They say that these woodlands contain the path to paradise itself. It has been a long way to reach these mythical gardens; my knees are scraped and bloodied from the various thorns nipping at my legs along the path.
Snakes and sirens were attempting to seduce me with their allure, but I refused to heed their calling. I was pure at heart, unspoiled by all temptation and evil.
My path was blocked by something swaying back and forth from a tree. I looked at it closely. I could make out a face with long black hair with some dark colored stubble leading down its chin. Its head was cast down with closed eyes. It was a dead man hanging from a tree.
I walked closer to it in disbelief and fear. What would a hanged man be doing here on the trail to Heaven? I looked at its face when it suddenly jerked its head up towards me. I jumped back in shock. The man opened his eyes, blank and pitiless before he turned his gaze upon on me. He opened his mouth to speak, his message quiet and choked, and whispered this:
“Perfection is the great abyss… leave now lest you share my fate; a ghost dangling at Heaven’s gate.”
With his warning spoken, the dead man hung idle once more. I tried to speak to him, confused and distraught about what he meant by a punishment, but I received no further response from him. I looked at him with confused frustration in response to his equivocation.
What was there to fear about paradise? I certainly am not on the wrong path. I was free of all man’s sins and malice, surely they would let me pass? Maybe the man was a sinner and was being punished for trying to reach grace?
Without heeding the deceased man’s warning, I started to walk past the hanged man, impelled by curiosity pertaining to his cryptic prophesy. Surely, there was nothing to fear. I walked through the sycamores and the blushes. My knees scraped once more from the wild, torturous prickles. Feeling something not unlike that of a thousand tiny quills of a porcupine seeping into my legs, I can only hope that whatever lied at the end of this path would be worth it. I disregarded the serpents’ temptations and trickery. I walked past the trees into a clearing and found it at last.
The pearl doors.
I slowly walked towards them with caution, remembering what the man who spoke to me warned. The doors had a latch, and there was a gate aside them. I held onto the gate and looked through to see the inside of divinity before going inside. The view was marvelous.
Inside there were large grass fields, aligned with a graceful night sky. The stars shone brightly around the blue orb that was the Earth itself. I looked around and was awestruck at its divine, stunning beauty. I kept looking through and through at its elegance, but one thing troubled me greatly. There was not a single person inside.
With a small amount of hesitation, I wrapped my hand around the latch of the doors carefully. I tried opening it, foolishly expecting it to simply open with a gentle pull, but it did not budge. I tried pulling harder and the doors stood firm in utter defiance. I finally pulled with all my might and I suddenly fell back to the ground. I looked at my hand, it had the latch inside my palm, but the doors remained unopened.
I cursed under my breath and held onto the bars futilely. I tried shaking angrily at the gate and was looking inside, almost sobbing at the fact that paradise was not letting me inside. That was when I saw a flash of fire as the gates suddenly began to burn. I screamed in pain and looked at my hands holding the gate, horrifically burned. I ran back into the orchids in newfound fear and terror of this hellish Heaven.
I came across a waterfall and dived in quickly to ease off the pain. I quickly washed my wounds in the water, gagging at the sight of loose burnt flesh coming off into the water. That was when the screaming began. A thousand different voices, male and female, of every age and in between, writhing in agony. They were moaning, I looked around and saw many in funeral pall, while others simply hung from the trees. I counted the leaves in one tree, the largest, while covering my ears. I then counted the trail of dead bodies and found the two numbers to be matching.
All of the different voices were crying out for one thing: a second chance. They wanted to escape these woods. I tried covering my ears but to no avail. They beckoned me to save them, to guide them onto the path of redemption. I backed up and hit the trunk of the tree that I counted off earlier and something lowered itself down in front of me. An empty noose.
With a swift movement, it wrapped itself around my neck suddenly. Its pull was that of a lover’s, lifting me mother-gently off of the ground. It was a soothing feeling, that of which a lover wrapped their arms around your neck. Soon, my legs began to dangle uselessly underneath, no longer standing. I realized that I was on the wrong path to immortality after all. My life started to transmute into all life. The pulling of my neck tightened slightly, and soon all vice and ill thoughts of mankind began to leave me behind as my vision faded into the blackening nothingness.
The Original SongEdit
The song Hanging Gardens is originally by the Californian progressive metal band Cormorant, off their album “Metazoa”. All rights to the song belong to them. The lyrics are the work of frontman/bassist Arthur von Nagel.
In the gardens perched on the sky,
The ones where snakes sing lullabies,
I met a man who spoke to me,
A dead man hanging from a tree.
He craned his neck and whispered this:
"Perfection is the great abyss.
Leave now lest you share my fate,
A ghost dangling at heaven's gate."
Why should I fear paradise?
I lived free of mortal vice.
So I trudged on past the sycamores
And stood before the pearly doors.
Through the bars I saw the fields:
The stars mere cogs in ox cart wheels,
The earth a pebble in a stream,
But not one human to be seen.
Undeterred, I gripped the latch.
I pulled, but it came unattached.
Despite my rage, the gates stood firm,
Then grew so hot I smelled flesh burn.
I ran back injured to the groves,
And washed my wounds in waterfalls.
As I bathed I heard the groans,
Of voices wrapped in funeral pall.
Count leaves dangling from a branch,
Thus numbered bodies overhead:
Specters moaning for another chance
To escape the orchard of the dead.
An empty noose caressed my neck
The way my first love had.
A soothing feeling on my neck
To forget the good and bad.
To forget the ones who hurt you,
To forget the ones you hurt,
To forget the hate all men accrue
When their feet still touch the dirt.
Written by FlakyPorcupine
Sequel: The Key