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The Gate

You’re halfway over Quincentennial Bridge when the music stops.

Your perfect fantasy comes to a gunshot halt, and you look at your phone as the battery dies and the screen fades to black. The world you were living in crashes down around you in an unholy, cataclysmic, millisecond apocalypse, and now it’s just you and the things you’re left alone with: an empty road, a night filled with eldritch silence, and a great, beautiful blackness that greets you when you peer over the banister. It dares you to wonder if it’s a still river reflecting the night sky, or an empty, bottomless abyss into which you could step and fall forever. Part of you knows it’s stupid to wonder. Part of you wants to step off of the edge just to see. You can’t tell if they’re the same part.

As the fear begins to kick in, you look around. These streets are too empty, and this city is too quiet. This path is the path you walk every day, but the ground beneath your feet feels unfamiliar in a way that you can’t put into words. The air is crisp and clean against your face, a light breeze that leaves the stillness of the night unchallenged.

You find yourself trying to recapture the frame of mind that, only moments ago, made you feel so alive, but though it’s slipping away slowly enough for you to feel it go, it’s too quick in its escape for the flailing tendrils of your thoughts to latch on.

Eons ago, this night was blissful: yourself and the others, laughing and chatting and living, your worries and insecurities abandoned in a mindset that you’ve grown so loathsome of, and had since transcended. You were untouchable. You were immortal. You were free.

You left the party in the early hours of the morning, for no reason other than that the notion to do so struck you as appealing, and life was brimming with the sort of perfection that provokes adventure just to prove how untouchable that perfection is. You slipped away quietly. No one noticed.

You observed rather than determined where you were going, and at first thought that you were headed home. You walked along the Headford Road, struck by the stillness of the night; no cars, no people, no life. At the time, this wasn’t a problem. At the time, this was everything you could ever want in life. You walked into the middle of the road and stood there for a few minutes and listened to the silence until a car eventually came, shattering the peace of the night, and you left the road, jaded, confused as to why anyone would ruin such a moment of contentedness.

You floated into the 24-hour Spar at the petrol station, where it was just you and the shopkeeper. She gave you an uninterested glance as you walked through the door, floating. You perused the aisles aimlessly, enjoying the colours and the varieties and the aromas of the baked goods in the corner of the shop. You weren’t looking for anything in particular, but as soon as you found yourself face to face with the drinks section you realised that you were parched. You went to the till with four bottles of iced tea, just to be safe.

Outside the shop you found a lone black cat, who looked up at you fearlessly with beautiful green eyes, and you wondered how you were to know that this cat wasn’t God itself.

‘Are you God?’ you asked the cat.

The cat said nothing. It didn’t seem to know.

By the time you reached the turn for your apartment it was apparent in your mind that you weren’t headed home. You continued on, past the turn, throwing the iced tea bottle that you’d already emptied into a bin as you went, and turned left onto Dyke Road, continuing on along the route that you walk every day to… somewhere. The walk was so familiar to you, but the silence that still hung heavy in the air seemed alien to the city. The odd taxi passed every now and then, but otherwise, this street was all but yours. You were the only living creature here, which made you the strongest creature here, and as such it made perfect sense in your mind that you should be king of this tiny domain.

You continued on past Éamon Deacy Park. You had played there once, in a cup final for your local Sunday League amateur side. You had lost. You couldn’t for the life of you remember why that had upset you.

By the time you crossed the small stream breaking off from the Corrib, you had finished your second bottle of iced tea. You wandered a few metres into the green area, away from the glow of the streetlights, the dew on the grass soaking through your cheap runners. You unzipped your pants at the trees by the river. As you pissed, you looked to your left, up at the ruins of Menlo Castle. Had generations of kings once ruled from there? Had lords and ladies and all their servants resided in the castle by the river? Were they looking from afar at a nobody with a pot belly and a smile pissing two peach iced tea bottles’ worth of piss on the land that they had once reigned from so proudly?

‘To hell with it,’ you thought, ‘I’m the king here now.’

From your pissing spot, you could see the Corrib, and you saw it for the first time in what must be its true form: a seething creature of the night that churned and slithered and moved slowly through the darkness. How had it hidden from you for so long? You could see great big buildings plunged into blackness, you could see the black blanket sky filled with clouds and stars and moonlight, stretching on and on into forever, and you could see the place that you’re standing at now, up on the bridge, looking out over that same creature who now lies dead and unmoving where once it slinked with all the power on this earth, and thinking about falling through nothingness forever and about the empty, invisible pockets of space that the confidence and contentedness that you had been filled with until only moments ago had fled to. You try and try to find them but there’s nothing left in your mind. You are deserted and you are alone and you are…

…scared. So scared.

Suddenly, everything about this world is threatening. Alone on the bridge, the nature of the unfamiliarity of this familiar place that had intrigued you so much before now only serves to stir up fear within you. The stillness and quiet of the night leaves far too much to your jumpstarted imagination.

Somewhere in this world an engine revs, and you turn and watch as a car turns onto the dual carriageway a few hundred metres down the road and starts driving towards you far too slowly. It gets closer and closer, and you watch, horrified.

It’s bleeding.

As it approaches, you can clearly see the thin rivulets of blood rolling downwards all over the car’s surface. Crimson blood seeps from everywhere and nowhere. You don’t know what this means.

As the car passes by you, you see through the windscreen a driver with no face. You don’t think it’s looking at you. Does it know you’re here? Do you matter at all?

It whispers past you and continues into the night. No blood is left in its wake; each droplet that rolled down that perfect surface made its journey only to fall and dissipate into the night like a cigarette dropped into a black hole.

Maybe that’s the fate that waits for you over the edge. There once was a breathing creature stalking the night, in the night, of the night, no doubt about it. But the flashes of scale and flesh, the heaving, writhing mass that you had seen had, unbeknownst to you, been far removed from the graceful, silent skulking of the creature’s usual hunt; no, it had been nowhere near, and you had been a fool not to see those shaky steps and sluggish stumbles as the death throes that they were. And when the creature had heaved its last, raspy breath and finally collapsed as a corpse, the earth trembled and the stars shook and a mighty, silent black hole erupted to mark our death and consume the night, returning it home to the great big nothing.

Return unto me! And I will return unto you (the needlessness of my return).

Now you’re standing at the edge. You’re pressed against the banister and you’re looking down into forever. You don’t remember coming here. You don’t remember a lot of things. The black hole is just there, only a few metres down, and you can feel its pull. It’s gentle, and reassuring, and it makes promises that you know more than you’ve ever known anything in your entire microscopic life are true, and it would be so easy to just

take

the

plunge

and be happy again.

You stand here for a while, leaning, gazing, dreaming of the fall.

Wouldn’t it be so nice to be thoughtless?

Wouldn’t it be so nice to be weightless?

Wouldn’t it be so nice to be held?

Soon, something makes you step away from the edge, and you turn to look down the road. A few hundred metres away, just at the junction where the carriageway crosses Newcastle Road, the gateway to hell hangs in the air. It flickers and twitches, a shadow hovering above the tarmac, just past the petrol station. It invites you, and instils in you a fear that tells you to keep on running. When all else falls through, that fear is the net that catches you. That fear of the unknown. Your only constant.

The gateway to hell doesn’t move, it doesn’t threaten, it doesn’t spew forth a monster or a memory or a ghost. It just hangs there, silent, watching, waiting.

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