Tell A Tale in 500 Words

The Entrance By Robin Bailes

On the first day, Maciste went through The Entrance.

It was not written down in any rulebook or inscribed on the door itself, but it was understood by common consent that The Entrance was only to be used by Them, not by Us. We used the back door, which was no further away and no less convenient, nor really any imposition to Us whatsoever.

Why Maciste went through I could not say, but he must have had his reasons as Maciste had serious smarts. For his trouble, he was turned out on his ear and punished with a loss of privileges - which amounted to very little really.

"What's through there?" I asked.

"The foyer."

"The same foyer the back door leads to?"

"Yes."

On the second day, he went through again and the result was the same.

"Why do it?" I asked.

"I'll stop when I understand why I shouldn't."

"Because it's for Them," I said. "And they're Them, and we're Us." Which seemed like an end of it to me.

But Maciste said, "Strip us naked and we'd look the same."

I wasn't sure how that was relevant. Which was the problem of talking to Maciste - he made the assumption that you were as smart as he was, and so explained himself in vague terms, leaving you to make the connections that he himself made without even thinking about it.

On the third day Maciste went through The Entrance again, and received a verbal warning.

"It just leads to the foyer?" I pressed.

"Yes."

"Same as ours?"

"Yes."

"Then why do it?"

"By the same token; why shouldn't I?"

"It causes trouble. Not for Them, mind - for you."

He smiled. "You're wrong. Every time I go through, it puts the fear of God into Them."

"It does?"

"They're afraid I know Their secret."

"What secret?" I asked, thinking I had finally got to the bottom of his baffling behaviour.

"That there's no reason I shouldn't use it."

That meant nothing to me. "If you want to put the fear of God into Them, why not just thump Them? You're stronger than Them." Maciste was huge.

"But you're not. Cesto isn't. Besides, I don't want to hurt anyone, I just want to use The Entrance."

"What have Cesto and I got to do with it?"

Maciste looked me in the eye. "It's not about me; it's about Us."

That was the last time I saw Maciste. I assume that on the fourth day he did the same as he had done on the previous three. And four times was Their limit.

On the fifth day I walked towards The Entrance. Cesto ran up and grabbed my arm.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going in."

Cesto gaped. "Are you crazy? Don't you know what happened to Maciste?"

I nodded. "If I don't go through, They'll think it was just about him. It's about Us."

I walked on. Maybe some of Maciste's smarts had rubbed off.


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