The boy stood before the door with solemn eyes. He was not daunted by it, nor surprised by the fact that it stood on a beach of all places. Off in the distance the sun was setting, casting vibrant pinks, reds, and oranges through the sky, like an abstract painter tossing colors about an open canvas. They spilled through the darkened clouds, over the boy's head, and off into the distance, back towards the forest.
Behind him were thousands upon thousands of footprints. They led on for miles and miles, back until his eyes could no longer find them. The prints ended right behind him, right where his bare feet had been just three seconds ago, before he finally reached the door. He figured that he had left footprints in the forest too, and even the jungle that came before that. They would be dull by now, much duller than the ones left in the sand, though he assumed that those too would soon be buried.
A long way he had come to reach this point. It may have been twelve years, thirteen years, five hundred years, even. It had been a long time. He was still just a boy, though, and looked no different than a normal child of his age. No, the journey could not be seen on his skin, or in his hair, or on his face. It could be seen in his eyes, which unlike the rest of the boys his age were not normal. They bore the sadness of an arduous journey that had tried him to the very brink of madness. Perhaps what saddened him the most was the fact that he had only completed the beginning of the journey.
He thought back for a moment, back to the footsteps trailing over the beach and into the forest. He had met many demons there, and had conquered them all, and before that, in the jungle, he had met even worse things. Before the jungle was the city in the plains. That was the place of his birth, the place he had traveled from when Time beckoned to him and led him across the land, promising him the image of people long gone.
In retrospect he had been a damned fool to follow, but at the same time he couldn't blame himself. He had left the shelter behind for the sake of learning, and that is exactly what he did.
The door cast a shadow over him, and he stared at the wood for a while. It was thick and strong looking, most likely some kind of oak. It had been given an excellent finish, almost perfect by his standards. The knob was solid gold, and though he had not touched it, he knew that it was real gold, because it had to be real. He could not have travelled this far for it to be paint, or another kind of metal that only looked like gold.
It looked to be about ten feet tall, and about four feet wide. The molding had been painted white, and in spite of the fact that it had most likely been standing here for some good amount of time, it wasn't even scratched. From all the years of wind and sand that it must have endured, it looked as though it was brand new. The boy could almost see the people carving into the wood and painting over the molding. He could almost see them forging the knob and placing it in the empty hole, then sealing it shut.
The shadow being cast from the door darkened as the seconds went by. The boy felt himself tremble slightly as it extended over him. The golden sands of the beach were quickly turning into gray, and he knew that it would not be long before they became black.
There was something haunting about the door now. It seemed more of an obstacle than an object of wonder, and he began to doubt himself in front of it. Time was growing thin, he knew that, and he knew that he had to make his decision now. So much time had passed, so much had been seen and it was all coming down to this moment. Would all of those journeys have been in vain if he did not open it? What if the door led to something unpleasant—a monster, or some unspoken horror that he could never even fathom. What if it led to madness?
He could sense peril from behind it, or maybe that was just his mind tricking him. What lay ahead was uncertain, that was the only fact. His senses were simply afraid because it was so difficult to see into. The mind feared the unknown, that was common knowledge, and something that he had been taught in his years in the city.
Still, that shadow on the door held him, gripped him tightly. He could feel the blackness becoming thicker, forming a hand around him. Its touch was sickening, like a slimy tentacle binding his limbs together, squeezing the air out of him. The shadow warped and reached further behind him, forming the shape of a great hooded figure with a fiddle.
No, it's just an illusion. A trick of the mind… He said to himself. It cannot be real.
Oh, but I am real! A voice boomed back, serpent like in its tone. And I am a very plausible factor in your journey, boy! I am the image of your demise!
"I have met you before, demon!" Cried the child. "Fear you I did not then, and fear you I shall not now! No matter the form you take, no matter how wretched it may be; I shall not fear you!" He turned to the shadowed demon and thrust his fist forward before him. "You are but shadow! Harm to me you cannot bring!"
In this light I am nothing but a shade, yes. However, as you pass through the door you will find my presence to be ceaseless, and very much reality. I am The Fiddler! You have already seen me in many forms already, as you said, but after walking through that door, it will not be as easy to find me.
In darkness I will hide no longer! I fear not being obvious in such a world, as they have long lost their way. They actively find me—the idiots!
"I will find you, and face you I shall, but depart from me now; you strike not fear into me anymore!" He shouted, again thrusting his fist forward, challenging the demon. "Abscond, demon!"
Then bid you this warning I do: Be wary in this new world. It is far removed from this one, and with it you shall find new challenges, beyond the physical trials that you overcame here. No, things are much more literal in the world beyond this door. Again I say: Be wary, boy! And he disappeared.
The boy turned back, the shadow now having returned to its former size. The sun was almost down, and he knew that he had wasted too much time talking with The Fiddler. He reached for the door with just a hint of apprehension left in him, so small that he could ignore it with little trouble. The knob was warm and inviting, and he gave it a quick, strong turn, yanking the door open and stepping inside.
He felt himself falling through the air almost immediately. Somehow he managed to catch himself, and soon he saw that he was floating over Earth, gazing down upon it from space. It was amazing, so amazing that his mind actually did not bother to wonder how he could actually be surviving right now.
He could see the world changing, the masses of land morphing into new shapes, the oceans moving around quickly, as though someone was turning the Earth over in their hand, causing the water to move in those awkward shapes. With the world, he felt himself change. He grew older, taller, and stronger. His hair became longer, and he could feel some fuzz against his face. His mind expanded, the ignorance of childhood being left far behind.
Images flashed through his mind of a world gone awry, a world where people could use green paper to buy things. They could snort white powder, and they could go to giant shining buildings and work at boxes with words on them. They could teach others their knowledge, and they could create art with this shining new technology. The word computer flashed in his mind.
He saw a space ship. He saw the atomic bomb. He saw suffering beyond his wildest imagination, and pleasure of equal immensity to go with it. Eventually he did not only just see it, but he felt it as well. Knives entered his body, and he was murdered over and over again. People made love to him, and told him wonderful things, things that only a lover could say. He invented technology, and he used it both to help and to destroy.
The Fiddler. There he was amongst all of this. He smiled though he had no face; it was a smile so evil that the boy could see it as a grimace. It only existed in his mind, that gaping mouth. The actual Fiddler before him was nothing more than a shadow, though more defined than he had been before.
The Fiddler struck up a tune on his fiddle and began to lure the people to him. The boy cried something out in protest, but his efforts were futile. The fiddler struck them all down, crushing the Earth and all of the beautiful love and hate that came with it. He laughed maniacally, and the boy wept.
It ended right there, and a few seconds later the boy found himself back on the beach, though he was a boy no longer. He was a man. Many years had passed while he was inside of that door, and now he no longer saw the world in the way that he used to. He cursed The Fiddler's name, and at the same time rejoiced him. He hated The Fiddler for taking his innocence, for finally exposing him to the horrors that were humanity, and at the same time he loved him for allowing him to become a man. The adventure was not just an adventure anymore. It was like when a child read a storybook and saw nothing but the plot, then went back to it years later and finally saw the symbols that the author had so intricately crafted into the work. He saw the world now for what it was, not through the fantastical eyes of a child, and for that, he would love The Fiddler and thank him for all eternity.
"Bless him! For he has opened my eyes, and though pain he has caused me, I am only greater for it!"
It was sunrise.