He walked past it every day. The old concrete jetty with the collapsed steps and sections where the concrete had cracked and fallen away to reveal a rust red internal skeleton of iron rod's.
What always caught his eye however was the gate that perched atop this aimless pathway. It was always ajar, and on either side there were two sections of fencing. The entire structure looked impossibly unstable, as though it should have collapsed ages ago; the frame had dropped away from one side and sloped down.
It had sagged a bit more today; the links on the right were dipping into the water. The left still stood sort of straight and the center was as immobile as ever.
Although it might have only been put up a decade ago, the entire thing seemed to exude age from every pore.
No-one ever went through either.
Admittedly no one moored on the end and it wasn't far enough to fish off. Still, Alistair longed for the day when he'd break away from whoever was leading him at the time and hop across the broken path up the jetty and through the gate. He never did though.
He got older and lost his wonder-lust; replaced with reason and 'common sense'. What was the point of crossing something dangerously unstable just to open a door which you could see through?
He got older still, until at eighteen his childhood desire had almost faded from even the deepest recesses of his memory. Then one night he walked home, He'd spent a little too long at school and it was winter, night came early. Brooding clouds overhead began to shed tears in false sympathy.
He picked up the pace, walking along the shore, past the jetty where the gate stood light spill- hang on. His lengthy stride became muddled as he realized what he just saw. The gate, still ajar, looked like it should, almost insubstantial against the night sky… But between the crack that was open where the gate didn't quite meet the frame, light spilled out; It cut through the night with a shining blade of brilliant chromatic steel.
Alistare hesitated and nostalgia washed over him, he remembered the inarticulate longing he'd had to investigate while he was still bound to his mothers arm. The way he'd lost it.
He'd written off this corner of the world and it seemed that all along it had been something spectacular. Dropping his bags he began to run to the jetty. The stairs had collapsed, the tide was in. On impulse he pulled off his shoes rolled up his socks and waded out. His trousers would be wet but he had to know. He climbed up and began to leapfrog across the three foot gaps, balancing on his hands and feet for extra stability.
The gate came closer. The last section was whole. The sound of the rain was drowned out by the creek of the gate in the wind. He reached the rusting form and with the barest moment's hesitation, yanked it open. From the other side came the blinding brilliance of the sun. He stared as the light spilled out, bleaching the concrete below him white; the world in front of him no longer showed the dark and brooding river he remembered. Instead the world before him was colored with the rolling green of the downlands.
Sheep grazed peacefully in the distance. He was sure he heard a faint whinny and the form of a horse on the horizon. Even stranger it had a horn. Between the shallow grassy hills a pebbled brook gushed and ran, with each drop turning into a tiny waterfall ending in deep clear pools. He set one foot forward and then the other.
He was inside this place. He turned round and found himself now looking into the inky blackness of the rainy night. The concrete jetty stretched out into the night. He stood there, inside him something woke.
The urge to run free! To forget about a three car garage and a five day week with a nine to five day job. What did he want? He wanted to see Lazarus long and shake his hand, he wanted Excalibur held aloft by the white and perfect hand of- he wanted to see the shire, he wanted to be able to sit aloft a pile of jewels still warm from their former wearer's and watch as they begged to be spared .
Heroism beckoned on the breeze. But inside him there was a bit that wouldn't pay heed, hardened from years of reason it whispered of dangers unknown and urged him to leave, delay, Prepare. The forces of 'common sense' won him over.
He walked back toward reality, every fiber of his being was needed to break free; It felt like he was stripping away layers of his soul by traveling back into the inky blackness. He broke free and regaining his balance he jumped over the gaps of the jetty. Grabbed his bag and ran through the rain to home.
Inside the newly awoken call to arms was screaming, each step took him further from the prospect of excitement and adventure; back to a world of folded sheet and balanced diets and books and endless pointless tasks. He got home and apologized to his mother. He got into bed, avowing to gather up what was needed to go a wandering and Get back through that Gate!
He fell asleep to dreams of dragons and deamons and unicorns prancing over pristine prairies.
He awoke in the cold half-light of the winter dawn. He gathered up what he thought he'd need.
Food and rope and string and tools from the shed and he was out the door.
The rest of the word was still asleep, their cultivated gardens of evergreens and clipped hedges and orchids and green-houses, he passed them all by in disgust. He'd once admired their colour and vibrancy, now he saw them for what they were, mere shadows of life.
As artificial grey and ordered as the concrete of the paths they bordered. He hurried along, He had to leave.
He couldn't stand being among, this this sameness! Everything was dull, dreary, DEAD; There was a better way. He'd seen it. He broke into a run.
The sky was wrong it should have been an unchained force, Chaotic, Free! Yet order had encroached there too; Stars, millions of miles of radiant plasma, were drowned out by the pallor of pollution and the feeble yellow glow of streetlamps. Pah! Worthless! He began to sprint. Almost there! Almost Free-
He stumbled down the grassy slope, eschewing the pathway leading up from the river.
His boots crunched on the whitish sand. There was the jetty and- The gate was gone! He ran even faster, ignoring the screaming of his lungs and his laboring breath; It couldn't, It Just COULDN'T!
He waded out to the Jetty and climbed up, jumping across the broken sections with reckless abandon.
He reached where the old gate had stood. Nothing. Just two holes in the concrete stained red with the rust of old Iron. He sunk to his knees, His backpack falling by his side. Gazing into the calm water, He saw himself looking back.
His red face and puffy eye's rippled as tears full of the grief and pain of loss and anguish fell uninhibited. He looked at the network of expanding circles, and saw it. A glitter.
Behind his own reflection. He dived in, There! On the bottom, half buried in the silt; the gate. Something twinkled between the frame and door. Briefly, ever so briefly, he turned to get his bag, his things. But the echoes of pain shuddered through him.
He wouldn't leave it again. He had to know. Swimming through the murk, He strained, pushing against the silt to open the door. It came first difficult and suddenly easy!
His triumph was short-lived as Alistair felt the pull of the inrushing water; reflexively he grabbed out at the very door he just opened. He fell through. The door swung shut. The latch clicked.
Alistare stood, drenched, staring at the empty space. Beyond him the glitter of stars in a sky which twinkled like the biggest jewelry box in the word greeted him; the moon rising like it should, dominating the sky, a large silvery orb covered in craters just as he imagined it.
He fell to his knees and hugged the grassy earth, where the once murky water had been turned crystal clear with its passage.
He knew, with every part of his body and soul that he'd made the right choice. More than anywhere else, this was where he belonged.