short stories

Part Six: The Gate

The Gate
Do you go through?

The Gate

The vines grab at you as you pass through, they cling to your shirt and your neck. You manage to untangle yourself and head forward, the wet snuffling sound getting louder as you move further down the path. The sun is trying to push its way through the canopy of vines twisted over your head, but only small slivers manage to get through, so that there’s a dappled effect on the cobblestone path in front of you, like a kaleidoscope.

You walk further, turn a corner, and you can see dim light shining from the end of the tunnel. The wet snuffling sound has been replaced by a low hum, like bugs, like chanting voices. You walk quicker, ashamed at how scared you feel right now. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

The light gets closer and closer and closer until suddenly you emerge into a clearing shaded with willow trees and encased by blackberry bushes. You can’t see the edges of buildings or hear the sound of traffic and voices like you did before. In fact, you don’t hear much of anything.

You look around for something, a sign, anything to tell you where to go or what to do. You see clumps of daisies and what you think is a lilac tree off to one side, and notice that wisteria is beginning to choke one of the trees hanging low above you. You also notice what looks like a newly marked path, tiny sapphire stones disappearing in the underbrush, nearly hidden behind a nearby bush.

You push aside the branches and begin to follow the stones. You adopt an old childhood habit and begin to count them. One, two. You used to play this game with your sister. Three four. How old were you when you stopped playing? Five, six. You grew up too fast.

Lost in your thoughts, you nearly miss an offshoot of the path marked by an oblong gold rock. Should you follow the stones, or take heed of the rock and try the new path? While you stand there, you hear windchimes again and smell something sweet. Your skin is crawling. You feel sick.

Your gut tells you to take the path with the gold rock, so you do. You walk further into the bushes, the undergrowth growing thicker around you, grabbing at your ankles. You feel trapped, as though the forest doesn’t want you to leave. You catch yourself and laugh a little, an awkward laugh of someone who is frightened and doesn’t want to show it.

The windchimes sound muffled again but the sweet smell is growing stronger. Just as you think you’re going to be sick, you look ahead of you and notice a rusted iron gate looming ahead of you. You approach the gate, and all is silent.

 

Come back next Thursday to see what happens. Parts one through five can be found here.

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