The statues stood there, mute before the broken columns that were all that were left of the archway. The grass grew around their feet, smothering the remains of the marble tessellated floor that had surrounded the arched gate. The broken columns hosted lichens, birds perched on them and passing animals marked territory on them.
The statues were pristine. They were made of stone so white it was almost luminescent. No dust settled on them, ever. No bird perched on them. No wild animal went close enough to mark territory on them.
“They’re alive,” whispered the shepherds who wandered the hills in summer following the flocks.
“It was a temple,” said the scientists who somehow never dared chip the statues for samples.
“It was never a temple,” corrected the priests quietly. “Never a place of godliness or of unrighteousness. It was always the place out of phase.”
“It was the doorway to the desire of the soul,” said the man who would once have been a wizard. “What does your soul desire?”
“Three went through,” ran the nursery rhyme.
“Three will come back,” added the schoolyard skipping song.
The television archaeology team had three days and big plans. They cleared off the soil covering the old marble floor, stacking the turf in a neat pile so it could be replaced, eager to begin,
Then they started calling people. Etched into the stone floor in concentric circles were words in many languages, many scripts. Some of them the archaeologists could read, the others had experts drooling over a potential key to their ciphers. They all said the same thing, that was the point after all.
“Let not the three return lest the five burn the world and thrust it into the fall of darkness.”