Welcome to this weeks stories from our writers. We have two stories that were inspired by the following prompt: Open Gate
I hope you enjoy!
The gate was open. The gate was never open. I stopped on the path and peered through the gap in the wrought iron gate.
I had been walking past this gate going to and from school for years, ever since I was small enough for Mom to walk with me. I had never seen it open.
It marked a strange patch of otherness in our ordinary neighborhood. It was all boring suburban houses, boring suburban lawns. And the Church. With its gate.
There were other churches in the area—the Catholic church and the Lutheran church and the synagogue. But when we kids talked about the Church, we always meant this one. The abandoned one. The big grand gothic one—“gothic” had come up as a term in history class last year. It loomed gray and solemn above the neighborhood, tucked away behind its worn stone wall, with its one iron gate.
Everyone said the Church had been empty for decades. No one seemed to know exactly why.
I took a cautious step forward, edged one foot in its sneaker between the spread wings of the open gate, onto the stone path beyond. The world felt colder—because of the shadow of the arch, obviously. We’d learned about that in some science class, properties of light or something.
Supposedly the high schoolers snuck into the Church at night, as a dare. I wasn’t sure if it was true. But maybe someone had come in during the day, and left the gate open behind them.
Which created an opportunity. If I wanted to take it.
I couldn’t keep hovering here on the threshold. Someone could see me at any moment.
With sudden decision I ran forward, through the gate and down the path, only slowing down when I was nearly to the great stone wall of the nearest outcropping of the building.
With this new vantage point I noticed for the first time that the grass seemed strangely neat, for a place no one ever went. Our front lawn got raggedy enough to bother my father after just a couple weeks, if no one mowed it.
Maybe the gate was just open because a gardener had come in, to keep up the lawn. That was kind of dull, though.
I turned slowly in place on the path, looking around at what the walls had always hidden before. And I saw that the Church had a graveyard. It wasn’t a cemetery, like where Grandpa is buried, with all its long, straight rows of flat markers. This was a graveyard, like I’d seen in movies, with standing-up tombstones and even some above-ground crypts.
I had wandered a few steps closer when I saw it. One of the crypts, small, shaped like a coffin and just big enough for one body. The end was broken off, stones scattered a few feet away around it, churned up grass beneath them.
I slowly began to edge backwards.
Because sure, I knew that sometimes old stones broke apart on their own.
But it had just occurred to me that, possibly, the gate wasn’t open because someone had gone in.
What if it was open because someone had gone out?
The gate creaked slowly open.
It was my 18 th birthday, and for some crazy reason it felt like I was being offered…something.
I’d stared at that gate every time I walked by for the past, what, fifteen years? It had always been closed
and I’d never seen the slightest hint of life beyond it. The gate hid most of a large stone building; too
pretty for a warehouse, but too large to be a home in our miserable little town. Several things caught my
attention over the years: Gates that were always locked, a building where nothing ever moved and no
lights ever showed, grounds that looked like someone spent the entire night sweeping and trimming and
keeping everything immaculate.
Even stranger, most things seemed to instinctively avoid the place. That old saying, as the crow flies,
didn’t work there. Birds circled away from it. Squirrels never entered the grounds. Dogs and cats and
people crossed the street without seeming to notice. And when I asked about it, most people acted like
they’d forgotten it even existed.
It might have been a hospital or sanitarium in the distant past, but there was no way to be sure. There
were no records of the place anywhere. I know, because I’d checked it out on all the sites I could find. I
was known as Rook132 in a few groups that liked to speculate about strange places. I’d found it listed on
one of them as #MysteryHouse22, but everyone agreed there was a disturbing lack of information
available. It didn’t even show up properly on Google maps; there was too much pixilation to be sure how
big it was, or even if all of it was intact.
Mom always said I was too curious for my own good, like a dog with a bone who refused to let go of
things. I thought that particular feature made me thorough, but Mom always said it made me obsessive.
Unfortunately most of my friends agreed with her, about that place at least. They were far more
interested in video games than in a creepy old building.
But there was something about that gate and the structure hidden beyond it that grabbed my
imagination and wouldn’t let go. I’d tried to climb the fence a few times when I was younger. The last
attempt had landed me in the emergency room with a broken leg when I was twelve and Mom had been
furious. Not that I could blame her. It happened right before what would have been our summer
vacation, and it happened when I was trying to — major Mom stink-eye — TRESPASS.
I didn’t mind the chewing out I’d received from her and Dad so much. But the harassment from my
friends, who couldn’t believe I’d done something so stupid, was harder to take. I got tired of being
reminded to be grateful I broke my leg and not my hands for the next three months.
After that, I didn’t try to get in again. But I’d deliberately walk down that street to stare at it and
wonder. Just what was beyond that gate?
And now it had opened, right as I walked by. On my birthday. And I was struck again by an
overwhelming feeling that it had opened for me. To let me inside, so I could finally appease years of
I warned myself that it was still trespassing. It was broad daylight, and someone could be watching me
even now. I glanced around quickly, but didn’t see anyone near me. I hesitated and tugged out my
earbud, hoping the resulting silence would make my decision easier. Was I really going to go in there
and check it out?
Well, I’d never be able to live with myself if I didn’t. And if someone caught me, I’d apologize and get the
heck out. It would be embarrassing, but certainly not as bad as breaking my leg all those years ago. Was
I going in? Hell, yeah!
Chase76: You hear about Rook132?
Quark42: What happened?
Quark42: You sure?
Chase76: Yeah. It’s in the Castle Rook papers, big time.
Quark42: He kept asking about #MysteryHouse22, right?
Chase76: Yes. He’s the fourth similar disappearance by my reckoning.
Quark42: Fourth? Why haven’t I heard that?
Chase76: The town hasn’t put it together. Four guys in forty years doesn’t get much attention.
Quark42: But Castle Rook’s a little town. How many coincidences will people take?
Chase76: The whole town lives by #MysteryHouse22 and they don’t ask any questions, remember?
Quark42: All four disappearances are the same?
Chase76: Yes. All male. Between 17 and 19. All missing near their birthday. Alone and on foot when they
disappeared. None mentioned being harassed or afraid. And after investigating, the town
determined foul play is probable.
Quark42: Wow. What do you think happened?
Chase76: It’s the house. My brother was the first of the four that disappeared, so I’ve spent the past
forty years putting the pieces together.
Rook132: You need to stop! I never understood Jason’s fascination with that place before. Now I see
he’d been listening to your crazy conspiracy theories. You’re talking about my son as if he’s
dead, but I refuse to give up hope. And I hold all of you responsible for what happened. If you
hadn’t filled his head with nonsense about an old building, he’d never have been on that
street. Whoever took him wouldn’t have seen him there, and he’d still be home with me.
Rook132: You talk like the building took him. Well, I blame you people for what happened, not an old
Chase76: Lady, believe what you want. Just stay far away from #MysteryHouse22.