Chapter Two

Wind rustled through black branches, making them claw at each other against the dark sky. The full moon lit the forest with pale eerie light but that didn't stop the small troupe of boys from wandering further and further from the heart of the town. Soon the light of the houses was just a twinkle in the distance yet still they pressed on, their voices excited and low.

All but one. One young boy had been dared, as young boys are, to climb a tall tree near the wall the surrounded the compound they lived in. He was silent as he led the boys through the woods, unaware that his actions would change not only his life, but the lives of every individual in the town. And yet, even without knowing, he knew something was going to happen.

Every muscle in his body was tense and pulsing with anticipation while his stomach rolled with nausea. Something was going to happen. At ten years old, he was about to see what most others in the complex had never seen. The outside world. As they neared the tree, they all grew silent, watching the limbs stretch toward the sky with a reverence that only the children in their town would understand.

They stood in silence until an older boy nudged his friend forward to complete the dare. He wouldn't have done it. Not only did he dislike heights, but his father was the leader of the town and had told him all kinds of terrible things that happened in the outside world. He had been told that if he ever glimpsed the outside before he was a man, that the Lord would strike him blind just from seeing the sin beyond. All of the children in town knew this risk but boys will be boys and a dare was a dare.

The bark of the tree was cold and harsh against the younger boy's hand when he touched it. Excitement stirred the group once more while they helped him to the first branch. It was all up from there. Up and up he climbed, focusing only on where his hands and feet were going, not on his friends below or the scene blooming behind him as he passed the wall.

At the top the gripped the tree with both hands, taking deep breaths to prepare himself. What if the stories were true and he would go blind for seeing the sin of the outside world? It was too late now. He had come too far to turn back now. One more deep breath and he turned his head to see the vast world beyond. In the full moon's glow he could see distant mountains, wide open plains, a farm houses, and the sprawling lights of a town. The breeze ruffled his hair and his breath caught in his throat. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and in that instant, he didn't fear losing his sight, for now, he had seen the world.