The Journey

Chapter 5

By Sunshine Boy

Dan walked into the tent that had the 'registration' sign taped to it.

Inside the tent was a large table with a big stack of file folders, a computer, and a middle aged balding man with a pleasant face.

"Hello. Can I help you?"

"I believe so, my name is Dan McKinnon and I signed up for this backpacking trip online."

"Well it's certainly more than just a backpacking trip but let me see here, one of these should be yours." The man said as he pulled the pile of folders onto his lap and started sorting them back onto the table.

"Here we go this one is yours." The man handed Dan a folder and a pen.

"There's a bunch of information in there and some papers to sign, have them back here in an hour."

"Okay." Dan stepped back outside and sat in the grass to read the contents of his folder.

Each page he understood less than the one before; the words just became more and more complicated and legal as he read. He felt as if though he were signing away his life without actually knowing what he was reading. Looking around, he saw other kids doing the same thing as he. Finally, at the bottom of the folder, there was a magazine size booklet 20 pages long. The title was 'general information, rules and guidelines.' Dan sighed. "Too many papers." He groaned then decided to hand in the contracts and read the rules book latter.

The man was still behind the table waiting when Dan stepped in. "Ah, I'm glad to see you've finished reading everything. Naturally you'll want to take some of those papers with you."

"Ah yes of course. Well here are the papers that had to be signed."

"Good good. Let me just check here, all signed...opps, your missing one, there's a tear out page at the end of your guidelines book that had to be signed."

"Oh right, let me get that." Dan pulled out the booklet and signed the page then gave it to the man.

"Well you're free to wander around until 12:00 then there will be an assembly and more information will be given. But a word of advice, read the rules book...all of it."

"Okay, thank you I will." Dan felt his face turning red.

He wandered back out into the sun and after walking a short distance he plopped back down in the grass and watched all the people milling around him. The field was about the size of two football fields side by side and had dozens of teenagers scattered all over it. Dan quietly observed them; most of them were boys but there were some girls too. A few seemed to know each other and were talking but most either wandered aimlessly in a sort of nervous march or sat perusing their folders. Dan's attention was soon caught by a mother son duo to his left. The son; a pale pudgy looking boy, was trying to get away from his mom who was trying to slather him in sun block. Dan tried not to grin as the fat boy squirmed away from his over protective mother. Then when she was thoroughly finished with him she kissed him multiple times, got in her car, and drove off. The boy turned and caught Dan's stare. "What?" He sneered.

"Nothin." Dan said and automatically looked down.

"Yeah I thought so." The fat kid said then walked away.

Dan never seemed able to face confrontation automatically, his natural reaction was to avoid.

After he had forgotten about the pudgy momma's boy, Dan started to read his guidelines book. Before he could get much read he was interrupted by a man with a microphone some distance across the field. "Excuse me everyone could I have your attention please?" Dan closed his book and waited to hear what the man had to say. "Could you all please move closer so you can hear me better." The man requested. Dan sighed, packed up his papers and moved closer.

"You all know why you're here. All of you in some way or another managed to find this place through you desire to meet exactly the right person. I assure you, after this you will have that person, but you must work first. As you probably all know by now you'll be wearing a brain wave monitor that will relay your brain waves to the computer so that it can calculate your perfect match. The intention is to make you undergo a physically and mentally demanding exercise thus providing the computer with the broadest range possible of your brain waves. This truly is one of the hardest things you may ever do in your life but probably the most rewarding. Many of you will give up along the way and there's no shame in that, you can, if you wish, try again next year as the computer won't have gathered enough information to find your match if you quit early. Most people choose not to come back, they find that the information they gain about themselves and the adventure itself was more than sufficient and they return to their own lives as better people."

Dan snorted, "They just couldn't cut it, can't afford it, and don't want to admit it." He mumbled.

"Those of you who do finish and many of you will, are guaranteed the man or woman of your dreams, the perfect match. Trust me I've seen it happen many times before and I often get letters thanking me and the whole team for finding their soul mate."

Dan yawned; the warm sun, soft grass, and lack of sleep were getting to him.

"So let me run through the events of today, after this meeting we will all..."

Dan's vision blurred and he fell back into the soft grass. Then in the same instant he became aware of what he was doing and made an effort to remain conscious. He sat back up and looked around.

"...Then you are all invited to what I call the last supper." The man smiled. "Don't be alarmed, the event organizers thought it might be a good idea to give you all a big meal and a good night sleep before sending you out on your own." Dan checked his watch, 10 minutes had passed since he had fallen back into the grass, and he realized with alarm that he must have slept through some of the speech. The man paused a moment then clapped his hands together, "Okay, I think that's all, if you forgot anything I said, or fell asleep and I saw some of you who did, don't feel bad I can understand with the grass and sun and everything, all the events of the day are highlighted on page 5 of your guidelines book. In case I don't get a chance latter, I wish you all the very best of luck. Godspeed."

Dan flipped through his book,

- Take bus to overnight housing.

He only read the first event then closed his book and stuffed it into his already bloated backpack.

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