All the realities swirled around his brain as he dug in the garden removing weeds. The flowers that bloom in the spring tra la needed room to breathe, and the weeds were encroaching.
Suddenly, after he pulled a weed he knew vaguely as a whimsy root, a vast hole opened and he tumbled down a sudden underground slide that deposited him 20? 50? 100? feet below ground in a vast room that should have been pitch black but instead glowed with a warm but eerie glow.
“Step forth, young man,” said a voice from nowhere that came from everywhere at once. “Yes, you, with the dirt on your hands.”
He stepped timidly toward the voice — that is to say, he stood stock still, because he had no idea where the voice originated.
“Where am I?” he said once he found his voice again.
“You are in the Gathering Hall under your garden, of course,” the mysterious voice said. “Isn’t that obvious?”
“Gathering Hall?” he asked. “How long has this been here?”
“Ever since the end of time.”
“Wait, what? Time ended?”
“Ah. Someone forgot to tell you.”
The hall was primitive, with earthen walls, floor, and ceiling. All that really made it a Gathering Hall was that there was plenty of room for people to gather.
“Who gathers here?”
“If this is a Gathering Hall, who gathers here?”
“That is a question I have been waiting for since life first emerged from the primordial ooze.”
“And that is not an answer.”
“No one gathers here?”
“How, then, can you call it a Gathering Hall?”
“Because people could gather here if they wished,” said the voice from everywhere. “Is a soccer field any less a soccer field if no soccer games are played there?”
“All right, I am not playing soccer, and neither am I gathering, so why am I here?”
“Because you pulled the whimsy root and opened the entrance, of course.”
“What does that mean?”
“Does it have to mean anything?” said the walls themselves.
“Why — am — I — here?”
“Ah, another question I have waited since —”
“— Right. Life. Ooze,” he said. “What happens next? Are you some magical power who will bestow me with abilities and send me on a quest?”
“What abilities? What quest? This is just a Gathering Hall.”
“So I have a Gathering Hall under my garden, where no one ever gathers, and it’s all for no particular reason.”
“Purpose and reason are up to you,” said the voice of the Gathering Hall.
He began to see, but he did not see enough to fully understand. That, as it happens, was a matter for another day.
“I’m out of here,” he said, and he began to climb back up the incline that led to his garden. He was surprised to encounter no resistance.
“Suit yourself,” called the voice from everywhere and nowhere. “We’ll be waiting.”
He turned on the incline, puzzled.
“‘We’?” he asked.
He heard no reply.
When he emerged into his garden, he picked the discarded whimsy root out of his weed bucket and placed it in the hole, where soil filled around it and obliterated the entrance to the Gathering Hall.
The garden looked just as it had, but everything felt different. Something was under his garden — its purpose and reason were up to him — and “they” would be waiting for his return.
He had no clue what had just happened, but he was determined to find one.
To be continued?