The Shadow Gate
In Which Madeline Discovers Where She Is
Madeline had only seen tombs in photographs.
The pictures had been flat and lifeless, but the stone in this garden pulsed and drew breath, in three full dimensions. Space and light and shadow played a frantic game of chase. The only thing more frenzied was the beating of Madeline’s heart.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
She acknowledged her wobbly chin, her quick breaths, and the anxiety swirling in her stomach. Her body swayed like beach grass on a sand dune. All of it was new to her.
On Eclipse Island, where Madeline had lived her whole life, children could roam the streets, daytime or dark. They could sleep without night lights and accept candy from strangers. Dogs didn’t bite, cats didn’t scratch, and mice didn’t carry plagues (but they would bring you tiny items if you asked politely). Bicycles didn’t crash, falls from trees didn’t break limbs, and no one ever needed a life jacket, because everyone knew how to swim.
Friends were friends forever. No one moved away. There was always someone to play with at recess, and there were no bullies. Pitfalls and perils were imaginary, and belonged on the pages of books, with things like doctor’s offices and hospitals, loneliness and sadness, worry and uncertainty.
Until Madeline passed through the black wrought iron gate, she’d never experienced fear.
If she let it, this new awareness would swallow her. She’d become a puddle on the ground, a melted Popsicle, leaving nothing behind but a sticky stain. She’d build no more castles in the air. She’d never remember her dreams and finally write about them in her journal. She’d never set out on an ocean voyage, or take to the skies on the back of a dragon.
She’d never find her parents.
And that wouldn’t do.
So Madeline pushed the fear away. She straightened her spine, lifted her chin, and turned to the man with the bright eyes and white hair who had spoken to her when she first walked through the gate.
“Excuse me?” she asked. “Where am I?
“You don’t know?” When she shook her head, he observed her for a moment, and then shrugged. “Everywhere. Nowhere.”
“I’m obviously somewhere. I’m standing right here.” Madeline pointed at the ground and fought the urge to stomp her foot. “What is this place?”
The man’s eyes darkened, just a little. “It’s where the dead are buried, and where those who won’t stay underground roam.”
“The dead?” Madeline asked.
“Yes, child.”
Fear put a choke hold on Madeline once again, and this time she couldn’t push it away. “The dead ... and buried?”
“Dead, buried, and those in between. It’s a cemetery. Lafayette Cemetery, to be exact.”
This was worrisome, indeed, thought Madeline.
Because on Eclipse Island, there was no such thing as death.

Keep Reading

Chapter 3

In Which Madeline Learns of the Shadow Gate

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