Soft humming brought Ember back to consciousness. She felt confused and disoriented. She wanted to let her eyes fly open and see where she was but apprehension made her keep them tightly shut. She could feel that she was lying down and what felt like little strands of something were moving against her, tickling her bare arms and feet. She became aware that her head was resting on someone’s lap and that person was stroking her hair. She laid there, letting herself listen to the sounds around her and her rapidly beating heart. She willed her heart to slow to a normal beat. As her heart beat slowed, she heard a faint chuckle, “What a beautiful mind you have. Always so active.”
As she slowly opened her eyes, she realized they were in a field and it was Elpis whose lap her head rested in. All apprehension immediately dissipated and relief washed over Ember. Then just as suddenly a dozen questions began to pop into Ember’s mind, causing Elpis to chuckle once more.
Sitting up, she lets the thoughts popping in her head rush out of her mouth. “How did I end up here? What happened at Fortress Twig? Where are all the others? Are they okay? Did the portal work? Of course it must have worked. I’m here, aren’t I?” Ember blushed and smiled sheepishly.
“What do you remember?”
Ember thought for a moment, “well…the portal was ready, so Bridget and I were going to gather a group of people we thought we could trust and form a plan on how to get everyone out… and then… I don’t remember anything else, but I woke up here. I don’t understand how I got here.”
“As in regular life, you go through journeys and experiences to evolve into your higher self and to aid others on their journeys. This realm is no different. In some ways it may challenge you more because you will encounter things here that you would not have imagined in the real world.”
“So this wasn’t, isn’t real? It was all like a dream?” Ember interjected.
“Dreams are very real, but no, it wasn’t a dream. You were there and you’re experiences were real. You are no longer there because the lessons you had to learn were complete; therefore you were transported back to this field. You may notice there are now only eight doors. Through each door, you will go on a journey to learn specific skills or things about yourself.”
“Once I have gone through all of them, does that mean I get to go home again?” Ember queried with hope in her voice.
“Of that, I do not have the answer. A wise man once said, “When the time is right, the answer will come.” He understood that although you often have questions, the universe will provided the answers when you are ready for them and not before.”
“Oh, I’m so ready for the answers and I have a million questions.”
Elpis chuckled. “Just because one thinks they are ready, does not mean they are. Why don’t you tell me what you think your time in Fortress Twig taught you?”
“Hmm, what it taught me…well, I learned that there really are evil people out there. That you can get trapped in places…oh, that I can’t always control the things around me?”
“Those sound more like questions, than lessons learned. Let’s look at it another way. I want you to focus only on how you felt. Tell me what you felt from when you arrived there until you woke up here,” Elpis encouraged.
“Before I opened the door and went through I was very nervous. I didn’t know what was on the other side and I don’t like surprises or not being in control. When I first walked through it was fascinating and these women came up to me who seemed so nice, I thought it was going to be a fun adventure and I was excited. Then when they took me inside, it felt really cold and I felt a strange sense of dread that I didn’t understand until I had been there a little while. It was confusing and overwhelming and I felt trapped and dismissed. I was frustrated and angry. How dare they trap me there and tell me I had no control over anything. Then I felt horrified and sad for the ones who were being picked on and disappearing, which made me angry again. I felt helpless to do anything for them. I couldn’t even help myself. Then I got this message on the computer from this guy named Seth, and felt a surge of curiosity and hope. Once we started planning how to escape, my adrenaline started going. I let myself trust a few people and take a chance that they weren’t all bad. I was happily surprise to be putting a team together. I almost felt like I could be a leader, and I felt a sense of purpose and freedom. I don’t know what happened and I woke up here, so I guess I’m not much of a teamster or leader after all,” Ember said, ending with a frown and sigh.
Elpis just smiled and waited.
“Man, I’m just all over the place, aren’t I? This is why I keep to myself most of the time. People shouldn’t depend on me. I don’t know why I have been chosen for this. I feel bad for I felt such relief when I realized I was out of that place and then guilt because I should have thought of the others first.”
Elpis took Embers hand and they began to walk. “I think you learned a great deal, but you let your doubts overshadow what is right before you. You have great potential but you must learn to trust your instincts and your feelings. You will make a great leader one day if you allow yourself to be one. You deny who you are and your accomplishments. Is it because you feel unworthy of them or do you fear them, maybe fear failing so you would rather play it safe?” Ember smiled sheepishly. “I already know this about you, but you need to recognize who you are and what is inside you. You can’t deceive yourself and hope to grow into the champion of others you are destine to because. That means you must accept your flaws and mistakes. Learn from them and let them show you how they have helped you on your journey so far. Next you must believe in yourself. Your doubt is what traps you.”
“My doubt in myself is what is holding me back,” Ember thought about this. “I can see how that is true. Fortress Twig was meant to show me how I hold myself back because of self-doubts and not trusting what my intuition tells me.”
“And…” Elpis prompted.
“I should embrace becoming a leader?”
Elpis laughed. “Well that will come with time and confidence. When you believe in yourself you can make things happen. Others will believe in you and follow you. The other thing you have learned is that you don’t have to hide yourself from the world. Yes, it was safe to stay locked in your little room, but in order to grow, you must step out of your comfort zone, take risks, trust others and let them in. There will be those who will hurt you and betray your trust. It is hard to allow yourself to be exposed and vulnerable, but it is through those experiences that you grow. If you follow your heart and your… how do humans say it…your gut, you will discover you are more talented and stronger than you give yourself credit for. Fortress Twig is a prison, but is a prison you allow yourself to be trapped in. Once you begin to believe in yourself, the walls of that prison...”
“Disappear!” Ember finished for her. “I trap myself by my own mind. That a makes sense. I will work on that. I have to be honest, though, I’m not good at believing in me. I don’t see what you and others do.”
“Baby steps. You will get there. I believe in you!”
With that, they had stopped walking and Ember realized they were now in the center of a circle with the eight remaining doors. “I have to choose another one now, don’t I?”
“Yes. It is time for me to leave and for you to continue your journey. You will eventually go through each of these doors, allow this to be your guide,” she said as she placed her hand on Ember’s heart and then disappeared.
Which door will Ember choose to go through next and what is waiting on the other side….