The party of six had somehow managed to survive the crash of their small plane when the pilot was able to land it successfully on the sandy shore of a remote mountain lake. They gathered up their possessions, at least as much as each could reasonably carry, and began their trek to try to find civilization before the harsh elements and the lack of more than a few day’s worth of food would be their demise.
Early on the third day of their journey, cold, hungry, and exhausted, the members of the group were starting to lose hope. But then Robert, the pilot, saw something through the mist. “Look, over there,” he said, pointing to what looked like steps carved into the rocky slope leading up toward what appeared to be a structure made from stone. “I don’t know what that is, or if we’ll find anyone there, but if we can get their before dusk, it should provide us some shelter for the night.”
With whatever strength the small group could muster, they headed toward the stone steps. Upon reaching the base, Sondra looked up at what appeared to be a never ending staircase. She fell to her knees and began to cry. “I can’t go on. I just can’t.”
Robert went over to Sondra, put an around around her, and said, “I will help you. If I must, I will carry you. We’ve come too far to stop here.”
George, one of the other passengers, joined Robert, and went to Sondra’s other side. The two men helped her up and the small group proceeded to slowly climb the stone steps.
As they ascended, the mist thickened and temperatures dropped. But just as the members of the small party were about to abandon all hope, the mist cleared, the clouds parted, and standing high up on the stone staircase above them was a tall man with a long, white beard and dressed in a gray robe and hat.
“Who are you and what is this place?” Robert asked the strange man.
“You are at the threshold of Shangri La,” the man said. “I am the High Lama, and the more important questions are who are you and why are you here.”
Robert explained about the plane crash and the trek they had been on. “We are all near exhaustion. We are hungry and need to rest. Can you provide us with some food and shelter until we are strong enough to continue to our journey to return to our homes?”
“You may seek shelter here if you wish,” the High Lama said, “but before you decide to enter Shangri La, you must agree to embrace our ways and understand that once you cross through our portal, you can never leave.”
Sondra once again began to cry. “Will I never be able to see my children again?”
“You must give up all of your worldly possessions and those you love. That is the price of entering Shangri La,” the High Lama said.
“That’s crazy,” George said. “What if we walk through the gates of Shangri La but then choose to leave later?”
“That is unlikely,“ the High Lama said, “but if you do leave, you will wander for the rest of eternity. For once you find paradise, to leave is paradise lost.”
Written for Sadje’s What Do You See? prompt. Image credit: Stefan Keller at Pixabay.