Art by jiashu xu ©

Drawing from a deep-seated resolve, his eyes focused straight ahead, Sheridan continued to climb the stairs. The great bird initiated a full-speed dive. Out of the corner of his eye Sheridan saw the enormous beast coming straight at him. The Giant Parodarsh spread his wings, drew his mighty talons, and descended at breakneck speed. With the creature quickly bearing down on him, an instant of calm struck Sheridan. It was time to face his fears. He waited till the last second. Then, as the fearsome Parodarsh came within reach, Sheridan threw open his arms, facing the creature with an unflinching stare!

The cock of awakening came to a stop, talons drawn and wings flapping furiously. With a mighty roar, a ball of fire burst from his beak, enveloping Sheridan in a cocoon of flames. Held captive within the bird’s fiery grasp, Sheridan could feel the blazing heat. For a moment, time stood still while the two were locked in a pose.

Suddenly the wingspan of the Giant Parodarsh became a great mirror. Sheridan was frozen in place, mesmerized by his own determined face looking back at him. Then, as if the dregs and dross of his long dark night were consumed by a smelter’s fire, the image melted away to reveal a young boy sitting high atop a windblown cottonwood tree, singing at the top of his lungs. With gleeful abandon the boy held onto a swinging branch as if he was riding the wind.

Could it be?

The image captivated Sheridan, calling up advice from Lil’ John that he had rejected out of hand just days earlier.

“What are you saying?” Sheridan asked his childhood friend.

“Your search for the sacred gift has already begun. It is your Vision Quest, the sacred journey in search of the Great Mystery. But I must warn you; the Great Mystery does not reveal itself to the eyes of men, it can only be seen with the eyes of a child.”

The welling of tears began to blur Sheridan’s vision.

“I haven’t seen the world like that for a very long time.”

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