Woe to the unfortunate stranger who should come upon the gate they were keeping

For a brief moment also I did wonder now whether I was still dreaming. Yet the wet sand, the sea gulls of the lake circling overhead, the light on the water, the dark blue reflections of the two adjacent Mountains, Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah, in the misty mirror of the lake on the distant Southern shore, everything had a coherence that was not dreamlike. And yet the situation was surreal, not only because I had fallen asleep on my bed and woken up on a wet, cold beach hundreds of miles away from home. The sun, for example, was incredibly small, too small for our planet, planet earth. In the east the sharp crescent of a waxing moon, greeting the morning with disdain, was accompanied by a second crescent, a twin moon. And the surface underneath me was still breathing. And yet I knew the silhouettes of the twin peaks by heart. My mother used to tell us on warm summer nights, when the sun had already left the sky and only the patient outlines of the rock formations on both sides of the lake were still cutting into the advancing darkness, that the mountains were ancient guardians who were forgotten by their masters and not having been relieved of their duty had decided to keep their post to the edge of doom. Woe to the unfortunate stranger who should come upon the gate they were keeping. Lake Willoughby was an incredibly deep, glacial, water filled ravine, and there was some sparse folk lore about creatures living in the dark, about a connecting underground acquifer between the lake and its twin lake, Crystal Lake, to the West behind Mount Hor. It was a strange place, but being as remote had kept all stories at bay.

I sat still for a while, waiting for the scenery to change or disappear like dream images do, especially if you pay too much attention to the details, but the situation was as real as you can imagine, and not prone to change any more than Ms. Havenshire’s classroom during an especially tedious lecture on a philosophical concept that excited her. I stared around for a while, bravely ignoring the piercing cold, trying to take an inventory of everything. Except for the strange planetary constellations, the lake seemed real. I had never been up here in fall but I imagined it to look as lonely and cold as it did now. It is not exactly a lively place even in summer. And in winter, once the snow started, it would be one of those places that were cut off from the outside world for weeks on end, alas with the local people being prepared for it and not disconcerted by a few inches more or less of snow or even by massive boulders coming thundering down the mountains just like every winter. There was no skiing and therefore no seasonal dwellers in winter. Both, Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah were too steep and fully covered with trees.

I was shivering violently now, my clothes were as damp as if I had actually spent the night unprotected on the beach. When I finally stumbled up to my feet, it took me a moment to find my balance just as it would have on a big gym mat. I tried to disregard the breathing of the surface and made a few gingerly placed steps towards the water. What to do next? What to do if you are suddenly stranded in a place without any preparation or at least warning? Why was I here? In a dream, typically, events keep unfolding and you keep reacting but the lake was quiet with quick shadows dancing over the surface. I stopped at the water’s edge. Little waves arrived at the shore with a sweet sound. Light was dancing silver on the ripples. I was getting colder by the second, shaking most convincingly.

I had to find shelter. There was a colony of summer cottages at the North Beach, they would be boarded up for the winter, but maybe I could find a way in all the same to warm up and think. It seemed a reasonable plan, if you can at all call it reasonable that you have to think about finding shelter in a dream. Again I asked myself what I would do once I got inside. Maybe there would be a phone but even if there was, it probably would be disconnected for winter. Would it even make sense to call home and ask for someone to please come and rescue me? How ever to explain how I got here? And would it be possible to call home even if I found a working phone? I turned around to scan the tidy row of vacation cottages at the North Shore to find one that would suit my improvised plan and I faced an impenetrable row of trees. The cottages were gone.

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