Bored with everyday life I turned to books. One book in particular. It was a book that made me feel sad and was crazy, but not in an Alice in Wonderland-crazy kind of way. It was a book written by the Japanese Haruki Murakami. A book that at first seemed to hold two stories, but later you find out it is one story, just in different worlds. It was called Hard-boiled Wonderland and the end of the world.
It had been a hard decision, picking between the nameless character in the semi-real world depicted in the book, or the Dreamreader in his miracle world. I went with the last one. A miracle world just trumps a semi-real world any day. I closed my eyes and felt the cold on my skin. When I opened them, I could see the Dreamreader give up his shadow. I felt a horrible pain while looking at the sad shadow and said to my own shadow: ‘Don’t worry. I won’t let you be taken away.’ My shadow smiled back and together we walked towards the big Gate that surrounded the town.
‘Hi there, Mister Gatekeeper. I’m Polly. How is the Dreamreader doing?’
‘He’s going to be fine. He needs to rest. I was about to bring him to his house.’
‘Can I talk to him?’
‘No. He’s resting. No one can see him now.’
‘Because that’s the way of the town.’
‘Oh no! I really wanted to talk to him. He seemed nice.’
‘I’m sorry, little girl. But you really can’t. Now if you could get out of my way, I need to bring the Dreamreader to the town.’ While he was talking he turned to a small shed and disappeared, only to appear with the Dreamreader in his arms. Without any words he passed me by and walked through the big gates into the mystery town. Disappointed as I was by not being able to talk to the Dreamreader, I wasn’t going to let this ruin my time. ‘No rain on my parade!’ I said out loud and I turned to the shed. I knew someone was going to be in there.
‘Hello? Shadow? Are you there?’
‘You are not my body. Where is my body?’ I saw the shadow of the Dreamreader sitting in the shed. He looked tired and devastated.
‘Your body went into the town. It’s no longer yours.’ At these words he started to cry. Or at least, it sounded like crying, but I couldn’t see any tears. ‘Don’t worry, Shadow. Things will work out. You have to trust me on that.’ I wanted to put my arm around the shadow but didn’t really know how one comforts a shadow.
‘How do you know? My body has left me. I am nothing without my body.’
‘That’s not true.’ I said. ‘You still exist. That’s something.’ I paused, looked around and proceeded with caution. ‘You will es-’
‘Little Girl! What are you doing in there!’ The Gatekeeper had returned. I was in trouble now. He grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the little shed. ‘Do not talk to the shadow. Don’t give him crazy ideas. He will stay put. There’s no leaving without his body.’
I looked angrily at the Gatekeeper and he softened his grip. ‘You can’t be here. At least, you are not supposed to.’
‘I guess I’m not supposed to be here. But does that really matter?’
‘I couldn’t tell you. This is new. It’s not the way of the town.’ I liked this fact.
‘Isn’t it time for you to call out the Golden Beasts? The sun is almost gone.’ The Gatekeeper gave me a suspicious look, but knew I was right. He took out his horn and gave the sign. I heard all the beasts heading our way out of town. It didn’t take long before the first Beasts arrived at the gate. They were extremely pretty with their golden coats and big horns. In a big line they walked out of town, there were so many. When all the beasts where outside the gates, the Gatekeeper turned around and closed it.
‘That is done. Now tell me why you came to this town.’
‘I already told you. I wanted to talk to the Dreamreader. But you took him inside, so that’s impossible.’
‘It is not impossible. You just can’t enter like that.’
‘I’m not giving up my shadow.’
‘Why not, little girl? You are clearly looking for something. You might find some answers here. Although you are not supposed to be here, the town will make a place for you. Wouldn’t you like to see what is behind those gates?’
‘I would love to. I have so many questions for the people inside that town. But I know I can’t. Anyone who enters the town never leaves. I am no exception. I know the rules, Gatekeeper. Don’t act all innocent.’
He smiled at me and shook his head.
‘You are right. Those are the rules. I guess it’s only for the better. You look like a trouble maker.’ I didn’t know if this was a compliment or an insult so I gave him a confused smile. The Gatekeeper laughed at me and walked towards the beasts. I followed eagerly.
‘You can touch them. They don’t mind.’ I petted a small beast. The fur was incredibly soft. My tiny beast turned its head and licked my hand. I gave a little cry of joy and put my arms around the small beast.
‘I don’t think they like to cuddle.’ The Gatekeeper said.
‘Well, this one seems to like it.’ I hugged it again and gave it a little kiss on the forehead, just below its horn.
‘They seem to like you. It’s rare. They barely pay attention to any human. Except for me, that is.’
‘Gatekeeper, aren’t you sad the beasts die every year?’
‘No. It has always been this way. And new beasts always appear, so there is no need to be sad.’ I looked at my tiny beast and felt a bit of sadness.
‘I would feel sad. The beasts are nice. I wouldn’t want them to die.’
‘I don’t want them to die either, but it’s-’
‘-Just the way of the town. I know. And I get that. I just wished it wasn’t the way of the town.’ He smiled.
‘You would not do well here.’ This time I took his remark as a compliment. ‘It’s getting dark. I think you should go home little girl.’ I nodded, he was right. The sun had gone down and it was getting dark pretty fast.
‘One more question, Gatekeeper.’ He nodded his head again ‘Do you ever want to leave this town?’
‘Leave this town?’ He turned to the gates and I noticed he wasn’t really in the town.
‘I can’t answer your question. I’m part of the town. There is no leaving.’
With a sad feeling I said goodbye to the Gatekeeper and my tiny beast. I wondered if the townspeople were unhappy. But maybe they were better off. At least they had a purpose in that town. That’s more than most people have in the real world. I walked through a herd of beasts and had come to the end of this world. I waved goodbye to the Dreamkeeper, knowing he couldn’t see me, but hoping he would sense it. Maybe he would read me in a dream.