Across the Threshold by Sumbul Shahin

The door was locked. Of course, it was. It would have been a disappointment if we could waltz right in. After all, we had spent centuries on our quest for this door. Our entire conscious lives dedicated to this very moment.

We stood spellbound for a few moments, watching the fluid motion of the carvings on the ancient steel door. The serpent dancing around the lock shimmered its warning. The carvings of men and women in love and in combat glittered and shone. They were enacting stories as old as time. They were also offering hints to the combination of pictograms which would open the door. Adam and I turned to look at each other. Now that we were so close, all our doubts had resurfaced.

My tone was emphatic. “We don’t have time to decode ornate carvings.” I wasn’t lying exactly. It was technically possible that we could be stopped at any moment.

Adam smiled knowingly.

Even if we could take all the time in the world, we still wouldn’t have studied the carvings. We already had enough stories of our inevitable destruction swimming through our minds. The door would only tell us even more cautionary tales of the horrors that lay on the other side.

“Me or you?” he asked

“I will open it. You go through first.”

“Alone?” He chuckled. “You will need my backup vocals.”

“Just chant.” I rolled my eyes. “I will do the spell.”

Adam became solemn as he took three steps away from me. I crouched down and leant my forehead towards the lock.

He gave me the blood red fruit without touching my hand. I took a bite, and closed my eyes.

Anxiety flooded my veins, but I allowed it to subside. My lifetime of training had not been in vain. I felt my mind slowly become blank. I was just breathing. Inhale. Exhale. My racing thoughts slowed down, then ceased.

I heard Adam begin the ritual ululation. My forehead connected to the cold steel of the lock. Then, I even forgot I was breathing.

The sharp click of the last piston hurling itself in the right position brought me back. I couldn’t remember how I had opened the door. It was part of the magic to be forgotten.

Adam helped me up. I couldn’t look at him. This was it. All we had hoped for. All that haunted our worst nightmares.

He placed his hand on the handle. I felt myself tremble, but Adam had always been braver and stupider than me. He opened the door.

A gust of wind hit us immediately. I took a step back. Adam did not. He took a deep breath, looked straight ahead, and taking my hand in his, he took the first step through the door. I crossed the threshold with him.

We were greeted by bright green trees. Fresh air tickled us. Wonderful new smells wafted towards us. We stood, for a moment, in a shocked bliss.

Then, I saw the most beautiful creature possible. A large bird, misshapen and stooping, with incredibly disheveled feathers.

“A vulture!” I felt happier than I had ever believed possible.

Adam looked at me quizzically.

“They eat carrion, you silly man. There has to be death for there to be dead creatures to eat.”

He smiled at me as he closed the door behind us. The doorway disappeared behind us.

We collapsed into each other’s arms with tears of joy in our eyes.

“Finally,” I whispered.

“Won’t you miss Eden?”

“Never.” I touched his forehead with mine. “We are home.”

Sumbul Shahin has lived on three different continents and discovered that people everywhere are equally baffling. She now places imaginary people in improbable situations in hopes of gaining some insight. You can find her on Twitter @SumbulShahin