The dusty land drops away just beyond my tree. The low trees and scrubby bushes don’t provide a lot of cover, but I still feel pretty safe here. In all the years we’ve been coming here for The Feast, we’ve never seen guards in the towers at the top of the walls. In fact, the only people we have ever seen from the City are the ones at the Main Gate…the only way in or out of the the City.
And them? Just glimpses from very far away.
We don’t go near the Gate. We just don’t.
The Storytellers have told that In The Days When There Was Night, there were many gates into the City. People came and went…traders from very far away, people visiting ancient religious sites, politicians negotiating for peace or positioning for war. But now that there is no more war, no one really comes and goes either. They stay in there. We stay out here.
I guess it works better that way.
Except that we’re rotting away out here, and they’re living it up in there.
I’m not really sure what to expect when I make it in. I know what she told me. I have the map she drew. I know roughly where I need to go and how I need to act. But she didn’t have much of a chance to give me details.
So here I am. Waiting. For what? No idea. Just waiting, I guess.
* * *
The sun is hanging low, as close to night as we get anymore.
This is the time that we get mellow. It’s peaceful. An orange glow settles in over everything–the light is just different. They say it’s kind of like the time just before night. Before, people used to gather in crowds every night just to feel the glow and watch the sun disappear. They drew pictures of it. They had devices that caught the moment and millions of other people could see what it looked like from different places, how different people saw it.
Seems weird to me. To be so captivated by something that happens every day, has been happening since the beginning of time, and that you expect to keep happening until the end of time.
Until it doesn’t happen anymore.
None of those devices exist anymore, but I bet there are pictures in the books in the City.
I’d like to see one sometime. A Sunset. I know I had to have seen one before. I know I was there, I just can’t remember it.
I have a weird sense about it. Similar to what I feel about dark. I can imagine it, and it comes in my dreams, sometimes, when I’m sitting under a tree and my mind wanders off to other places.
I gave up trying to remember those days a long time ago. No point, really. But when I’m not trying, sometimes, it comes back to me. Never more than an image or a feeling. Something just on the edge of my consciousness, just beyond where I can see it. Not enough so that I can be sure of it, but just enough that I knew it was there, once.
I feel one of these as I sit there under the tree.
I am small.
I am inside a shelter. It’s Night, but it’s bright inside the shelter. Two older people are there with me, and somehow I know them. I trust them, and it feels right that they are there with me.
I’m lying down on something squishy, and they are piling big, soft pieces of cloth on top of me.
The picture feels warm, and now, I lightly cling to it in my mind, like you would hold a moth by the very edge of its wing. I let the warmth surround me. The sense that something was just perfect in that moment. But like the moth, it can’t be held for long, and it drifts away, leaving only the peace of the moment behind.
* * *
I still have the half-smile on my lips as I stand up from the tree and drift back toward the wall. As I get closer, something catches my eye. Movement. A few feet down the wall.
The stones aren’t the same as when I sat down.
I look closer, move quicker with each step.
It’s a door.
In the wall.
It wasn’t here before.
I reach my hand out and slowly, quietly, open the latch and pull it open. just a crack.
And I slip through into the City.