The return (a short story)
He dived in the water without a splash, hands clasped together, gliding close to the bottom of the swimming pool, extending his arms like a sea turtle. The cool water was refreshing, peeling away the heat of the long journey. He stayed submerged for a few strokes, enjoying the near silence. He loved the other worldly feeling of being under water. It took him to a place far away from the hustle and bustle of his short business trips, his worries and anxiety about outcomes. A small boy splashed into the water almost falling on top of him, swam around next to him, goggles on, and quick to the task of collecting colourful seashells from the sandy bottom. The mother stood up and smiled at him apologetically. He smiled back.
A few laps later and having washed off the smell of the chlorinated water off his body he headed off to his room, where he had hastily dropped off his small suitcase upon arrival. It was the first room on the left down the corridor next to the reception, as he was reminded by the kind cleaner who seemed to be forever mopping the floor.
The door was open. Two children, a boy and a girl, were playing in the room, jumping on and off the beds. His suitcase was on the side, where he had left it. The little boy smiled; he recognized him from the swimming pool. A few questions later led them all to the parents room next door. “I don’t understand”, said the mother, “ ...we didn’t see your suitcase when they gave us the room”. “Its ok”, he replied kindly, “mix-ups happen..” he offered.
At the reception, the owner, a short jolly man, gave him a different room. “It’s room number eight, across the corridor from the other one; take a look to see if you like it, the door is unlocked” he said. The room was small and a bit dark, without a kitchenette or fridge but it was ok, and he didn’t plan to stay long anyway. He went back towards the other room to get his suitcase expecting to find the children playing, but he could not find it. It seemed as if the room had entirely disappeared! He noticed the parents room door was open, so he knocked on it and was let in by the little boy. Both children were there. The mother offered to help him, and was herself bewildered. “Perhaps the room was downstairs and we were confused by the heat of the day?” she said.
They walked together down the stairs which led nowhere, only a small patch of earth after the last step. No corridor or unfinished construction and yet the staircase seemed to be there for some obscure purpose.
Thanking her, he went back to the reception. It all looked quite different from what he remembered. The reception desk was taller, more luxurious, made of some dark oak or other heavy wood, with a red velvet surface. It reminded him of the church pews of his childhood. The manager looked much taller, more serious and had a look that was almost foreboding. Without even waiting for him to ask anything, and offering no explanation, the manager pointed to a wooden box with a glass side and no top. “Choose a key” he said sternly.
He reached out and pulled a heavy key out of the box. Instead of a number tag it was attached to a metal ring which had a few strands of string on it, each with a small red bead at the end, like a tassel. Looking at it more carefully he realized they were actually tiny pomegranates. As he looked up to the manager, and again before he could even ask the question, the answer was offered to him. “ Its the door right at the end of the corridor, straight ahead”.
Mystified and bewildered he disregarded the search for the suitcase and ventured forward. The door was made from the same heavy wood as the reception desk, only it was short and arched like a miniature castle’s front gate. The key fit and he unlocked the door, more curious by the moment. He stooped down and crossed the threshold.
His feet touched the dusty red soil of a rocky mountain path. The ground rose up steeply to his right and the sweet smell of dry thyme permeated the air. The mountain’s ridge curved around to the left a few hundred yards ahead. Along the mountainside were goats, almost lined up and all looking towards a place dead ahead. The one closest to him glanced upon him, showing it was aware of his presence, and yet kept steadfast in its focus on the side of the mountain ahead of him. A golden eagle swept over his head joyously. There, on the side of the mountain of Zeus, was a cave entrance. A golden light emanated from it, gentle and powerful, and he knew then, as he knows now, that in the cave a child was being born. Tears flooded his eyes, as he realized that finally, he had reached the sacred heart, he was now and forever back home.