A Shadowlander's Tale: The Lingering Shadows Within
Written by Kathryn K Williams
I opened the door fully to find a short hall, of maybe a metre long, that ended at yet another door. I let out a sigh of frustration at the sight of this new door, then I noticed something familiar about this door. I grabbed the candle off the stand, to give myself more light, as I stepped through the first door and into the small alcove. This new door was flanked by two massive grey stone pillars and stone archway. The door itself looked to be nothing special. It was an ordinary white bedroom door, however as I moved closer I noticed that there were marking upon the surface. Strange markings that looked older then time itself. I reached out towards the door to discover that the markings had actually been carved into its surface by some kind of sharp object. There were splinters of wood protruding from the door as if something attacked it in great hast.
My eyes stopped on one of the symbols and I stared at it. There was something familiar about this design. Something at the edge of my memory. I glanced down at my journal and wondered. Could it possible have an answer to this puzzle too? I shrugged to myself and decided that there was no reason to not try the book. I leaned against the wall next to the door and flipped through the pages and stopped on a random entry and could not believe what I saw before me. There was an exact sketch of the same door I stood next too. The page opposite the drawing was filled with the same carvings upon the door, but somehow I could understand these pencil scratchings.
If I was correct about my reading then the door before me was the bridge between what is and what isn't. The boundary between reality and dream. A place where the guardian laying in waiting. Allowing only those of worth to pass under his multiple gazes.
Multiple gazes? What the hell did that mean? There was nothing more about this guardian and it made me slightly worried. I glanced back at the small room I'd just escaped and pondered trying a different wall. Then I realized that if this really lead to a bridge between what is and what isn't then maybe it would lead out of this place and back to Liz. Excited about the prospect of being back in my lover's arm I closed the book and turned back to the door. Then hesitation slightly, there appeared to be no door knob on this door either. I turned back to the strange portable door I'd just passed through and that odd curved from inside my book and shook my head perplexedly, was it possible that this door knob worked for more then one door?
Figuring there was no reason not to try I moved back to the portable door and closed it, then took the door knob off, which turned out to be on both sides of the door. This time the door did not come free from the wall and stayed put. With a nod I returned to the new door and put the knob in place. To my surprise it fit perfectly and I prepared to open the door to whatever lingered beyond it. I really hoped that there wasn't any strange monsters behind this door for I was not sure how my mind would handle it. Taking a deep breath I proceeded to turn the knob and open the door.
When nothing leapt out to eat me I cautiously opened my eyes and peered into the opening before me. The door seemed to lead to a strange earthen cave. I could feel a gentle breeze cross my bare ankles and the linger scent of moistened earth invaded my nose. I could almost sense a flowing river in the distance and taste its cool waters upon my tongue. Whatever was beyond this door was heaven in comparison to this place. I took a step passed the threshold and into the dark abyss before me, but not before removing the door knob and returning it to its place inside of my journal.
I crept closer, using the wall for balance because the floor was rather slippery. The wall was moist and muddy to the touch and made me cringe as it slipped between my fingertips. I wanted to let go of the wall, but I feared if I did I would slide down the mild decline and cake my pyjamas entirely in mud. The further I moved the more I hoped that this truly was the way out, because there was no way I was going to be able to climb back up this tunnel.
After moving a few metres or so I started to see a light in front of me. An odd pale blue light that seemed to shimmer ever so slightly. It did not take long for me to reached the source of the light and was astonished by what I saw before me. Threads as find as silk, that glowed with a strange blue light, covered every inch of the walls, arching over my head in a specular array of woven designs that I'd ever seen. A detailed rug, made of the same silk, string rolled out before me and I felt horrible about setting my mud covered slippers upon it's beautiful surface.
"It is quite alright to wipe your feet upon my carpet." A smooth, soothing, voice called out from the far end of the cave, "That is what I meant it for after all."
"Who?" I puzzled, as I did as I was told and cleaned my slippers of the caked on mud.
"You know who I am." The voice drifted to my ears almost harmoniously. I'd never heard such a wonderfully soft and pleasant voice in my life, "And I know you, dear Brenda."
I could almost hear the smile in the person's tone. It was very feminine and made me curious who the voice could belong too. Was the person creating such a sound as lovely as the music they created? Was I being lured into the embrace of some temptress, a siren perhaps. No, there were no rocks for me to crash upon so that could not be right. A succubus maybe then? No, this person did not have the tone of a demon. It had almost a motherly ring to it.
A soft laugh floated down the tunnel, "You are a very curious girl, now aren't you?" The voice half inquired and half stated, "I am none of the things you are thinking. I am not trying to lure you into some abyss or devour your soul. I just want to chat."
I hauled in my spot and pondered what I was being told, "How can I be sure that you are not lying?" I inquired cautiously.
"Because I give you my word." It replied simply, "Try to trust me. I mean you no harm. Your friend Beth trusted me. She told me to inform you that she is alright and very happy."
"Beth?" I became excited to here my friends name, "Beth passed through here?"
"Yes." The voice said, "She is quite a lovely child. You were the only person she regretted not being able to say good bye too."
"Oh..." This was news to me. I never imagined Beth thought much of me. I continued to creep my way along the path, "I wish she had told me she was going."
"She did not have much of a choice." The voice remarked dismally, "You will find me in the first room to the right. You are nearly there in fact." It said gleefully.
"Alright," I stepped forward until I came around a corner and the cave opened up around me to reveal a large room covered in the same glowing thread. In the middle was a large round table that appeared to have the same glow as the web. There were several small stools, that looked more like mushrooms, were set around the table as if it awaited more guests. I noticed a grand silver tea set sitting in the middle of the table, steam arose from the spout of a silver kettle as it sat over a smile candle, to keep it warm, and there were two cups place upside down on saucers of the same metal. I could not believe my eyes as the soft glow of the threads gleamed off the tea set. Several large black pillars stretched over head to a curious black fur curtain at the far end of the room, that I figured the person I'd been talking to was hiding within. The curtain was covered in unusual blue markings that I could not place. They appeared to be a design that I'd seen once on a spider in my dreams, but why would someone put the design on a curtain was beyond me.
"Please take a seat and I will be right with you." The voice said from the dark corner of the room.
I crossed the room to the tables and slowly lowered myself to one of the mushroom stools. As I stared at the curtain I felt the need to hold back a chuckle as an image of the Wizard of Oz came to mind.
"Please ignore the man behind the curtain." The voice boomed and echoed off the walls. The sound held such power to it that my body dropped into the mushrooms and sunk slightly into its soft surface. Suddenly the fur certain began to shift and a large furry pole moved over my head, followed by another and yet another, "I loved that story, but I'm afraid that there is no curtain in the corner." The voice explained sadly, "Don't you remember me, Brenda?"
I watched in amazement as I realized that the fur curtain was actually a large round object. Another mound came into view and I all of a suddenly attained that I had made a big mistake. The pillars of fur that moved over my head were actually giant legs connected to a large furry body. As it turned to face me I found myself staring at my reflection in eight large shiny black eyes. I swallowed hard as my own eyes fell upon a set of long fangs that extended below the creatures head. My mind finally pieced together what I was looking at and I finally understood that the guardian of the bridge was in fact a giant spider and the silk carpet under my feet was actually a spider's web that this creature had woven. I recalled the words on the door and grasped its meaning of ‘Multiple gazes.'
I sensed a frown crossed the creatures face as it set its eyes upon me, "I see my appearance was far from what you were expecting. I am sorry if I frighten you, but this is who I am and I meant it when I said I would not eat you."
I cleared my throat and calmed myself. I might indeed be looking at a spider, but I could still see a kind heart in those black eyes. I was not sure how I could see it considering I could only really see my own self in them, but I felt it in my heart, "I am sorry. It tis rude of me to stare. I guess I am no better then anyone else." I bowed my head in shame, "You did not frighten me actually. I was just shocked. You have to admit that it is not everyday that one sees a spider as grand as yourself." What was wrong with me? I'd never talked like this before. Maybe it was the drugs or the effect to of this strange world I could not tell, but this was not like me.
"It is because you are standing at the edge of reality and dream." The spider explained, "It is the reason I can hear your thoughts and your words come out so differently then you expected. It is a produce of the self that you keep locked away within that dream world of yours?"
"My dream world?" I was more confused then before, "I thought this was my dreams. Is it not?"
The spider shook it's head and moved across the room to a small white cupboard that I had not noticed before and it picked up a white porcelain bowl off the top of it, "No, this is between worlds. Your dream sphere is beyond those doors that you passed earlier." It returned to the table and set the bowl down, "Would you like some tea?" It offered politely, gesturing to the tea set with it's front arms.
"Are the Mad Hatter and the March Hare going to join us?" I inquired cynically, unsure what to expect in this place.
"They only visit on Thursdays." The creature answered with a smile.
"Okay, I should have expected that answer." I admitted, "And I would love some tea." I was actually very thirsty and the thought of tea seemed rather refreshing. I just hoped there were no flies in the broth because that I was not sure I could handle.
"I do not eat flies." The spider remarked as it picked up the kettle and turned a cup over in front of me, "They are rather disgusting creatures and I am not very found of them." It explained as it filled my cup, "Sugar?"
"Lots!" I stated, nodding my head vigorously.
"We should probably get to the reason you are here." The spider stated as it picked up a spoon and scooped a heaping mound of sugar into my cup, followed closely by another, "You should wash up your hands before drinking, my dear." With another leg it pushed the large bowl that it had brought to the table a moment ago closer to me. The bowl appeared to be filled with clear water and there was a silver towel on the side that I was certain was made of the same silk that strung from the very wall.
"I am not really sure about that one myself." I set my note book upon the table and dipped my hands into the liquid, it was not cold and not exactly warm either, just the way I liked it, "Do you know why there are entries in this that I do not remember writing?" I inquired curiously, nodding to the journal.
The spider nodded as it set a cup in front of me and picked up a second cup, "It is because you wrote them while between worlds." It explained simply, "You will only be able to read them when you mind slips between the here and there. For you see you are a dream walker and like many before you, you can walk between realities by mere thought. However your strength is weak so one foot is always in one world while another is in the next."
I rubbed my head in frustration, "Where is here and there?" I inquired, perplexed by what I'd been hearing.
The spider lifted the cup to it's fangs and sucked at it, "You see most believe that there is only one world. However, the reality that you think is real is actually a fragment of what the real world is comprised of and what your mind is willing to believe. Do you follow?"
"You are saying that there are multiple realities." I replied, hoping that I was somewhat correct.
The spider shook its head, "Only one reality, but your mind is only able to focus on one part of that reality at a time. The place you go in your dreams in only a fragment of the places that exist if you allow yourself to believe it is possible." It explained as it lifted the lid off a silver tray to reveal an array of cookies and took one, "Right now you stand at the bridge between what is and what isn't. If you pass beyond the bridge then you throw the boundaries of your own mind wide open and only what binds your mind can stop you from achieving anything and going anywhere." It stated as it dipped the a cookie in its tea and took a bit, "It is very simply once you get used to it, but not everyone can handle the possibility that their reality is not entirely truth and end up departing from all existence."
"Is that why they disappear?" I to took a cookie, an oatmeal looking one and bit a piece off to discover it was in fact oatmeal and dunked it into my tea.
"Not exactly," The spider muddled over things, "The ones who disappeared from your reality were accepted the truth and moved on to a place that better suited them. Those who could not accept the reality simply could not face it and ended their lives."
"So that is why they committed suicide." I stated, slightly understanding what the spider was trying to tell me, "Then the others moved on to this place at the other side of the bridge?"
"Yes and no." The spider replied, "The bridge simply opens the door in your mind to other possibilities."
"Do you know where Beth and my niece are?" I asked, feeling as if my prays were finally being answered. If it was possible for this spider to know Beth then it must know where my niece went too.
"They are beyond the edge of reality in the realm of shadows." The spider responded and took another sip of its tea.
I suddenly remembered my tea and brought it to my lips as I pondered what I was being told. The broth was sweet and soothing, just like the words of the spider. I quickly emptied the cup and lightly set it upon the saucer,, "Could you take me to them?" I inquired eagerly, as I nibbled upon my cookie.
The spider stared at me and laughed in amusement, "You really wish to find your friend, do you?"
I nodded, "The tea was delicious by the way." I admitted as I picked up a napkin from the table and dabbed at my mouth, "As were the cookies."
"I am glad you liked it. You can take some cookies with you if you like." The spider said gratefully, "But I am sorry I can not take you to the Realm of Shadows, but I can take you across the bridge if you would like my company."
"That would be very nice." I said politely, the idea of going alone actually made me feel uncomfortable and the thought of having this new friend at my side made me feel safer.
The spider's smile broadened, "It is nice to know you like my company so much. Most are in such a rush to go that they do not want to talk along the trip." It said sadly, "I feel that I truly do frighten most people away and never seen them again."
"I will return to see you." I promised, "Maybe we can have tea and cookies together again." I offered with a grin, taking a few cookies and placing them in my pocket.
"You should really come by on a Thursday." The spider remarked, "The Hatter would love to meet you."
"I am sure I would love to meet him too." And that was the truth. I always enjoyed the tales of the Hatter and the March Hare. I only wish there were more tale about them to be told. I uneasily go to my feet, using the table to brace myself when I felt one of the spider's legs come up from behind me and help me gain my balance.
"Careful there. My tea has been known to make people a little lightheaded at times." The spider said with a soft chuckle and then gestured to the door, "Allow me to show you to the bridge. It is right this way."
I followed the spider's arm back out of the room and togther we strolled down the tunnel. It was rather cramped for my friend, but it seemed to have no troubles moving about the hall, however I needed to keep in front or I would probably be crushed under foot.
"Do you live here alone?" I inquired, interested to learn more about the creature.
"Actually I do." The spider said gloomily, "But I have a lot of visitors and meet a lot of new friends, like yourself. It is an interesting job, being Guardian and all. I do not think I could ever leave this place. It is my home and home is where the heart is after all."
"I can understand that." I said with a nod, I wished there was something I could do to help the creatures loneliness that I could see it was covering up. I turned to the spider and looked it straight in the eyes, "I will return. I mean it. I will." I promised.
The spider smiled at me, "That really makes my day." The spider stated with a deep sigh, "I really am glad you came to visit me."
"So am I."
To be continued
Note: The world of the shadowlands, Its stories, Characters and ideas are a copyright of Kathryn K Williams.
This story is based upon my manga of the same name. If you wish visit my site and see some of the art based on this series at http://www.KatAndNekoManga.ca
Also if you spot any typos or other errors please contact me at Kathryn@KatAndNekoManga.ca