Entrance Number Four

"Entrance Number Four," a voice called out, simply, commanding, stating. I peered around me in panic. In the black, moonless night the street lights illuminated not a single figure. The trees shuddered as though aware of the incredible aloneness of the night. Again I searched the inky darkness desperately for even a tiny sign of life, some small sound.

But that command had cut through the layers of air, clear and precise. How did it know? Here I stood outside entrance number four, some crudely cut hole in a wire mesh fence barred from the public by a flimsy stretch of canvas cloth, and I was being directed inside by… this time I looked up… no one.

Well, the work going on behind this fence did seem rather secretive. No one ever seemed to enter or leave it. Even more beyond comprehension was the silence. Dust and powdered concrete would billow through the air; debris would be deposited outside the fence, but no noise.

Did this mean that I had to find out what was going on, though? And why this particular entrance? Weren't there three others to choose from?

So I hesitated, desperately wishing for some soul to stir from the night and warn me away from my intended escapade. But I was alone. And all was still.

My fingers slid along the canvas, stupidly searching for a knob or something. My eyes could detect no means of entrance; the canvas seemed sewn to the fence all the way around. I dropped to my knees and tested the tautness of the bottom edge. Just enough slack, I admitted in disdain, for me to crawl through.

Surely someone would come along now. With me stretched out in the dirt, my head just now passing under the cloth, someone would have to appear and demand in righteous indignation what I thought I was doing.

But now I had pulled all through except my feet. No, no one grabbed them to halt my excursion. I jumped to my feet.

Wasn't only a fence separating me from the outside? I thought so, but here it suddenly seemed somehow even darker. It was not the dark of the open sky, but the hushed blackness of an obsolete warehouse boarded up, suffocating the air and light.

What did I do now? Here I was inside. Did that mean I had completed the task?

What kind of place was this anyway? Although I had seen Entrance Number One and Entrance Number Four, the two in between had eluded my sight. Was this some kind of game with human logic? To deny that which we know and present the other possibilities to us - to me?

I turned to touch the canvas and assure myself of an easy escape, but my fingers met only with cold, brick wall. I started and strained my eyes to see if I had unwittingly moved. But I could see nothing, and I didn't remember shifting.

I groped about in front of me, finding crates and boxes blocking me on every side. It appeared I was trapped, blocked in.

But I didn't move! I swear I did not! I didn't take one step. How could I just suddenly be caught?

I touched the objects in front of me again and found that they were stacked in some bizarre way, like stairs. I found the lowest one and began to climb, crawling on my knees for fear of falling in to that which I could not see.

Soon I found that my flight had leveled itself and I walked confidently, sure that I had reached some loft or floor. However, I grew weary that I might alight upon some sudden edge and plunge to the great depths below. I knelt and felt to my astonishment the edge all around me, no floor beneath me. Then I was falling, stagnate air rushing past my silent screams as my body hurled through space.

And I landed. Simply. I felt nothing. I just stopped falling. I though to check the floor again to discover this mystery. Yet I realized I would only fall again, and somewhere I must continue my search, discover what was for me to learn here. For now I walked, and I must count this my strength, but not be afraid of losing it.

As I pushed my way through what seemed a heavy mist, I began to discern a dim light seeping through the floor. I stood and looked down, my clothes wetly clinging to my dewy body. Below me I saw the trees from outside gleefully playing games. They lowered their branches and grasped their trunks, uprooting themselves and dashing across the ground to trade places. Then they laughed and laughed. Not a laugh I could hear, but their leaves danced merrily in the windless night, and the trees themselves shook all over. One peered up at me, without eyes, and reached its slender, green twigs to my feet, grinning as it tickled me. They rearranged their branches then, and soon it appeared that the trees had never moved, for they had exchanged expressions.

I raised my head as stillness seeped in to the scene below me. The light which had been so dim throbbed weakly for a few moments more, then was whisked away in to the black. Again I stood in the midst of nothing, not even a body in which to stand.

How tired I grew! But I feared that if I slept I might awake to find myself back where I had started or at the beginning or in some other maze. Still, did it really matter? Did I know where I was now? If I had, had I actually danced along some course, some course which would eventually deposit me… where?

As I decided that is simply did not matter, I stretched myself along the blackness and shut my eyes. Just as I had done so a blinding light seared through my lids, piercing my eyes.

Instantly I was alert. I leapt to my feet and peered in to the distance for the source of this illumination. I found it.

Such magnificent light! I cried, tears streaming down my face and plopping on my hands. Yes! They were there! At least in this light they appeared to be.

But wonder at the hues instead! One creeping in to another, the whole display diffused into colors of my imagination. So sharp! So soft! So brilliant, flooding across my path. And there! In the middle of it all, where perhaps the sun might be, stood a door.

My heart skipped a beat as I danced across the air, exhilarated, enraptured. I twirled and pranced, embracing the sunshine, embracing myself.

I looked up once more to study the door. That's odd! I thought. It seemed smaller. Surely once a person was close to something it appeared larger. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps such rules did not apply here, or were not even rules.

Yes, as I raced ahead the door was definitely shrinking. Two feet away and it was the diminutive door of dolls. As I reach it, reach the wall, it disappeared.

But the light still shone. It had flooded past and around the door; now it simply encircled all of the blackness, reaching for me unhindered.

No! I saw the door! It had to be the way out. I was near the sunrise, and that could only be outside! I fell to my knees and clawed at the invisible barrier. Panic! I must get out! This was my only chance! I would be stuck here forever!

I pounded on the wall, the invisible wall. How infuriating - to have an impassable wall that really isn't there! Aagh! I screamed! I threw my shoulder against the barrier. I bashed my head against this obstacle, this impedance to my freedom.

Blood poured from my knuckles, and I could feel the bruises swelling on my face. What was I doing? I knew this was useless. What did it matter anyway? Did I really know that I would be where I thought I wanted to be? What was wrong with here anyway? Did I know that outside was where I wanted to be? Was I any more alone here than there? Was the aloneness what really mattered? Did I feel limited here? More than there? And what were the limitations I was so afraid of here? Weren't they always within me?

I sank against the wall, exhausted. I began to imagine all the adventures I could experience in this new world. Adventures I had never dreamed of, hadn't thought possible. Things not possible in my other world.

I closed my eyes and fell. My head smacked pavement and I rolled over on to my knees. Gravel dug through my palms and bit in to the skin of my shins. I glanced around and found myself on the sidewalk surrounded by the early morning throng. Behind me stood a canvas door marked Entrance Number Three.

I dusted myself off and slowly climbed to my feet. People stepped around me and purposefully averted their eyes.

I wiped the blood from my knuckles on to my shirt and gently felt the lumps on my forehead. I patted my hair in to place and brushed past the few actually staring. Stopping to pat the trees, I turned and smiled at the world, then walked away.

© Elven Lore 1996