Beyond Yon Hedge

Submitted into Contest #117 in response to: Set your story at the boundary between two realms.... view prompt

4 comments

Fiction

I stood on the front porch next to my wife and swayed just a bit. It required only three stabs with my forefinger to actually trigger the doorbell.

To be completely transparent, I'd already had a little too much to drink.

"Pregaming," was what I called it.

"Stupidity," was the term my wife used.

In retrospect, she was right. There would be, after all, plenty of free alcohol at the party, and as someone who doesn't always understand his own limits, there'd likely be more than enough for me to exceed them.

Still, we arrived at the party with a minimum of conflict between us - her demeanor more one of weary resignation that anything - and greeted our costumed friends and family.

The party was held at my friend Twig's house. She and her husband had just bought the place a few weeks earlier, and because the property was bordered on two sides by a very old cemetery, it was the obvious choice for a Halloween party.

Twig is a surgeon and her husband, Edward, is a corporate attorney. Every year they would wear the same costumes: Edward would don scrubs and a surgical mask, while Twig sported a traditional devil's outfit, complete with horns and pitchfork. They were fond of saying that they had dressed up as each other.

Edward gave me a hug and a mask-covered kiss on the cheek, then did the same for my wife, while also grabbing her butt. He did so only only to get a reaction from me of course, but I just rolled my eyes. Same old Edward.

Feigning disappointment at my failure to rise to the bait, he gave out a deep sigh and said, "Remember the good old days when a man defended a woman's honor? Well, no matter, let me give you the grand tour."

He proudly showed us their new home, and grand was an apt description. Richly appointed and tastefully decorated, the spacious residence was truly impressive. Edward pointed out many details of the place that were particularly noteworthy - items of furniture, art, window treatments and so on - frequently commenting "Twig picked that out, because I have no say in anything. But then again, I have no taste whatsoever."

We knew this was false, of course, the two had been together for years and most everything they did was designed to please and honor each other. Besides that, Edward's undergraduate degree was in interior design.

When they tour was over, Edward looked at me a bit sideways, sensing that I was prematurely intoxicated. He gave my wife a sympathetic look, took her arm-in-arm and said, "It seems that you could use a drink my dear."

Following obediently behind, he led her to the outdoor patio area, where the lushness of furnishings and surroundings continued. A large gazebo housed an immaculate fire pit, high-end outdoor furniture and a line of tables with enough food to host a state dinner. A dozen or so of our friends and relations will milling about, engaged in laughter and conversation.

There was also a full bar, complete with bartender. Naturally, that was my first destination.

The party was in full swing when, just a few minutes before midnight, Twig gathered everyone together. Edward ceremoniously pulled a chair toward her. Taking Twig's hand in fine chivalric fashion, he assisted her as she stepped onto the chair, where once thus staged, she struck a theatrical pose.

"Welcome friends and loved ones to All Hallows Eve, may we embrace tonight, not only our fine association but also this, the very night on which the veil between this world and the next is reputed to be thin. As you know, behind us lie many of those who have passed beyond this mortal realm."

She clearly intended to relive her early college days when her major was drama. We all knew that her acting skills were... well, let's just say that as a thespian, she no doubt made a fine doctor.

"Behind yon hedge," she continued as she broadly gestured toward the perfectly manicured shrubbery which formed a high, unbroken boundary around the yard, "lies an ancient and ornate fence of wrought iron. It was not until earlier this very day I discovered a well-hidden secret: a gate. This secret I would not have discovered had the gardener not failed in his diligence, forcing me to take on some hedge-trimming of my own.

"Nonetheless, there in the corner, I spied at just above ground level, a gap 'neath the flora - a space where one might, indeed, crawl through. This procedure I undertook. Once on the other side, I could rise and stand once again, for therein I found a narrow space - a minor clearing 'tween thicket and picket, as it were."

"Hear, hear!" said someone loudly and inexplicably. I looked around and realized that someone was me.

Following an impatient glare in my direction, Twig continued her soliloquy, "There I found a thing most peculiar as I previously alluded: a gate. But dear friends, had that been all, I would have dismissed it as a mere curiosity, a forgotten artifact, a secondary access, forgotten by time. But lo! Upon this ancient iron gate, there I also found an equally ancient plaque, with words thereon, scribed in Latin..."

She paused for dramatic effect, sweeping her gaze across the assembly before going on, "Ne hoc modo incautum transeas, mortui te suscipiant, et te incolumem non dimittant."

Another melodramatic pause.

"Pass not this way unwarned, the dead may welcome thee and release thee not unharmed."

The party guests smiled and chuckled at this fine Halloween joke, fully bought in to the fun.

"Let's check it out!" someone exclaimed loudly. Again I looked around and realized it was me. I swayed noticeably. The spooky and macabre usually freak me out a little and I've learned to generally avoid such things. But, I suppose at that point I was only partially in my own body, so the potential threat of death seemed less severe.

More than a few party-goers shrugged and nodded at my suggestion as if to say, "Of course that's the direction this is going."

"Indeed we shall, eh... 'check it out,'" responded Twig gravely, "But remember this: There is space enough for but one behind the hedge, no more! Therefore, upon reaching the gate, one will necessarily face a choice to either proceed through (which gate appears to be unshackled) or return from whence he came. If one should choose to take the former course, who can say if the warning be not well-founded?"

The setup was perfect, of course, and nearly all began to move toward the indicated corner of the yard.

Twig led the way and produced a small flashlight, which she pointed toward the bottom of the hedge. As she had said, there was a thinly obscured gap maybe three feet high and nearly as wide.

"I'm game," said one, and crawled into the gap.

A moment later, we heard him announce to the rest of us, "There's a gate, alright. Too dark to see if there's any plaque on it... I'm opening the gate... yup! Going in! See you on the other side!"

We all looked at each other and laughed and shrugged as if to say, "Well, who's next?"

One by one, all proceeded through the hedge and to the gate and, presumably chose to continue to the cemetery beyond.

Since I was drunk, I was responding to all of this in a rather slow and feeble way. Even so, my loyal wife remained by my side, until the yard was bereft of everyone but the four of us - me, her, Twig and Edward.

Twig, in her devil's costume motioned toward the gap with the flashlight. A strange glint flashed from her retina. I looked briefly behind me at Edward, who I could swear was smirking at me through his surgical mask.

My wife sighed, "Honey, tell you what - I'll go first. That way, if something bad happens, you, my knight in shining armor, can come to my rescue."

I hiccupped in agreement with this plan.

I lustily admired her bottom as she crawled through and then proceeded as had the others.

Standing on the other side, I could faintly see the glow of the flashlight behind me. There did seem to be some sort of opening before me, although it appeared as nothing more than a rectangle of absolute blackness.

I shrugged my shoulders, hiccupped again and stumbled forward...

...I stood on the front porch next to my wife and swayed just a bit. It required only three stabs with my forefinger to actually trigger the doorbell.

To be completely transparent, I'd already had a little too much to drink.

"Pregaming," was what I called it.

"Stupidity," was the term my wife used.

After Edward's tour of their new home, we joined the others on the back patio, where the party was in full swing.

A few minutes before midnight, Twig, in full devil's costume, complete with horns and pitchfork, gathered everyone together. She ceremoniously stood on a chair, and struck a theatrical pose.

"Welcome friends and loved ones to All Hallows Eve, may we embrace tonight, not only our fine association but also this, the very night on which the veil between this world and the next is reputed to be thin. As you know, behind us lie many of those who have passed beyond this mortal realm..."

October 23, 2021 19:47

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4 comments

Boutat Driss
08:18 Oct 24, 2021

well done!

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Don Green
14:07 Oct 25, 2021

Thank you!

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Jon Casper
14:51 Oct 31, 2021

Excellent job on this. I love the dialogue and the whole premise. Great stuff!

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Don Green
20:20 Oct 31, 2021

Hey thank you, much appreciated and glad you enjoyed it!

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