By Damien McKeating
I’M retracing footsteps that faded out of the world over two decades ago. I follow the path as it winds through the forest; a gravelled, tourist-trod, snake that leads to the monolith.
My heart speeds up as I reach it. There’s a fence around it now (that’s new!) but the monolith is still the same square building, the same huge stones, the same spire reaching up into the sky.
I don’t know who built it or why. We lived near here when I was little and one day in summer I rode my bike here and…
… a doorway opened in the monolith’s blank side. A man stood in the doorway. He was handsome, with a square jaw and bright blue eyes. The pointed tips of his ears poked out from his unruly blonde hair. His clothes were a motley of forest greens and browns.
“Hey,” he called, “come and see this!”
I dropped my bike and ran into the monolith. My hand landed on the cold stone…
… and it still felt just as rough as I remembered. I traced my fingers along the grooves of worn mortar. It was the right side, I was sure; I had visited too many times to forget that door.
But I couldn’t find it.
Panic settled in my stomach. I slapped at the stone and felt it scratch my palm. A thin streak of red blood welled up. I held it to my mouth and tasted…
… melted chocolate. I put the mug down and smiled, a ring of the foamy drink around my mouth. The man cackled with delight and poured some more.
His room was a library and laboratory combined and he was a mad scientist and ringmaster. There was a photograph on his desk of a werewolf howling at the moon.
“Would you like to see?” he asked, his eyes wide and eager.
… placed my hand against the monolith and bit back tears. There was a dog barking behind me, back on the tourist track… They would reach me soon. They were coming for me.
I slapped the empty wall and the pain made the tears finally appear. It wasn’t fair. If only…
… there was something I could do. I told him we were moving away, that it wasn’t my fault, that I had to follow my parents. He didn’t seem to understand. He looked so hurt. He fiddled with some glass vials on his desk. “Will I see you again?” he asked.
I but on a brave face…
… and turned to face them.
“Mummy, what are you doing?” my little girl asked.
“That fence is there for a reason, love,” said my husband. He peered up at the monolith. “It doesn’t look safe.”
“No. Hurt my hand,” I showed him the cut on my palm as an excuse for my tears.
I went back to them and looked over my shoulder…
… as he stood in the doorway and waved goodbye. “I’ll wait as long as I can,” he said.
There was still so much for us to see! Just yesterday he had…
… shown me the stones where the sirens lay and before that he had shown me the burial mound where King Arthur waited to be called again.
Now there was just the empty-walled monolith.
I couldn’t see the door anymore.
But I had seen them all: fairies, selkies, boggarts, fey-folk, the wild hunt and more.
I had seen them.
And maybe, with the right kind of eyes, you still can.
My daughter giggled. She pointed at the monolith and let loose peels of laughter.
I looked back…
… with the right kind of eyes.
© Damien McKeating 2016