Rules for Entering Enchanted Cities by Megan Arkenberg

Always bring a change of clothes,
just in case.

If the gatekeeper asks for your name,
make him give his first. If you lose yours
you can always use his.

(Just make sure it fits.)

Do not look too closely at the gates.
They may say nothing, in which case
you’ve wasted your eyes
when you could have looked at other things.
Or they may have a warning
in golden letters across the frame…
in which case it’s already too late.

Blood is the most valuable currency.
Spend it wisely, and if possible,
bring extra.

If they tell you not to look behind you,
don’t look behind you.

Every gatekeeper can be bribed.
It may cost you a kiss.
It may cost you your kingdom,
your liver, your firstborn child.
Weigh the costs carefully.
If you can bring a companion
willing to split the price,
so much the better.

You cannot leave by the gate you entered through.
Remember this, and make sure the city
has more than one gate.

Megan Arkenberg is a student in Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in Ideomancer, Goblin Fruit, Clarkesworld, and many other places. She edits the fantasy e-zine Mirror Dance and the historical fiction e-zine Lacuna.

Image: Suzhou, Youyicun garden in the Lingering Garden苏州留园又一村