for teens, by teens

Canvas Teen Literary Journal is published quarterly in print, ebook, web, video, and audio formats.

The Road Not Taken

Franziska Lee

The path extends into the billowing clouds. Weary eyes trailing past low hill-tops to the horizon, you can almost imagine that it goes on to the end of the world.
           You don’t see me.
           The plants are scarce and the hard-packed dunes on either of its flanks are scrubby and dry. But the path, the path is soft and curving. The stones piled up to the right of its sleekness are smooth and wind-worn, and you nearly forget that they’re heavy enough to kill a man. Fluffy emerald leaves crown the sturdy trunks of trees that stand in their copse like soldiers waiting. So benevolent. So protecting. The perfect hiding place.
           You don’t see me.
           You come down this trusty, welcoming path, your footsteps layering atop the invisible prints of thousands of travelers before you. You’re all alone, but this is Nature’s beauty, you think, and the last buttery glow of the sun has yet to slip beyond the gentle hills of the horizon. It’s likely that you’re carrying something: a backpack, a suitcase, a worn red purse with the last of your life savings. Maybe you’re hungry, maybe you’re thirsty.
           You don’t see me.
           You’re definitely tired, legs aching, back stooped, eyelids drooping. The landscape blurs in its endless, mellow stream of dips and cacti and fronds, a dream sliding away from lucidity. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, you aren’t really paying much attention at all, lulled into your sense of ease. Being so far from other humans can be eerie, but it lets you drop your guard, tear down all your walls and leave them crumbled in the indiscriminate dust.
           You don’t see me. But I see you.
            Maybe you’re hungry, maybe you’re thirsty. Maybe your throat burns, maybe your stomach growls. But you can not, can never fathom the terrible pit inside me. I am so, so hungry, my appetite insatiable. The sharp ache in my gut burning. I shift forward between my trees, run my tongue over where my lips would be, if I had them.
           You don’t see me. And then you do.
           Your scream, the sharp scent of your fear, your fingers grabbing at the unyielding pavement. These things I love as much as the crunch of your bones in my jaw. But most of all, it is the look on your face, in your eyes. Because you don’t believe in monsters.
           But here I am. Nature’s hideousness.
           And aren’t I real?

           You’re walking on a path that extends into billowing clouds. Your footsteps layer atop the invisible prints of thousands of travelers before you.
            There is a point where the invisible prints all end. But you can’t see it. And you don’t see me.
            Not yet.

Franziska Lee is a frequently awkward eighth grader from Connecticut who has loved telling stories in her head for as long as she can remember. She enjoys Autumn, small ink-black dogs, and apple pie. Franziska thanks her incredible former English teacher, Mrs. Riley. She aspires to be either a superhero or a writer. Maybe both.

© Canvas Literary Journal 2016
Writers & Books
Rochester, NY