Two shadows speed forward in the dark of the night, leaving a pair of veins engraved into the moist dirt. They swerve and intertwine, struggling to decide on their next destination. They sweat, exhaling puffs of white air with each stroke, languidly pedaling ahead.
“Hey,” Chris pants. “Let’s take a break.”
The two boys stop and prop their bicycles against a lump of dirt stationed to the side of the path. Each breath they take forms a small white puff of air.
“So, how do you feel?” Chris hears Josh’s voice from behind. The dense black curtain engulfing the two blinds them, hiding them from each other.
“My lungs hurt.”
“You know that that’s not what I asked you.” Josh’s words pierce through the air.
Chris strolls back to the path, and takes a pack of cigarettes out of his pant pocket. He rummages through his other pockets, failing to find his lighter.
“You have a light?”
“Since when do you smoke?”
“Do you have a light?”
“I don’t smoke.”
Chris sighs, and stuffs the pack back to its original position.
“Is that pack even open?”
A speck of light can be seen in the distance, giving off an alluring shimmer. A cricket chirps. A soothing trickle can be heard, gently massaging Chris’s tingling craving away. The night still washes his vision, making it impossible to distinguish the source of the peaceful sound from the tall, dark grass.
Chris flinches, startled awake from his trance.
Chris can feel Josh breathing down his neck.
“I’m fine, Josh.” Chris rubs the back of his neck. “I was just thinking.”
Josh’s feet crunch the dry earth next to Chris.
“A penny for your thoughts?”
Chris sighs, shaking his head.
“Your penny would go in vain.”
The cricket has stopped chirping. The gentle trickle of the river emerges from the dim, bitter yonder.
“On second thought,” Chris squints in the gloom, trying to make out the waterline. “What are you gonna do after we graduate?”
Josh groans. “We’ve had this conversation a million times, Chris. We came on this trip to take your mind off of things, not fill it with extra rubbish.”
“Well, let me hear it again.”
Chris hears a weak sigh from his side.
“I’m going to graduate school to get a masters degree…well, at least a masters. For… well, something, I guess.”
“Why is that?”
Josh shifts. His clothes make a rumpling sound.
“Because my parents tell me to.”
Chris sits down on the crusty dirt. He caresses his knees, sinking them into his chest. Josh joins him, crushing a pile of dead leaves with his weight.
“How do you feel about that?”
A deafening silence engulfed the two. Chris hears Josh breathe in slowly. An eternity passes before the cold air in Josh’s lungs was exhaled in the form of words.
“There isn’t any room to feel anything. My path is set, and I just have to set my feet upon it and commit to it.”
Chris shrugs, and makes an invisible nod.
“Well, I don’t have a path to follow. I’m completely lost, just going with the flow, with whatever everybody else does. Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure if I’m lost or not. Might as well have a path set before you, huh?”
Josh breathed in sharply, and let out a deflating breath.
“Sure. What time is it?”
Chris grunts. “Is that a rhetorical question?”
“I mean, I’ve been thinking this whole time. What would you have done if everything wasn’t laid out for you?”
Chris could see Josh’s figure shifting closer.
“Probably would’ve sung or something.”
“You’re a great singer.”
“Well I sure as hell love to sing.”
The two sit together in the cold, right next to each other.
“And I sure as hell would love to keep singing.”
Chris shuffles with unease and blows into his hands.
Josh is looking into the distance. The sun had already risen from the ground, shining its radiant light. A bridge hangs down river in the distance. Chris did not even notice that the river had become visible. Schools of tiny fish are swimming in the water. It’s getting warm. The fish shimmer, receiving and reflecting the morning light. They serve as reinforcements to the splashes of sparkles on the waves. A train rushes past on the bridge with a faint rumbling sound.
Josh stands up, and stretches his arms out.
“So, how do you feel?”
Chris follows, still gazing at the horizon.
“I was asking if you were ready to go.”
Chris walks to his bicycle, and points it towards the path.
“Yeah, let’s go.”