I followed the Gatekeeper as he took me to one of my favorite coffee shops near where I lived. How much did these Hive members know about me? A lot, I guessed but kept my calm. The usual barista greeted me with her chipper personality, radiant smile and ample… curls in her wavy brown hair. The coffee is really amazing here. Seriously.
She asked if I wanted the usual but then stopped short when she saw the Gatekeeper. She nodded towards him with a knowing smile. Was she now one of them? Or was she always one of them? I couldn’t look at her the same anymore. She was still cute and appealing but now she terrified the hell out of me. As I followed the Gatekeeper to the back of the shop I could feel her gaze piercing the back of my head. What had I gotten myself into?
In all my years in this town, I never knew in the million times I had been in this coffee shop that it had a basement. The path was dimly lit and dingy. The basement itself was dingy but the lighting was significantly better. It was deserted at the moment but I could tell regulars came and sat here. The telltale signs of coffee stains, lost pencils, eraser residue, pieces of paper and the like. Didn’t look like it got cleaned too often.
The Gatekeeper stopped in front of a door. I could only imagine what lay on the other side. The path into Narnia? Neverland? Hell? The local Walmart? The closet door swung open to reveal a very musty dark and cramped closet complete with an old broom, bucket, cloth wipes, hundreds of dust bunnies and a healthy coating of mold, mildew and some unnamed grey gunk. The Gatekeeper waited for a moment and the clattering sound of chains and the click of several bolts and locks echoed around us in the fire hazard of a room. Then a second door hidden seamlessly in the red brick wall next to the closet opened with a slight rumble and a dull heavy groan. What lay beyond was a dark and rough-hewn stairway leading deep down into the abyss.
The Gatekeeper closed the closet door and looked at me. “The Choice,” he stated simply.
“What choice?” I muttered still baffled by all the cloak and dagger theatrics.
“Do you enter and have your life forever changed or do you leave wondering what lies beneath?”
I pondered that question for about half a minute and then answered trying to sound wise. “Curiosity killed the cat, didn’t it?”
“So did the boredom,” he replied.
“So I just walk in?”
“Yes. Oh and mention to them that I recruited you.”
Recruited me? What does he mean recruited me? I came looking for help not employment. So I decided that subtlety and subterfuge might be my greatest allies. Unfortunately, I had never met either of them.
“What do you mean recruited me?”
The Gatekeeper sighed. “All these questions,” he muttered. “I had to pick a chatty one.”
“Look, pal, I came to you for help and I am getting employment. So what gives? And what do you mean you picked?”
“Maybe this is the help you need, my friend. Have a little faith–“
“In the gaping abyss of a secret society?”
“Umm, yes. One that can help you.”
“Yeah? Well I am not about to go in without knowing more,” I insisted.
“Very well. How about this bit of info then? I am not really a patient man,” the Gatekeeper replied as he pushed me with uncommon strength sending me tumbling down the stairs into the pitch black void.