Nine of Swords

CHAPTER TWO: THE MISFIT GETS MUGGED

   “How much did you get?” his wife asked.
   Justin looked down and moaned, “Three big dudes attacked me. They pushed me down and ran off with the bike. I tried to catch them, but they disappeared.”
   “What the...? Did you tell the police?”
   “I flagged down a police officer, and he said that he would make a report. He also said that they’re probably not going to find it.” Justin sighed and gazed at the carpet.
   “Oh my God, Justin, what are we going to do now?” Patricia cried.
   “I’ll think of something. I always do.” Justin tried to give her a hug.
   Patricia broke away and stormed back into her room.
   Justin found an empty pot in the tiny fenced off area in back of the apartment and put some soil in it. Then he planted one of the golden seeds. He prayed that it would grow quickly.
   When he woke up the next morning, golden coins were floating above the pot. “Patricia, look! Come see. Come see!” he blurted out.
   “Why are you making such a racket?”
   “The tree with the golden coins has grown, just like the old man said it would!”
   “What old man?”
   “The old man on the street. I traded my bike for his golden seeds, and one of them grew into this tree with invisible branches and golden coins over night.”
   “Not only are you a liar. You are a fool. There are no golden coins, Justin. That is just a pot filled with dirt. You have finally lost your mind! Do you realize what you have done? Now we have no money for food or rent!”
   “What do you mean? Don’t you see them. They’re right here!” Justin reached up and touched one of the golden coins, which caused a strange sensation.
   “You have totally lost it, Justin! I don’t know what we’re going to do now. Maybe Thomas and I should go live with my mother!” She ran back to the bedroom and slammed the door. He could hear muffled sobbing through the wall.
   He reached up and touched the coin again. For some reason he imagined himself a king surrounded by golden objects in a blue room, and he felt a deep sense of harmony and abundance.
   “I've really done it this time,” Justin thought. He opened the bedroom door and found his wife sitting up in bed with her hands covering her face. Then he quietly closed the door and returned to the tree and stared at the golden coins that his wife had insisted were not there.
   Justin wandered down the street, looking for the old man, hoping that he would still have the bike.
   "Why am I such a misfit?" he wondered. He couldn’t digest dairy at all and would be bent over for days if he ate an egg. Eating gluten gave him heart palpitations--and almost every food contained gluten. Corn, which was also in almost every food, caused joint pain and severe stomach problems and fatigue as well as depression. He never complained, but he couldn’t trust food, and consequently he couldn’t trust the world.
   But it was deeper than that: He felt exaltations and inspirations that he could not explain. He couldn’t help it--he experienced wild enthusiasms for nature and the arts. He could hike all day looking at birds and flowers, and he could sit all day composing music or painting a picture or writing a poem--when he should be out looking for work. But whenever he got a job, the world seemed dull and empty, and coworkers soon realized he was different. Most jobs didn’t last long.
   But now he needed to do something fast.

Setting Sun

   He was striding, confident and determined, down the sidewalk next to a tall building, and a large man moseyed up to him. “Hey, man, got any change?” the man asked.
   “No, man. Sorry,” Justin muttered.
   “Awright, be that way!” The man pulled out a gun. “Now gimme everything you have!”
   Justin pulled out his wallet. The man rifled through it. No cash. No credit cards.
   “Say, what’s this? You walkin’ ‘round like you some kind of rich man, and you ain’t got nothin’ in your wallet? Empty your pants pockets. Now!”

Mugger

   Justin reluctantly pulled out the bag with the two remaining golden seeds and handed it to the thief, who opened it up and pulled one of the seeds out. “What’s this? This ain’t nothin’! Get outta’ here before I blow your worthless head off a’ your worthless shoulders!” The thief, disgusted, threw the seed and the bag into the bushes next to the tall building. Justin trotted away. At a safe distance he turned around and could no longer see the thief. Justin inched back to the scene of the crime and searched through the bushes, finding only the bag, which had one seed left in it. Justin searched frantically for the other seed, without success, until dark.
   Filled with a sense of emptiness, Justin began the trek home. When he was about half a mile away, he turned around and noticed a strange pattern of lights in the tall building. It was uncanny--exactly like the pattern of the golden coins on the tree. Thinking that his wife had already left him, Justin decided to explore the building to see if there was any connection between the missing seed and the lights. He noticed one cluster of especially bright lights that corresponded to the area of the coin on the tree that he had touched earlier. He remembered feeling like a king when he touched the coin, so he was suddenly determined to explore that area of the building.
   The front door of the building was unlocked. No one was in the lobby, so Justin rushed over to the elevator, got in and pressed the number of the floor that he believed must have the brightest lights. After the elevator door opened, Justin could hear sweet harp music drifting from a brightly lit office down the hall.

Take the next path.
Find a path on the Experimental Range.