At the end of the glassed in hallway was a clock, round in shape, its small hand pointed at 12, the large hand pointed at the 6. Kerry Watkins stared at it. Blood was caked over her left temple, her brown wig was matted against her skull. “After all this, there is only a clock?” The hands of the clock never moved, it was perpetually stuck at 1230.
Kerry looked about. Her reflection was returned to her from a myriad of angles. Underneath the clock came a hiss and a click. A mechanical whirring, not unlike the movement of gears turning, sounded down the hallway. Then, a cloud of white vapor rolled out as a door opened slowly. In the cloud of smoke, a wisp of a form came forth.
It was an old lady. Her face was wrinkled, but her eyes twinkled as she stretched. “What in the world,” Kerry thought. “I know the Gate of Moments lie in this area.” Her anxiety kicked in as she watched this old woman stretch. The old woman studied her as she bent at the waist.
Kerry paused and rubbed at her eyes. She looked at the old woman. Kerry reached out her hand and touched her. The old woman chuckled at Kerry’s disbelief. “So human. They exhibit no faith unless there is something tangible to grasp.”
“Yes,” the old woman snorted. “What is it with you people? Have none of you seen an old woman before?”
“What do you mean people? Human? Am I not the first person to be here?”
“You’re the first I have seen in the last thousand years. The last person that came through was a warlord from the Huns. Are you kin to him?”
“Um, no idea. Who are you?”
“I’m Cassandra, the keeper of the Gate of Moments.”
“The Gate of Moments? Is it here? Like in this hallway?”
Cassandra lifted her hands and motioned to the glass hallway. The glass had turned into mirrors. Reflections of Kerry shone on the various shapes of glass. As is typical of some women, Kerry’s thoughts went to her appearance. “There’s got to be an angle that makes me look beautiful.”
“Look in a mirror. It’s better to show than tell. However, there are rules to the Gate of Moments.”
“For instance, tell me what brought you here.”
“My dad sent me,” Kerry started. “He was delusional, but he said we had to come here.”
“Why would you think him delusional?”
“He said we had to save the world from a madman. I’m no warrior, I am a freaking librarian.” Kerry adjusted her horn-rimmed glasses and wiped at her eyes. Her green eyes got misty at the remembrance of her father.
“Where is your father?”
“He died on the way here.”
“The journey has always been treacherous.”
Kerry wiped her eyes. Crying for her father would not bring him back. Hank Watkins, some called him madman, devoted his life to the study of the Gate of Moments. He died chasing his dream. The old woman watched her.
“How did your father die, child?”
“A creature mauled him.”
“Yes, I figured as much. What kind of creature?”
“It looked like a bear, but it breathed fire like a dragon. I don’t know what it’s called.”
“An AshenCrot. It is as you described.”
“It spoke to my father.”
“Oh,” the old lady said. Apparently, talking bears and dragons were the norm here. “What did the half bear-half dragon have to say?”
“It called my father a traitor.”
The old woman stared at Kerry. She moved close and peered into Kerry’s eyes. She pinched her cheek and smiled. Kerry backed up defensively and the old woman laughed.
“It’s too good to be true. You’re father is Hank Watkins, the Guardian of the Light. You look nothing like your father.”
“How do you know my father? Guardian of the Light? What are you talking about?”
“Come child, follow me.”
Kerry followed the old lady into the door that opened underneath the clock. She did not follow because she trusted the Keeper, but rather, because she needed answers concerning the questions she had about her father. The old woman knew her father. In her structured mind none of this made sense.
The door led to a portal, and they stepped in. In a nanosecond they were whisked away to a room that had the same door as before.
“Well, that was a big nothing-burger,” Kerry said. The Keeper motioned for Kerry to follow. They stepped out of the door and the snow was to their waist.
“Try to keep up, dearie. It’s inhumanly cold out.”
Kerry struggled to follow the old woman. ‘From a hallway with mirrors to a freaking blizzard. Where in the name of all things holy are we?’
The pair of women came upon a cabin. The old woman unlocked the door.
“Take your shoes off when you come in. Please.”
“You don’t have to call me ma’am. Your father was always going on about manners.”
“How did you know my dad,” Kerry asked. The old woman smiled and sat in a small chair. She motioned for Kerry to sit in another chair across from her.
“He was a Guardian. All Guardians know each other.”
“What exactly is a Guardian. You keep saying my father was one, but what are your responsibilities?”
“Well, I suppose you’ve earned the right to know. Besides, Hank was a good man. Guardians came to be centuries ago. They were created to enforce balance in time lines. I am the Keeper of the Gate of Moments. As such, I test those who would enter the gateway.”
“Test them how?”
“Each test is different. It depends on who wants to enter.”
“So, if they pass the test, you allow them passage?”
The old woman nodded. “Yes, balance must be kept.”
“So, good and evil people can enter the Gate of Moments.”
“So, my father you’ve claimed was the Guardian of Light. What were his duties? Why would the thing call him a traitor?”
“The Guardian of Light is the title of those selected to represent the goodness of the world. For instance, the Council chose your father to represent humanity. He was the epitome of the best traits your kind possess.”
“Are there those who represent the worst?”
“Yes. As there are two sides to a coin, there’s a duality to the human spirit.”
“Who’s the representative for the Dark Side?”
“Her name is Eden. She is your mother.”