To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, somewhere between the idea behind this short story and the reality you see on this page… falls the Shadow.
Look Before the Leap, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 435
And here I, Guinevere, now stand at last in the Hall of Light.
Before me stand the Doors of Truth. The doors that shut out the blessed darkness. Behind me lies a trail of fallen Friars: bruised, battered, and bleeding from my sword. And beside me kneels the Grand Revelator, shivering in his immaculate vestments with both hands tied behind his back. He doesn’t dare to call any more guards on me now. Too much is at stake.
Like, you know, the peace and sanity of the whole world.
The Revelator is desperately whispering prayers, but it’s futile. I know his God won’t answer.
In fact, I’m pretty sure He’s pissed at what’s been going on.
All the Revelator and his cronies prayed and sacrificed to create a world of everlasting light. And that’s exactly what they got.
A world without death! they demanded. And what we got was unbearable immortality.
A world without lies! they demanded. And what we got was the death of sleep and dreams.
A world without sorrow! they demanded. And what we got were constant smiles that hurt worse than scars.
They called it a Golden Age. A worldwide Revelation.
Except, you know, the old Greeks had a word for “revelation.”
They called it Apocalypse.
And so here I stand. Guinevere the Chosen One. A stubborn girl with a bloodied practice sword that used to belong to Miyamoto Musashi. Another young maiden on a mission from God.
Beyond these doors is Diogenes’s Lantern. Beyond these doors is the elemental darkness. The Lantern holds back the darkness.
The Lantern is the key.
I reach into my pocket and fish out a pair of keys I got from a vault deep inside the Vatican. Not sure if they’ll work, but it’ll suck to be wrong about this.
Click. Fantastic. A perfect fit.
The Doors of Truth swing out and I raise my bokken to the twisting shadows beyond.
No missteps now. No second chance.
Either the Lantern breaks or the world does.
Give it all you’ve got, Gwen.
I swing my sword as I have always done. As every version of me in every timeline is fated to do.
And when the glass of the Lantern shatters and the candle’s undying flame is snuffed out, I laugh.
The darkness embraces me and I fall to my knees in gratitude.
Here at last comes sleep. Here at last come the dreams, both good and bad. Here at last comes the mercy of death and renewal.
My job’s done. For the first time in over twenty years, I can finally call it a night.
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