Chapter 18: The Gate
It took another hour to finally reach the town. I stopped and stared at the large fence that had been built around the town. It was a chain linked fence, with metal bands woven through the links to obscure what lay on the other side. A large gate was wedged across the only road that led into the town from the highway. Both the gate and the fence were large, easily ten feet tall or more, and the tops were woven with barbed wire. A chain was wrapped through the frame of each of the two doors in the gate and secured with a padlock.
Just outside the fence line, alongside the road and near the fence, was a large green sign. It looked to have once been a baseball scoreboard or something similar and it looked like it had recently been painted over. In handwritten black scrawl, the sign read “Paradise: No Trespassing.” I paused next to this sign and gave a worried look to my companions.
“Doesn’t exactly seem friendly…” I trailed off, hoping that my trepidation would be enough to convince my companions of the unsettled feeling that I had at that moment.
“It’s probably just a warning for any weirdoes in the area. I mean, those fuzzy floating jellyfish a few miles back were pretty wacked out. I wouldn’t want something like that wandering into my village, if you get me.” Bobbi was clearly not impressed by the sign and she walked right up to the gate and looked around at the fence. “I mean, I’m surprised more places haven’t built a wall like this. I mean, if that first little town had done this than that freaky beastie wouldn’t have made… Tom…” She trailed off when she noticed my glare. She showed no remorse, but she stopped speaking, which was enough.
“She’s not wrong.” Rick was looking in my direction, passively conceding the decision to me, but his tone showed that he agreed with Bobbi “It doesn’t seem weird considering all we’ve seen. If this town is as normal as we’ve been assuming, it would only make sense for them to defend themselves. I would want this if I were in their shoes.”
“Fine. But if we end up dead, I won’t say I told you so…” I shrugged and stepped back while giving Bobbi a glance and a wave that told her to march up to the seemingly unattended gate.
“That… Doesn’t really make sense.” Rick gave me a strange look, while Bobbi chuckled at my trip of the tongue.
“You know what I meant.” I grumbled, more annoyed than angry, but I said no more. Instead, I nodded to Bobbi, waiting for her to make her move.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Bobbi’s smile waned, but did not drop as she defiantly walked up to the gate and, wrapping hier hands around her mouth, she bellowed. “Hallo! Is there anyone in there?” She grinned and sharply banged her wrist against the gate’s frame a few times. “Oy, we know you’re in there.”
Nothing but silence answered her. I glanced skyward, wondering how long that ever present sun would watch over us before Bobbi got a response, assuming she ever received one. I took the opportunity to place my bag on the ground and use it as a makeshift seat. I had a feeling we could be there a while.
She called again and again, and she did not get so much as a grunt from the other side. Nearly half a solar cycle passed before we finally heard the sound of figures approaching the gate from the other side. We saw naught but outlines spreading across the reinforced and shuttered gates, but we make out human shapes and took some comfort in such a simple matter. A man’s booming voice bellowed from the other side of the gate. “Be you man or beast?”
Bobbi looked back at me with a confused expression, to which I merely replied with a shrug. “Man. Or, men. Man and women…” She stammered, slightly put off by the oddness of the question.
There was a pause. We could see the silhouettes nodding to each other and there was a faint murmur of voices audible through the metal. Then, the voice boomed again. “From where do you hail?”
“Hail?” Bobbi muttered to Rick and me. “Who the hell says hail outside of old movies?” She looked at each of us in turn, and receiving nothing but shrugs and confused expressions, she turned back to the gate. “Originally or recently?”
The voices murmured again as the shadowy heads turned to each other before the voice bellowed again. “First the one, then the other.”
Bobbi sighed deeply. “London, Minneapolis and Denver, respectively. Recently, we’re all coming from Denver.”
The shadows conferred again, before asking us one final question. “How fares the countryside?”
“The hell? It’s shitty, just like it is everywhere else. Nothing makes sense. I figured you’d know that, what with the big wall to keep everything out and all.” Bobbi was starting to get mad. I nodded to Rick, who walked forward and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. I thought it lucky he was still with us as if I had tried the same, she might’ve exploded. Instead, she continued to fume but fell silent as the voices talked amongst themselves. We glanced at each other wondering what they were saying. I was certain none of doubted what they discussed.
After a long moment the chains clattered loudly as they clanged against the gate’s frame repeatedly as the voice called out again. “Stand back, you will be observed before entry.”