The man stopped walking.
He took a deep breath and peered ahead into the darkness. The dry, cool air of the tunnel filled his lungs as he strained his eyes. There was nothing to see, of course. Not in the dim light.
Expelling the breath, he continued on toward the door. The door he knew was there.
Yes, the door was out there. And behind it lay an answer. Or not.
Once again the questions passed through his mind. What if his worst nightmares were realized behind that door? What if there was nothing behind that door? What if...
In the dim light of the dry, cool tunnel, the man thrust all out of his mind and continued toward the door.
This man was a dreamer. He had spent a lifetime of dreams searching for a reality.
He walked down the passage in a whirlwind of mind activity, his thoughts going back in time. The good times he had had. The people he had hurt. The humiliations he had felt. A sea of faces floated about him, talking without speaking, almost tormenting him.
He felt old. There was a weariness of body and soul. He was tired. Tired of illusions.
Once he had been a true dweller in dreams. His dreams had been the embodiment of all that was best in his life. He had known the hope of the underdog, felt the love of soulmates, embraced the nobility of a pure heart. He understood that a man had to fight for the things he believed in, the things he loved. The concepts he respected. He had never felt the need to apologize for compassion.
And so he had lived, true to his fundamental self. But a man can have many selves, become many things in the course of a lifetime. And the day finally came when an image penetrated to the core of his being with one message: Man, know thyself.
Against his will, he saw what he had become. He saw his hopes and aspirations, saw all he had failed to conquer. He understood his ambitions had been for godhood. Such had not been his conscious intention, nor his desire. But with realization came knowledge, and with knowledge came wisdom. And in that one instant, he was stripped of innocence. Bereft of that innocence, his life-light, the spirit and power of all his dreams, was banished.
And so now he searched for a reality. He searched for that reality behind a door at the end of a dry, cool tunnel.
The man stopped abruptly and stared, a tingling sensation slowly creeping up his spine. Despite how slowly he had walked, how slowly he had forced his feet to move, he was there. He had arrived.
The door stood before him. It was an ordinary door in all aspects. No scratches, no doorbell, no knocker. It appeared brand new, although the man knew it had stood since the beginning of time. A simple doorknob jutted from the perfect wood like a dark cloud on a sunny day. No sound came from behind the door.
For a moment, time stood still. Once again the man’s life passed before his eyes, only this time, all things he had ever felt, the millions of moments he had experienced as a living person, were divided into emotions he had known. He saw all the adversaries he had gained in his lifetime stand up against him and he felt anger. He saw all the people he had hurt and he felt shame. He saw time wasted and opportunities passed over and he felt sorrow and deep regret. He saw his life and the realities he lacked and he felt despair.
He felt the greatest joys: the love of a mother, the comradeship of best friends, the happiness of a little boy’s first puppy, the joy of a young couple. He felt the worst evils: power without restraint, knowledge without wisdom, age without maturity, passion without love.
He felt the ideals of life: love, justice, faith, hope, truth. Things that give life meaning.
He felt the loneliness of the long distance runner, the hurt of a suffering loved one, the emptiness of rejection, the anguish of loss.
He waited, letting it all wash over him. He knew he could deny reality and leave. But he was a brave man and he wanted to live or die on his feet.
With that thought, the man reached out, grasped the doorknob firmly and opened the door.
He found himself in a train station. He shut the door behind him and looked around.
People wandered around him aimlessly. They were faceless and nameless. Perhaps they did once possess those individual characteristics, but they appeared to have been forfeit long ago.
And then the man knew. He was standing among the hopeless, waiting for a train. A train bound for nowhere.
Like him, each passenger was here for reasons of their own. Some had lost faith in the modern system, others in modern man. Many fought the war, but war was hell and suicide painless. For some, pain was the only reality they could grasp, so they lived a dreary existence, always knowing there was something better, but it was not for them.
Others felt the only way to win the game was to cheat, but that was a lonely existence, never trusting, never loving, and the subterfuge and coldness eventually beat them down.
And others were simply void of love for themselves or others. Life was a mockery, an amusement for other people.
The rest had found an answer to every question, a key to every door and were finishing their part, closing the curtain.
He sat on a bench as he waited for the train. Thinking. Dwelling.
Reality held little meaning for him. In his mind, reality was a mere reflection of one’s senses, a shadow on the wall. A shadow which, as long as one stood still, was perfect, but once the person moved became warped, no longer a true semblance.
He glanced about him, watching the hopeless as they existed, waiting for the train. A train without hope for those without dreams. For warriors and cowards alike.
Dreamless they walked. Thoughtless they wandered. They stood without faces in the halo of street lights. A misty rain fell as they ambled aimlessly about.
Far off, a whistle sounded. A speck of light in the distance grew larger, thicker and soon the whistle sounded louder. A minute later, Old Hopeless was in sight.
The engine grew larger as it approached. Solid. Industrial. Real. It slowed, brakes squealing, the smell of steam in the air. As the train came to a complete halt, the doors opened. The conductor stepped out and waited patiently, ticket punch in hand.
The man stood, shadows warping. Passengers began filing onto the train in front of him, some bidding a silent farewell to the world they were leaving behind, others without a backward glance. No one stayed behind.
The train was nearly full, yet the man found himself sitting nearly alone. The only person close to him was a dark-haired woman sitting across the aisle from him.
The woman turned and looked at him.
The man stared back impassively. Then he said, “What can change the nature of a man?”
The woman said, “Knowing yourself.” And something in her eyes changed.
Then the conductor was there.
“Tickets, please,” he said, his voice sounding faraway.
“Tickets?” echoed the man and woman simultaneously. They looked at each other.
The conductor peered at them. “Perhaps you’re not ready for this train ride after all,” he said. “Well, not to worry. Go back out onto the platform. You’ll see the ticket booth. Don’t worry. We’ll wait here until you return.”
Still looking at each other, the man and woman rose together. Then they turned and exited the train.
The platform was empty. A slight fog wisped around the train. A ticket booth sign was visible through the mist.
The man walked toward the sign, the woman right behind him. The sign turned out not to be atop a booth, but rather a door.
The man looked at the woman. They shrugged in unison. Then the man turned back to the door.
He had already opened one door today. Why not another? He reached out and turned the knob.
The room was bare except for several full-length mirrors lined along the walls. There were mirrors lined along the right wall and more lined along the left. On the other side of the room was a door.
The man instinctively moved toward the first mirror to his right. He barely registered the fact that the woman had moved toward the left mirror.
The mirror was antique. It was as tall as he was. The light in the room was dim, but the man could see himself clearly. Too clearly. The image was him, but not as he was at this moment. It was, rather, him dressed in armor.
The dark knight stood before him, his black cloak fluttering. Behind him, the beautiful blonde princess struggled and writhed. Her wrists bound in shackles above her head and a gag was in her mouth. She was naked.
The dark knight gazed at the man. “So you’re here to rescue the princess?” he said. He chuckled, the laugh sounding hollow inside the dark helmet. “So laughably noble.”
The man stepped forward, his own armor shining, and drew his weapon. “Yes, I am here to rescue the princess.”
The dark knight lifted his own sword. “Very well then. Have at thee!”
The two stepped forward and swung their weapons in matching arcs. The blades came together in a clash of sparks. Then each knight stepped back and began a cat-and-mouse game of probe and parry.
After a few moments of this back and forth, the two warriors fully engaged. They hacked at each other with the rage of eternal enemies, the representatives of good and evil. Each gave as well as they took, and soon their armor were dented homages to each other’s skill.
But the man fought for all that was noble and good. A paladin. And he couldn’t lose to the dark. So his blade eventually found its way into the heart of the dark warrior.
“Curse you!” said the dark knight, as he dropped to his knees.
“You never had a chance, villain,” said the man, saluting with his sword, honoring his fallen foe.
He got the key and freed the princess.
The princess sighed. “Fine, you rescued me,” she said. She dropped to her knees. “Here’s your reward.”
She shifted the man’s armor, exposing his cock. The princess leaned forward and took his cock in her mouth.
He hardened as she worked her lips around his meat. Soon he was a bar of steel in her mouth.
She worked her mouth back and forth over his shaft in a perfunctory manner. After several minutes of her warm, wet mouth working his cock, he finally exploding into her mouth. She swallowed his ejaculate without a murmur.
Once she was sure he was finished, she wiped her mouth and got to her feet.
“Okay, there’s your reward,” she said. “Thanks and all that, yada yada yada.”
The man stared. “You...don’t appear to be...ummm...”
“Ecstatic?” she said. “No, I’m not. Why should I be?”
“But I just rescued you.”
“Did I ask to be rescued? You see yourself as so noble, but you only see things in black and white. You saw him as a villain, but he was my heart’s desire.”
“Leave me alone, you bastard.”
The man punched the mirror, shattering it, the pieces scattering on the floor.
The man stepped carefully over the broken glass and made his way to the next mirror, knowing now that this was the price he had to pay for his ticket. He sighed and looked into the next reflection.
He was still himself, but his lines were softer.
A woman walked in. She was tall and commanding, a dominant presence in the room. She was also beautiful.
“It’s almost time for you to get ready,” she said.
The man said, “I’ll get dressed.”
The woman’s eyebrows rose. “Don’t be silly, darling. I’ll tell you what you’re going to wear.”
The man looked at the ground. “Yes, dear.”
The woman smiled and cupped his cheek. “Such a good boy,” she said. “Take off your clothes and go lay on the bed.”
The man stripped and made his way to the bed. He lay back and put his head on the pillow. “Like this?”
“Yes, sweetie,” she said, opening a drawer. “Like that.”
She walked over and stood next to the bed. She leaned down and kissed the man on the lips. Then she stood back up and held out a pair of hot pink panties.
“I’m going to put these on you, sweetie, okay? I want you to wear my panties tonight.”
The man shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Sorry.”
“Oh, honey,” said the woman. She pulled up her skirt and took off her underwear. “Of course you will. You love me, don’t you?”
“Well, yes, of course I do,” said the man, “but...”
The woman swung her leg over the man’s legs and straddled his hips. She began sliding her wet pussy back and forth over his cock.
“Aww, c’mon, sweetie...just for me? Pleeeasssseee?”
Despite the looming threat of pink panties, the man found himself hardening as the heat of her wet pussy seeped into his cock. Then his head went back and he moaned as she shifted slightly and took his cock inside her.
“Oh, you like that so much, don’t you, sweetie?” said the woman. “Since I’m making you so happy, shouldn’t you do the same for me?”
That logic was hard to argue. The man found himself nodding as she stroked herself up and down his rock-hard shaft.
“So you’ll wear my panties, baby? Just for me?”
The man nodded, his eyes closed as his balls swelled in response to the beautiful woman’s pussy squeezing his shaft in heavenly heat.
“Oh, sweetie!” she said. “You’ve made me so happy!” She slammed her ass to his thighs and ground her pussy over his cock.
He moaned and came, unable to contain himself.
A few moments later, she got off the man. She cupped his cheek. “Such a good boy,” she said. “And don’t worry...the bra will be a perfect fit as well.”
The man sat up. “Bra?! But I just agreed to wear the panties.”
The woman looked at the man as if he were crazy. “Of course you have to wear the bra as well, sweetie. They’re a matching set. And since you’re wearing a matching set, we’ll need to make sure your makeup and shoes match as well. The right eye-liner to really bring out your eyes. And I’ve got the most darling heels for you.”
The man blinked, trying to come to terms with the sudden wave of changes.
The woman kissed his lips. “I’m so glad you’re sensitive to my wants and needs,” she said.
The man punched the mirror, shattering the reflection.
The beautiful girl dropped to her knees.
The man stepped in front of the kneeling girl. “Lift up your chin, pet,” he said. “Let me see.”
The girl blushed, then lifted her chin. A leather collar circled her neck, the small padlock dangling.
The man stroked her hair. “Well done, little one. You’ve pleased me.”
The girl giggled. “I’m glad I pleased you, Master.”
The man cupped the back of her head and pulled her to him. “Get me ready, pet.”
The girl took his heavy cock into his mouth. Her nipples hardened as his shaft became longer, thicker, meatier between her lips.
“Very good, pet,” said the man. “Now stand up and bend over.”
The girl scrambled to her feet. Then she turned and presented her rounded ass to him. She bent over then, her rounded hips flaring out as she presented her hot, wet pussy to him.
The man stepped forward and pressed the head of his cock against her steamy sex. He reached forward and grabbed a fistful of her long hair. Then he slowly pulled her back by her hair. Helpless, she slowly backed up, impaling herself on his thick cock. Her moans grew in intensity.
“Don’t come yet, pet,” said the man.
“I...I’m trying not to, M-master,” said the girl. But her thighs were trembling, her hips wriggling in helpless slave heat. Finally she cried out and came on his cock, her body writhing in an explosive orgasm.
His face cold, the man pulled his cock out from her pussy and pressed the fat head against her tight rear entrance.
“Master, no!” said the girl. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!”
“You were warned, little one.”
“But I’m not ready back there, Master! Please, no!”
Hands on her hips, lubricated only by the girl’s pussy juices, the man slowly corkscrewed his fat cock into her tight back passage. Her moans this time weren’t from heat.
The man once again drew back and punched the mirror, shattering the reflective glass into several pieces.
The man was back in the ticket booth chamber again. He was standing in front of the final mirror frame. This frame, however, had no glass in it.
He looked behind him. The mirrors were broken, large jagged pieces of reflective glass on the floor.
On the other side of the room stood the woman, a broken mirror in front of her as well.
And in front of the man...between him and the door...was the conductor.
The conductor eyes tracked along the trail of broken glass. Then he looked at the man and said, “Strength lies in knowing oneself.”
The man looked at the conductor. “But a man is different things at different times.”
The conductor pulled out a chain watch and checked the time. Then he put the round timepiece back into his vest pocket. “Yes, you can be many things. Or all things. Or perhaps the best of the many things.”
The man shook his head. “I can be a destroyer of dreams,” he said, “or I can be weak.”
“True,” said the conductor, stepping forward and leaning over to pick up a large piece of broken mirror. “Very true. Or you could choose to know yourself.”
The man stared. “I don’t understand.”
The conductor pressed the broken piece of mirror against the wooden mirror frame. “You could create a new reflection. You could be noble without being blind,” he said. He pulled his hands back, but the piece of broken mirror stayed lodged against the frame.
The man looked at the broken glass. Then he selected a piece of mirror from the floor. He walked back to the frame and pressed it against the mirror frame. It matched perfectly against the piece the conductor had left. “I could be sensitive without being weak.”
“Yes,” said the conductor.
The man selected another large piece from the broken glass. “I can be strong without being cruel,” he said.
“Yes,” said the conductor.
The gathered the best pieces from the old mirrors and built the new mirror. Or perhaps it was an old mirror with a new reflection.
A new reflection with one gap.
The man stared at the reflection. “I have no pieces that fit that space,” he said. “Does that mean I will always have a hole in me? I’ll always lack something?”
The woman stepped forward then, a glittering piece of mirror in her hand. She pressed the piece against the gap in the man’s reflection. It was a perfect fit.
And somewhere deep inside himself, the man felt his life-light re-ignite. He took her hand.
The conductor reached into his pocket and pulled out three items. One hand held a pair of train tickets. The other hand held a key to the door behind him.
The man and woman smiled at each other. Then they stepped forward and took the key.
The conductor said, “Man, know thyself.” Then he turned and walked back toward the train.