Reflection Sawyer stared into the dense forest. It was dark, overgrown, and humid, but Sawyer couldn’t hold back a big smile. He looked at his dog, Atlas. “Let’s go on an adventure!” Atlas wagged his tail and barked. They both ran into the depths of the forest. Sawyer had short, light brown hair and blue eyes. His parents sent him to the city for college along with his loyal dog, Atlas. Atlas was a brown Australian cattle dog that was smaller than normal. The duo yearned for adventure and were on their way to The Heart of Reflection, a lake not to far from the city that was surrounded by a forest. The forest ground was covered in moss, the vegetation was so thick that it was hard to see more than 3 feet, and the air was so humid that it was hard to breathe, but the adventurous pair found their way with no trouble at all. As they went deeper and deeper into the forest, Sawyer ran faster and faster. Sawyer loved the adrenaline of adventuring and couldn’t contain his excitement. They were full on sprinting at this point when Atlas started growling and barking. Sawyer stopped. “What is it boy?” All of a sudden something launched at Sawyer’s side and his back hit the ground. Sawyer became dizzy and realized that there was something on top of him holding him down. Sawyer was about to throw a punch when the thing on top of him yelped in pain and stood up. Sawyer pulled himself to his feet and to his shock he saw Atlas hanging by his teeth on the butt of a man. The man swung around and Atlas lost his grip. Atlas flew off as the man turned around and kicked Atlas in the stomach. Atlas let out a small whimper. “WHY YOU –” Sawyer charged towards the man. The man dropped to his knees, raised his hands, and yelled, “Stop! Stop! Wait!” Sawyer paused, fist still clenched. “Let me explain,” the man started, “my name is Jax and I need you to help me. A wretched witch cursed me!” Jax was scrawny and dirty, as if he had been in the forest for a while. He had crazy, tangled, black hair. His blue T-shirt and jeans were all torn up, but perhaps the most prominent feature was the tattoos that covered his whole face. “Why should I help you? You just attacked me and Atlas.” “Okay yeah, whatever. Just help me.” “Not interested.” Sawyer turned around and started walking away. “Wait stop! I need you to help me find a map!” Sawyer paused, “A map?” “Yes a map to find a key to unlock the curse.” Sawyer imagined what a fun adventure that would be. He thought about it for a little and then turned around. “Okay fine,” said Sawyer, “I’ll help you if you apologize first.” “Soorr….” Jax took a deep breath, “rryyy. There I said it, now find the map.” “Where do we look?” “I’m not sure, I’ve been looking for ages. The witch only gave me a stupid riddle. ‘Follow the map that covers the mind, of which ends in the windows to the soul. Look into the reflection of the heart when two hearts in debt become a whole.'” “Mind….” thought Sawyer. Sawyer stared at Jax. “What? do I have something on my face?” “Yes you do actually. Your tattoos look like a map.” “What tattoos?” They both stared at each other in confusion. “The tattoos on your face…” said Sawyer. “That wretched witch! She put tattoos on my face? No wonder everyone avoided me in the city.” “You didn’t know?” “The curse prevents me from seeing my own reflection.” “Well no wonder you couldn’t find a map.” Sawyer reached into his backpack and pulled out a battery powered razor. “Here, we need to shave your head.” said Sawyer.”Why do you–” Jax was about to ask why Sawyer carried around a razor.Sawyer cut him off, “Always come prepared.” Sawyer shaved off all of Jax’s crazy, dirty, tangled hair, and revealed a mirage of dark, swirling, magical tattoos. The markings reminded Sawyer of ancient maps he used to look at as a child and knew that they had to follow it. “What does it look like?” Jax asked, “Where do we go first?” The markings formed a path that curved around the back of Jax’s head, towards his ears, around his face, and seemed to end in his eyes. Sawyer walked in a circle around Jax, amazed, staring at this dark print that covered Jax’s entire head. “I think we go to this cave first.” Sawyer put his finger on a figure that looked like a cave about 3 inches above Jax’s left ear. “I know a cave! Follow me.” Jax lead Sawyer and Atlas through the thick forest and in no time arrived at a large mountain with a cave at its base. All three of them stepped cautiously towards the mouth of the cave. The cave was dark and damp. “Anyone got a flashlight?” Jax asked sarcastically, staring at Sawyer. Sawyer reached into his backpack and pulled out a flashlight. The three wearily continued into the cave in a single file line; Sawyer lead the way. The cave was full of long, sharp stalagmites that littered the floor and ceiling. There was a shallow layer of water that covered the ground of the cave. The water had a small current that Sawyer decided to follow, leading them further and further down the dark abyss. The small group had been walking for a while without a word when Sawyer decided to speak. “So Jax, what exactly did you do to this witch?” Jax sighed, “She was disguised as a young lady on the streets begging for money. I pretended to put coins inside and then spit in her cup. She was so pitiful and dirty, asking for help from a stranger.” “Look who’s talking.” Sawyer thought as he rolled his eyes. “I told her she didn’t deserve money from me and walked away. She found me the next day at the edge of the city and cursed me. She told me I needed to learn a lesson. After that everyone acted so mean and rude when I walked by, probably because of my tattoos. So I hid in the forest and here we are now.” Sawyer nodded as he stared at the mellow water flowing beneath his feet. He soon found where the water ended as it seeped through small cracks in the ground. He looked up and stopped suddenly. Sawyer stared at a wall; it was the end of the cave.”This can’t be it!” Jax said, “There must be something else.” He pushed past Sawyer and felt around the cave wall. Sawyer joined in, searching the walls for any signs. Atlas sniffed around. After a few minutes of searching, Jax felt an indent in the wall. He looked closer and saw that it was a carving of an eye. He brushed his fingers over the carving and pressed down slightly. The eye pushed in like a button. It made the sound of rocks grinding together that echoed throughout the cave. Then suddenly, the cave began to rumble and the walls crumbled apart. Large, sharp stalagmites began to fall from the ceiling. Sawyer glanced above Jax where he saw the base of a big stalagmite begin to crack. “Lookout!” Sawyer yelled, as he launched towards Jax. Sawyer propelled both of them out of the way right before the stalagmite crashed on the ground where Jax was standing. Atlas barked repeatedly as he tried to make his way towards Sawyer, dodging falling rocks in his path. The end of the cave wall fully crumbled and revealed the other side of the mountain. The rumbling stopped just as quickly as it started, and warm light seeped through the large hole in the wall. Jax sat up and started coughing. There was lots of dust in the air. “What. The. Hell.” Jax said. Sawyer tried to pull himself up but stopped and quickly inhaled as he felt a sharp pain by his right ankle. He looked down at his leg and saw that a rock had fallen on his ankle. “Oh crap.” Jax said, as he got up to take the rock off of Sawyers foot. Sawyer winced. Jax helped Sawyer to sit up. “Woah, you okay man?” “Y..yeah.” Sawyer said shakily. Jax examined Sawyers leg and noticed that blood was seeping through Sawyers pants. Jax carefully rolled up Sawyers pants and revealed a bloody wound. “My bag,” Sawyer began, “there’s a first aid kit.” Jax removed the bag from Sawyers back and found the first aid kit. Jax then proceeded to clean and bandage Sawyers ankle as Atlas sat impatiently whining. After Jax was finished he put Sawyer’s bag onto his back. “Hey, umm. Thanks for..you know…what you did.” Jax said, “You think you can keep going?” “I’ll be fine.” said Sawyer, “The next stop is a river.” He pointed to the river on Jax’s head. Jax looked out of the hole onto the landscape outside. He spotted a river in the distance. Jax nodded and bent down to help Sawyer up. Sawyer put his arm around Jax’s neck and the three steadily crossed over the rubble, out the hole, and headed towards the river. Sawyer limped along with Jax supporting him, but Sawyer felt uneasy. The tattoos that lead to the river were very misshapen and ominous looking. Sawyer had a bad feeling that there might be something dangerous ahead, but didn’t tell Jax. The trio had been slowly making pace towards the river for a while when they decided to sit down and rest. Jax lowered Sawyer by a tree and they all sat down. Jax pulled out some water bottles from Sawyer’s bag and passed them out. Sawyer still had an unsettling feeling. “Hey Jax,” Sawyer said. “it’s kind of been bothering me, but the tattoos on your head that lead to the river look alot like big crac–” CRACK! There was a loud sound, like the earth was cracking apart. Sawyer and Jax felt the ground shaking and soon there was another sound as the earth split open about 5 feet left of Jax. The crack in the ground was about 3 feet wide and revealed a deep ravine into the earth. Soon there was another crack, and then another. Sawyer and Jax looked at each other with wide eyes. “We gotta move.” said Jax as he picked up Sawyer. They hurried toward the river as fast as they could, dodging the cracking Earth as they limped along. The ground beneath Atlas started to crumble but he moved just in time. A large crack appeared in front of the group and they all leaped swiftly across it. They were almost to the river when the ground under Sawyer gave out and he fell into the crack. Sawyer’s heart was beating rapidly. He felt his blood coursing through his body as he fell for what seemed like an eternity. He closed his eyes, preparing for impact. Shocked that he hadn’t hit the bottom yet, Sawyer opened his eyes and looked up. Jax was there, gripping onto Sawyers arm. “Don’t let go!” yelled Jax. Sawyer looked down and saw a falling rock disappear into the deep darkness of the hole. “Trust me, I won’t!” Sawyer yelled back. Jax grunted as he slowly pulled Sawyer up. Atlas grabbed onto Jax’s shirt with his teeth and helped pull. Soon Sawyer was out of the hole and they all collapsed in exhaustion. “Consider us even.” Jax said. “Yeah.” Sawyer replied, nodding his head. They finally made it to the river and washed their faces in the cool, clear water. They decided to follow it downstream and came across a waterfall. The waterfall fell off a large cliff into a beautiful lake. “Woah.” Jax said, as he looked down from the cliff at the water far below. Sawyer tapped Jax’s shoulder. “Check that out.” Sawyer pointed to the lake. The lake was shaped like a big heart. “The Heart of Reflection.” Jax said in awe. “We made it.” Sawyer said, “Look into the reflection of the heart.’ We need to get down there.” “How?” Jax asked. Sawyer motioned to his bag. Jax looked inside and pulled out a long, thick rope. “Alway–” Sawyer started.Jax interrupted, “Yeah yeah, ‘Always come prepared.'” Jax found a big rock to tie the rope around. He then tossed it over the cliff and the end of the rope just barely reached the bottom. “I’ll go first.” Jax said. He tugged on the rope once more to make sure it was secure and then made his way down. Jax reached the bottom and yelled for Sawyer to come down. “What about Atlas?” Sawyer asked. “Just leave him!” Jax yelled back. Sawyer petted Atlas’s head. “Sorry buddy but you have to stay here.” Atlas whined. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back.” Sawyer made his way safely down the rope. The two walked away from the waterfall where the water was calm. “Look into the reflection of the heart, when two hearts in debt became a whole.” Jax said as he slowly made his way towards the water’s edge. “Finally,” he thought. Jax looked into the lake and saw absolutely……….nothing. Jax still had no reflection. He continued to stare at the water in hopes that something would happen, but still nothing. “I don’t understand!” Jax said in anger. “The curse is supposed to break, we made it all the way here! Why is nothing happening?” “Are you sure?” Sawyer asked as he limped closer to Jax. Jax kneeled down to look closely at the water. Sawyer now stood just behind Jax. Sawyer’s reflection appeared in the water. Jax stared at it and realized something. Sawyer helped Jax tremendously on this journey. He found the map, provided the supplies, and saved Jax’s life. But what did Jax do in return? Jax attacked them at first, acted rude, caused Sawyer to get hurt, and thought only of himself. Jax’s heart was in debt to Sawyer. Jax felt a deep sadness as he realized his mistakes. Jax stood up, turned around, and looked at Sawyer. “Two hearts in debt.” he said. “Thank you.” he told Sawyer. Sawyer smiled. He was also in debt to Jax for saving his life and actually really enjoyed the journey. “No,” Sawyer said, “thank you.” All of a sudden a large wind started to pick up around Jax. Jax’s tattoos began to peel off his head like stickers as the wind increased speed. Jax’s hair began to grow back and all of the tattoos disappeared. The wind stopped. Sawyer, smiling, looked past Jax at the lake. Jax slowly turned around. He looked into the lake and saw something he hadn’t seen in years. It was more scruffy and worn out but there it was – his reflection. Afterward, Jax, Sawyer, and Atlas went back to the city. Sawyer resumed his studies in the dorms with Atlas by his side. Jax began to apply for a job and opened a charity to give to the less fortunate. They are all very busy, but never miss the opportunity to travel back to the Heart of Reflection for a little dip in the water. This time, Jax can see his reflection anytime he wants.The End.