The end of the day announced itself by the decaying colors of the sky. The wind blew pleasantly and the streets were quiet in unison with the end of frantic commercial activity. It was early still, but today, there was something in the air that made people acknowledge the gift of rest.
Among those who overcame the magical stupor and, instead, ventured outside, was Ruby. Her parents had come from overseas to work and live in this prosperous little island. They were driven to seek a better life than where they had been raised themselves. They wanted the best for Ruby, too.
Ruby was lucky to have parents that did not ask of her to renounce her childhood for the sake of her future. Not that she was not instructed nor that discipline and awareness was not instilled in her, but she was also allowed to roam and be silly, to play, fall, and get back up on her own.
Among the friendliest neighbors they had met so far in the city-center neighborhood they lived in was a fluffy old cat. Too lazy to walk apace with them up the hills of the local park, but sharper of mind than had seemed normal for any cat. The tag around his neck indicated his name was Charles, in English, though he was not so-called by birth.
Today was the day before Ruby’s birthday, her ninth, to be precise, and she was lucky it fell on a Saturday. She hated it when she had to go to school on her birthday, even though the teachers insisted in forcing her classmates to sing half-hearted songs in her honor. Nobody really cared about your birthday at school. There were too many people there to care about one little girl’s birthday.
She was happy the school day was over and had come out to play and wander around among the neighborhood’s alleys and the park not far away.
“Hi there, Ruby!”, said the old cat, talking to her for the first time.
Ruby stared at him in slight dismay.
The cat laughed heartily. “Don’t look so bemused, Ruby. You must have known there was something off about me. I’m special that way.”
He was right, it had crossed her mind that there was more to old Charles than met the eye. Maybe because she knew him from all the years living here, or maybe because shew as young enough to be open to the possibility of a magical cat talking to her, she decided to go along with him.
She gave him her best smile and tilted her head slightly as if to take a better look at him.
“Hi, Charles!”, said Ruby, gingerly and unafraid “Tomorrow is my birthday, you know?”
“Is that so? And what might you be doing all alone out here this afternoon?”
“There’s electricity in the air, can’t you feel it?”
“Yes, yes. I daresay not many people seem to have noticed.”
“But, “she continued, “There’s no one outside. They’re probably happy just watching T.V.”
The old man stared at her with curiosity.
“Are you upset about that?”, he said.
“I don’t know. Not really. I just think it’s really beautiful to be alive, to feel the air, and to see the colors of the sky. It seems a waste of life to spend indoors when there’s so much outside all the time. Just look at that.”
She pointed across the alley between two buildings, which from their perspective almost aligned with the setting sun in the West. The sun could not be seen directly, but its rays and their multi-color reflections bounced against the walls on the far end of the corridor, casting otherworldly patterns on the grayish concrete walls and the metallic back doors and window bars.
“And what do you see?” asked Charles.
“It looks like I could walk through there and appear anywhere I wanted”, said Ruby, sighing. “It’s like a door that opens for just a moment when you look at it the right way”
Charles could hear the sadness in her voice. He was impressed, however, that her words could ascertain so much upon the reality of things, and thought it the right time to give her a gift.
“Let me show you something,” he said.
“I want you to think about the fact that tomorrow is your birthday, that you’ll wake up and your mom and dad are going to be there for you, that you’ll go somewhere special with them, and that they love you very much.”
Ruby smiled, feeling a warm sensation spread from her chest into her limbs. Her cheeks turned a shade of magenta, feeling giddy all over.
“Now,” continued Charles, “look at the alleyway again and tell me what you see.”
She looked again and was surprised to see the walls suffused in a golden light that glowed in pulses. Ruby gaped in awe, somehow feeling connected to what she was looking at.
“Look away, now.” said the old man.
She obeyed him, not knowing why, because she was so pleased with what she was seeing.
“What would you do if I told you your parents had just died,” he went on in a quiet, cold tone of voice.
Ruby felt her world turn upside down, and her vision tunneled around the already mind-bending image of a talking cat. She suddenly felt dizzy and felt the life drain out of her body.
“Look back and further into the alleyway. Do as I say, child.”
Not knowing why, at this point, and feeling slightly enraged, but mostly deeply hurt, she turned her eyes in the direction of the common vision.
The twilight glow was mixed with overcast clouds that had come out of nowhere, and winds blew out of it. Purple-hued auras framed the sides corners of the two buildings at the end of the alleyway.
“What I said is not true,” continued Charles, “I only wished you to see clearly how the door works.”
“The door?” said Ruby, still feeling hurt, a tear rolling down her cheek.
“Take the second tag hanging from my collar. It is the Ensign of the Twilight, that will allow you to move through it now that you have managed to open the door once.”
“But, must I suffer in this way every time I wish to open it?”
“No. I only showed you that the door will open to you depending on what reality you look at it from. You can choose your reality, and by moving in between two different ones, it will open. You achieved this today by stepping in between extreme joy and sadness.”
“That sounds very tiresome...”
“The secret behind it,” said the cat, smiling, “is to separate yourself from what you are living. When I made two very strong emotional realities inside you clash against each other, you were not sure what part of them you belonged to, and so something in you separated from both. In practice, if you can separate yourself and connect to the deeper world without hurting yourself, then you can open the door again. Go on, take the tag with the Ensign from my collar.”
She did so, and felt a slight tingling in her hands when she touched the metallic plate. She looked at the beautiful design. It was an ornamented downward-facing triangle with all manner of curves and shapes. A magical pattern, if any there was.
“My work here is done.” said he with downcast eyes. “I have seen you grow and become the smartest, most awake and brave little girl. We may meet again, but for now, you must say bye to Charles.”
She did not quite grasp the situation, but her throat tightened and an emptiness sank in her stomach.
“Farewell,” said Charles and he jumped into the bushes before she could recover.
Ensign of the Twilight
Come along and into that door step now
before it closes and you miss the chance
Leave your things behind and, taking a bow,
use the ensign that you have in your hands.
Moldering skies and shifting winds give way
to the most wonderful of all sunsets
Writhing lights under your emotions sway,
like keys dangling among the many sets
Choosing the one and only that is right
for you can take you to other visions
Other galaxies under purple light
do shine for you many invitations
Take now your future without any fear
of choosing wrong, for your vision is clear.
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