The Gates. Short Story.

Ugh. I’ve been pretty tired and generally crappy the last couple of days, didn’t get up to much. Yay for sleeping.

I played some Majoras Mask, which was fun, but that’s really it.

On with the show!

_______________________________________________________

Jack opened his eyes and started to blink in the harsh light, a sudden stab of pain in his head caused him to groan, he closed his eyes again and rolled over, he’d be fine in a few minutes, he just needed some more time. The sun light was still shining on his eyelids, but it was almost comforting to have that light there, to prove that everything didn’t stop, even though he felt so shitty. His hand reached out and groped blindly for the bottle of water he left on his nightstand before going out. He found the bottle and took a sip, then another. He wanted to down the entire bottle in one go, his throat and mouth ached for it, but he knew he would vomit almost immediately if he did so. His stomach was feeling quite queasy. He wondered how much he drank last night. He was only supposed to go for one drink, though he knew one drink always turned into two, which turned into three, which turned into blacking out at some point. As far as he could tell he was alone in bed, he didn’t want to reach out to check and he couldn’t stand the brightness again. That wasn’t unusual for him lately. Years ago it would have been, he’d go out, have a few drinks find some hot girl and then bring her home. The frequency and attractiveness of the woman he brought home had seemed to fade together. He was old now, too old to be doing that kind of stuff, he was glad though, he didn’t want to deal with all that awkward morning after talk. He was thirty five, he should have a girlfriend, he should be considering getting married, but he had none of that. He had a house and married friends.

His stomach grumbled, but Jack ignored it, there would be plenty of time for food later, when he felt like he could move again. His entire body seemed to be filled with aches and pains, he wasn’t sure if he fell down or if it was just a sign of him getting older. What had he been doing last night? Brief flashes, drinks in a pub, loud thumping music in some club, dancing, more drinks. He shuddered again and decided he wouldn’t think about last night and by extension alcohol, not until he felt better. He took another sip of water. Finally, his stomachs grumblings and his bladders sharp stabbing pains decided it, he needed to get up take a piss and get some food into himself. With a groan he got up, rolled out of bed, eyes still closed, and stood on the soft, spongy carpet. He rubbed at his face, took a step, then blearily opened his eyes. Jack froze. He wasn’t in his room, he was outside, he wasn’t walking on carpet, he was walking on cloud. He looked down as a small section of cloud parted, below he could see the earth. A thin stream of piss ran down his leg, surprisingly warm and unnervingly wet. He looked away, his stomach was churning. He turned, back towards his bed, he needed to go back asleep, he was having some fucked up hallucination, someone must have slipped him something. His bed was gone. So was his nightstand. He still held the bottle of water, gripped tightly, his only anchor to the real world. He sat down heavily, more falling then sitting, but the cloud was soft and nestled him gently. It was warm and dry, he hadn’t noticed that the wetness on his leg was gone. His head started to feel better, a light breeze ruffled his hair, it was surprisingly pleasant, cool but not cold. He needed to remain calm. He’d stay here and he would stop hallucinating. Everyone knew you couldn’t stand on clouds, they were just water vapour, and if you could stand on them, they’d be cold and wet. His stomach grumbled angrily. He took a deep breath, he did feel better, his head stopped pounding, his nausea was gone, hell, he wasn’t even that thirsty. He lay back, comfortingly nestled into the clouds, at least wherever he was had soft ground. He closed his eyes, trying to sleep again. Once he had another rest he’d be right as rain. The only problem was he couldn’t sleep, he wasn’t even tired. He lay there for half an hour, occasionally shifting, before finally relenting and sitting back up. A sharp pain jabbed his stomach. He stood, he needed food hallucination or not. He’d find something or someone to help him. That was just the ticket.

Jack took a step, half expecting the clouds to part and that he’d start plummeting, but the ground was firm, he took another step, still safe. After a few more he began to increase his pace, walking with a small amount of confidence. At first he stared at the ground as he walked, watching for any gaps in the shifting clouds, but after a few minutes, he looked straight ahead, the gaps never appeared where he was going to step, he just have to believe he’d be safe. After all he was walking on solid ground, therefore he couldn’t fall through any gaps.

He walked for ten minutes, ten minutes without sign of anything or anyone. Around him was just the undulating clouds, nothing else. After another ten minute walk he spotted something on the horizon, a dark speck, so he angled towards that, obviously there was no where else to go. His stomach occasionally sent out little reminders that he was hungry, but there was no food that Jack could see, so he’d have to worry about that later. He was surprised at how good he felt, normally his hangovers would last the entire day, but now he felt great, almost perfect in fact, if not for the nagging hunger. As he got closer to the speck, it started to become distinct and, a little while later he was able to make out what it was. It was a giant gate. There was no walls either side of it and there seemed to be no reason for it to be there, in the middle of nowhere. The gates were closed and though he couldn’t see them properly from this far away, he suspected they were made of wrought iron, as they were completely black and intricately designed.

When he reached them, he saw that he was right. To the left of the gate was a chair and table raised on a slight pedestal. The table and chair were empty. He approached the gate carefully, trying to think where he had seen something similar, surely he must be in one of the nearby parks, he had never really explored or walked in them, so it would make some sense. He lay his hand on the gate, it was warm and vibrating softly. He gave it an experimental push, it didn’t move, though there was no surprise there. It looked like it would need ten men to push it open. He walked to the side of it and tried to walk around, but some kind of force field stopped it. He held out his hands and felt along the invisible barrier, ok, this was obviously some kind of wall. Good, he was starting to get things together. Someone would be by soon enough and they’d sort him out. Perfect. He went to the table and chair and sat down, he wasn’t particularly tired, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do. Behind him the gate started to rattle. He turned as it burst open, Jack stood and looked around expectantly, but there was no one near him. Maybe they were invisible like the wall.
“Um…excuse me? Sorry? Someone slipped me something last night and I seem to be having one hell of a hallucination. Can you hear me? Am I making sense?”

Silence.

Fuck.

Well, there was only one thing he could do. He walked through the gate, behind him it slammed closed. Maybe it was on a sensor? The entrance to some rich persons house perhaps.

He wandered a little more until he came across a table, laden with food, without pausing to think, he started to eat, everything was delicious. Where ever he was, they had some amazing grub. He ate until he was full, then he burped and wiped his mouth. It wasn’t like there was anyone around to hear him anyway. He stepped away from the table and watched as it faded, then vanished.
Shit. What the hell did he just eat? He hoped this wasn’t one of those trips where he’d wake and find he ate a dog or something. In the distance, he could see something rising out of the clouds and, seeing no other option, Jack started to walk again.

He reached the stairway, it wasn’t made out of clouds much to his surprise, it was some kind of light golden metal, it shone dully in the light. He started to climb them. At the top there was a large wooden door. He knocked then hesitantly stepped inside. He walked into what appeared to be an office, though there was only a desk and a chair. Behind them was a large window which looked out across an endless plain of clouds. He walked to the desk and circled it, his legs were kind of tired so he sat. Then, he started to rifle through the drawers out of curiosity. In the second one down there was a small, blue, flashing button. Jack hesitated for a second, then pushed it. Obviously it wouldn’t do anything too bad, red meant danger. It was probably like an answering machine or something.

A voice filled the room.

“I’m sorry I can’t be there in person, events have unfolded and we have had to evacuate. The entire place is empty and the gates are locked, it should be safe, but then you never know, do you?” The voice laughed, it was deep and pleasant. “Obviously there should have been a welcoming committee, all that jazz, but it’s just you left I’m afraid. I don’t really know how to explain this and there are things I can’t. If you’ve made it to here, others might follow, you can band together, you can lead them if you like, this message will be deleted after the first playing. The keys to the kingdom are yours now. Someday you might be able to follow after us. I’m sorry we had to abandon you. Be safe and be happy.” The voice sighed. “I never thought I’d have to leave heaven, it’s supposed to be eternal, but then nothing lasts forever. This should have been done a long long time ago. I held on too long. I was greedy. I’m sorry. I really, truly am. You’re on your own now.”

There was a faint beep and the message stopped. Jack looked at the button, it wasn’t flashing anymore. He pressed it just in case, but nothing happened. Jack spun the chair around and looked out at the empty clouds. Heaven. How the hell did he get here? He thought back to the night before. The usual stuff, drinking, dancing, loud, thumping music. There was something else there, just a little further. Darkness, bubbles, cold, burning. His vision slipped sideways and suddenly he was stumbling down the road, unable to control himself. He watched as he slipped, stumbled and fell, bashing his knee against the ground. Jack stood, not noticing the pain in his leg, then he stumbled over to a wall. He sat there for a moment, swaying gently. His vision dimming, he was going to fall asleep. He was so tired, but he needed to get home. His eyes closed briefly, then opened again as the cold water hit him, he struggled in the water, it splashed into his mouth, filled his nose, his lungs burned, screaming for air.

His vision snapped back, he was bent over in the chair, gasping for breath and coughing. He had died last night. Fallen into the river and drowned. He looked around himself again, so maybe this really was heaven. He was thirsty, but he had left his water bottle somewhere. He looked at the desk, there was a glass and a pitcher of cold water sitting on it, he picked up the pitcher and poured himself a glass. The water was magnificently satisfying. He set the glass down again. He could get used to this. He pushed the message to the back of his mind. It said he’d be safe. He had run of the place. Time to figure out exactly what he could do.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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