last place I was before I found myself in this predicament. Maybe I'll wake up in bed and this will all have been a dream. And a strange dream at that! I latch onto this thought. Wouldn't that be nice? What the heck? I close my eyes and click the heels of my leather hiking boots together. There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home. My eyes open slowly — first the left and then the right. But it's no use. I'm standing in the same place I was before. Overhead, I hear the laughter of the woodpecker. "Well, it worked for Dorothy, didn't it?" I shout up to Woody.
If nothing else, my feet have begun to work again. I step out of the spot where I've been trapped and explore my surroundings a bit. I've been in the woods before, but these woods are unfamiliar. Mysterious. My mind starts to race, and I become apprehensive. No. Frankly, I'm downright scared. It reminds me of a time when I was hunting pheasant and found myself turned around in the woods. I had no idea which direction to go to get back to my truck. At that point, I remembered a story I had read in an outdoor magazine about a fellow who had been lost in the woods for days. Finally, he climbed a tree until he spotted a road and made his way to it. Once on the road, he was rescued by a passing car. Wasting no time, I climbed the nearest tree and spotted my truck about a half mile away. Though I was saved, I never quite forgot that feeling of being lost and alone in the woods.
The feeling now is ten times worse. I am not only lost in the woods alone, but I have no recollection of how I got here. Why not find a tree and try that solution again?
I scout for a tree that is big enough to give me a good view of my surroundings and easy enough to climb. I don't want to fall and break my neck. I finally find a big ash tree that will serve my purpose nicely. It has branches low to the ground that ascend in perfect increments. I start to scale the ash carefully, one branch at a time. God knows I am not partial to heights. It was all I could do to climb a ladder at my house when I was painting the second floor; I remember going up the ladder as fast as I could and then painting for five minutes before the height got to me and forced me to scramble back down as fast as I could. To this day, the second floor remains unpainted. Nevertheless, climbing this ash as high as I must makes the second story of my house look like sea level.
As I climb branch by branch, my mind tries to make sense of this whole thing. I repeat to myself the questions of the day. What's happening? What am I doing here? How did I get here? Where am I? Is this all a dream?
At long last, I reach the top. Well, not really the top. Just as far as I am willing to go. Just high enough that if I stand up really tall, I can see just over the treetops and have a view in every direction. Hanging onto the treetop with the death grip I perfected while painting, I look out.
To the right, I see nothing. To the left, nothing. There is nothing behind and nothing in front. Nothing but trees and hills and brush. Only forest for miles and miles. I decide to become very still. Maybe I might hear something: a car driving down a road, church bells — you know, something.
Anything. I stand there holding on for dear life for quite some time and hear nothing. Not a sound. Not even the chirping of birds that I heard when I was standing on the ground. Just thinking of the ground causes me to look down, and the elevation sucks the breath from my lungs. My grip tightens as I realize that my search for help has brought me three stories up a tree. And the ground is looking up at me.
It brings me back to a class field trip I took to New York City as a ten-year-old. We were going to the top of the RCA building, whether I wanted to go or not. My classmates and I were whisked up in an elevator to the observation deck hundreds of stories above the street. As soon as the door opened, all the other kids ran to the side of the building to gaze out over the city. I meagerly ventured over to look out, and the view of the streets from that lofty perch caused me to collapse to the ground. I crawled back to the elevator as my classmates laughed and the elevator door closed.
I have that same sinking feeling now. The tremendous height that I'm at has jumped up, grabbed my ankles, and started pulling me down. I feel the urge to crawl. The same urge I felt when I was ten. But there is nowhere to crawl.
As if on cue, I hear the first sound I have heard since I left the ground. It is the cackling of that damned woodpecker piercing the forest. He's laughing at me again. I take a deep breath to get some air back into my lungs. My legs are still wobbly, and the urge to crawl creeps up my spine. My mind pleads with my eyes, Don't look down! Don't look down!
Where am I supposed to look, smartass? I reply to myself.
Look up! my mind urges, hoping my instinctual self takes over. This should be his area of expertise anyway. Unfortunately, I know he's as overburdened with fear as I am. The instinctual fight-or-flight response is in full gear. I try to obey my mind's wishes to look up. I do look up.
Right there, hovering above me about thirty yards from where my head emerges from the treetops, is a hawk. He hangs in the air, drifting on the thermal updrafts like the hang gliders I've seen along the rocky coast of Rhode Island, catching the updrafts and suspending himself in the wind. He looks down at me as if wondering, What the hell is this guy doing up here?
At that moment, my focus is on the hawk. He is magnificent. He is a red-tailed hawk, his fiery red tail illuminated even further by the sunlight. From where I am, I can see his eyes, which are bright and strong with a hint of yellow where his eyebrows would be. He is looking right at me. In fact, his gaze seems to be holding me up in the tree. As my attention on the hawk becomes more and more intense, my legs stop wobbling and an unusual calm overtakes me. My jumbled mind becomes suddenly clear as it instructs the parts of my body, what they should do and how they should do it. At the same time, all the destructive thoughts I have in my mind (like falling from the tree and breaking every bone in my body) drift out of my head. A calm — a calm I have never felt before — comes over me. My mind, now silenced, allows me to move freely. I relax the death grip on the tree. My body takes over, and I move with an unimpeded flow. I now possess the stealth of the acrobats I recall from the only circus of my childhood. (My fear of clowns, of course, ended that. But that's another story altogether.)
Well, if this is only a dream and I fall from the tree, I will surely wake up before I hit the ground. Isn't that how dreams work?
As this thought quiets, it seems as if I watch my body descend the tree, as if the tree is guiding me down. Each branch invites itself to me, and as I step on or grab each one, I feel a warmth unlike anything I have ever known before. Has the tree become a part of me? I cannot explain the feeling. It is like the tree is letting me down ever so gently.
As my feet finally hit the ground, my mind starts to cloud up again. The thought of it all comes rushing back into my mind again. I return to the realization that I am alone in the middle of god-knows-where, and I have less of an idea where I am supposed to go than before I climbed the ash. This is when the whole situation really hits home. I now feel the fear creeping up my spine. I'm breathing as if I've just run a marathon. My knees feel like Jell-O. The hair is standing up on the back of my neck. I'm paralyzed, yet my mind is moving a mile a minute, scrambling every which way. What's happening to me? How did I get here in the first place?CHAPTER 2
I flashback to the last thing I remember doing. I'm working at the tennis club where I'm the head tennis pro. It's a lovely June afternoon around two. I'm out on my teaching court as I've been a thousand times before. I'm teaching Mrs. Hamshire, whose hour-long lessons always feel like six hours to me. She's a plump woman who's not very athletic, can't move well, and frankly can't play a lick. I haven't been able to figure out for the life of me why she continues to play tennis at all. I conclude that it's because her whole family does. Her husband is in the same boat, but their children are actually quite good. Their two sons are good players, and their daughter is exceptional. I've watched them all grow up and foresee a Division II scholarship in their daughter's future. Mrs. Hamshire wants to be involved in the family's activities, so I'm stuck with her as my Tuesday-afternoon lesson.
"Take the racket back! Take the racket back!" I bellow incessantly, trying to get her prepared to hit the ball well before it bounces back across the court in her general direction. Most of my time with her is spent on autopilot as I hit ball after ball to her and watch her flail helplessly at each one. My mind takes time off during lessons like this. Essentially, I'm elsewhere.
What will I do after the lesson? "Take the racket back," I suggest by rote.
What did I do yesterday? "Good," I encourage hollowly.
Shit! Did I leave the coffee pot on? "Okay, okay. Not bad," I say mechanically. A ball machine and a recorded message would have sufficed for these lessons. But, hell, I'm getting paid rather well to be there. At least physically.
At one point, the club actually did pay for a ball machine for anyone who wanted to practice. I sent away for the best machine money could buy. But on the day it arrived, one of my students canceled a lesson with me and opted for the ball machine instead. Right then and there, I decided that this machine was not going to cut in on my business. As soon as the client was done with it, I took the ball machine around the back of the club and shot it. When someone asked to use the machine a couple weeks later, I told them that I had sent it out to be repaired. I lied.
The night I shot it, I went out and had a few beers. I returned to the club around two in the morning and tossed the machine in the back of my truck. I drove for miles until I was far outside of town. I tossed it into the woods where it would never be seen or heard from again. After all, if someone wanted a ball machine, they could rent me. I'm as good as any machine; I actually speak.
So, from that trancelike state at the tennis club, hitting balls to Mrs. Hamshire, to this clearing, in this forest, in the middle of god-knows-where. I don't remember leaving the club or going to sleep. It's all a dream, isn't it? I'll soon wake up, safe and sound back in my wonderful life. Well, wonderful might be a stretch, but it's definitely better than this. Right now, I'd love to wake up back at the tennis club with fat, little Mrs. Hamshire wildly swinging at shot after shot. I suppose I could have been drinking and just made it home and passed out. But I've never blacked out from alcohol like that. That's what women do: "I'm so drunk I don't remember going to bed with you." Yeah, I've heard that one a few times.
"Okay, Rich, get a hold of yourself. Get it together," I hear a voice say. "If this is only a dream, you're going to wake up soon, so you might as well make the most of it." I look around and see no one. Again I hear a voice: "Pull yourself together. If this is a dream, then you are in control." Again I look around, and to my shock — there's no mistaking it — it's me talking to me, trying to rally the troops.
You know, that voice is always there, speaking to you. But more often than not, your mind is off somewhere in the outer limits, focusing on the past or the future. You don't even hear it. It's the voice of the unconscious mind and comes booming out loudly, particularly when you're tasked with saving your ass. The unconscious mind is the source of all your intuition. It is said to be the most creative aspect of the mind and is most aware of your psyche. If we could live in our subconscious minds at all times, we would have amazing intuition — intuition bordering on clairvoyance.
At this moment, perhaps more than I ever have, I need intuition. I need some direction before I go completely mad. Mad? This situation is outrageously insane, and at this point in the proceedings, who wouldn't be a little bit insane?
With the thoughts of insanity ringing between my ears, I hear a familiar voice. "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Let's take a look at the facts." I know this voice very well. It belongs to my analytical mind, the "I" that tries to see everything through the scope of facts and figures and underlying meaning. He goes on: "Okay, okay, at this moment, we can't speak to what has happened and why you are in this place. Let's instead review what we do know." He loves to talk in this cut and dry way, and I'm used to listening to his advice, even if it is a bit mechanical. Since I'm not too familiar with the "I" in me that they call the unconscious I, I'm going to let this I have a shot. Please continue.
"First, we know that we are in this clearing and it's a beautiful spot. Second, we know from climbing that tree that there is nobody around for miles. At least nobody we can discern. Third, we have a backpack full of very useful stuff." I begin to feel the fear that reduced me to a deer in headlights start to wane. The serenity I felt descending the ash is slowly returning, and as a result, I'm once again able to move. "Let's check out the provisions in the backpack," I hear him say as I come to realize that he is me. I take the backpack, flip it over, and let the contents spill to the ground.
A bunch of cans, a few apples, some bananas, a bandana, a small bag of potato chips, some biscuits wrapped in a cloth napkin, what appears to be dried meat, and six hard-boiled eggs in a plastic bag all tumble to the ground. I discover a knife and fork wrapped in a bandana. Upon further inspection, I observe a book of matches that look as though they can light on the roughest of surfaces, a large knife reminiscent of the one Crocodile Dundee carries, a neatly folded poncho, and one of those cups that fold up. Strapped to the backpack is a canteen brimming with water. I reach down and pick up one of the cans. It's beans, Boston baked beans in fact. All of the cans are beans. I hear a voice say, "Who the hell packed for this trip?"
"Trip? There wasn't supposed to be any trip. Well at least none that I knew of," I answer.
"Me either," chimes Analytical I.
"I'm not too fond of baked beans or dried meat," opines another voice I've heard quite frequently. He's Wise Guy I. "And remember, we stopped eating potato chips because they have too much salt. The guy who packed this bag is a real asshole."
"Hold on. We should really be thanking the person that put this bag together for us. Without it, we would die of starvation." The voice of Grateful I is taking a stab at getting Wise Guy I under control.
It's starting to occur to me that I have a multitude of voices talking in my head. And they are all mine. You can call it multiple personalities. Or multiple parts of my personality. So much of personality is an act we put on in response to different events or to different people. You know, it's the little roles we play to project the type of person we think they might favor. Personality is very much a product of our environment. And I'm coming to realize that the voices in my mind, which I call the I's, combine to form this personality. It's not the real you but an altogether different you that rises to the forefront and speaks up at any given moment. It's all the different voices that spring up so you can play all the different roles you have to in your life. If you think of the I's as the actors in the play, the real you serves as the director, if you're lucky. Unfortunately, the I's, like spoiled prima donnas, are able to influence the judgment of the director. With all these I's speaking at once, things can become muddled up quickly, a cacophony of disparate voices. Too many cooks spoil the broth.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Way Back"
Copyright © 2018 RLC.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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