I have researched it for years, and each new source I find tells a different tale.
Nearly half the sources insist it doesn’t exist. To explain away the many legends of it, these writers offer up as many reasons as there are writers denying its existence.
And even among the writers who claim it does exist, there is no consistent explanation of what The Doorway In The Middle Of Nowhere is. Some dismiss it as nothing more than the doorway of some ancient structure that has long ago fallen to dust. Others insist that it is a thing of supernatural origins, created by gods, or demons, or mages of eldritch times.
But whatever it is, there are two things about it that are consistent.
The first is that every culture has stories about The Doorway, and those stories go as far back as the cultures do.
The second is that none of those cultures agrees about precisely where The Doorway is located.
But among those stories, I found four that at least agreed that The Doorway was located on the windswept plateau I have been making my way across this past week.
Why it would be here, I do not know. No roads cross this gods-forsaken land. There is nothing here but the paths made by the great red deer herds who are the sole occupants of this land. Those thread their way among the towering rock spires, passing from one small green glen to the next. The only sign that humans have been here are the odd piles of bones and the occasional fire pit left by those who come here to hunt them. What they burn, I do not know, as trees are few and far between.
I had thought myself prepared for this journey. My research has led me to travel far, and I thought myself an experienced traveler. I even hired two mules to go with my own pack horse, and loaded them all down with food. What I wasn’t smart enough to bring was fire wood.
Nor did I possess the intelligence to bring water.
I remember the last flowing water I saw. It had been nothing more than a straggling trickle of water seeping from the face of the cliff which stood guard over the last road I had ridden. It had been a broad way, like an imperial road of old Las, and had angled upward along the face of that cliff to this plateau. My water skin had been nearly empty, so I stopped to fill it. I remember thinking how strange it was that the water, though cold, had a sharp, bitter taste to it, and how I’d been tempted to empty the skin in hopes of finding better water further on. More by stupid luck than anything else, I had kept that water, and it in turn kept me alive through five days of searching for more water.
And the road…it vanished at the at the edge of the plateau, like it had been built as some mad joke intended to lure unwary travelers to follow it into this desolate hell.
I found my last water yesterday. I had been without for nearly two days when I rounded a vast boulder to find my way blocked by a boggy stretch of ground. In the early days of my wanderings over this curse land, I would have tried to cross it, confident that I could make it to the other side.
That was before I heard a deer screaming in terror.
I found it, neck-deep in a bog. I watched for a while as it struggled to extricate itself from the soggy mass it had mistakenly thought would support its weight. As I did, I came to understand that what I’d thought was grass was actually a carnivorous plant that lured animals like the deer into the bog so it could use their nutrients to keep itself alive. I spent one of my remaining arrows putting it out of its misery.
But even knowing the terrible thing that the bogs harbored didn’t stop them from being the only sources of water. So I began to drink the filthy water that welled up around their edges. The first time I did, I vomited everything in my stomach up. But my body needed water, so I was soon back at the waters edge, scooping water up with my hands and drinking it. Now, after so many times doing so, I hardly notice the rotten meat taste that permeates the water, nor do I note much any dead animals that might float nearby.
I have forgotten much of my former life. When I came here, I had been a well-regarded scholar, even if people thought my fixation on The Doorway a bit odd. Lords had accepted me in their halls. Town head-men had feasted me on the best their hamlets could offer. My clothing, if not ornate, had always been clean, as I had myself.
The last of the food I’d brought with me ran out over a week ago. Now, I subsist on deer meat, whether freshly killed by me, or scavenged from from one of the bogs, and always eaten raw. My clothing is now so covered in filth of every sort that in places it is rigid. And me? I am, if anything, even filthier than my clothing. They at least is exposed to the rain storms that lash this land, while my body is not. And my pack animals? I was not amazed to learn that mule meat is far tougher than horse flesh, but was surprised to learn that it tastes sweeter.
Perhaps I have gone mad, but even as I descend further into squalor, my desire to learn the truth drive me to continue looking for The Doorway. That, and the fact that I no long possess any idea of where I am, nor how I might find the road that had brought me here.
I now move through a landscape much different from that which I first saw. Great solid slabs rise around me, jutting from the ground at odd angles, but they are not stone. They are something I have never seen before. Many have fractured, and more than a few look as though they were torn apart.
What is strange is what those broken surfaces reveal. How can I describe it? Can you imagine a substance as hard as any rock, yet containing within it piece of rock? In some of these great slabs, the rocks are rounded, like they had once been in a river. In others, the rocks are jagged, like they’d been ripped apart by some force unimaginable before being encased in the strange new rock. And in all of them, there are pieces of metal that I am sure are iron.
And these pieces of iron are not like the rocks. No, they have all the markings of something shaped by the hand of man! They are round, often with strange indentations or ridges on their surfaces, something that no source I have ever read says happens in nature.
So now I wander among these strange sights, looking at the increasingly huge pieces of rock, or whatever it is, and wondering if these could possibly have been made by human hands. I move around a vast monolith, twice as wide as my arms could reach and perhaps four times as tall as I…to find a doorway standing before me.
It stands in another shattered piece of…whatever these things are. And while the shape would not be out of place in any dwelling a human lived in, it is far larger, a door easily three times as wide as I could reach, and five times taller than I. But it is the door that stand within it that draws the eye. It gleams like silver that is burnished by ceaseless polishing. How such a mass of metal could be gathered, and more important, how it could remain untouched by greedy hands, even in this isolated place, I do not know.
Neither these questions, nor the many warnings I remember from my sources, stop me from approaching. I have done it. I have found the location of The Doorway. And having found it, I must approach it, I must find out what it truly is.
I am five paces from it when the voice speaks.
It is an unearthly voice, one that seems to issue from the very doorway, and I, who speak five languages, can understand none of the words I hear. What does “Demon-son-all pour-tall one” mean? Is it the name of the being that created this thing? What is the meaning of “Act-of-a-shun”? Or “Be-gin-ning”? The string of words, each one different, but spoken at precise intervals, I can only think is some form of count.
Whether those words are a count or not, after a double-hand of them have been spoken, the gleaming surface vanishes. And in it’s place….I see scenes of wonder.
People walk beside what looks like a road, except it is a single smooth surface, and it runs between patches of grass greener than any I have ever seen. Stranger still, upon it go not horse and wains, but strange vehicles that move themselves. Most are closed, but a few are open, and in these, other people travel. Perhaps the closed vehicles hold people as well.
I have little time to wonder, for the scene vanishes, replaced by a one that might have come from the darkest pit of the deepest of all hells. Here the road still exists, but there are no people, no strange conveyances, and the grass is gone, replaced by blackened stubble. Another change, and now there are people, but they attack each other with no uniforms or formation like armies would possess. No, they simply seem bent on slaughtering each other. And the vision changes again. And again. And no two scenes are precisely the same, for in some, not even the strange road is present.
Now I stand close enough that I could reach out and touch them. Are they real, or are they phantoms projected by this….thing? Another scene, one in which nothing is visible but a vast sweep of chest-high grass. On impulse, I reach out…and feel an odd resistance as my hand passes within the opening. Then I am aware that the hand stretched out before me is warm, far warmer than the rest of me. I feel a breeze sweep across that hand, one the rest of me feels not, and I see the grass wave in response to it. Some of the grass brushes my hand, and I grab it before pulling my hand back. In the image, the the upper part of the grass stalk tears away, and my hand comes back to me clutching a sheaf of grass unlike any I have ever seen.
I am aware that the view changes again, revealing a flat, unrelentingly gray landscape, as if all color and features have been erased. But that barely registers with me. For out of the grass I hold crawls long green insect. I am aware that it is looking at me as intently as I at it, for like the grass, I have never seen anything like it. I see it’s legs move, then in a flash, it is gone, launching itself into the air with a noisy beating of wings.
“So what I see is real!”
I have not spoken for so long I barely recognize my own voice. But they are my words, expressing my thoughts. And I look back into the opening to see what wonders it will reveal next. The view changes again, showing a dark scene illuminated by a pale, wavering light. Even as I wonder what it shows, a fish, vast beyond any I have ever heard of, swims into view.
Both the fish and the knowledge that what I am looking at is underwater, remind me of my own condition. I have not eaten for several days, and had my last water a day ago. Could I perhaps step through the opening and take some water and food? I brought my hand back safely, so why not my whole body?
Hunger and thirst make my decision for me. I watch, waiting for a moment when the scene before me looks promising. Other images appear. What might have once been people, but are now twisted and disfigured caricatures of humanity, shamble past. Then more desolate plains, but these under a sky as black as midnight, with the stars visible even though the Sun stands in the middle of the sky. Then a view, much like the first, but instead of people, strange creatures like man-tall lizards walk the streets.
Another shift, and now another featureless plain spreads beyond my sight. But this one is covered in grass, and before me, near enough to see its water rippling, a stream flows.
“This will do.” I step forward, even as I say the words. As my hand had before, my whole body feels a pressure, like I were trying to push it through an unseen barrier stretching across the opening. Then the pressure is gone, and I fight to keep from stumbling. The shock makes me gasp, and as I do, my nostrils are filled with scents I have never experienced before. Then I realize that the air here is cooler than where I had been before, but not uncomfortably so.
I turn to see where I had been….but there is no trace of the opening here. The Doorway does not exist here. There is not a sign that the place I have just come from exists. I stretch my hand out, sweeping the space before me….and find nothing but emptiness. That is when it dawns on me that, where ever I am, here I will stay.
Was it worth it? Was finding that The Doorway was not only real, but an opening between different worlds, worth leaving my past life behind?
I may never go back to claim the fame of proving my discovery, but I have a whole new world to explore, and all manner of new things to learn. “Yes, it was a fair trade.” I tell myself as I make my way towards the river before me to drink, perhaps catch a fish, and decide what direction to go next. Part of me wonders what strange and wondrous things I will witness here. But that is for tomorrow, and all the days yet to come.