The kid was just taking a walk in the woods when he found it. Hidden behind a group of trees was this great big rock that had what looked like a round door in it. It did not seem to be anything that one might expect to find in the middle of the forest or even anywhere for that matter. It was a bright tan and it did not look like any other rock in the area. Most of the terrain around it was forest and this seemed as if it belonged at the foot of a mountain or somewhere in the desert. It was surrounded by trees and bushes and could hardly be seen at all. Almost as if someone had intentionally hid it there.
Pushing his way through the growth around it was hard and he did not realize until he broke through to a small opening in the trees that he could see that nothing touched it at all. It appeared as if the trees had grown around it but stopped short of getting anywhere near it. It seemed as almost as if it had grown there without ever touching anything but the ground it sat on. There was a canopy above it where the branches of the surrounding trees gave the impression, at first glance, to be protecting it. Upon closer examination it was easy to see that the branches had simply grown around it. Like as if it was something not to be touched.
The door to the thing was of a different, darker, color and had a lip on it that you could grab. The kid did not try to open it or even touch it. He just walked around it to see what was on the other side. He walked a few feet and discovered that the door seemed to follow him. He stepped back and looked around to see if it was some kind of trick being played on him. He got on his knees to see if maybe it was on some kind of spindle or something that would make it rotate but found that it was sitting firmly in place. He tried to walk and not look at the rock and went six or seven feet and turned back only to see the door again. He turned around and discovered that he was standing right where he had pushed his way through the brush. He turned back to the rock and found the door, or whatever it was, right where it had been every time he had looked at the rock. Almost as if the only thing he was supposed to see.
He approached the rock, still not touching it, and turned his ear to listen to the rock. This made no sense to him but he could not stop himself. None of this made sense yet here he was looking at this strange rock in front of him with the even stranger door. He brought his ear as close as he could to it without touching it. He heard some sort of soft sound, almost like a murmur, coming from it. He moved a little closer nearly putting his ear up to the rock face of the door and heard a slight, barely perceptible, voice come through;
“Let me out.”
He jumped back and almost turned to flee. He stopped himself and stared at the rock. He approached the rock again with his head turned to listen;
“Open the door and let me out.”
This time the sound came out clear as day. It had a certain unblemished inclination to it. Sort of like a plea while at the same time feeling authoritarian. Like as if you had heard it coming from your father and mother. As if it was something you just had to do. Something that you just knew was…the right thing to do.
He turned his ear away from the rock and reached a hand to it. He hesitated for a second out of trepidation and foreboding. He froze for a second and seemed to hear the rock tell him that it would be okay. It appeared to be saying that all was just a touch away from being, well, sufficient.
He placed both hands on the door because he felt as if it would take a lot of effort to move it. This proved false. The door slid to the left with ease and opened with barely any pressure. There came a wash of hot air from it that made him step aside and fan the air in front of his face to escape the warmth and musty smell. There also came a smell that seemed somewhat familiar. He stood there trying to remember where he had smelled anything like that. Something like the kitchen when his mother cut chicken or meat for dinner and the trash can out in the yard, or perhaps when Grandpop made blood sausage for smoking on the grill.
He stood back and just took in the sight of the open door wondering what came next when a tall man stepped out into the sunlight. He wore what might have been a nightshirt, or some kind of sleep thing. He had long hair walked with a decided limp from both legs. It was hard to tell really what he looked like. His face was covered in contusions and huge purple discolorations. His eyes were both nearly swollen shut and what could be seen the whites of his eyes were actually deep red. He walked with a hunch and his hands and feet were wrapped in bandages. He smiled and his teeth were all broken and horrible. There was a blood stain on one side of the robe.
He limped over to a fallen log on the edge of the forest and sat down. He tried to say something but it came out garbled and nearly a whisper. He shook his head at the kid and tried again. The kid stared at him for a long moment trying to decide what to do. Something told him that this guy needed help but there was also a feeling that he should just run as fast away from this dude a he could. He decided to stay. He slowly walked over to the log and sat down a few feet away. The beat up man said something else which sounded almost like a growl. It took a few tries but the kid finally understood.
The kid quickly replied. “You’re welcome.”
The guy looked at him and smiled his demolished, broke tooth grin again. He shook his head and wrapped his arms around his stomach launching into a rasping, gut wrenching coughing fit. The kid waited for him to finish and asked if there was anything he could do to help. Again the ugly smile. The dude raised his arms a slight bit with his hands in the air and just shrugged.
“What happened to you?” the kid asked.
“Tell me what your name is my friend.” The beat up guy replied
“Ah, the friend of my friend…it is nice to meet you young rescuer.”
“Okay, but I don’t know what you are talking about with this friend of friend thing. You just came out of a freaking rock dude.” The kid looked confused.
“Not to worry. Your name reminds of things in my past. Forgive me.” As he spoke his voice lost the raspy tone and began to sound…well…almost soothing.
“What happened to you, man? Did you get in a wreck or something?”
“I angered some people who I probably should not have.” Another coughing binge came on him.
“They must have been really pissed at you.” The kid untied his bandanna from around his neck and handed it to the damaged man to wipe his mouth. He reached into his backpack and offered him a juice box. When the man accepted the kid went ahead and poked the straw in figuring that the dudes hands were not what you would call, dexterous.
“I think it would be safer to say that they were probably more afraid than angry. I have always had that effect on people. I am not wise where it comes to expressing my opinions. They were not entirely wrong for what they did to me. I am not angry or hold bitterness. I am still here and this,” he motioned to his body, “will heal.”
“You’re a better man than me, Dude. I would be majorly pissed if someone even as much as punched me for no good reason.”
“It would not have solved anything to attempt retribution, or revenge. I would be denying the very thing for which I received this thrashing.”
“What’s that?” the kid grew confused again.
“Dude! You got your ass stomped for love? That seems stupid!”
“Perhaps, but I did just tell you that I am not wise when I open my mouth. I do believe that Love is the answer…for all things. I have not been able to find a way to communicate this without others becoming angry.”
The kid, Timothy, sat for quite a long time thinking while the damaged man stumbled his way through negotiating the juice box. He turned to the man and could not think of anything to do but smile. He received a smile back, ugly and bloodstained as it was, and they both just stared at each other.
“What if you had help?” Timothy asked. “You know, telling folks about love.”
“It might be just the thing that would work. Do you have anyone in mind?”
“I got some time on my hands. After school and on weekends, but yea, I’d give it a try.”
“That would be love-ly.” They both smiled at the pun.
“Well, first let’s get you someplace and get you fixed up. Here, use my shoulder. My Dad is a doctor and he’ll help. What’s your name Dude?”
“I’m pleased to meet you Manny. We need to be careful going through this brush, don’t want to hurt you any more than those other folks did.”
“Is it a long trip?”
Timothy looked at the man with all his injuries and considered why he had them in the first place and simply replied, “It might be, but we’ll get there.”