“The first thing, the thing you must always remember, is where you come from. So take a look and mark it well.” He turned Gil around to see what had been behind him. Preoccupied by the crowd in front, Gil had barely glanced the other way. But what he saw when he turned around made no more sense than anything else in this place. There were fewer people – practically none. They must be right on the outskirts of the settlement. A sea of shining white something-that-wasn’t-snow stretched as far as the eye could see. It was hard to tell how far that was, because there was no horizon and no landmarks to judge by. All Gil could be sure of was that he could see at least twelve feet, because that was the distance to the only structure visible in this direction.
Large, rough-hewn stones had been stacked up to form the shape of a doorway, but it seemed to serve no purpose, as there was no wall around it nor door within.
“I give up. What is it?”
“It is a doorway, of course.”
“But there’s no door.”
“Not every doorway must have a door. Not every doorway must be shut.”
“Even if you could shut it, what would be the point? You could just go around. There’s no wall.”
That made the young man in the vest grin.
“Is that what you think? And do you think that walking around it would take you back where you came from? Back to your forest?”
“Of course not. But neither would walking through it.”
“Ha! You have much to learn, much indeed. How do you suppose you got here, then?”
“I… don’t know. I can’t really remember.”
“Well then, allow me to remind you: you came through that very doorway, and, I might add, in some haste. Indeed, you did not take five steps beyond the doorway before collapsing. And I assure you that the only way back is to pass through that same doorway again. But I would hazard a guess that you are not in such a hurry to return?”
One thing Gil did remember was the wolf pack that had chased him through half the night and, apparently, into another world. He wondered if they would be waiting on the other side of the doorway.
“No… not really.”
“Excellent! That is, in this case, a very good thing. For you see, this doorway is but one of many, and I must stress that it is not safe for you to pass through any of the others. If you are not eager to return, then you are less likely to do so by mistake. Many are those who have come here, only to take the wrong exit and found themselves forever lost. But don’t look so glum; this doorway is quite safe. That is why it is so important to know where you came from, for we shall be returning here in due course; indeed I am counting on it. But there is much to see between now and then.”