Stage After Stage

So there she was, walking around a crossroad in the middle of nowhere. Looking around, 23-year-old Amanda, a puny cashier, was off to a clothing store. It was a sizzling yet gleaming Sunday morning. The cars were driving, and the children were skipping. She saw mixed signals above the clouds, flashing abominations within each space, and anxiousness, rush, and conflict through the air.

Walking into the store, she flapped through everything in her path, stopping once she gazed directly into a piece of an astonishing wardrobe’s immaculate details. She took a while at the cashier as she placed each item on the scrappy counter. Seeing a cashier made her think, Why am I doing this, and where am I supposed to be? Then, she stampeded like a pack of dragons out of the store, storming off with her clothing, her credit card in her hand the whole time. A long line of people was juxtaposing her as she crawled mystically through the crowd and magically appeared in the black chair. Footsteps from her boss’s door filled her ears, and she reversed her previous movements. Her imagery and mind swapped scenes as she had nothing to do with anything in there. Trying to hide from her precariousness, sluggishly limping towards her apartment, she came across a tree, a holy tree, and climbed inside its hole. She went feet first and curled into a ball.

Immediately, she dropped way inside it and changed facial expressions. She went down a deep trench, frightening and pitch black, scratchy and rough. It ripped her jeans and left her in horror as to what was to come next. She ended up in a white room. The room was decorated with candles and roses, smelling like a honeymoon. Sighing, out came a mischievous spark from a hidden door. The spark flew straight for the glass window, shattering it to pieces. She climbed back up the trench as the spark flew south. She found a rope, a slippery rope, and grabbed hold of it. Racing for her life, mist appeared as she backed out. She continued on the gruesome path, attempting to find some grace. Seeing sunlight, she toppled her way up the last few steps and relief took its course. She circled around again, until the tree sucked her in. The wind smashed her, dragging her, until her grip was not strong enough. She was in the trench again and went straight past different stages.

Each stage held a riddle and a challenge. She had to complete each challenge using hazardousness, intelligence, endurance, and agility. However, each stage was less simple than it sounded. She only found this out by reading a scroll enriched by the stench of dirt, which was written by a prophet. His threats melted away in Amanda’s mind, only to reveal an unappealing picture. He also mentioned there was a missing piece, and at some time, it would appear. Ignoring the quote, Amanda fell into despair and fell asleep, dreaming about absolute terrorization. She did not think, did not do anything. She did not know what to do and concealed herself within the very center of the earth. Witnessing the plants maturing, she whispered to God, “why am I here?” There was no answer. God was clueless, and due to that, this quest was clearly impossible as Amanda was blank in thought, all on her own, exploring this second world, which turned out to be complete nothingness and tragedy.

She encountered the first step, which squeaked like a mouse, and screeched its way to freedom, opening up as Amanda returned to solid ground. The staircase cracked, and dirt and sticks fell through the tree, blocking her vision and mere hope. Her first thought was to just wait, but that could take hours. She then gained a lightbulb. She began to pick out certain sticks in the heap and then scratched all of the dirt out of place. Above her lay the world, and the challenges she would have to overcome. She slinked up the stairs drowsily, only to see a squirrel.

The squirrel had a mixture of white and brown fur and was crouching on some tree roots. He shook a very small and very weak tree, only to be enrobed in a immense pile of acorns. Then, the squirrel wiggled his way out, shaking off any remaining acorn pieces afterward. He abruptly began chucking acorns at a very rapid pace. His face was motionless, but his insides were scornful. To work her way out of this horrific procedure, Amanda dug a hole deep into the ground and sat inside it, using the leftover dirt as a fortress to block herself from the soaring projectiles. The fallen tree left behind a stump which was the perfect shield from the acorns. Once all of the acorns had been thrown, the squirrel dug his own hole and was so frightened by what Amanda would do next, he caught air and flew like the wind, lacking the radiance he briefly had before. Amanda climbed her way up the trench, hoping she would skip the second stage.

Unfortunately for her dream and ideal mind explanation, she encountered a bed of nails blocking her pathway. She had no idea how to get past this. A giant appeared who was at least 33-feet-tall, wore massive, red boots, a brown sack, a robe, and was completely bald with a beard as his only form of hair. He granted a command: “I will let you through if you can make me eat something that I do not enjoy.” This very broad message sunk into Amanda’s brain as she thought with agony.

She moaned to the giant, “Okay. Try eating this lovely…”

But what would the giant not like? Urban legends and myths say that giants eat anything from socks to swords. However she thought to herself about cannibalism and how no species likes to eat their own kind, and certainly, their own self. This challenge was becoming frivolous instead of difficult. Well, maybe it was going to be difficult for the giant, she thought, letting out a slight chuckle.

“So, what will it be?” growled the giant, furiously.

“Try eating yourself, head to toe,” Amanda mumbled, with relief covering up her face.

“With pleasure,” replied the giant with no thought as Amanda sought a peculiar look on his face.

The giant started with his toenails. His mouth deliberately moved up and down. To the giant, the toenails tasted like sausages but crunchier. He then moved onto his feet. It tasted like a juicy, hearty, chicken noodle soup. His legs were chomped away in no time. Sweat ran down Amanda’s face through the process. The giant finally got to his head and had already demolished each part of his body, obliterating himself throughout the course. The giant stretched out his mouth to get a slight grip around his head, and poof! Sure, the giant enjoyed his eccentric meal, but the revelation for Amanda was that the giant simply was not there. The giant floated casually up into the sky, resting upon a fuzzy cloud. Amanda crawled across the bed of nails, using the tree trunk to bend each of them, to make the crawl more comfortable. She surpassed the second stage, pinched, but healthy enough to continue. She then ran up the trench to the third stage.

She met an old woman, who looked arrogant and greedy

The old woman calmly said, “I am the best at everything, and you can try and beat me in a competition including any activity.”

Amanda thought long and hard about what activity to choose. She did not have extraordinary talent, and she knew that her talent would not live up to this woman. But she did have a booming personality and heart, which was something that set her apart from her competition. She ordered some servants to enter the room to judge the competition.

The woman copied the giants words, “So what will it be?”

“A respect competition,” mumbled Amanda.

“With pleasure,” scuffed the woman.

The judge wanted both contestants to display acts of kindness from receiving a hideous gift. The gift consisted of a slug, a toaster, and a dead bat. Up went the beggar woman to the stage.

She radiantly empowered to the judge, “I did not travel all of this way to receive such useless items. You are dismissed!”

The judge shook his head in agony and firmly protested to the woman these devastating words.

“I show great remorse for the action I am about to display. However, my eminence, you seem to be flustered with the mess you have trapped yourself in. The girl is the winner.”

And just like that, the woman’s eyes popped right out of her skin, and off went Amanda, heading straight towards stage four.

She started to see some sunlight through the trench, and as she was looking, along came the next obstacle. This time, a man with brown hair brushed back to his scalp wandered around the perimeter.

“Oh well, salutations there,” said the man springily. “Prepare for endorsement in spontaneous combustion.”

Amanda leaped back in terror. First up was the stretcher. The man took out a prisoner, placing him roughly on the contraption. Lacking flexibility, the prisoner’s limbs were flappy and weak. She felt like she was in the dark ages. Next, the man went over to the head crusher. The prisoner placed his head inside of the machine, and the machine jolted south. The prisoner whimpered as his head was chopped right off. Next, was the fire and sword. The man left the prisoner inside a ring of fire, and each time he yelped, swords would create crude scabs on his torso. Next was the lemon juice skin removal. The man quickly removed all of his skin, only to embroider the prisoner in screamingly painful lemon juice. The fifth and last step was the gas chamber, which was used to ultimately turn the body into nothingness as he was burned alive and forever slayed due to the supremely evil man. Amanda nearly fainted, but she found out that the gas chamber was the only machine that actually killed people. This was her chance to fake her death.

Amanda sweetly acknowledged to the man, “I will start with the gas chamber.”

Right before that, she stole the man’s drink and spilled it over the controller to suck her inside the chamber. The man flipped the lever immediately as Amanda stepped right inside without any fear. She got out of the chamber, pushed the old man inside it, and he was never tangible to anything or anyone ever again. She bumped over some equipment as she stumbled out and raced for stage five.

There was no stage five. The prophet left her another note: You must prepare for stage six. This is the hardest stage there is. Stage five is the tendency to not stop. We have provided you with food and water, but you must train. The spirits will be looking over you. In order to pass this stage, you must not sleep. That is how you’ll transport yourself to stage six without defeat and humiliation. This is your only chance, but we are all counting on you.

At that moment, something struck Amanda. She would have to use all of her previous skills she had picked up from each challenge. By combining each skill, she would outsmart the next obstacle. She recapped each one of her moments in the trench and was ready to put her agility and wit to the ultimate test. She sat down to a dinner of steak, wine, cheese, and apple pie. She thought long and hard about stage six. She was secretly terrified of to what was to come next. She just wanted this petrifying journey to end. She was sweating hard as she trained all night, eventually collapsing from exhaustion. She missed her family, the outside world, and her job, but she found a new piece within her. Somewhere, there was a piece. At some time, it had to be found, and it was inside her.

The moment to find the missing piece was now. When sunlight cracked open her eyes, she ran up the trench and saw an unbearable, indestructible, brick wall that was surrounding her. The walls closed, chomping together like jaws eating an almond. It was stage six, and she was trapped in a hamlet.

Amanda tried to use her body to bust herself out and tried to push bricks out of the wall, but no solution worked. Never had she accumulated something so frustrating. Then, it was all obvious. The message said, “go through the cracks and then follow tracks,” but this was not her answer. The answer was butter. She grabbed her packets of butter from last night’s dinner and began melting them into the bricks. Then, she shaved her tree stump, plucking out each nail. She pounded her way out with the nails scraping the bricks. It took three tiring hours, but Amanda was out. As a memory, she took the first brick that fell out of place and the invention she made.

She jumped for joy and began to follow the footsteps of what seemed to be a bear. The bear eventually showed up at the bottom of the tracks and intended to eat Amanda. The bear’s teeth snapped down, intending to reach Amanda’s forearm. Amanda looked at the brick she brought from the trench. She used it to smash the bear in the head, and as a souvenir, she grabbed a bunch of hair that had fallen out during the fight. Next, she realized the prophet had tricked her. She would have to go back up the trench.

This time, another squirrel was throwing acorns at her, but Amanda discovered that the last acorn was right by her side. She then threw it into a hole, and the squirrel whooshed inside it as Amanda covered up the hole with leaves, sticks, and dirt. The bed of nails was still in stage two, but this time, she used her shoelaces to wrap around each nail, tying that nail with amazing force. The nail jolted back, and popped right out of its shell. Amanda took each nail. In stage three, Amanda created a giggling contest, and she used the bear fur to tickle the old woman. At first, the woman let out a slight chuckle, until the room was being eaten up by a wave, which pulsed grand sparks coming straight out of the sky, in the form of an annoyingly high pitch. Eventually she stopped the process. The old woman told a joke. “Why do cups sing? Because they do the cup song!” The joke elicited a disgruntled look from Amanda. She had won the competition according to the judge, but she tickled the old woman again to regain safety from the stage.

For stage four, Amanda grabbed the contraption she had made at stage six, and the man with the brushed hair was punched in the eye and landed in the head crusher. Amanda deployed the crusher and out came blood and body parts, cascading around the floor to create a replica of a gory painting. Amanda ran off to stage five, her breakfast. The meal consisted of blueberry pancakes, eggs benedict, and maple bacon. She devoured each and every bite, leaving behind the distinct smell of grease. She headed towards stage six right, after her divine meal, and punched her way out again. But this time, a huge mess of crumbs was left behind which Amanda stepped in, so she got her shoes very dirty. Once she worked her way out, she took the original scroll as a memory for the prophet’s overwhelming wisdom and because of the recourse she had accumulated from him on how to complete each now imperished stage.

Working her way out of the trench, Amanda received one last note from the prophet. Congratulations. The end is near. You have gone through my tricks, and overcome your fear, but there is one secret you didn’t realize. You didn’t have a message stages one through five.

Amanda wore a ginormous grin as she ran out of the trench and encountered utter freedom. She circled around the tree and climbed right up it. Since she had many nails and more bricks from the second break, she was able to hammer the bricks in with the crusher she had made. She stayed up the tree, lost in thought, for quite a while until the cashier from the clothing store said firmly, startling Amanda, “You didn’t pay for your clothes!”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *