The Door
I do think of it from time to time, and when I do pay mind to the thoughts that come fluttering in as if nothing, I begin to feel anxious.
I know why you are here. You want to know what happened, but if I tell you, you'll no doubt find me crazy, but I'm not! I assure you. Everything I tell you is the truth, the whole-hearted truth.
I'll start from the beginning as I walked through a long and dark corridor, not long after which I came up to a door. Light on the other side was seeping in through the gaps in the door frame. I ran toward it but found that it was locked. I tossed myself against it so that I could force myself through, and when I did, everything was silent.
“Where is she!?” I yelled at someone standing at the other end, whom I assumed to be my wife's kidnapper. He stood stiff, silent, not a word from him. I had a gun with me, a revolver, packed into my pants. I started to think that I might get a word out of him if I began the conversation in a different manner.
Quickly upon approach, I discovered that he and I shared a frightening resemblance. I was frozen by it initially (I was ready to shoot his brains out, to be quite upfront about it) and the more I scrutinized him, the more I realized that I was dealing with more than someone who resembled me. By God, the man was a replica!
We both had the same style beard on our face - like I have now, only nicer, better trimmed - the same dark eyes, the same long and pointed nose, the same lengthy hair at the back; his was bound into a ponytail as mine was when I cared to keep my hair tamed. Now, sure, it looks disastrous. I can’t even comb it without losing sight of the brush as I pass it through the chaos on my head. If it isn't plain for you to see by now, I'll tell you straight that I've stopped caring…
Anyway, he then said to me that I looked rather spooked.
"Naturally," I said to him and confessed that it was not every day that I met with my reflection when not looking into the mirror.
"Is this some kind of joke?" I told him. He did not say anything.
It was less fruitful when I inquired with him directly about his identity. Confidently he replied only that I should already know the answer.
I knew instantly that I was dealing with an ill man (a total outcast of reality I thought to myself) if he was suggesting that I should recognize him from somewhere. Believe me, I didn’t, so why Alice? For what motive would he take her from me? I would have said revenge, or jealousy, or some other reason of passion, but as we had no history of ever meeting, these were unlikely.
And speaking with him at length, the more I felt like a blind man walking through a thick fog. Eventually, I gave up on asking him about who he was altogether, and thereafter I took a more forceful approach when I raised the gun at him, and found his tiny body in the iron sight.
He smirked, the bastard, and then he pointed to the door next to him, which were in fact double doors... god-awful, dreary double-doors. They were enormous doors, cast in a pale green bronze. On the left of the two doors was an image of a woman without a head, carved into its surface, dead. On the right, the same woman, but alive.
“There?” I pointed with the nozzle of the gun toward it. He confirmed with a nod. “Is she alive?” The question echoed in my head for a bit, and only now can I trace the sensation to an apprehension. Of what? I don’t know. Maybe it was an empty question, the kind to which one already suspects the answer, but you ask it anyway...
“I’m not going to say,” he replied back, waving his forefinger back and forth, clicking his teeth. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.
I now held the handle with two hands, which only made him chuckle. I squeezed the handle more until my hands turned pale and at the same time red from the pressure of my grip.
It was what he told me after that was the most enigmatic yet, “you will have to decide if she is dead or alive. All you must do is open the door, and see.”
Again grinning, he exposed to me his crooked teeth. The man began to laugh and a morbid laughter he let out at my frustration. It was a heckle of a laugh. There are sounds which will deliver a person to madness without explanation, and that hideous cackle was one of them.
“Why do you want to save her anyway?" He asked me, " Don’t you realize her infidelity? The promiscuity of that woman?” Something like that he mentioned.
I was defiant in that I told him that he knew nothing of my little white flower Alice (you see she enjoyed gardening that one, thus I gave her that endearing sobriquet, so called after her favorite flower which produced white petals in the garden at home). I declared him demented, a wacko, a deranged son of a bitch, and on I went in my foolishly valorous defence of her name.
He was not moved, not in the least. He stood calmly, composed, meanwhile another wicked smile formed on his face.
“You're mistaken entirely. I do know something about her. Remember the party? The wedding?”
I vehemently urged him to tell me how he knew of it.
With another devilish laugh he said to me, “Surely you don’t mean to say that you don't recognize me? Why, I was there,” he threw up his hand and pointed behind me. I turned to face what I thought would be the entrance from which I entered the room, but the front door had been replaced by a modern glass one, chandeliers hung from a vaulted ceiling, the white walls were now made of old stone, yellow light permeated the air to give it an old golden glow. Dinner had just been served. Silverware clinked and clanked as it was laid to rest on the table, and picked up, the guests were seated, including Alice. She turned to me and told me to sit, and that Michael - the groom - was momentarily to commence his grand speech regarding his inseverable union to his wife, Annabelle.
Just as he claimed, I saw him standing near one of the stone columns carved into a pattern that resembled a snake coiled around it. I remembered that night, though the memory of his presence admittedly remained more or less vague. He was such a natural fixture of the scene, however, that I was convinced easily that this must have been the case, and I took it for irrefutable truth. I do, on the other hand, particularly remember very well what happened after.
Some guests had decided to mark an end to their attendance when the night reached the late hour of midnight. Alice and I remained by some inarticulate loyalty to our friends, the newlyweds. We had stepped outside for a minute of privacy. We spoke about the wedding, the food, the people, and out came a man that could justly lay claim to the most handsome male attendee at the party, even more so than the groom himself.
Contrary to what you might assume, he was alone. No fragile arm to cling to his formidable biceps, eyes to gaze up and admire the hard, masculine contours of his jaw, or a cheek reddened by a few drinks to lay itself to rest on his firm shoulder after a long night of flirtatious talk initiated by a few shots of rum and whiskey. He came sufficiently close for me to scrutinize him as he passed by. It did not go unseen that cheeky wink he gave to Alice, to which she responded with a smile; she raised her hand to cover it, and she quickly turned away to bury her dazzled gaze elsewhere into the thick hedges of the garden. He gave me a tap on the arm, said good night, and went off.
“Who is he?” I asked her, when he was far enough away.
“I think he is the groom’s cousin or something. He sure is cute,” she confessed, absolute and unapologetic of her remark. She then leaned forward slightly, and said to me in a low whisper that even the eyes of some of the married women were after him, and she winked after she said it.
How did she know?
Well, she replied to me that, “People think they are subtle, but a trained eye can catch anything,” as if she wore some lens that revealed to her a different world than the one which I perceived. The laughter, the rubbing, the touching, the gazing, the embracing, was it all more than what it appeared?
I wanted to make sure that she was the exception, so I confronted her directly.
“Yes, obviously," she assured me, "I have eyes reserved only for you…," her eyes were dancing back and forth as she said it, and she added that she was too busy following her sister around all night anyway to talk to anyone for more than a minute.
Later that night, thinking that the handsome man had abandoned the party, he returned, embarrassed, and confessed that he had forgotten his wallet somewhere in the hall. Alice fetched it for him, remembering immediately where she saw the wallet last, and returned in a sprint with it. I was away with the groom when I glanced across the room and caught sight of them both standing at the entrance. She gave it to him and he reached for her; he pulled her in, seizing her from her small waist with his large hands, and embraced her. His nose and lips lingered near her neck, and I was certain he had whispered something… something I'd rather not imagine. He left the party thereafter, sucking the humility out of the air on his way out, for the second and final time that night.
“Do you believe me now? Or do you require another example?” intervened suddenly the man who resembled me, the kidnapper.
He thought he could convince me, but I did not think myself as much a fool then, so I ignored him. I demanded for him to take us back into the white room and to return Alice to me, unharmed.
Again, with his familiar, vexing composure, he responded, “Oh? Well, before you do that chap, you might want to follow me into the room. I've got one more thing to show you."
The revolver I carried sounded suddenly with a click to remind him who really was in charge.
"I am not trying to harm you,” he claimed, “what friend harms another friend?”
Can you believe it? Even when threatened he taunted me. It had to be a trap, so I suspected, but he promised that if I indulged his whim and followed, he would eventually give me Alice.
"Why should I not just kill you now and open the door myself?" I essentially postulated.
"You could very well do that, but only I can lead us back."
I challenged him by rushing to the nearest door, hoping to find the all-white room from before, but the doors all led me into their logical destinations. The bathroom door led to the bathroom, the patio door to the patio, the exits, the kitchen, all doors remained faithful to their logical destinations, and so It was true that if I wanted Alice, I had no choice. I could not return on my own, thus I followed.
He led me to the bedroom reserved for the newlywed couple, but the door, when opened, revealed something different entirely.
This time we were at a housewarming party. Alice's sister and her husband of two years had purchased a home in the suburbs. Their closest friends were invited, even the tall, handsome man.
I remember it. We were still at home. Alice was preparing herself for the occasion with an enthusiasm never seen before in her. She hadn’t decided on her appearance, and she quarrelled with herself over a revealing red dress or a more casual look in a white t-shirt with jeans, and I wondered as I waited, what owed to her indecision? She'd run out and ask for my opinion, become unsatisfied with it no matter how approving and pleasant, and she'd lock herself in the bathroom for another half-hour.
I reminded her that it was only a simple party, informal, nothing special, but she insisted on the perfect outfit, which, in the end, it was the sensual character of the red dress that convinced her.
As I watched her from the bedroom, she applied the last ingredient to her impeccable appearance: a red lipstick that she slowly dragged about her lips. Her mouth suddenly looked like a wild conflagration, and at the mirror she blew her reflection a fiery kiss when finished. She stepped out - her leg revealed through a slit, her small feet fitted into black heels, her freckled shoulders left out in the open, so elegant, so incomprehensibly sophisticated - and she looked at me a moment and said, in regard to her delay, “What? I only want to look good.”
See? See with what indifference she attempted to deceive me?!
When we arrived, the volume of the music had been reduced to a softer, lazier thump, the number of people had dwindled considerably from the number present at the apogee of the night, yawns erupted here and there among the late stragglers, dirty dishes and utensils cluttered the sink.
We entered the main gathering area where we met with the rest of the group, by then only a small congregation scattered about the room. Annabelle was in the kitchen busy boiling water for a hot tea for everyone.
Michael introduced me generally to the group. I said “good evening” to everyone, but to him especially I gave only a silent nod; he leered at me, as if in reproach for standing in the way of his view of Alice, who was still making her way into the living room behind me. He acknowledged me with a lazy salute using only two fingers, after which he shifted his attention elsewhere pompously. Meanwhile, Alice waved at everyone, and likewise said “hello,” but when she came to him finally, she provided him with a more tailored greeting than what she offered the rest. He quickly stood up and embraced her. The pot of water meant for the tea was heated at last to a boil and a jet of steam burst through the nozzle.
“Tea will be ready soon,” her sister announced.
I watched him closely throughout what remained of the evening. I asked of Alice and her whereabouts constantly. I followed her nearly everywhere she went. My focus became impaired slightly after a few drinks, and all else was vague from that point onward. In my stupor, I had lost sight of her, as well as him.
I tumbled my way through a corridor in search of the bathroom when I stumbled on a pair of voices, one male, one female, coming from the master bedroom. I could not see them, but the female voice was familiar. It belonged to Alice.
“So, you’re an artist? How exciting,” I heard Alice say.
Their bodies were hidden by a wall, but against the opened door I saw their shadows move, providing me with an approximate impression of what was happening within the room. I stood there, listening. Many times throughout the conversation, I heard Alice giggle.
“And your husband, what does he do?” She told him that I was a professor of physics. I sensed he cared little for my profession, naturally, though he was willing to speak well of me... when it suited him.
He followed the previous question with another, and asked, “Are you more into art, or science?”
I witnessed the white space between their shadows grow smaller, and by increments, their dark outlines started to combine into one large mass. Alice pondered the question a moment.
“Science is great, but art is way more exciting, I think,” she said to him finally.
“Art is exciting. You never know what will appear on an empty canvas. Unlike science, with all its laws. It’s all so predictable, and boring, don’t you think?”
Alice again kept herself silent, and swiftly altered the subject. I let the conversation carry on for longer than I should have allowed it, and my apprehension was in the end justified! You see, it did not take him long to make a request for her phone number.
She agreed; she tapped in her number in almost a seamless succession of clicks. Within seconds, an avenue of communication formed between them, and now he had access to her.
He was already thinking of taking her out, promising her an invitation to an art exhibit if ever one should come into town, or so went the implication when he said, "I'll call you if there's anything." By now their shadows were a large one cast against the white door of the bedroom, and their voices grew fainter, trailing off to a silence.
No sooner was I on the verge of interrupting them than Annabelle stepped out from her own private bathroom, falling over herself. She thanked them for waiting on her and I afterward heard them shuffle about in the room; I knew instantly that they would come this way. I threw myself into the bathroom in the hall to avoid contact, and I remained there until they had gone and descended the staircase.
“Do you believe me now, young fella?” he said to me from the corner, “Hell, I’d say she was about ready to strip herself,” and he reminded me of the possibilities that would have been if her sister had been absent.
“I won’t let you in my head, you devil, son of a bitch!” no matter what I said, no matter how many times I cursed him, he had already his dirty shoe in the door.
He considered me a worthless, hopeless man to deny myself the truth about her; he questioned my sanity; he asked whether it was not better for me to catch them in the middle of it, in our bed, thrusting under the covers. Maybe then, he kept saying, maybe then I might shake loose of the spell under which I carry on, so blind, so naive.
I ran out the door, but I came out to a different time, and to a different space.
He offered me one final opportunity at the truth when he said that he would show me one final moment more, but that it would be the last.
The halls were silent except for the enthusiastic whispers generated at every gallery. I roamed the area a little. My feet - in some strange way - knew where to take me.
It was when I first entered the Greek exhibit that I came upon Aphrodite, standing under a cone of light. On seeing her the first time, I remembered well just marveling at her sensual figure, half-revealed by a reluctant garment that hung from around her wide marble hips. She drew in large crowds that clustered around her, gawking at the garment as if waiting for it to fall or something. That Aphrodite had captured the determined stare of David was evident as he stood, taller than any other, with his rag thrown over his shoulder, his unwavering eyes set on her, contemplating her half-nude form. The more she received attention from the man that slew Goliath, the more in my estimation a seductive inclination she assumed, and shameless! Shameless to say nothing else of her.
Well, just bending the corner, I heard her voice, her giggling, her little pleasantries falling on the recipient like white handkerchiefs, but to whom were they for, if not for me? I’ll say you to who! They were for him, the handsome man. I stayed back, observing from the shadows how their bodies looked to have an attractive force at work that compelled them toward each other. I saw it all: she would suddenly pull away when their fingers would gently graze, his hand eager to begin the chase, and to seize it like a panting dog in heat. He would point to a painting, move in close for an explanation, and bend over slightly for a chance to whisper into her ear some pompous display of his artistic knowledge; his second hand, meanwhile, slithered around from behind, and perched itself unexpectedly on her shoulder while he had her mesmerized with his intellectual wherewithal.
“See?” The kidnapper suddenly spoke, laughing, and emerging from behind Aphrodite’s pedestal, “do you believe me now?”
In defiance as rigid and unyielding as a mule, I defended Alice from the accusations made against her by him. I spoke highly of that woman’s fidelity, and her virtues, but she did nothing to support my remonstrance. As I praised her, her fingers were too busy teasing, her eyes --- were busy flirting, her lips were busy puckering, and only when he looked. She laughed --- and her hand found it difficult to keep itself away from his arms. So much harmless touching. So much --- 
“Look, the way he is with her," he continued, "he moves stealthily. Look at her a moment, and tell me, is that not the face of infatuation?!”
My heart began to grow cold then. What for a fortress I had as my belief that kept safe the purity of my little white flower, had been brutally penetrated, like the Bastille, and I pondered the reasons for whether I should carry on. Finally, the air of loneliness grew too windy for me, too gusty for what remained of my crumbled trust, the ruins of it turned dust.
“Take me back,” I requested, and I said to him, “I’ve had enough. No more. No more...”
He turned to set off for a new direction, and hailed for me as he began to walk away. I followed his heavy footsteps to another door.
He grabbed on to a silver handle and turned it; he pushed and the door opened with a creak. When we entered, that was when I laid eyes again on the door behind which Alice was kept.
He said to me, “well, there is the door. Go on and open it. I won’t stop you...”
I looked at the door. I wanted to move, but I didn’t. I thought that I ought to move, and I couldn’t. I knew I had to move, but it was as if I were chained to heavy, enormous blocks.
“Well?” he began to say to me, “I thought you had come to rescue her.”
I replied that I had thought the same, and that now I stood with a different purpose, or rather no purpose. You ever entered a room and forgot the reason by which you entered?
However, in the end, to ascertain finally whether my wife was alive or dead, I had to look past the door. Out of sheer human decency, I had to give the other side a gander.
I stood before it, but I had become reticent when I placed my hand where the two doors met, just before I gave it a push. I shook my head to rattle my mind into rectitude, and I impelled it forward. The large doors slowly parted. I thought about Alice, whether she would be revealed to me alive, or dead. My thoughts hurried back and forth between these two alternatives, working to gain an advantage one over the other, so to gain possession of me, as if it were a race to fertilize my mind with whatever little seed they carried.
I’ll never forget it when he said to me, before I decided on pushing the door, laughing hysterically as he said it, that I was stepping into absurdity; I was stepping into madness!
When I was able to get a full view of the inside, I saw for an instant what worlds existed beyond it, and but for an instant, I felt the simultaneous pain of her loss and the joy of her presence.
Suddenly, a white flash of light shone forth, and I couldn’t see; it engulfed me entirely within seconds. I was thinking of Alice before it took me.
Moments later, I opened my eyes to find I was back home, in my bedroom. Nothing looked out of place. The clock, ringing at my bedside, alerted me to the fact that it was about two hours past dawn. The covers had been turned over, as they usually are by then. I figured she must’ve risen early and gone outdoors to attend to the flowers in the garden. I longed to see her beautiful face, bent over, wearing her soiled, dirty gloves; I wanted to share with her the details of my odious experience that she inspired, so to alleviate the fright still within me.
I walked through a narrow, dim corridor; I passed a mirror hanging from a nail that had been driven into the wall. My reflection revealed as I passed a lonely, convalescent man, and I thought what a terrible night to have made me look so ill in the morning. The bathroom door was opened; the blinds were shuttered both upstairs and down; the front door had no lock engaged; a few pieces of mail were wedged through the slit. others thrown about; the dinner table meticulously arranged; The dishes in the rack washed, yet untouched; an armchair in the study room moved so to face the fireplace; all over, on the floor, were pictures of Annabelle’s wedding laid out. The gardening gloves were not on the table, near the entrance, where they usually are. I heard a siren faintly wail in the distance. I hurried to the kitchen window, thinking there she’d be, and I looked out.
The white flowers in the garden (a few of them trampled) swayed in the wind, bent over by it, as if weeping.

Submitted: July 15, 2021

© Copyright 2023 Leon Casillas. All rights reserved.

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A brilliant science fiction story.

Thu, August 26th, 2021 6:18am


I'm happy you enjoyed reading it! And thank you for the feedback. I appreciate it.

Thu, August 26th, 2021 6:14am

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