Gateway

The young girl stood idly next to the dim nightlight illuminating the hallway, the door creaking as she cautiously pushed it open.

 “Emiliya?” came her mother’s hoarse call. “What’s the matter, sweetheart?”

“I can’t sleep,” replied the timid voice. She heard her father sigh as her mother shuffled around and threw off the covers.

“Come on, Miya. Let’s get you back to bed.” Andrea sleepily took her daughter’s hand and led her back down the corridor towards her own room. She was four years old, but still came to the master bedroom every now and again, reaching for her parents’ company. Most of the time, it was just a fib—an excuse to stay up late; but sometimes, there really was a ghost lurking in the corner, especially after an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark.

“Why can’t you sleep?” she asked with a yawn as Miya crawled back into bed and pulled the covers up to her nose, her eyes following the crescent moons that danced on the dark blue duvet.

“It’s the shadows,” she said. “They’re everywhere, and they keep moving. I know they’re not really monsters, but I don’t feel sleepy because of them.”

Andrea smiled tiredly as she stroked her daughter’s hair back. “I know just the thing to help,” she offered, then left the room for several minutes. When she returned, she was holding a long, dried flower, the stem lined with dozens of tiny purple buds. It dangled from a string which she tied around the handle of Miya’s bedside drawer.

“What’s that?” Miya rolled over and hung half her torso off the side of the bed.

“It’s dried lavender,” said her mother. “It helps when you can’t sleep.”

Flopping back against the pillows, Miya turned to her side and stared at the drooping blossoms. “It smells nice.”

“Yes, sweetie, it’s the smell that usually helps.” Leaning over, Andrea kissed her daughter on the head. “Now try to sleep,” she whispered before slipping out and leaving the door open just enough so that the light from the hall spilled into the room.

“Goodnight,” Miya called back, her eyes still fixed on the lavender. She inhaled the sweet aroma, visualizing its purple aura seeping into her skin.

Slowly, her eyes began to flutter shut, every breath filling her with calm as her body began to sink into the blissful lull of sleep.

The Dream

When Miya opens her eyes, she is on a hill of lavender fields that stretch on infinitely, their amethyst sheen reflecting in the dusk sky as the sun floats just above the horizon, its slow descent illuminating the surrounding clouds in waves of golden warmth.

Spinning around, she looks into the distance, searching for signs of life and  finding nothing but the sea of violet buds surrounding her, the sweet aroma intoxicating. In the direction of the sunset there is the sound of a woman’s voice, humming quietly beyond the glowing orb. And within its glaring light, she can make out the silhouette of a wolf, standing amongst the flowers as his tail flicks to and fro.

Intrigued, Miya makes her way through the field, her arms outstretched so the tips of the lavender flowers brush against her palms. As she draws nearer to the sun, she catches the wolf’s pearl fangs flash in a mischievous grin before he turns and trots away. But she is determined to follow, sure that the animal is leading her somewhere she must go.

Eventually, Miya finds herself at a giant stone wall with a wooden gate, vines sprawling over the grey expanse as it appears to extend infinitely in either direction. The wall is at least eight feet high, the top of the doorway curving into an arch just beneath the highest row of stone. She can hear the humming coming from the other side, the tune louder and clearer than before. As her eyes scan the massive door, she notices the blackened brass latch well above her head. The gate appears to be unlocked, prompting her curiosity as she reaches up and grasps the large ring with both hands. Miya grits her teeth as she pulls with all her might, rocking back on her heels as a deep, rusty creak squeals from ancient hinges. Slowly but surely, the vines pull taught and snap, and the door stirs open just enough for Miya to slip through.

The humming stops.

Miya inches inside, following lavenders that still decorate the inner ledge of the garden within. At the center of this inner courtyard, she finds a large circle of white stone interlocking surrounded by wild rosebushes. A spiral of dark marble weaves from the outer edge of the circle and winds its way towards the center where a young woman sits on a small, round stool. She is wearing a white, cotton dress, her sunflower tresses spilling down her back in waves. She must be the one who’d been humming.

“Who are you?” Miya asks, stepping towards the stone circle but not daring to enter it, her toes lined up perfectly along the outer edge. She remains among the lavenders and roses.

The woman on the stool does not respond. She remains completely still, like a painting awaiting a final touch. Slowly, she turns her head and looks over her shoulder at the little intruder. Her eyes are a clear blue, like the water of a mountain spring left unpolluted.

Disarmed, Miya stumbles back towards the gate, her back hitting the wooden door. A serene smile tugs at the young woman’s lips as she watches Miya shamble about, her voice echoing within the confines of the stone walls.

“Hello,” she says, her voice like gravity, pressing Miya into the ground.

 Gasping for frantic breaths, Miya clutches the great wooden door and scrambles through to the other side, back into the field of lavenders. She runs for dear life, running through those endless amethyst hills, back into the waking world where a violet blossom awaits, hanging from the knob of her bedside drawer.


Art by Valentina Remenar

Did you enjoy this story? To learn more about the world in which it takes place, check out The Hollow Gods, a dark fantasy-horror novel by A. J. Vrana, from The Parliament House Press.

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