|The Gateway(short 10 page story I wrote)Page 1 of 1 |
|I wrote this last week, it is fiction, touching on a few themes: love, loss, mental illness, following your heart. It is not graphic, no bad language or depictions of anything violent or sexual. I got inspired to write it partially from personal experiences, and partially from some "what if" questions I had after a breakup a few years back.|
Any feedback would be AMAZING and really appreciated, even if it is to say it's terrible. haha.
The Gatekeeper(final version)
The hitchhiker stood on a vast open stretch of road, nothing around her for miles except for the rural emptiness between the outer suburbs and farmland. Dark clouds loomed over her, threatening rain at any moment. The last person who had given her a ride was too pushy and just too much in general and she couldn’t focus on her thoughts and started to get annoyed. She didn’t hide the annoyance on her face. and when he pulled over and demanded she get out she was already stepping onto the asphalt, flipping the guy off as she closed the door.
Of course, she knew the dangers and expectations that came with hitchhiking, She was used to it by now and it was more of a necessary evil than anything,
A voice in her head said “He was cute.” and she instantly replied with disdain.
“Gross, he was not! Besides, I can’t stand people who act entitled like that.”
As she finished her sentence a chorus of voices all spoke up at once to give their opinions. “Well, he was the one with the car, you sure you aren’t the one that’s acting entitled?” “Don’t listen to her, you did the right thing.” “Yeah, his car sounded and looked like it was about to break down anyways.” “He was still cute though,” the original voice said, starting another uproar as they all spoke at once inside the girls head. The girl kept walking, and after a few minutes, the conversation slowly drifted to what she was thinking about.
“What now?” She asked. There was a murmur between the voices as they conferred among each other inaudibly, then one spoke up. “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t really care. I’m down for whatever.”
“Says the girls who’s walking because she wasn’t down for whatever.” One of the voices replied sarcastically, making a few of the other ones laugh. She smiled a little bit. Other voices chimed in “I don’t want to be caught in this rain that’s coming.” “I can smell it too, it’s close.” “It’s not like we have a choice really, there hasn’t been another car or house in a while.” “Should have put up with Mr. Touchy. Then we wouldn’t be in this situation”
The girl defiantly said “I’d rather be in the rain than still be in that car. Also, we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with if you guys hadn’t wanted to do this so bad. I would have preferred to be in class today, or working so I could drive my own car and not have to hitchhike or imagine anymore.”
All of the voices voiced their disgust in this idea in various ways. “You don’t REALLY want that kind of responsibility.” “Not imagine? You mean like actually go out there in the world and risk failing?” “Yeah, coming back home to everyone knowing you failed? I’ll pass on that.”
“At least here we can blame Mr. EagerHands and get away with it.” “Here is safe. You want to be safe, don’t you?” one of the more calm, soothing voices asked the girl directly.
“We’re just looking out for you…”
“I know that.” The girl replied.
At that moment she saw the faint glow of headlights pulling up behind her so she stopped walking. She felt raindrops start to cut through the humid heat and hit her arms and face.
Without looking she got in the car, thankful to narrowly miss the storm. Before she got her bearings a male’s voice softly asked: “Where are you trying to get to?”
Normally she relied on the voices for answers, especially when it was about things that were their idea, like hitchhiking. For the first time she could recall, her mind was silent except for her own thoughts. She started to feel anxiety when she realized it was just her and almost accidentally replied to the driver with the truth.
“I don’t know.”
Almost like performing a ritual She sat back, and closed her eyes, picturing her dreams and trying to focus on that. Partially to calm her anxiety at being alone in her head, and partially just waiting for the guy to make a move or say something suggestive. Instead, He slowly started driving. She sat there without moving for a couple of moments then opened her eyes just enough to look at him. Immediately her stomach dropped but she couldn’t place why. He was close to her age, good looking in an unusual way. He didn’t notice her looking and kept his eyes forward so she closed hers again feeling more relaxed than usual, even without the voices. After a few miles of silence, the rain began to fall hard, blanketing the car in a loud and rhythmic yet suffocating sound. The guy quietly spoke, startling her,
“How do you not know where you are going??”. He laughed a little bit when she jumped. His laugh was so quiet she could barely hear it and may have missed it if she didn’t see it. Her stomach dropped a little more. She liked his smile and felt comfortable even though she knew nothing about him. She started to think of an answer when he spoke again.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, why would you hitchhike?”, asking with a genuinely puzzled look. This question was easy enough to answer, though she normally never told anyone the honest answer for it when she was asked. This time though she was honest.
“It’s nice to imagine. Or hope, or dream.”
He looked at her for the first time, as though seeing the person confusing him would clear anything up. He jokingly pulled his eyebrows low like he was suspicious of her, then he smiled again and looked back at the road. Again her stomach sank further and she was feeling nervous now. Of course, she couldn’t tell, but he was too.
“sounds kinda sketch.” He said. As she started to get offended he followed up with “hitchhiking I mean, not you. It already seems like a bad idea in itself, but you take it even further and just get in peoples cars and bust a nap. What if I were a bad guy?” He said, trying to look over in a creepy/intimidating manner. Instead of feeling intimidated she laughed.
“You’re not a bad guy. I normally don’t fall asleep like that either.”
“You said its nice to imagine. Elaborate?” he asked. She explained that she had dreams of being out in the world and doing what she wanted, so she would hitchhike with people and imagine she was going out to be in the world and do the things she dreamed of. When he asked her why she didn’t do those things instead of “dreaming about following her dreams” she pulled back from her openness. He could tell that he had reached a sensitive area. He said “Well, I believe you can do those things,.. if you tried.” then retreated the conversation to another topic.
They talked about anything and everything, their past, their favorite things, their least favorite things, the music they liked, and so on. As far as those things were concerned they didn’t have much in common. He liked vanilla, she liked chocolate. He liked winter, she liked summer. He loved the rain, she hated it. Despite these differences, she felt close to him, like she had known him forever. She felt like she understood him, and was understood by him perfectly.
The storm got worse and neither of them could see more than a few feet ahead so he pulled off to a rest stop to let it pass.
Hours passed and nighttime came with the storm going just as strong. At one point she looked over at him and as her stomach began to drop again she only thought one word: Mine. At that moment it felt like the whole world finally made sense. She felt like she knew things, like she knew he was hers. She knew she was his, and she liked that. She felt things she hadn’t felt before, alien-like feelings. She asked herself “Is this happiness?” For the first time, she felt content, calm, and relaxed. She was glad the voices weren’t there because she knew they would not approve of this.
Coincidentally they lived close to each other, just a couple miles away but in the same city. When asked, he said he was driving around because he “was ready to go somewhere with nowhere to go”.
They agreed to head back to their city after the storm. If it ever stopped that was…. By 3 am they were listening to music and talking every now and then, both of their eyelids getting heavy. Abruptly the guy announced he was going to take a nap, leaning his chair back and putting a sweater under his head like a pillow he faced her. She did the same thing and just watched him as he fell asleep. He has a small smile on his face and she started to think it was strange and realized she was smiling too and hadn’t been realizing it. The CD they were listening to had ended a while ago and now only the sound of the rain could be heard. She normally would be worried about the storm but was calm, content, and at peace in this strangers car. As she drifted off to sleep she softly asked
“what’s your name?”.
In a voice that sounded…like a strange imitation of his own, he replied “The Heretic.”
In the morning the storm passed right as the sun was coming up. She woke up facing the stranger, and noticed she was holding his hand. She gently let go, embarrassingly thinking that she may have grabbed it in her sleep and didn’t want to weird him out. She got out of the car to use the rest stops vending machine and clean up a bit in the bathroom. When she came back out the car was running and he was awake. They drove back to their city and when they got to her house she invited him inside, not ready to part ways. He agreed, and from that moment they spent almost every day together for the following few years. In that time the voices never came back, and she was happier than she ever felt, realizing she hadn’t ever known what it was like to feel truly happy before. This led to her not hitchhiking anymore, getting her own car, and more importantly, she began to look forward to her future. This was something that she usually avoided because she would think there was nothing worth looking forward too. Now she saw herself fulfilling her dreams, making them a reality…. living a life she always wanted but never thought she could have. She felt excited looking ahead. She had always dreamed of moving away, somewhere warm, with a beach nearby.
Somewhere on the west coast.
The guy encouraged it and seemed like he’d be content living in Antarctica if she were there. Eventually, the day came they were ready to go. She was nervous as she had never been independent, in control of her own life. Never had been truly responsible for herself, both for her potential successes and potential failures. She didn’t have something to fall back on and blame, and the thought made her uncomfortable. She knew in her heart that following her dream was what she wanted most, being with this boy was what she wanted most. It wasn’t that she needed him to do anything for her, just that having him by her side she felt understood, safe, acknowledged, loved, free, powerful. Alive. She felt like a valid person and that she could do anything. Most people she knew saw her and looked for ways they could take advantage of her or her situation, and they would. The Heretic never did though, and instead protected her vulnerabilities and would challenge her to grow rather than put her down or try to control her. She could also tell that this was all new to him as well, and he had told her that she inspired him in similar ways during one of their many talks. He wasn’t a bum before they met but he was…directionless. “Ready to go with nowhere to go.” Now that he had goals he had changed a lot, in good ways. He still retained his boyish charm but she had seen him grow into being more of a man in the past few years. He credited her for pushing him to grow, even though she never did actively push him. He said just by being herself it made him always want to grow and be a better person. She understood that feeling as she felt the same way. She understood everything he said though, no matter how abstract it was or how vague or bad he was at describing something. Sometimes they could just look at each other and have full conversations, or be apart and sense how the other one was feeling. If someone had told her that 5 years before, she would think that person was crazy, an idiot, or both. She thought love in general and people in love were weak, naive fools missing out on life in their boring monogamy. Now she saw that she was the one that was naive.
She was ready to move and get away from all of the toxic things that haunted her past, excise them from her like removing the tentacles of an octopus trying to drown her. It was the only way she would remain happy, she thought. So they began their drive to a new world. The nervous uncomfortable feeling remained with her though, and began to grow. They took the same path that they’d taken all those years before but in reverse. She would normally be happy to see the spot they had met and she felt her stomach dropping like it did on that day, but this time it wasn’t in a good way though. She began to doubt herself, her dreams, her ability to succeed and be happy.
“What If I failed?”
“What if…I am not enough?”
That thought led her to The Heretic, and she began to doubt him too. He could sense something was wrong since they had left, and asked her a couple times what was wrong but she gave a curt “nothing. I’m fine.” each time. His face seemed pained, like he was watching someone hurting and couldn’t do anything to help them. They had driven for some time and were passing the rest stop from the night they met. She looked at him and he was smiling, looking from the rest stop to her. At that moment they looked at each other and all the bad washed away in her, and she felt excited. She was so close to escaping all of the bad. That was the only moment of the ride that she felt “okay” though, and as soon as they broke eye contact the feeling washed away. No more than a mile later They pulled up to a massive metal gate, looming over them like a skyscraper. The gateway was attached to a wall on either side, solid, shining metal extending as far as the eye could see. As he pulled closer to it a voice in her head said “Make him stop” and she did. She quickly got out of the car so he followed, confused.
“Whats wrong,” he asked, genuinely concerned. Her mind was again clouded with a hundred voices all saying different things at once. It was overwhelming and too much. She looked at him and thought “I must look crazy.” and pained to think what he must be thinking of her right then. The voices in her head got louder and she felt like she was in the middle of a crowd of people all talking at once. He could see her discontent on her face and stepped towards her to comfort her. He was speaking but she couldn’t hear him over the voices, they all told her to say the same thing “I cant go”.
Her eyes began to tear up. The voices were all familiar, all the voices from before, and they were all saying bad things. About her, about him, about her dreams. they warned her about failing, acting as though they were looking out for her. they also warned her about him, saying that he was just like the rest. that he was trying to keep her for himself, “that’s why he is reaching for you right now.” one of the voices said. She pulled back and looked at him accusingly. The voices soothingly said that she was safe here, on this side of the gate. This was where she belonged. He was at a loss, lacking any understanding of what was going on.
“Whats wrong? do you not want to go? You don’t have to-” he started to say when she cut him off.
“I cant go any further.” then looked back at the gate looming over them.
“What do you mean? Like you physically can’t? I’m confused.”
He softly grabbed her hand and led her to the gate. As they approached it the massive metal gate began to lift up. She got more nervous than she had ever been, standing a foot away from the other side of the gate. A foot away from freedom. Everything out there was so alien, so unknown, and it terrified her. He could see what she was thinking on her face and only said
“I believe in you. I always have but even more after all these years. I know you CAN do anything you want, and thst you get scared you may fail sometimes...just know that you've never failed in my eyes. That's impossible."
The voices in her head began buzzing again, saying he was pressuring her, he was lying, he was bad. He was trying to hurt her, embarrass her. They told her to tell him again, so she did.
“I can’t go. I can't do it.”
He took one step and was on the other side of the gate, then said
“See. Nothing happened. It’s no different here than it is over there.”. The Heretic held his hand out to her.
“If you don’t like it we can go back home.” She started to consider it, thinking “Where’s the harm in that?” before the voices sharply responded with all of the ways it could be bad. She started to ignore them and reach for his hand but then the gate slammed down, shutting between them with a loud boom. He began to bang on the gate, and she began to panic and tried to open it. Looking back and forth she saw no way to open it, Nobody around that controlled the gate, nothing that could help.
Now they were apart.
She fell against the gate and cried. Sitting there alone she felt as though she were suffocating from his lack of presence. The voices got louder, some began to laugh and mock, some began to comfort her in her panic, some said she was better off without him. She screamed at them to stop, to go away. They didn’t.
she waited all day for it to open but it never did. She left only to get food and water at first and would go back to the gate. Every time she would knock he knocked back. She looked for a way to slip notes under the gate or communicate with him somehow but couldn’t. He knocked a certain number of knocks a few times, 1–4–3. She quickly figured out what it meant and knocked back 1–4–3–3.
Eventually, though, she went home. She went back to the gate as much as she could, but never saw it open again. Never saw him again. She went off-road and followed the wall in one direction and after a couple of days was back at the gate, having gone full circle without finding a way out. The voices in her head assured her this was for the best, that he had left her. He had failed her. That he was why she hurt. She fought with them at first.
Years would pass and she stopped going to the gate, hating The Heretic for hurting her. She started hitchhiking again, and almost immediately she had met someone else and he was different. He didn’t care about her dreams, or what made her happy, from what she gathered he just saw her body and didnt pay much attention to the fact that a person lived in that body. In a way, it was a relief. She wouldn’t have to repeat what had happened and it was “safe”. The voices liked him a lot. the friends and family liked him a lot as well. So time went on until….
the day she realized that she was pregnant. The voices were pleased, despite that she wasn’t exactly happy. Her new partner was happy as well since in his mind she was his now. She thought of The Heretic, and even though she hated him she missed him. That didn’t happen often. The voices were always quick to shame her for missing someone who was so cruel to her. In the following weeks, the guy proposed to her and she said yes, knowing the voices expected it of her. She didn’t want to disappoint them.
“One day they will be pleased,” she thought to herself, more of a hope than a thought. A part of her knew that they never would be though. They had grown more arrogant after she said yes to the guy, taunting her at times even. One night she was sad and couldn’t place why, laying in her bed in the dark. It was right at the edge of her mind what bothered her so much, almost in reach but just out of grasp. Whenever she would get close to recognizing it the voices would distract her. Among the chatter of the other voices, a new one softly spoke up. The Heretics voice said, “Go to the gate.” It startled her for she wasn’t used to hearing his voice anymore, and she never heard it with the other voices. Immediately the other voices began speaking, saying he was trying to hurt her, and not to listen to him. They tried to persuade her to do anything but go to the gate.
“He is bad”. was the general consensus.
She felt like she had to go though, she had to know why she heard him. She got in her car in her pajamas and took off, fighting the voices the whole drive. They kept saying things like
“your pregnant, this is irresponsible.”
“You’re getting married soon, your husband wouldn’t like this would he?”
She knew the voices were right, as she had decided they always were. They looked out for her, she would think. Still, she pressed on and eventually saw the rest stop from those many years ago. As she started to miss Heretic she also immediately started to hurt, her mind too clouded to pinpoint why though except for what the voices told her. “He hurt you!” She couldn’t even recall anything about the night at the rest stop, just vaguely that it had to do with the Heretic. This was one of those moments she missed him and couldn’t explain why.
She pulled up to the massive gate, not knowing what to expect. It was exactly the same as it had always been, except for a piece of paper stuck to the Gateway. She put the car in park and walked over to it. It was folded up and had a heart on the outside of it with the words “I believe in you” written inside of the heart. The Heretic used to write her little notes a lot and she recognized his handwriting and borderline cheesy bluntness. The voices said
“Ohh here we go…”
“It’s a trick!”
“He’s trying to hurt you again.”
“Don’t open it!”
She opened it anyways, and all that was inside were a couple brief sentences.
“It’s all in your mind. You control the gate. You made it, only you can destroy it.
I’ll be on the west coast at the place we were headed. You can come if you want.
I love you”
Suspicious of his obvious lie about the gate she looked up and gasped.
There was no gate.
Her mind was unusually clear for the first time in years, it hadn’t been like this since…. the last time she saw Heretic, in this very spot. The voices had disappeared along with the gate… There, by herself, everything flashed through her mind, and everything was now truly clear to her. She cried, and felt sick at the thought of all that had happened. The thought of the voices betraying her and making her hate the Heretic just because it made things easier. The thought of being pregnant by this guy she didn’t really love, and how now she would have a family which she would hurt every time she looked at, and sick by the thought that she was led into this by the voices. They had trapped her. She wanted to leave it all behind but now she didn’t see how she could. What would everyone think of her if she just left her soon to be husband for this guy that everyone had been led to believe was so cruel to her and that she hated. She would look weak, she thought. She also thought of how many people would feel disappointed with her or dislike her. They wouldn’t understand, and if she explained it all…the voices, the gate, why The Heretic really is gone… they wouldn’t believe any of it, and if they did they would write her off as a liar or crazy. Then there are the people that already know everything, the ones closest to her. The same ones that don’t like the Heretic because he was “taking her away”. In this moment of clarity, she knew at the back of her mind that really meant they didn’t like him because just by being who he was he showed her what it was like to be genuinely cared for and appreciated and that reflected truthfully, yet terribly on them. He also showed her how to be strong, and in control of her destiny, hence made them lose the control they had. He wasn’t taking her away, he just gave her the strength to want to follow her heart more than simply dream about following it. It didn’t matter now though, she thought. because she didn’t leave, and now she never will…She continued to think that in a way, the voices took her away. From her dreams, from Heretic, and from her happiness. The voices knew her fears and exploited them, They knew that beyond that gate was a world of freedom and happiness, one she had never been in and knew nothing about. A world she worried she wouldn’t succeed in adapting too, and with all of the freedom came all of the responsibility of making decisions. They knew she feared that she would make the wrong decisions. Even though she knew The Heretic didn’t judge her for making mistakes or “bad” decisions, and that everyone makes mistakes, but once the voices started those thoughts were buried.
After a while, she composed herself as much as she could and walked to where the gate was, casually stepping over the line she couldn’t step over before. She almost laughed at how easy that had been.
“I should have left.” She said out loud. She stopped the rush of feelings and thoughts before they could flood back in.
she then thought “this is my life.” and dropped the note to the ground, walking back to her car having accepted this to be her fate. She wiped the tears away and started to drive off. The voices came back, once again filling her mind with noise as usual. They comforted her, reassured her she was making the right choice, as they were so good at doing. She looked in the rearview mirror and again saw the gate had returned.
By the time she was married she had forgotten most of this event, and by the time she had her child it was entirely removed from memory, and she went on to lead the life the voices charted out for her. She was never happy, though she never said that out loud or let on to that fact. She was somewhere she was comfortable, somewhere she knew. She felt alone, incomplete, discontented, and nervous any time she stopped to think or feel, but couldn’t place why. She didn’t search for reasons either, knowing the voices would shame her. Like when she would have a toothache, she got used to the pain despite it always being there at the back of her mind.
It wasn’t enough for her, but it was her life. It was the fate she chose.
Many, many years later there was an old man on the west coast, overlooking the ocean from his home. He had no kids, no grandkids. Not that anything was wrong with him or because women didn’t like him, he just never let anyone close to him because he was always preoccupied, both in his heart and his mind. On this particular night, he was moving slowly, breathing shallow, weak breaths. He knew his time was near. He’d known it for some time, and fought it as hard as he could for the past few years. Still, in a way, he felt like he was failing her by succumbing to it. Speaking to her, but to nobody, he said: “I’m sorry.”
His heart pained him, not from old age but from loss. and not his own loss as much as he was pained for hers. This feeling was nothing new though. He had related it to a toothache; he got used to the pain despite it always being there at the back of her mind.
He held a picture in his hand, old and battered like him. It showed a youthful portrayal of him and the girl together and smiling. Big, goofy, genuine smiles. Every time he looked at it he felt a bit of the warmth and happiness he had felt when it was taken all those years ago. He never forgot those days. His mind and heart wouldn’t let him even if he tried.
That was where he was meant to be…Not any specific place, but just by her side. Over the years and especially lately people asked if he regretted waiting. He didn’t.
He slowly walked inside to his bed, his whole body protesting and creaking with every movement. He knew this was the last time he would make this walk, and wanted to welcome it if it weren’t for the feeling of failure. He wanted to invite the end of pain, but knew it was selfish to do so and wanted to fight it forever. He had fought off the end and staved it off for so long already though, and he was worn out. The fight ended that night. Laying in his bed, warm but also cold, he held the picture to his chest and said
“I love you.” as he fell asleep