All those places that have a place that block passage, where there’s a price to pay, where the traveller knows the other side is different.
They approach the cusp, sometimes with a sense of wonder and fear, sometimes with no expectation but that they will get to the other side. Sometimes, it appears as if that’s what happens – at least to the ones on this side – but they never arrive, and never come back, and they leave no sense of themselves in the air. Gone.
The market days didn’t produce enough; there were fewer lookers, even fewer buyers, and Crixa ended up packing up almost as much as he arrived with. But the lenders would come in two days and if he didn’t …
There was another choice. He could go there. Once before, when he was young and his father was as desperate as he was now, he went into that place. And they both came out, didn’t they? They both survived that journey, and the earnings were worth the risk.
The summer after that visit, his father left and didn’t return. Old Miza said he’d been seen at the border gate, but couldn’t recall if the gate was opened to him or not. Crixa didn’t go to the gate to check, nor did any of the other towns-people. If that was where he went, and if he didn’t return, he would be added to the list of Borderers and forgotten.
As Crixa walked past the posted list of Borderers, he reached up to touch his father’s name. He frowned. The name wasn’t there – not his father’s name. Crixa’s name was on the list, a glowing whiteness that blinked and flickered liked a guttering candle.
He stepped back, frowned, looked around. The lane had changed. There were no people, no stalls in the laneway next to the tavern, no sounds of music or children or beasts. His boots slid on the wet ground – wet? – as his body slid and slithered closer to the edge of the buildings.
“No,” he cried out, “It was only a thought, not a wish!”
The path lit up with white stones at the edges, with glowing footsteps far too small for a human child. A single dark shape walked down from the border crossing towards Crixa.
“Father!” he cried out. “Father, I didn’t mean to come across. Please let me go.”
“The rules, Crixa. What are the rules?”
“Wish not for more than the world can offer; See not the answer in a dream or fancy; Seek not salvation from beyond the ken.”
“Aye, now go back, and take your wares down the hill, not beyond.”
Copyright Cage Dunn 2017