The Woods of Despair

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Laura Tubbs

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We left for a weekend to get away from the constant, heavy cloud of stress that seemed to surround our college campus. It set in from the first day of classes, and hung there, unmoving ever since. Our brains were packed with worries about exams and assignments, and we hoped that spending some time away in the great outdoors would allow us to release the tension and return back rejuvenated and able to finish off the semester. Ana and I decided that a cool weekend in October was free enough for all of us to leave for two nights and go camping in the state forest about 45 minutes away.
We left on Friday afternoon, and arrived in the small town of Antrap around 6pm. The quaint shops, small restaurants, bakeries, and convenient stores surrounded a few additional tourist attractions such as a "witches shop" equipped for Halloween, and a park visitor center with a gift shop. The townspeople seemed incredibly happy, which was a change from our tense and frazzled peers at school. We were grateful to be away from campus for a little bit. Before getting to our campsite, we stopped at a small grocery store, and bought a few provisions to last us the weekend. The cashier was a friendly dark haired girl, probably in high school. She asked about where we were from and wished us a good time when we told her we were camping in the nearby park. We headed into the state park as the sun was setting, ready to set up our tent and start a fire. When we arrived at the site, the branches of the trees and the fallen leaves rustled around us. The darkness surrounded us like the blanket of worries that we had just escaped from school. We had a quick dinner, and in no time, the sun was far below the horizon. We climbed into our tent, and briefly talked before the long week put us asleep. We looked forward to hiking in the woods and shopping the next day.
When we awoke, the tranquility that we hoped for was nowhere to be found. The feeling in the air was different, but it was uncomfortable unlike anything we had yet to experience. All 543 anatomy flashcards that I had to memorize and each 9 step physics problem that Ana had to carry out created a feeling of anxiety and worry about our future careers. These were careers that we have decided to devote all our time and money to, but this was something different. I felt guilt for things that I hadn't done. Just as we finished making breakfast, Ana cried for reasons she was convinced were due to the passing of an unfamiliar family member. A family member who she apparently could have saved, but was too selfish to. From years of knowing Ana, I was certain that her kind soul was incapable of such a deed. Our brains were full of guilt for things we hadn't done, worries about things that didn't apply to us, and anxiety about situations and places that we had no reason to consider. I had never cheated on the boyfriend that I didn't have, but I felt so badly for it.
What we didn't know was that that witch shop was not for tourists, it was for the locals to pay dues to the witch who would clear them of their worries. Anything that plagued their mind, made them feel guilty, or made them worry could be taken away. But the best witches know that you can't simply remove a worry. It must be transferred to another brain. And that was ours. The brains of the obvious tourists who told the kind cashier of our plans were infiltrated with new thoughts.
When we drove out of that town, our brains were each filled with the various worries of several different people. People we did not know. We were responsible for the selfish deeds that they committed, while they lived freely. Although each of us seemed to take on different worries, we both left with the greatest fear that kept us from telling anyone of what went on in the town of Antrap. We would return home exhausted, burdened with the task of handling an abundance of mental illnesses that we had been lucky enough to be free of prior to the trip.

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