“Welcome, Seeker. Welcome to The House of the Secret Revealed. I am Garvey, the Keeper of the Inner Door.”
There were three doors in the small room where they stood. There was the door through which the Seeker had come and that would not open from this side. There was an exit that led away from the waiting pilgrims … and there was the Inner Door. It was richly jeweled with gilt inlays; the oversized handle was bronze and clearly bore, in silver, the shape of a sleeping dog.
This was done in response to the earliest pilgrims who had been disappointed that the Inner Door looked just like any other door.
“Greetings, Garvey. I am Duane. I have come — as you must know — to see … him.”
“ ‘Him,’ Garvey repeated. “The One Who Knows. The Voice of The Truth. The Unveiler of the Secrets.” He paused. “Etcetera.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“His name is Pravat.”
“Pravat,” Duane repeated.
“Yes. He prefers it to the fancy titles or the breathless ‘him’ that you used.”
“Thank you. I’ll call him, er, Pravat, by name then.”
“That’ll be nice. You may enter when you are ready.”
Duane hesitated, and Garvey waited as patiently as a rock would have.
“It’s been rather a long trip, and a bit expensive. I just want to know, before I go in there … is he for real? I mean, does he really have the secret of life?”
“The secret is different for each one of us. But every person who has gone in has come back out and told me that Pravat had the answer. None have passed me to leave with scorn on their faces.”
“Excellent. I’m ready to go in.”
“Knock lightly on the door when Pravat has given his benediction and I will open it.”
Garvey pushed down on one end of the door lever and the sleeping dog tilted upward. This opened the ridiculously ornate door and Duane went in. Garvey closed the door and waited. Several minutes later he heard a soft tapping from the other side and he swung the portal open.
Duane nearly stumbled across the threshold; his face was pale and his eyes seemed to look more inward than outward. He ambled over to a chair and missed, landing on the floor. He didn’t appear to notice, and sat there breathing as if cooling down from a marathon.
Garvey nodded slightly to himself.
“He had the secret of your life, Duane?”
Several long moments passed, more moments than Duane had spent in Pravat’s presence, and Duane finally got control of his breath.
“Garvey?” Duane said weakly.
“Have you ever asked Pravat for the secret of your life?” Duane wanted to sound as though he were making pleasant conversation but his rough-edged voice betrayed him.
Duane finally focused on the doorkeeper. “No?”
“As I told you, none pass by me to leave with scorn on their faces. Too often, however, their faces look like yours, or worse. This has curbed my curiosity.”
Duane gathered himself and stood up. “Then I am blessed,” he said, “for this day I have spoken with not one but two wise men.” He bowed slightly to Garvey, who returned the gesture, then went out through the third door.
Garvey watched him walk down the hallway until it made a sharp left turn and Duane disappeared.
The Keeper of the Inner Door shook his head and looked over his shoulder at the gleaming portal. He shook his head and thought, by no means for the first time, All they see are the jewels and the gold. None ever see the sleeping dog and heed its warning.
The first door opened and closed behind another overawed Seeker. Garvey repressed a sigh; this one would be no different.