George and the girl set off away from the beach, quickly leaving the sand behind for scrub grass and low bushes. The land became more hilly again a few miles beyond the beach, climbing up away from the shoreline towards distant mountains. They walked for hours, until a castle came into view in the distance. “Is that where we’re going?” George asked. The girl nodded. They pressed on.
Eventually, they reached the main gate of the castle. It was an imposing edifice, all gray stone and iron bars. Like everywhere else they’d been, there was no one else in sight. “Where are all the people?” George asked.
“There are none,” she replied. “This is a place without life, except for you.”
“Except for us, you mean,” he said, feeling uncomfortable.
“No, I meant what I said,” she answered firmly, a look of sadness in her eyes. “You have to go on by yourself from here. I can’t go with you.”
“But…why not?” George asked, confused and upset.
“Because what lies inside is yours to deal with, yours to confront. This is where we have to part ways.” She took his hand in hers, held it for a moment, then let go, stepping away from him. George’s lower lip quivered for a moment, but she shook her head. “No tears,” she said. “You have to face what’s inside. Go now.”