This is another round of the three doors exercise, but I forgot what the time limit was and went for fifteen minutes per door. Turns out it was only meant to be five. I like the longer one.
Walking down the hall, choosing a door at random. It’s dark wood, almost black, very plain with a brass door knob. I twist, and open it.
I walk into a meadow, soft, ankle-deep grass, wildflowers, bees, butterflies and late summer sun. It’s not an English meadow, too warm, but it’s no Australian paddock either, I somehow know I’m not about to step on anything capable of killing me.
Moving further in, I look ahead to see an outcrop of trees, not enough to be a forest, and calling it a wood is generous. Sitting in front of it, making use of its shelter from the prevailing winds, is a house, quite old, very simple. It’s built of stone and slate, with the greys softened by the vines growing up the walls. They’re clearly kept in check, allowed to flourish but not allowed to overrun the building. It’s a mix of rose, jasmine and wisteria, pure floral romance and I wonder if the inhabitant of this cottage is in the business of making and selling perfumes of any sort.
The trees behind loom slightly – they seem protective of the little house and discouraging of anyone not approaching it from this meadow side.
Naturally there’s a brook – it’s easier and usually safer to build near running water in a place like this than try for a well. You just have to hope nothing untoward happens upstream. This one clearly has no problems and skips happily over its pebbled bed as it runs alongside the garden.
There’s no wall marking the spot where the meadow ends and the garden starts. There’s an attempt at a small hedge, more a nod to convention than anything with a real interest in keeping people or animals out and, off to the side away from the brook, a neat little orchard sets itself up, then blends gently back into the trees behind.
The main garden is a useful mix of herbs, vegetables, fruit and scents. The bees clearly adore it and the careful use of netting and seed holders shows an effort to distract any birds in the area from the abundant berries grown in a sheltered area near the house.
Walking closer, the front door opens and a figure appears on the step, waving in welcome. She’s joined by a second figure appearing around the side of the house, who walks down the front path and opens the slightly incongruous front gate.
Wondering quite why I’m so obviously expected, I continue forward and into the garden, smiling a greeting at the man carefully closing the gate behind me and gesturing up the path to the lady I assume is his wife.
“I’m so glad you’re finally here. Now we can get on with things.”
I pause and look at her questioningly, “I’m sorry, I have no idea what you mean.”
She laughs and her husband gives an exaggerated sigh, “Why do the Chosen Ones never know what’s going on.”
Back in the hall, this time the door is a honey-coloured wood, with brass ornamentation and a curled handle. One again, I open it, and step through.
This time I’ve emerged at the back of a busy, prosperous pub, or inn, it looks like that sort of timeline and world. There are wooden tables, with chairs and benches, a large fireplace, currently unlit as it’s quite warm, and people sitting and walking – eating, drinking, serving, chatting.
In the back corner are three figures, heads together, deep in conversation. Closer to the centre is a group of laughing young men, clearly celebrating and trying to convince the amused but busy serving staff to join them. To one side of the fireplace sits a lone woman, clearly waiting for someone and, as I watch, the door opens and a man enters, looks around, then makes a beeline for the waiting woman. He takes the chair opposite her and orders something from the immediately attentive server. The server looks to the lady, who shakes her head with a smile, I’m guessing she doesn’t need more food or drink, and the server sets off to the doors next to the bar with clear purpose.
Behind the bar are two people, serving, cleaning and keeping a quiet eye on the entire room. One of them raises an eyebrow at me, and I move across the floor, checking in my pocket, yes I have money and it’ll have changed to the correct currency the minute I walked through the door. Coming up to the bar, I shoot a quick glance at what people seem to be drinking and, more to the point, enjoying, further checking by waving a member of the celebratory group to order first. Following their lead, I ask for a mug of cider and ask what they recommend from today’s menu.
This amuses the bartender, who informs me the menu is whatever the cook decides to give you, but it’s good enough that no one has yet complained and everyone keeps coming back. I make the obvious decision and ask for a plate of whatever’s going. The bartender gives me my cider, takes my coin and waves me toward a quieter part of the room, along the back wall. Near where I came in, with a good view of the entire room.
I sit, sipping my drink, which really is rather good, and watch the interactions continue.
The three conspirators have caught sight of the man at the fireplace and are now tense and trying to blend into the wall. The man has pretended not to notice but is having a hard time keeping his shoulders from too obviously shaking with laughter. The group celebrating are now gearing up for some activity and are emptying plates and draining mugs, standing and calling thanks and endearments to anyone who’ll accept them. They troop out the front door, with the secretive trio attempting to exit in their shadow. As they cross the threshold, the three are suddenly borne backwards into the room by a group clearly waiting outside for them.
This door is sky blue, with white trimmings, I discover how apt this is when I open, step through and walk onto a cloud.
I’m in some sort of sky land, with a ‘floor’ of fluffy white clouds, pure blue sky, with more little puffs of white above, and rainbows arching between white crystal pillars before me.
I wonder what sort of creatures or people would create and live in a place like this but don’t yet see or hear anything. I move forward, walking beneath a rainbow archway and move onto a smoother section of cloud that seems to act like a pathway between the heaping mounds of puff, much like a garden path between flower beds.
The path takes me through more arches, and brings me to a hub, where a number of paths meet, anchored by a fountain made from the same white crystal as the towers. The water is the only sound and a welcome respite from the silence of the rest of the walk so far. I pause and look around, trying to decide where to go.
One of the paths leads to the base of a particularly large pillar, with a door, so naturally this is the direction I choose. All the rest head to identical rainbow archways and I don’t need more of the same.
This door is the same white as the pillar, but inset, and of a different substance. I knock, wait, and when there’s no reaction, try the latch. It lifts and the door swings softly inward, inviting me forward.
I step through this door into a hallway, it contains nothing more than a table, a cupboard, and the base of a tall, spiral staircase. Light filters down in all colours from windows dotted up the full height of the tower, windows that weren’t visible from the outside. The table is bare and the cupboard, when opened, contains a grey cloak and a matching umbrella. I guess they do occasionally get we weather here then.
Again, I do the obvious thing, and start up the stairway, hoping it isn’t too high, and glad of the substantial rail running along the side that isn’t anchored to the wall. Moving up, I come through a floor that not only was completely invisible from the ground, but also concealed everything above it.
I am now in a riotous mass of greenery and flowers, with small, jewel-coloured birds darting between the plants. Taking a closer look at one of the birds briefly resting near me, I realise their colour is very definitely jewel. The birds are enamel. Little clockwork miracles or something of the sort. I wonder what else their creator has built to greet me.
Moving onward through the green, yet another door appears in the wall of the tower and I move to see where it goes. This is one I’m not quite prepared to step through until I’ve seen what may be on the other side.