#124 Salvation

by Sam Westreich

I stand in front of the uniformed guard, my amulet of passage clutched tightly in one hand. The paper wrinkles slightly in my grasp, and I try not to smudge the markings.

From behind his podium, the gatekeeper stares down at me. He does not speak, but silently extends his hand, waiting for payment. I hold out my talisman, my hand trembling slightly.

The man takes the paper from me and examines it closely, reading the cramped writings. I wait, holding my breath. This is the last trial; if I fail here, all my efforts will have been for naught. I can go no further.

After what seems an eternity, the man passes back my paper and, with an artificial smile that does not reach his eyes, waves me onward. Heart in my throat, I continue past him, now walking fast, climbing the stairs into the cramped interior beyond. I search for my seat, still refusing to let myself relax.

I stare out the tiny window, finally able to breathe, as I watch my homeland drop away beneath us. Ahead of me lies the unknown—confusion, uncertainty, risk, and hope. I can never return, and feel the acute pain of loss. But there is no longer anything to return to; my future lies ahead.

A tin voice speaks from the front. “The captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign.”

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