Courtesy Jodi Cleghorn
An iron taste filled Jack’s mouth as he drove white-knuckled past the Lunar gate.
“Don’t look. Don’t look.”
he repeated to himself as he neared the entrance to the fun-park. As a child Jack had been forced to drive past the hideous gate every day on his way to school. He swore it was evil; felt it in his bones. He had never witnessed strange happenings, nor had he ever heard bizarre tales concerning the accursed gate. It was more a feeling. Not of dread, but something more. A strange foreboding that made every hair on his body tingle.
Now in this late forties Jack found himself back in his godforsaken hometown. He would have done anything to avoid driving past the gate again but the funeral procession’s route was out of his control.
“Father,” said his young son fidgeting with his tie. “Can we go there for my birthday tomorrow?”
“What? Show some respect, Samuel. It’s your Great Aunt’s funeral.”
His wife placed a calming hand on his knee. “Easy Jack,” she said in her too-happy mother’s voice. “He’s too young to understand. Besides, he hardly knew the woman. It’s not his fault the funeral is today. Aunt Bertha wouldn’t want it to ruin his birthday.
They didn’t know about his fear of the gate and what lay within. And why would they? How could he tell his wife and son he was afraid of a happy moon face. Afraid of an entrance to a fun-park, of all things.
“You, you’re right Catherine. I was… It’s just…”
“I understand, funerals aren’t easy Jack. I’ll call the park this afternoon to set up the party.”
She leaned into him and rested her head on his shoulder. Jack bit down hard again and focused on the taste of his blood as it oozed around his teeth. Samuel spun around in his seat to get one last glimpse of the park. The funeral procession slowly slunk toward the cemetery.
“Oh, they have a water slide! This is going to be the best party ever. Thanks Dad!”
That night Jack tossed and turned unable to fall asleep. Children’s laughter faded in and out of his subconscious. Jack got up and went downstairs for a drink. He needed to settle his nerves and get some sleep if he were to stand any chance at all of walking into the Lunar Gate. Aunt Bertha had been a warm, friendly woman stuck in her ways. She refused to update or change a thing about her home. The once expensive furniture, now old and uncomfortable yet not quite antique made the home feel as if it were stuck in the forties.
“Kind of like me.” Jack mused as he made his way to the wet bar. He turned up a sherry glass and poured a generous amount. He picked up the glass and inhaled it’s wonderful aroma. Aunt Bertha cleared her throat. Jack spun around. The room was empty.
“I must be going crazy.” he said then sipped his drink. “It’s just a stupid park for kids. Thousands of people have walked through that damn gate. What’s my problem.” He finished his glass and poured another.
Aunt Bertha cleared her throat. Jack spun around. And dropped his glass.
“Aunt Bertha? But you’re dead. We buried you today.”
“You mussssn’t enter the park, Jaaaack.”
Jack shot bolt upright in bed waking his wife in the process.
“Jack? What is it? Are you alright?”
Jack shook the sleep from his head. It was a dream. His irrational fear getting the better of him in his sleep. “I’m fine, sorry dear. Bad dream, that’s all. Go back to sleep.” His wife patted his arm then rolled over. Her breathing deepened almost immediately. Jack went downstairs for a sherry.
The next morning Jack stood outside the Lunar Gate with is family. This was the closest he had ever been. Strangely he felt nothing. There was no sense of evil emanating from it. It was simply brightly painted fiberglass in the shape of the man on the moon. Jack grasped his son’s hand, opened the door for his wife and together they stepped into the park. No one died. None of his hairs stood up. Nothing but happy children’s laughter. Jack and his family made their way to the water slide. Catherine had told their relatives the water slide was where the party would be taking place. Jack relished the excitement and wonder on his son’s face. He proudly made a note to himself.
This conquering of personal fears is an important lesson I will have to teach Samuel someday.
“Dad, come with me on the slide,” said Samuel then raced off to get in line.
Jack took off his shirt, removed his shoes and kissed Catherine on the cheek before running after Samuel. They were able to move directly to the head of the line. Birthday privileges they were sure to take advantage of many times today.
“I’m scared,” said Samuel.
Jack knelt down and placed his hands on Samuel’s shoulders. “Son, I understand, believe me. But in life you have to face your fears. I’ll go first and you’ll see there is nothing to fear.”
Samuel gave a weak smile and nodded. Jack patted his son’s head and stepped to the top of the slide. He sat down, and pushed off. Almost immediately he knew something was wrong. The water was flowing too fast. The jets of water forced Jack to spin head first. Faster and faster he plummeted. At this speed he was likely to snap his neck on impact with the pool. He wrapped his arms around his head to support his neck just as he made contact with the pool.
Jack stood as quickly as he could and gasped for air. Women screamed and fathers covered their children’s eyes. A voice from deep in the crowd shouted “Cover yourself, you pervert!” It didn’t make sense.
How does personal injury make me a pervert. And why on earth is it so cold? And who’s swim trunks are those?
His cheeks blushed at his sudden realization that the floating trunks were his. Jack did his best to cover himself with his pruned fingers. Aunt Bertha cleared her throat.
Author’s note: This story was written as a dare from my good friend Jodi Cleghorn. She took a great picture of a moon-faced gate and dared me to write about it. Hope you like it Jodi. And I hope the rest of you liked it as well.