At the Gates

Most people don’t know that it’s not always clear which way you’re headed even after you die.

Not an idea that sits comfortably in the orthodoxies of this addled world. Do I say that world is a stench in my nostrils? No—I’m not immune to its charm, just uninterested in a party I’m not invited to. Let’s call it bullshit. And, if I may say, fiends know bullshit a mile away. It’s our stock in trade.

Generally this whole business is rather abstract to me, but occasionally I do get personally involved. There are a few you just hate to lose, you know?

This one had long ago caught my eye, and even though I saw his time coming—of course I did, but was blinded by my pride, oh shut up—I didn’t prepare, and he was halfway to those overwrought gates before I knew it. You know the old Irish toast. With one difference—as I said, he was halfway there. In other words, halfway not there.

His mind was still at war with itself—preoccupied with the phantom memories of what he had left, uncertain about what lay ahead, tormented by guilt and his many regrets, obsessing over all his weaknesses. A perfect state for me to make a move, you would say. Except the core of him—I wasn’t deluding myself—it was damn solid. Yes, hopeless in a way—it’s just that the dark side of him was so exquisite—his lusts, his contempt, his depraved habits—not that he would have seen it that way. I wanted him with me. Call it love, I don’t care. I couldn’t bear the thought of him there, gone from me, and the only way I could stand that thought was to indulge my fantasies of him in my world completely, accessible, and my slowly sucking the juice out of him, savoring him bit by bit at my leisure until he was all mine. Until he was me.

A sick, possessive love, you say. Well, what do you expect? You who know nothing of such things in your lovely world, no?


The journey wasn’t easy or pleasant. I’ve covered that landscape often enough. I had to keep my distance, of course, and was hindered by my need to stay disguised, and to keep finding hiding places in that grudging terrain. Of course it was beautiful—a word I lost interest in a long time ago—but with a pleasing quality of the forlorn as my quarry trudged ahead in the throes of his struggle. It wasn’t easy, but I did my best, skulking behind, to keep his insecurities and fears and self-doubt quick and raw. There was a sliver of hope.


Self-delusion, of course, but in these extremes it’s all I have. How hard it is to let go of that savory delusion one has created and nurtured in his lonely mind! Loneliness. One feels it so keenly in that alien land, so averse to me it shuddered at my touch. I pushed the thought aside, clinging to that breath of hope, scuttling from bush to bush, never losing his scent.


It took all my fortitude to stay the course as the humiliating place began to appear. Yes, yes, beautiful, inexpressibly beautiful, but when you think about it, what have I got to lose? Of course I knew it was too late, and I could feel the pull on him growing stronger, the ravishment, banishing one by one his delectable doubts. To me it felt radioactive. And then, crawling behind a boulder I saw a figure standing there before the gates. I didn’t hate him—on a personal level. I was just disgusted by the idea of a personal level. He was beyond my reach and paid me no heed. But I could feel his energy like the event horizon of that realm that I could approach forever and never reach. At the same time, pulling him. Who should have been a part of me! A blink and he was gone.


I wanted out of there.


It was like falling, my retreat from that place, nauseated with envy, self-loathing, and shame, cursing it all with, you would say, dazzling eloquence. Yeah, yeah. Sometimes being a bitch is all you’ve got. And with only my vision, artistic beyond anything you can imagine, of the corruption of that place and the reordering of the world, to console me. Though it will stay in the box and never be published.


Why not give the pilgrims a thrill and wing my way back? A spectacle like they’ve never seen! Yeah baby. Empty-handed.