The Gate

October 10, 2018

    He finally arrived. The gate was closed. ‘Damn it’, he whispered to himself. 'And now what? Should I go back or should I insist and try?' He felt the weight of the responsibility of choice. He was acutely aware that whatever he decides now, it will determine his future. 'What to do, what to do?', he murmured nervously. 'I cannot spend hours carefully considering all the options! There is always something you can’t predict... What an impossible task! Just do what intuition tells you? Probably better, but what if you forget about some important element which could put all the situation in a completely different light? Why couldn’t the things be just a bit easier!' He felt like he needed some directions, gentle advice. But deep inside he knew he would be really upset if someone just told him what to do. He would surely rebel, demanding to have his own choice. Now, when the opportunity was presented to him, he struggled to make the most of it. 

 

Since he remembered, he always wanted to be where he was now. He spent days and nights dreaming about getting to this distant gate and walking through. Occasionally, he was even getting negligent in his duties, craving for this moment.  Now, being here, experiencing the moment he was so much looking forward to, he did not know what to do. It felt strange. And slightly stupid. He knew it was something important, and yet he had no clue what to do. It seemed ridiculous. For a moment he wished he could be on his sofa, with some more time to properly think everything over. But there was no return. He could not waste more time. He was there, and the decision had to be made. Excitement, panic, fear, all mixed together in his mind. He wanted to predict the consequences of his decision. He craved for a little hint, subtle suggestions, which could help him make a right choice. He looked around. There was nothing. He knew it was pointless - the decision had to be born in his mind. He needed to know what he was doing, and take full responsibility for that. It was freedom and constraint at the same time. His thoughts travelled in several contradictory directions, and he had no clue which one to follow. 

 

He looked at the gate. 'Is there any objective way of looking at things?', he pondered. 'Or perhaps everybody’s subjective view is the only right one, and in that case, there are so many realities as there are people on the planet. In that sense, the subjective view of something would have more importance that it is usually granted. For example a chocolate ice cream. One person loves it, another one hates it. Is there an objective truth, saying that chocolate ice cream is good or bad? Well, perhaps from the medical point of view, but that’s not what we refer to. So once you take a decision, how do you judge if it was a right or a wrong one? After some time you will see some outcome, which might give you a clue. But if you wait a bit more - new circumstances might put it in yet another light. So when is the moment to judge the things the way they are? It’s all absurd, impossible, forever unfixed. All these thoughts can be seen from quite an extreme point of view, depending on the moment, mood, situation, priorities. The line dividing the extremes is quite thin, sometimes making it difficult to realise when you cross it.' 

 

Suddenly, he pushed the gate. And he got scared for a moment. 'Who did it? Who made me do it? I was busy thinking, and I saw myself pushing the gate. Have I really decided to do so? If yes, I can’t recall the moment when I did. I "woke up" the very moment after I did it. It was like speaking with another being, independent from who I am. But this another being is me. So how is it possible?' He remembered that weird moment when as a young boy, about 8 or so, he experienced some strange situations of this kind, probably even more obscure to understand and to remember now. He was alone at home, and the telephone rang. Mobile phones were not a thing at that time, so you could not see what number was calling. Almost every day his mother would call him on early afternoon to check if he came back from school safely, and to give him some little daily task he performed with the greatest attention to detail. His father, in contrast, almost never made an effort to call. He was a very good man, but much more reserved, and there were not many occasions to demonstrate any tenderness between them. So the telephone rang. He picked it up, and automatically, without thinking, and said: ‘Hello dad’. Silence on the other side of the line. His father, with a slightly concerned voice, asked him: ‘How do you know it was me!?’ He froze. Indeed he had no idea why he said that. He wasn’t thinking. He did it as if it was the most obvious thing, without realising that it wasn’t. Only then, listening to his father, he understood the strangeness of the situation. 

 

There was more. One of the weirdest things that happened to him was the dream he had. It was a continuous dream, which he dreamt every single night for the period of several months. It was the strangest of dreams. Every evening, after falling asleep, he would ‘wake up’ in his dream, knowing that it was a dream. He would be in the same room where he fell asleep a few moments before. It was like a ‘parallel reality’. He knew that his aim was to learn to fly. In order to do so, he needed to concentrate his energy around the chest. But he started from nothing. First of all, he carefully closed the door of his room, knowing that if his parents, sleeping in the room next door, see him levitating, they would probably die of a heart attack. For the first weeks, he could not take off the ground even by a centimetre. He felt his energy was not strong enough. Weeks of practice went by. Every night he woke up in his dream, and every morning he woke up in his ‘normal’ reality, remembering everything from his dream. Never did he have any doubt what was a dream and what was the ‘reality’. After a few months, he could rise to the ceiling level. Very careful not to wake up his parents, he started to wander to the corridor and the kitchen, floating around two meters above the ground. He realised that if he was upset or when he did something bad, his energy wasn’t strong enough to lift him to the desired level. After several months, he felt strong enough to control his levitations and freely move around the entire flat. One day he knew it’s time to make the final test of his newly acquired skill. He opened the window in his room. He looked at the city at night. He lived on the sixth floor, so the night view was quite spectacular. He leaned on the window sill and stopped for a moment. 'Am I crazy? Am I trying to kill myself!?', he thought. I know it’s just a dream, he reassured himself. He pushed the frames of the window and jumped. That was the first time he could fly so high. He reached about 100 meters above the ground, not to scare anyone, and he flew all around the city.  The only person who saw him was an old, drunk man, who probably took him for his drunken hallucination. Flying in the open sky, he felt free and fulfilled. He came back home, went to bed, like every night after his ‘lessons’. The dream never came back, he knew he achieved what he was meant to accomplish. 

 

How relative is the perception of time... All these memories, and yet he spent no more than few seconds staring at the gate. Incredible how the time can be stretched or shrank in one’s mind. When he was younger, he sometimes felt that he was different than other kids. He thought he could do things that others can’t even imagine. And he got scared. He got afraid of being different, perhaps too powerful. His self-defence mechanisms were always robust: when he was about to get sick, his body would make him very hungry, making him eat and lot to get the energy to fight the illness. After any even slightly upsetting experience, his mind was sending all uncomfortable memories to oblivion. He was once an extreme perfectionist. In everything. He soon realised that it is not what the society required from children. The level of attention to detail expected from kids was terribly low. His efforts were not appreciated. He felt different and somehow disappointed. He gave up on the efforts to pursue perfection. Years after, he tried to retrieve it back. With nor result. Chance once given and not used, might never come back again, he thought. 

 

He walked past the gate. Tiny, narrow path. 'I’m on the other side', he thought. 

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Short Fiction by Agata Lulkowska, filmmaker and photographer, researcher and globetrotter.

The Gate

October 10, 2018

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