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Entry To The Unknown
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy
I knew I shouldn't touch the door.
The simple act of walking up to the building had covered me in gooseflesh, had created a shiver that ran up and down my body repeatedly as I walked the length of the gravel driveway. The building was old, so old and broken down that there was no hint to what it had once been. A house maybe, or a church; I couldn't say. The windows were crusted over with something I couldn't name, the walls grown up with ivy and other green things. But I couldn't seem to stop myself from turning into the driveway and climbing the rotted stairs of the porch.
Approaching the door, I shivered again, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. I wanted to turn and run, but this was the first place I'd seen for nearly a day; the walk from my wrecked car had been long, lonely, and hot. I was hungry, thirsty, and covered in the dust of the gravel road I shouldn't have turned on in the first place.
"Stupid journeys," I muttered. "You and your stupid random journeys." I had always had a tendency to take random drives; turning into random country lanes. My happy place was an ancient graveyard; I always felt the most peaceful in a place where I could walk in the quiet of the dead. Still, once I'd touched and read all the stones of one old cemetery, imagining the lives and events of the people under the ground, I'd move on and search for the next place.
This had been one such journey. I'd seen the grass growing wild along the road, the gravel spread thin and heavily marred with dips and ruts, and I'd been both terrified and thrilled; I'd had to turn. I'd had to explore.
The deer leaping into the road had blown my composure, I'd cursed and swerved, losing traction in the loose gravel. My car had circled crazily, sliding over and molding itself to the trunk of a tree. Thankfully, it hadn't been the driver's side that was crushed, I was able to leave my car and walk along in hopes of finding help.
And now, here I was, standing like a shivering toddler on the doorstep of the local haunt. I took a breath to fortify myself, pressed my fingers down on the door lever, and listened to the eerie creak of the old wooden door as it swung heavily away from me.
"Hello?" I called, walking in. "Hello? Is anyone here?"
There was no answer, so I walked on, blindly feeling my way in the semi-darkness. A disconnected light slipped in through the nearly-covered windows; dappled and broken by the crusted glass of the windows. Motes of dust fluttered in front of me, and my mouth went dry, my breath coming in quick, ragged gasps.
There was a rustling noise; I froze where I stood, tuning in, listening for what I hoped was simply a rat.
"I am here."
I turned, my eyes working to see in the darkness. He had appeared as if from nowhere and I gasped as I took him in; the gasp morphed into a desperately strangled moan. His skin was as hard and broken as the bark of a tree, his body massive and horrifying. He had rested one giant hand on the wall for balance; it was obvious to me that his size was breaking him down.
"Who ... what ... are you?" I whispered, my throat burning with the scream that I was struggling to hold back.
"I am the guardian," he answered. His voice was like gravel, and as he spoke, woody bits and crumbles fell away from his face and neck, raining down upon the floor like a spill of dried rice. "And you are?"
"I, I, um," I stuttered, unable to speak clearly. Somehow, I couldn't seem to remember who I was; this made him smile.
"You are my freedom," he whispered roughly.
"Freedom?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered, his voice smoother than before ... somewhat more like mine. As he'd spoken, I'd begun to feel paralyzed, frozen in place. Raising my hand curiously, I saw that it had become much like his. In fact, I had grown taller, larger, thicker. As the transformation completed itself, the knowledge of my fate dawned on me, just as his knowledge abandoned him.
He looked at me, looked out of the face that had once been mine. He shrieked once, turning for the door, and then he was gone, and I was alone.
There is no need for conversation or explanation, for the change has brought with it everything I need to know. Now, I am the guardian, the next watcher of the entryway to the unknown.
So many of us walk around daily, terrified of life itself, terrified of what's around the corner. We go to bed terrified of tomorrow, we wake up in the morning afraid of the afternoon. We don't live, because we're too afraid of what might be; we're afraid of the unknown. And we're afraid for good reason, because too much knowledge is a curse, not a blessing at all. This is why there must be a guardian, this is why I am here; to protect the hungry from taking more than they can handle, to prevent the discovery of the unknown.
For some, fear of the unknown causes them to freeze, too afraid to move forward. For others, the fear of the unknown is like an irresistible challenge that cannot be ignored.
For me, there is no fear at all now, for there is nothing unknown to me. I am the guardian now, and it is my face that crumbles away like the bark of a tree as I grow older behind the crust of the windows. And now it is I who waits for another hungry soul to come and free me, free me from the entry to the unknown.