Chapter 1:

A Way in The Darkness

The Door to a Bittersweet Ending

Another normal night in this city that goes on by absorbing our living energy. The same shadows surround the same buildings that the same people every day see in the same and endless routine that brings them from the same house to the same work, saying farewell to the same hated family. What do people say in this day and age? That we are a copy of a copy? Well, effectively, the more a person looks around himself, the more he understands that this world goes on because of just a word: homogenisation. The same people move in the same world, they have the same virtues, the same vices, the same objectives, the same ambitions. It’s always the same here, the same there, the same everywhere. Of course, this is just a generalization, but think about it: the darkness falls everywhere when the night falls. Just like that, when the sun lifts up, the sun is everywhere. But there is an exception in this: those few zones covered by a light during the night and those where the shadow gives rest to the sorrowful humans that decide to stay there. On one of this occasions, on a normal night, a standalone figure stayed undisturbed by the few noises that his ears caught in the mystery of the night, coming from those spots where the night gently welcomes the world into its soporific embrace, hiding whatever happens there with a secret pact stipulated between humanity and the world since the dawn of humanity. The figure was the one of a man, standing under the mortified light of a single lamppost standing several meters away from its brothers and sisters. It was still enough light to make out that impassive figure: it was the one of a young guy, with dark hair that could have possibly served to camouflage himself in the night, if not for some locks of hair that were of a golden colour, like remnants of an old civilization in a newly formed country. Green eyes were observing a point far away from the light, as if the night was tempting the solitary figure to join the others with desirable offers like a good job, a wife, happiness and so on. But the lips of the man, a bit brighter than his pale complexion but still paler than someone would normally think, weren’t open in a smile: rather, they were judging what was ahead of him like it was a state affair, with a serious look that suited his face, giving an authoritarian and cold vibe that could have made a chill come down of someone’s spine if that person wasn’t ready for the event. Considering that his body was also kind of well-built and that he was evidently taller than average, he wouldn’t have been a person that you may want to encounter in a dark alley on an evening while returning home. As for his voice…

“What the heck has happened to the lamppost there?”

It was a deep voice, which could instil fear or respect at command, but also be soothing and relaxing like the sound of a waterfall. Words came out of his mouth like they were natural, but in that occasion, that was only obvious: after all, in front of him there should have been the light of a lamppost many hundreds of meters away from him, but instead, there was only a deep and complete darkness. Bewildered by this strange occasion – he walked this way home every night since he started working at an IT company next to there, so a few years ago, and the lamppost never broke – he dismissed it quickly and just whispered to himself, trying to get a hold of himself from the memories that were trying to re-emerge: “Come on, Akira, It’s just some darkness, you don’t have to be scared of it…”. After this small moment that he needed to muster up courage, he started walking towards home, in that peaceful yet hostile environment that was tending his hand to him while also holding a knife in the other hand, if not even in the same one. After all, isn’t the night the time of the day where the human is most vulnerable and most fearful of things? He walked, walked, and walked… At a certain point he stopped, certain that he had actually walked past the previous lamppost. If that was the case, then was also the next one broken? Nah, it wasn’t really probable. But then why was it still dark? “I can’t possibly have missed the right turn, because this is a straight, there are no turns” thought the man, whose name was Akira but whose surname was still unknown to us. At that point an irrational fear of the dark took over his reasoning and his mind: not that it was irrational, at least from his point of view, but still this feeling just screamed a phrase in his mind, which echoed through every possible cranny of his mind:

“Continue walking, continue walking, CONTINUE WALKING!”

At this point his mind shut down and his body started moving on its own, becoming like a preprogrammed robot, and his foot started going up and down, down and up, making him advance further into the darkness. The further he progressed, the more his mind started playing jokes on him: he started seeing imaginary structures along the street, instead of the plain conbini that was right in that point or the horrible apartment complex that was right next to it. His eyes saw in the darkness castles, medieval houses, architectures that were definitely from a place far away from where he was, from the Japan that gave him birth and saw him becoming a child, then a teenager, then a man, and that saw and participated in his misfortunes, his achievements, his errors. Then it was the time for nature to come in: instead of the reinforced concrete that populates the city he started seeing forests, rivers, black and white caves and in general a luxuriant nature worthy of the Polynesian phase of Gauguin. Then people started to appear in his visions, too: humans, people with animal features, strange people with long ears and many others, making the most disparate actions possible: first they were battling, then they were making business, then some of them were cultivating fields, others were mining, others were eating… What Akira was seeing was just like another world entirely: it was like his imagination freed itself from invisible chains and started making up for the lost time by creating the most variegated picture that it could do, also helped by the shadows that were dominating even those pictures created by the human mind. This journey made Akira lose track of the time: he didn’t know how much had he walked up until that moment, and he seemed not to really care that much. After all, right now he was busy contemplating the imaginative power of its mind, just like that character whose imagination was freed by the sound of a train and that because of this changed his character completely, making the others believe that he was mad. Then, at a certain point, all these images started disappearing, slowly, one by one, until just some lines remained around Akira, making him incredibly sad, an emotion which completely surprised him and made him regain his senses. That was the moment when even the last line disappeared, and he found himself in the utter darkness yet again. Then, as he started wondering what the hell did just happen, a strange event happened: call it a miracle, a joke, or even something outrageous, but before him, a door appeared. It stood right in front of him, closed but not sealed, inviting him to open it: but the strangest thing about that door was that it emanated a white glow, just like an artificial source of light in a painting. It was like it was challenging the shadows to do more in order to tempt their victim more than it did that salvific yet suspicious door. Surprised by the turn of the events – after all, first he was seeing things, now he saw a door in the middle of what he supposed to be the street, how could someone blame him? – he twitched his eyes, shook his head and made an unexpected decision: he turned his back to the door and started heading back. Not that he was not bewildered by that strange white-glowing door, but he wanted to understand how the hell did he end up being there. But just after three steps, he discovered a strange yet entertaining thing: he was right back where he was before he started walking in the darkness, right under the lamppost where he was before, in front of the conbini from where he was used to pick a bottle of jasmine tea in order to satisfy his thirst. Which, moreover, he forgot to buy today because of this strange occurrence. Then he turned around, trying to see if the door was still there or if he had started imagining things: and there there was not the door, but the same dark alley from where he came, still without the light of the broken lamppost.

“So… what the hell did just happen?” asked in his mind Akira, not understanding a single thing of what he had just experienced. Looking at the darkness in front of him, he could not help but to think about that door. Its position was seriously strange, but that was not only the strange thing about it: it was a wooden door decorated with a golden marquetry, with a floral pattern that, for as intricate as it was, could have only been the work of a very experienced artisan. But the most important thing was that there were words written on it, but they were written neither in Japanese nor in the Latin alphabet: it could have been Arabic, Cyrillic or something else, as he didn’t know those alphabets, but honestly it just felt like it was something ancient. It was just a gut feeling, but, well, it was still better than nothing, or so Akira thought. At the end of this train of thoughts, he looked back at the darkness from which he came out, and that was when he decided something that at first would have been unbelievable to him: he decided to return there, and that is, because he wanted to see what lay behind that door. After all, he was still a human, and curiosity is one of the strongest human emotions. It moves the world and makes people discover new inventions, fuelling and contributing to human progress: we can say that it is curiosity that grants humans to progress further as a society. Or to regress, it depends from which point of view you see it. After all he could have escaped, he could have just forgotten about the existence of that door, like you try to forget a nightmare when you are awake, but instead he decided to go against it, even if something bad could have arisen from that encounter. Anyway, he stared at the darkness, fighting against all the power that it exercised over him, and slowly started making his way in it, if not that, after just a few steps, he reappeared right in front of the door, just like it was when he sorts of escaped from it. The door was still waiting for him, patient like a mother with her child or like a torturer with its victim: as always, it depends from which point of view you see it. Akira observed the door for a rather brief moment: yep, it was just like he remembered, with the natural pattern and the incomprehensible writing on it. While still observing it, he gulped down a bit, trying to be as calm as possible, and then opened it. What awaited him from the other side was a strange spectacle: a white space. No person, no object, no building, just an empty white space, which gave off an uncanny warmth, making Akira feel both comfortable looking at that and at the same time an unpleasant feeling, like it was a fake layer that was trying to attract him. Still, when he looked at the emptiness behind that door, a thought struck across Akira’s mind: if he was to enter that space, he would have probably never returned to reality. He couldn’t explain why, but at the same time that was the vibe that he was given by that extraordinary yet terrific spectacle. At the same time, he didn’t know where that door could have lead him: to another world? To his dreams? To lose his mental sanity? Or all of these plus other options that he didn’t want to think about? Still, curiosity drew him to that door, but it wasn’t only that: there was also another feeling that was making its way in Akira’s heart and that he just tried to hide for all of his life, or at least for the majority of it. That was the disgust he felt for everything around him, for his past and for everything that derived from it, including obviously the present. He had memories he wanted to forget, actions he wanted to keep asleep in the oblivion of its mind, people he just didn’t want to think about ever again... all of this piled up during his life, leading him to a disgust, if not a real hate for what surrounded him during his daily life. That was why he was alone: a person like him couldn’t possibly have had a relationship, nor friends as he did way back in the days. There was no more light in his heart: it had already died when he was too young to remember it. Akira contemplated the door, still trying to make his decision: did he really want to go through it, at risk of maybe not returning anymore, or did he want to try and live through the shadow forest that his life had become with time? Before he could speak up a proposition, a sound echoed through the door: a scream, a single scream which transmitted the agony of a person in pain, ready to see Lady Death taking its soul away in a second. But there was more to that scream: it was a cry for help, a request to anybody who could hear it to go and save whoever emitted it. It was a response to life, a person who didn’t want to die, who wasn’t ready to die. Or better, a woman who was not ready to die, as, even though the scream arrived kind of echoed and distorted to the ears of Akira, it was clear that it was high-pitched. Plus, it had a strange feminine sound which made Akira immediately thought that that scream was the one of a woman. Hearing that, Akira understood that probably he was the only one in that moment that could hear her – after all, he was staring at a blank space, a place where nobody probably would have ever had access to, apart from him and from the girl that had screamed, of course – and understood also that he had to take a decision quickly.

“Honestly, I could just turn my back and return to my same daily life, with the same job, living alone like I always did and probably like I will always do until I die” thought Akira “I can easily ignore this scream: after all, I doubt that the girl knows that I’m here, I don’t have to help her. However… I have nothing that makes me really want to stay here. I have no family, no friends, nor do I have some important business that I have to take care of. So, if I end up dead or mad entering this door, I have no one in this world that would care about me. And I am the first one to not care about it: after all, I am not sane since a lot of time. But if… if there is even a slim chance that by entering this door I can forget about what I lived here, make new memories, have a better life… then so be it. I have no reason to stay in this world: but I have a reason to bet on any possibility that can give me an alternative way to live my life."

"Then, there is no need to hesitate any further” said at the end Akira, sighting. He looked once at what was behind his back, to the obscurity from which he came from, not even fully turning around, just glancing to it with a glacial glare, as if to curse the world for what happened during his life, and then quickly turned towards the door, the light, the salvation he sought. With his head high, he started slowly walking towards it, with the solemnity of a ceremony, in this case of a change of life. Then he put a foot behind the door, and he felt that the warmth that he felt coming from the door wasn’t fake: the floor was really warm, comfortable, like it was trying to put you at ease with yourself or with what was coming. That feeling made Akira quickly put also the second foot behind the line of the door, then, enveloped by that warm feeling, he turned around to close the door, glancing probably for the last time at the reality in which he grew up in, but for which he felt no feeling whatsoever: he always wondered how dying would be, and this is just like he thought, leaving the world behind without any hint of sadness, on the contrary with a feeling of peace and of excitement for what would have come next. Then, he grabbed the door and slammed it close, letting the violence of the act speak for itself. And then, that white space started slowly disappearing, just like the lines he saw while walking through the darkness. And, as those made a fantasy world appear and disappear, that white world made the reality disappear and projected him into a new world. Meanwhile, in his original world, the lamppost started functioning again, showering the darkness with a feeble light, which showed how nothing of Akira remained: he had completely disappeared from there, like it never existed.

Before he had the time to metabolize anything that happened in that short amount of time, the white room had disappeared, and Akira found himself in a large pure white cave, sprinkled with stalagmites and stalactites, some made of pure white rock, other by what seemed ice at first. However, all of this left no impression on Akira more than what he could see at the centre of that cave, where a round space was restrained by those rock forms: a girl was slowly moaning in pain, while two horrendous creatures where looking at her with eyes full of desires.

Real Aire
Joe Gold
Syed Al Wasee