The Iron Gate

The crisp fall breeze passed Melinda as she walked her dog down the road next to the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Georgetown. The autumn leaves were starting to settle in, changing from bright green into golden amber, orange, and brown. Lucy, her golden retriever, was happy trotting next to her.

Of all the places in Georgetown, she loved Dumbarton Oaks Park, a hidden gem that only locals really know about. Designed by Beatrix Farrand in the 1940s, the stream-side park with its old stone bridge and lush green paths made it a perfect getaway for those seeking a break from the busy city. 

Lucy was unleashed so she could run around and bark at the squirrels. There was hardly anyone out today, which was strange as generally on a day like today, it would be full of people strolling. Turning around the corner, Melinda started to hear voices from down the path. She called for Lucy to re-attach the leash, but Lucy was not responding and instead took off in the direction of the sounds. 

"Shit," she muttered under her breath as she started to run after her dog. The last thing she needed was Lucy getting into trouble. She was not a bad dog, but just that the people in this town tend to be quick to sue for the most minor things—something she did not want to deal with today. 

Running down the path, she caught up and attached the leash. Yet Lucy did not acknowledge her; the dog just stood silent, looking in the direction of the stone steps. Melinda took Lucy and started to head to the base of the steps to see what was going on. The voices were getting louder. As Melinda approached the bottom of the steps, she saw a group of young individuals gather at the top by the iron gate that separated the park from the private guardians. 

The people were speaking in a foreign language that she could not make out. As a linguist, she generally was good at guessing the core language, but whatever they were speaking was new to her. Crouching behind a couple of bushes, she was able to get a better view when she saw one of them place something in the gate lock, and a bright light emerged.

It was hard to make out what it was, but in place of the iron gate, all Melinda could see was a series of bright threads in the shape of an oval. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief and saw the individuals in the group enter the bright oval and disappear. As the last person entered the oval, Lucy started to bark, grabbing the individual's attention. Looking over in their direction, he raised his finger to his mouth, emulating a shushing motion, winked, and the oval vanished. The light was gone, and there was no trace of anyone there. 

Rushing up the stairs, Melinda saw a couple sitting on the bench looking down on the other side of the gate. Grasping the iron bars of the gate, she asked, "Did you all see that?" The couple looked at each other in confusion. "See what?" the man responded. "The bright light and the group of people?" Looking even more perplexed, "No, we have been sitting here for the past ten minutes, and you are the first person we have seen down there. Is everything ok?" in a concerned voice. 

Out of words, she just stood there with a blank expression. Was she the only person who saw whatever it was she saw? Deciding it would be best for her to leave and gather her thoughts later, "Yeah, I'm fi--" she paused mid-sentence, for, in the gate keyhole, she saw a golden key unlike any she has seen before