The Lunar Gate

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.

Dark World

Author’s note: This week’s story comes from the [fiction]friday prompt provided by the great folks at WriteAnything.  I hope you enjoy it.

“Hey Dad, check out those clouds,” said Danny to his father who promptly ignored him.  “Hey Dad!”

“What is it Son?  Can’t you see I’m setting up camp?  You know you could help me out instead of just sitting there staring up at the clouds.”

“Sorry, it’s just I’ve never seen clouds like that before.  Look at them, does it mean we are going to get rain?”

Danny’s father let out a long sigh.  “You’re twelve now Son.  Sooner or later you’re going to have to stop daydreaming and grow up.  The weather reports indicated both suns would be out for the next several days.”

“Dad, for the love of the Creator look at the sky.”

Danny’s father looked up and froze.

“See, I told you there were a lot of clouds.  Why are they all in straight lines?”

Danny’s question went unanswered as his father ran back to the shuttle.  He stopped, spun around and hollered to Danny.

“Come on Son.  We have to get back to the city.”

“But what about our trip?”  asked Danny.  “We can’t just leave all our stuff out here.  Is it the clouds?  What about them?”

“Those aren’t clouds Danny, they’re contrails.  Now please, hurry.  We haven’t got much time.”

Danny’s brow furrowed at the word.  Where had he heard “contrails” before?  Rockets.  History class.  The U’mat War.  But it couldn’t be.  His father had said those damn U’mats were all killed.

Danny stood, eyes on the sky, pinned to the spot by the weight of his understanding.  A series of three quick beeps repeated itself from somewhere in the cockpit.   He watched as his father reached into the shuttle and retrieved a case Danny knew well.  His father carried the locked case with him wherever he went but as far as Danny could remember, he had never opened it; until now.

His father quickly entered the lock’s combination. The case sprang open revealing a beeping communicator, several items which looked like badges and pins and a gun. How did his father have a gun? Only soldiers or outlaws have guns. His father picked up the communicator and answered it.

“Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wales reporting in.”

“Sir.  The Admiral of the Fleet has ordered all officers to report to Defense Platform Alpha ASAP.  You are ordered to rendezvous there at which time your commission will be reinstated.”

“Rodger that.  I’m en rout now.  ETA to DP-Alpha 2 hours.”

Danny and his father climbed into their shuttle.  They lifted off and elevated up to two hundred feet before hitting the thrusters.  Danny had never flown this high before.  Two hundred feet was a restricted height.  Only military shuttles were allowed up this far.  He felt his stomach flop as he realized there were probably many new things he was about to experience; none of them good.

“Son, I hoped to hell this day would never come.  Thought we had beaten those U’mat buggers back to hell.  I guess we were wrong.”

His father continued to increase height.  The thinner air allowed the shuttle to fly faster.

Danny looked over at his father, straight-backed, eyes focused ahead, piloting the shuttle at a surprising speed.  Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wales.  How had he never known his father was a Naval officer?  His father reached across and turned on the shuttle’s large spot light and marking lights then turned to his son and gave a weak smile.

“You’ll be wanting to hold on tight now.”

The shuttle rocked and pitched as shock wave after shock wave pummeled the small craft.   They seemed to take forever to pass and Danny was sure the shuttle would be ripped apart.

“That was the rockets exploding then?” asked Danny.

“It was.  How much did they teach you about the U’mat War in school?”

“Just that it was awful.  Cold.  And many of our people died in the first hours of the initial attack.  That’s all the government would let us know.  One of our professors, Professor Ulrik, was fired for handing out banned text books.  I never saw them though.”

“Here’s the truth Danny.  When the U’mat first landed they seemed peaceful.  Gave us technology, helped heal our diseases, everything was great.  But what they were really doing was infiltrating our society.  Before long our military, banks and farms were all under U’mat control.”

“Why what did they want us for?”

“Not us, our planet.  Our suns to be exact.  Something about the ionic radiation they give off is vital to their survival.  We were defeated; save for one last, desperate measure.”

“What was it?  How did we beat them?”

“Keep watching out your window Danny.  We’re going to the last defense platform on the planet.”

Danny looked out the window scanning the horizon for the secret weapon.  He glanced back at the shuttle’s dashboard and looked at the clock.  1:00pm.  Something’s wrong.  1:00pm and the suns were setting.  No.  Not setting.  Going out.

“What the-”  Danny watched as both massive suns dimmed and darkness spread across the land.

“One desperate measure,” said the Lieutenant Commander.  “They need our suns to survive.  Your professors were right about one thing.  The U’mat war was cold.  Cold as hell.”

Of Bowling And Daughters

David stared down the waxed alley and imagined the pins falling.  He could see the track the ball would take on its way to topple the remaining pins.  He could feel his muscles already practicing the movements.  It was this zen moment that drew him back to the game.  The moment when time stood still and the world consisted of only the lane, the pins and him.  The ball—a physical manifestation of his will.

As he stood behind the line he knew exactly how to move his body to make the ball hit at just the right spot.  He hadn’t faced a 7-10 split for several years; choosing to let go of his career to raise his family.  A decision he never regretted.  Better home than on the road.  The time away from the game seemed to make no difference.  His mind and body worked in sync all afternoon making the shots exactly as he envisioned.  One more shot and the game would be over.

He began his approach to the throwing line.  His arm floated back, torso twisted slightly, arm floated forward.  The ball tracked exactly as he intended down the wooden alley striking the pins.  In the space of a second all but one toppled over and David smiled.  He let the smile fade before turning around.

“Oh no, I don’t know what happened.”

“That’s OK Daddy, you’ll beat me next time.”

“Maybe, but you did so well, I don’t think I’ll ever bowl as good as you.”

“Don’t say that Daddy, you just need practice is all.”

David helped his daughter gather up the equipment and hit print on the score board.

“We can put this up on the fridge.”

“OK, but the deal was if you won we go to the car show, but if I win we go for ice cream.”

“Yup, ice cream it is, then.”

David gathered up the bowling bags and headed to the door, watching as his daughter skipped in front of him, her winning score sheet swinging along side. He thought to himself that his decision to quit the professional league was definitely the right one.

“Hey Dad, why don’t we bring our ice cream to the car show?”