"So, I get to choose, huh?"
Again, the girl said nothing.
Henry shrugged and started down the path on the left, the one leading to the bright end.
He took one step, maybe two, then became aware that the path was no longer there. It had vanished and a deep chasm lay before him. Had he been less careful, he would have plunged down it -- again.
"You are not ready," the girl called to him. Henry looked back to see that she was still standing in the fork of the road, which seemed several feet away, much farther than he remembered walking. "You must choose again," she said.
Henry returned to the fork and studied the other two paths. The one directly ahead still glowed fire red at the end. The one on the right still ended in total darkness. "I don't suppose you can tell me," he said, "what's at the end of either road?"
The girl looked at him calmly. "You already know," she said.
Henry searched his memories for some indication of what she meant. All he could think of was his old Sunday School lessons. The light path must have been heaven, which would be denied him because he committed suicide. The red path must be hell, the place reserved for those who sin. And the black path . . . ?
Henry shook his head. He had dismissed such notions long ago. Heaven, hell . . . it was all a fable, a lie. He no longer believed in Santa Claus, either.
Growing impatient, he started down the red path. But, just as suddenly as the chasm had appeared, the ground began to shake. He looked around for something to steady himself, but there was nothing. Suddenly, the ground beneath his feet erupted and a large, jagged wall thrust upward, barring his path.
"You are not ready for that path, either," the girl shouted. Her voice sounded remote. When Henry looked back at her, she seemed miles away.
Henry scampered back to the fork. "What's the point in choosing," he said, "when someone else is making the choice for me?"
"But you are making the choice," she said. "The chasm came from you, as did the wall."
The girl did not reply. Henry knew why: Everything he had seen was impossible, including the girl.
He turned to face the only path left, the dark path, and hesitated.
"You cannot stay here," the girl said. "You must go this path alone. When you reach the other side of the void, I will be waiting."
Henry turned to ask her what she meant -- but she was gone.
Slowly, he started He down the black path, stepping carefully. He felt as if he was walking into a land mine, waiting for something to explode. But nothing happened. After awhile, he started to walk more confidently.
Hours (or was it days?) passed, as the dark void in front of him slowly grew bigger. Finally, he reached a point where the road ended and the darkness engulfed everything in front of him. He could reach out and touch the void. He remembered a role-playing game he used to play as a teenager. In one dungeon lay a mirror with a black void in the middle. Anything that went into the void disappeared forever. He wondered if the same thing was about to happen to him.
"When you reach the other side of the void, I will be waiting." The little girl's voice echoed in his mind. It gave him something he had never had before: hope.
Slowly, he stepped into the void.