Crossing the Gap

by Ronelle van Niekerk © 2002

He had come to me a few hours before his crossing, this enigmatic young man, and invited me to join him for a cup of coffee. Curiously, for I am not one to socialise with strangers, I accepted his offer and we walked from the park bench I had been resting on to the small coffee shop on Church Street.

We had been sitting talking about unimportant things in the booth at the back of the shop for several hours before I realised I did not know his name. When asked, he responded mysteriously, "My name, in this world, is Warren."

He didn't ask me for my name in return and I did not volunteer it, I had become a little suspicious of him at his answer and took notice of him for the first time as if coming out from under a spell.

He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, very common casual attire for someone his age, but somehow it didn't seem to suit him. He gave the impression that he was used to wearing more formal dress. His dark eyes wandered around the room and over the people in it as though he were looking for someone and I took the chance to study him more carefully.

He was dark but there was not one line or wrinkle on his skin, as one would expect to find on someone as tanned as he. In fact, his skin was almost flawless, no blemishes or marks of any sort besides the faint remainder of a scar under the right corner of his mouth. He had a wide mouth and, I recalled from earlier in our conversation, a friendly and brilliantly white smile.

I had to discontinue my inspection of his features because he looked back at me then and with an anxious expression asked me, "Will you take me somewhere else?"

I turned to glance into the crowd of diners to find what had made him so uneasy and saw a man looking at us from the far side of the counter. I looked back at my apprehensive companion and in a moment of sheer recklessness replied. "Will he follow us? Is he dangerous?"

"No," he said, looking up at the man. "He's not dangerous, he wants to tell me something and I don't want to hear it."

"So he will follow us?" I asked again.

"Yes." he paused. He gazed in to my eyes, holding them with his, dark and stormy now, and said, "He will wait until I speak to him. Can we go now?"

"Yes," I said, almost in a daze of confusion and shaking my head to try clear it. What was I doing? Why? I didn't know the answers but I knew that I didn't want this man to leave yet.

We stood and I placed enough money on the table to cover the bill and a small tip. I caught a glimpse of the man, as we were passing him, he was getting ready to leave, handing the waitress behind the counter some money for whatever it was he had eaten.

I hurried to catch up with my new friend, Warren, and slipped my arm into his, stretched up on my toes, leaned closer to him and whispered conspiratorially, "Are you sure it's safe? He's following us." "Yes, he won't harm me and so, will not harm you." was the answer I received. I dropped back into step beside him but left my arm linked with his, feeling more secure closer to him. He smelled faintly of lavender and I closed my eyes and breathed deeply of it.

Suddenly he jerked to a halt and I opened my eyes to find the man standing in front of us. "I cannot wait any longer, Sire, it is time." was all he said.

Warren gazed into his eyes expressionlessly and after a few moments he sighed softly and looked down at me apologetically and a little sadly. "I thank you for the time you have spent with me, I have enjoyed your company immensely. I have been avoiding this man too long and, I fear, I have to leave this world now." His dark and beautiful eyes looked into mine and for a few seconds I could not breath. It felt as though something I held dear to me was being taken away and I couldn't explain it, having only known the man for a few hours.

Turning to the man he said, "I am ready to go now. We can cross the Gap." "You have spent a long time in this world, more than most, and we hope you have also learned more than most. Follow me." The man spoke to both of us and we obeyed, following him into a narrow and empty alley.

With his back to us, stretching his arms out in front of him, the man started chanting in a language I could not understand, in front of him the air began to waver and ripple. In a few moments he was standing in front of what looked like a small, localised fog. "We must go." He said with his back still to us.

Warren turned to me once last time, placed his hands on my shoulders and bent to kiss me on the forehead. He stood up straight and looked at me again. "Goodbye." was all he said. He turned and, walking around the man, stepped into the fog. He instantly disappeared. The man didn't even look back at me as he stepped forward and disappeared into the fog himself.

I stood with my mouth open in surprise and watched as the fog dissipated, leaving nothing behind. He was gone and I was left with a feeling of loss and awe. I wondered where he had come from and where he had gone. Why did he come to this world in the first place? And why did my mysterious friend cross the Gap back again?

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