“Where is it?”, asked Antonio as the mist began rising up the waters of the river. “Where’s the island? Had I not seen its shadow?”.
As worry came to consume the boy, he kept paddling straightforward nevertheless, right through the mysterious fog. He could see nothing…
After some minutes, Antonio saw himself surrounded by rocks and stalactites, under a damp, cold, huge stone ceiling. The darkness stretched for miles in front of him.
“Hello!”, he shouted inside the cavern. Many, many, many echoes talked back to him. “What is this place?” he thought, stepping on the shore and examining the rock walls.
Behind him, Antonio heard a splash! Something jumped out of the water! But before he could see what it was, it was gone…
Startled, Antonio sat down on a rock, and peeped every corner so he wouldn’t be caught by surprise. Cautiously, he waited, and… he saw something! Moving in the darkness!
“Who’s there?”, he rushed back, ready to get on his boat and paddle all the way back.
What came out of the shadows… was a small, pink gecko. Antonio sighed of relief and sat down, taking notes on his journal.
“A gatekeeper of sorts…”, said the gecko, slowly, and Antonio almost jumped. “Who is there is a gatekeeper of sorts, me. I am the gatekeeper and this is the Gate.” continued the gecko’s monologue, to which Antonio was too shocked to interrupt. “What leads you to this island, Mister?”.
“Who are you??”
“I said I am the gatekeeper”
“Yes, I understand, but what’s your name?”
“Why are you pink?”
“Because the gatekeeper is pink”
Antonio was losing patience… “Why are you a small gecko then? What kind of gatekeeper is so small and weak that I could step on?”
“Oh, if you are wise Mister, you would not step on me. I am much more powerful than you can imagine. I am a gecko because I feel like it.”, completed the gatekeeper, while Antonio tried to make sense of her confusing speech. “Now that I’ve answered your questions, care to answer mine? What lead you to this island, Mister?”.
Antonio remained in silence, hesitant to reveal his goals to that weird gecko.
“I’m afraid that I cannot let you pass unless I know your intentions, Mister. I may ask you to turn around and return to the place you have come if such is the case. And do not think of ‘stepping on’ me, if you do not wish to meet the consequences.”
Antonio paused for a moment and, with squinted eyes and a sigh, he spilled: “I came to Paz island to grow wings.”
“Grow wings?”, asked the gecko, curiously, crawling upon the wall right beside Antonio… who stepped back.
“Yes. I want to have wings so that I can fly. Like birds do”, completed Antonio, disturbed by the silence that followed.
“Hmm. Very well, Antonio”, said the gecko, with an unsettling smile.
“Wait, how do you know my-”
“If you may, sit in silence for a moment with your eyes closed.”
Antonio hesitantly did just that, holding a strange flutter on his stomach.
“Now”, continued the gecko, holding her speech for a few seconds, “you’ll need to be purified”;
“Purified?”, Antonio was confused, and weirded out.
“Transformed, deprived of your other pursuits”, the gecko said with a powerful tone, “such that only your pure intention remains in your heart.”
Antonio thought twice if he should take part in that strange ritual. He could not help but feel he was in danger.
Yet, he knew he’d go through anything to fly…
“If need be, I’ll do it”, concluded Antonio.
“Please, focus on your goal”, asked the gecko as Antonio visualized his dream again.
“To grow wings…”, echoed the gecko.
“To fly like a bird…”, she continued.
A tear rolled Antonio’s cheek…
“And now…”, continued the gecko’s monologue, “you may cast your spell.”
“What does that mean?”, Antonio asked, confused.
“Play your guitar, your favorite song”, answered the gecko.
Antonio got up and picked up his dear guitar, the same one his mentor, Herbert Scott, had given him.
He knew the song he needed to play.
Plucking on the strings, he began setting those beautiful chords on the air. Soon, the whole cavern lighted up of its shadows…
He played “River of Peace”.
“I may sing along”, said the gatekeeper, “as a spell needs two players at least.”
“This is the Chant of Transfiguration”
And so sang the gecko along, with a surprisingly beautiful and familiar voice…
“Now, you may cross the gate”, the gatekeeper finally said after the song had finished. “It’s on the other end of the cavern”
“Thank you” said Antonio, quite shook by the experience, heading to his canoe and paddling into the caves, with an absent-minded face…
As the caves got darker, Antonio noticed the waterways getting narrower and narrower… Soon enough he could not see anything, and was completely disoriented amidst the rocks and water drips.
“Am I… heading to a trap?”, he thought at first.
Then, he heard a crack..!
A strong gust of wind came howling on his face like a roar.
The water began flowing onwards at a faster and faster speed. Antonio, in panic, tried paddling backwards, but the current was too fast. It was taking his canoe deeper and deeper into the darkness of the caves…
He heard another crack!
Suddenly, small rocks came falling on Antonio’s head. Bigger ones began tumbling around, and he could not see where they were coming from. The winds kept blowing like a hurricane inside that cave.
Frightened to death, he ducked inside the canoe, and let the stream lead him.
“You do not belong here, Antonio”, said a delicate voice from inside Antonio’s mind. “You are trespassing our sacred soil.”
Confused, Antonio shivered and looked up. There was a flicker of light at the end of the stream…
“You’ll have to learn your seven lessons, if you can find our seven teachers”, said that same voice. “That is, if you want your little wish to come true.”
As more and more rocks came tumbling down, he braced himself tight and hid under the wooden seat.
“They may be seven rough teachers… But to those who don’t belong, those who were not taught, the Island might eat those alive.”
The noise of the stream, the winds and the rocks filled Antonio’s mind, as he screamed under the seat.
“This will be fun.”
Everything turned to black.