by AmishThrasher

The van's wheels spun, but they were stuck in the mud. Jason's family was stuck in the forest. They had been driving to the quaint alpine town of Aimsville, when they had gotten stuck. They were far too far away to walk all the way to the town before nightfall. As the discussion of what to do next broke out into an argument about who was to blame, Jason spoke up.

"Let's stay there," he said pointing at an old abandoned house that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. That Jason had spoken up at this moment should not have come as much of a surprise to the rest of his family. Jason was, by nature, a quiet, well-mannered and introspective child, who often simply tuned out during family arguments (of which this had been one of too many). Even in the midst of a heated argument, his voice carried with it a pleasant, charming tone, refined beyond his years. His suggestion was born of his perceptive and idealistic nature, and young Jason all too often became the fair, diplomatic middle-man between his parents. Nonetheless, Jason - in spite of his remarkable maturity - was still a child at heart, filled with the frivolity and indecisiveness of youth, and often mischievously deceitful in his dealings with his sister and friends. His quietness was, perhaps, a product of a deep insecurity rooted in being the youngest child of an all-too-often dysfunctional family.

Navigating from the passenger's seat was Jason's father. He was a third generation businessman who had - much to the dismay of his younger brother - recently taken control of the family business. In truth, he was well suited to the role; his management had often been aided by his practical, reliable, patient, ambitious, and determined character. Surprisingly, given his often cold and traditionalist facade, he could be remarkably affectionate with close friends and family (even his often estranged brother) when the moment was right. Yet, at the same time, he was also prone to bouts of jealousy and greed. Worse, upon making up his mind on any issue, often rapidly became inflexible, and stubborn.

In the front seat of the now-broken down car was Jason's mother, a confident and energetic career woman. She was a woman whose best characteristics - her adventurousness, enthusiasm, fairness, and passion - often led to her engaging in shouting matches with her often inflexible and stubborn husband. Worse, she herself was often selfish, boastful, intolerant, impulsive, and impatient.

Jason's older sister, Kate, was complex individual. She could simultaneously be analytical and emotional. She had a determination that was utterly unsurprising given her parents, and a hypnotic personality which came in handily in the face of her younger brother's deceit. Kate was also prone to extremity, jealousy, possessiveness, stubbornness, and a carefully cultivated cruelty reflecting that of her parents.

The trip had already been a long and arduous one. The parents had decided to take a holiday to Aimsville in the hope of escaping the stresses of home and career, without realizing that they could not take a holiday from themselves. The underlying tensions within the family had repeatedly led to small arguments over trivial matters - a number of times - erupting into heated shouting matches, and this latest incident had been no exception. Only moments earlier, Jason's father had raged "If only you'd stuck to the interstate AS I PLANNED THIS MORNING, we'd be there already! Grow a brain and listen to REASON for once in your life!" Naturally, Jason's mother objected to his comments, and snapped back "Grow a brain?! LISTEN MR. KNOW IT ALL, your 'PLAN' didn't include a traffic jam on the interstate AND IT AIN'T MY FAULT THE VAN GOT STUCK! WHAT do you PLAN on doing now, PROFESSOR?! Here's a hint: we're on VACATION here, not in a business meeting! If EVERYTHING goes 'to plan' on this trip, well then why'd we even bother leaving home in the first place?!" And this was before Kate had a chance to begin attacking her over-protective father.

In the heat of this argument, Jason's comment was a way out which would allow both parents to save face. Perhaps his father could ask the owners for help with getting back to the interstate? Perhaps his mother's spontaneous decision to leave the interstate would lead to an unplanned adventure which wouldn't have happened had they stuck to her husband's itinerary; allowing her to later say 'I-told-you-so.' So, taking on Jason's suggestion, they left the van and began heading towards the house. As they walked, Jason wasn't sure which was scarier - what could possibly lie behind the door of that house, or how this dysfunctional family would react.

As he opened the door, Jason's father jumped back in horror. He found himself staring into the sockets of a skeleton, one of those used in biology classes for anatomy lessons. But for some unusual reason, on it was a note:

Don't blame anyone. Next person who raises his or her voice before you get to your destination shall end up like me earlier than you would like. --a word of wisdom from a sage long passed away.

And that seemed to settle it all. The family arrived at their destination peacefully. They never found out that it was Jason who had planted the skeleton model and the note there, knowing that an argument was going to be inevitable.

The End.

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