A Circle of Doorways by Guy Russell

We left our old Escort at the end of the track and walked uphill. It was nearly midnight in the third week of September; still mild on the plains under the huge dark sky. The henge on its low mound was silhouetted like a row of doorways, on the other side of a high, barbed-wire-topped fence.

“There’s a reason they fence off the Henge,” said my dad. “Think about it. A trilithon is a doorway without a wall. Why build a doorway without a wall?”

I couldn’t think of a reply, but he was continuing.

“The wall isn’t visible to our dimension,” he said. “The doorways are actually portals to parallel universes.”

“It’s for the summer solstice,” I told him, to show I wasn’t entirely ignorant.

“Summer solstice,” harrumphed my dad. “That’s a neat bit of red-herring. In reality,” he emphasised, “the doorways work at the equinoxes – the moments of liminality.”

I wasn’t convinced. The equinox might be significant if your view of the cosmos is centred on Earth. But what difference does the tilt and spin of one planet make to the universe?

But my dad never went to school, because of the war, and he had to pick up ideas where he could. Still, he always took me interesting places, and did interesting things, when it was his weekend. So I didn’t mind.

The fence was high, true, but there was no other security to protect against these dangerous parallel universes. My dad took his boltcutter, cut a thread of chainlink head-height and bottom, corkscrewed it out, and we side-stepped through. We crossed the grass, silver in the moonlight, and came up to the stones.

Above us in the dark, they blocked out sky, stars and space. To the touch, they were grainy, with moss in small depressions. They made me think of solidity and history and endurance and effort and mutedness, if that’s a word. The three-quarters moon shone down. The equinoctial breeze blew gently, with the faintest hint of winter.

“And a henge,” he was continuing his theme, “is a circle of doorways. A doorway of doorways. The stones look like they should be about defence and exclusion and obdurateness. But instead they’re opportunity, openness, every change in the universe.”

I chose a gateway and went through. That moment, with the dark massiveness either side of me and over my head, that moment of semi-enclosure, felt as if it should have been important. It was imaginatively rich, I suppose. But nothing happened, except that I was now inside the circle.

“You’re now in a completely different universe,” my dad said, and followed me into it.

“But it looks the same,” I said.

“Aha,” he said.

I went back out and then back in again. He went out and then back in again. His alternative universe, I supposed, would still have him and my mum together. Mine had all sorts of things different, but some the same. If my dad were correct, how would you guarantee, without labels on the doorways, where you might end up? It might be somewhere worse. Luckily he wasn’t correct, or not in an objective sense.

“I don’t think much of this new universe,” I said to him. “I don’t feel different.”

“Perhaps it’s not working today,” my dad admitted.

“Under repair,” I said, pointing at where one of the stones, leaning, was propped up by a concrete crutch.

We laughed. I loved my dad, even if he was a bit strange. We wandered about, going in and out of the entrances. We admired the framed moonlight striking the altar-stone. For fifteen minutes we enjoyed being outside, at night, alone in the silence and the crisp Autumn air. Eventually we slipped back through the fence, in the secret aperture he’d made, as if we were passing through something solid.

Then we walked down the track, got in our old Austin Metro and left.

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Guy Russell

Guy Russell

Guy Russell was born in Chatham and lives in Milton Keynes. Work in Brace (Comma), Troubles Swapped For Something Fresh (Salt), The Iron Book of New Humorous Verse (Iron), various magazines, and a story at Liars’ League.
Guy Russell

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