The Ladder

This is my ladder.

Every day, every hour, I continue to climb it, because… well, that’s what we do. We are trained from birth for this. At ten, I was shown my ladder and prepared for the day when I would start to climb it. At fourteen, I started to climb. And I havent stopped since. We never do, you know. We continue to climb and climb and climb, because… well, again, that’s what we do.

Success? No, success has nothing to do with this. Social standing has nothing to do with it either. At least, that’s not why I climb, anyway. I climb because… well, at the risk of repeating myself yet again, its what I do. I climb, up and up and up, always following a distant light that never comes any closer and never recedes any further. It remains a constant distance from me, safe, secure, predictable.

Sometimes, I see others climbing their ladders. Some are faster than I; others are slower. I can only barely see them in the dark that surrounds my ladder, you understand, but I know they’re out there, somewhere. Sometimes, I stop and peer into the infinite darkness that encircles me, and, if I’m lucky, if I look hard, I can see them, climbing up and up towards their own lights. Sometimes I can even see the lights themselves, moving just as regularly up the ladders of my friends and neighbours. For a while, I had someone climbing with me… but he’s gone now. His ladder veered off in another direction. I considered jumping over to climb his… but it seemed like such a violation of who I am that I just couldnt do it. So I stayed on my ladder, and he on his, and we swore that somehow, someday we’d get back in touch… but I know we never will. His ladder is out there somewhere, while mine is… here.

It’s not as lonely as you might think. Like I said, sometimes I can see the other ladders around me. Sometimes I talk to the people on them. Sometimes they talk back. Once, I stopped climbing, and the light above me went out for a few moments — and in that brief period of time, I could see hundreds, thousands, millions of ladders, all around me. And I knew I wasnt alone.

But most times, I cant see anything except the next few rungs above me. The ones beneath me slip away into darkness, but the ones above glisten with a newfound light that propels me upward ever more.

What’s at the top of the ladder, you ask? No one knows. No one’s ever climbed back down to tell us. Oh, a few folk have claimed to have done so, but no one believes them. You dont climb down. It’s simply not done. You can only climb up.

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