The Door

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


 

The Door

“Tell me where she is!” I demanded of the man who had kidnapped my wife, and quite possibly may have killed her, though I wasn’t sure. What’s more, I was initially astonished at the uncanny resemblance we shared in appearance, as it was much in the way particles consist of two pairs, one positive and one negative, equal and opposite. Such was the case that I was almost afraid to even lay a hand on him.

When I entered the room that I had pursued him into, a strange feeling almost immediately struck me.

I stood in a square space, though it was not certain that it was a square space. The extent of either side to my left and right appeared to go on forever; I reasoned that It must be due to an illusion of the eye, so that if I were to walk far enough, eventually I would reach a barrier. I saw none, and there was no object to use as a reference to measure any sort of distance.

All was white in the room. The walls were smooth, and immaculate. If it were the case that the walls were stained by even the smallest dark blot, that stain would be visible from any distance, and yet I saw none from what cursory survey I could make of it in haste. Everything as I witnessed it was white, without flaw or shadow, infinite.

“What is this place?” I asked him, as I was struck with such stupefaction that for a moment I’d forgotten the reason for which I arrived, so agitated.

“Are you to tell me that you don’t recognize it?”

“What are you out of your mind? How can I? I have never been to this place.”

“Oh, but you have. Many times in the past. Sometimes against your will even,” he told me, so sure of it, “and I’ve been here for each of your visitations, although you’ve never acknowledged me.”

I shook my head.

“Enough! I won’t ask again, where is she!?”

He grinned, and then he pointed to a door next to him: a tall, intricately carved, Dantean gateway.

“There?” I pointed with the nozzle of the gun to the door. He confirmed with a nod. “Is she alive?”

“I’m not going to say,” he said to me, mysteriously, and with a sly air that I sensed we were engaged in some kind of perverse game.

“Why the hell not?!”

I now held the handle with two hands, the other brought up to reaffirm my commitment to the threat made earlier when I had but one on the handle.

“You will have to decide if she is dead… or alive. All you must do is open the door, and see.

How could I decide?

“Stop this craziness and tell me, right now!” I again vehemently demanded.

He shook his head, grinning, exposing to me his crooked teeth. The man began to laugh; a morbid laughter he let out at my anguish. It was a heckle of a laugh. There are sounds which will bring a person to madness without explanation, and that is one of them.

“Why do you want to save her anyway, huh!? Don’t you know of her infidelity? Don’t you yet realize the promiscuity of that woman?”

“You're lying! You don’t know anything about her, you deranged jackal, you slithering lizard. Hell is too good a place for you. Open the door!”

He was not moved at all. He stood calmly, composed; he toyed with his hands deviously. Whatever depravity entered his head, it was enough so that a wicked smile formed on his face.

“But I do know something about her. Remember the party? The wedding?”

“How do you know about it?”

“Surely you don’t mean that you did not recognize me. Why, I was there. Look,” 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 more 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. The guests were seated, my wife, Alice, included. She turned to me and told me to sit, and that Michael, the groom, was to momentarily commence his grand declaration to his wife, Annabelle.

Just as he had said, I saw him standing by some column of an antiquated pattern that resembled a snake coiled around it. I remembered that night, though the memory of his presence admittedly remains more or less vague. He was such a natural fixture of the scene, however, that I was convinced quite easily that this must have been the case, and no more did I question it. 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 with each other. 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 common assumptions, he was alone. No fragile arm to cling to his formidable biceps, eyes to gaze up and view 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 drinking and celebrations, of toasts and well-wishes for the future. 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, done almost as if by a wish to not be caught in the act; she quickly turned away and drew her attention elsewhere. 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 replied, ”The girls were all over him tonight,” she leaned closer to me, “even some of the married women,” and she gave me a playful wink of her own.

“How do you know that?”

“Oh, you can tell. People think they are subtle, but a trained eye can catch anything.”

“Well, I’m sure you were the exception tonight.”

“Yea, obviously. I have eyes reserved only for you…. Besides, I was too busy following my 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 sheepishly 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 nearly as if she had returned with it wedged between her two rows of teeth. 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?” said the man who resembled me, the kidnapper.

“Stop it, you won’t convince me of anything. Take me back and reveal her to me, or I'll put an end to this myself!”

“Oh? Well, before you do that chap, you might want to follow me into the room there. I've got one more thing to show you before you do me in, If you don't mind."

"I'm sure it's some kind of trap."

"Oh, well of course not! By now I'd thought you realize that I am not trying to harm you. What friend harms another friend? If you but indulge me, I give you my word that I'll reveal your wife to you immediately after."

"Why shouldn't I just kill you now and open the door myself?"

"You could very well do that, but how will you find your way back? 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 led to where any sane, rational person should expect them to. It was true. I had no choice. I could not return on my own, so I followed.

He led me to the bedroom reserved for the newlywed couple, but the door, when opened, revealed something different entirely.

We found ourselves suddenly in yet another reunion, this time a house warming. Alice's sister and her husband of two years had purchased a home in a suburban area of the city. All were invited, even the tall, handsome man.

I remember, we were still at home. Alice was preparing herself for the occasion with an enthusiasm never before seen. A common quip against women goes that they require long hours to get ready. Alice had taken this to a new degree of truth, and I wondered as I waited, what for? 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. Needless to say, we would arrive late that night to the party. I had secretly hoped that the handsome man would grow tired, or perhaps think the party so beneath him so as to waste another minute more, and leave.

“Remember, this is only a housewarming party. Nothing special,” I told her.

“I know that, Mark. I just want to look good is all.”

She applied the last ingredient to her appearance: a red lipstick that she slowly dragged about her lips; her mouth looked like a wild conflagration, and at the mirror she blew her reflection a kiss when she was ready.

It’s all for that tall handsome man I know it is there is no way that she would dress this way if it were just any other event it has to be because he will be there why else would she put so much effort she is thinking of him I can’t let this keep going on if I catch him talking to her I will have to intervene I have to I have to I have to I have to!

When we arrived, the volume of the music had been reduced to a soft whisper, the number of people had dwindled considerably from the number present at the apogee of the night, yawns erupted here and there among those remaining, dirty dishes and utensils cluttered the sink, and a large platter contained the remnants of a what seemed like a large serving worthy of a thanksgiving dinner some hours before.

We entered the living room and there we got to see what was left of the party, a small congregation scattered about the room. He was there. He was still there.

“You remember my cousin, don’t you?” the husband asked me. I gave a silent nod, and I held my hand up in acknowledgement of him. 

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 the point onward. In my stupor, I had lost sight of Alice, as well as him.

I stumbled through a corridor looking for the bathroom when I came upon a pair of voices, one male, one female. They came from the master bedroom. I could not see them at all, but the female voice was familiar. It belonged to Alice.

“So, you’re an artist? How exciting,” I heard Alice say.

I could not see them entirely. 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?” he then asked her. She revealed to him that I was a professor of physics, to which he responded in a tone of feigned admiration. I sensed he cared little for my profession, naturally, though he was willing to speak well of me when it suited him.

Following up the previous question with another, he 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 far more exciting,” she said to him finally.

“Art is exciting,” he replied, agreeingly, “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 kept herself silent, and swiftly altered the subject. I let the conversation carry on for longer than I should have allowed it, and at some point, he asked her for her phone number.

“Of course! Yeah,” she tapped in her number, each click zestful as she struck the glass with her fingertips. Within minutes, an avenue of communication was opened, and 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 Alice’s sister stepped out from her own private bathroom, on the verge of falling over. She thanked them for waiting on her and I afterward heard them shuffle about in the room; I knew instantly that they would sooner or later come this way. I threw myself into the bathroom in the hall to avoid contact, and I remained there until they had descended the staircase.

“Do you believe me now, young fella? They did in fact exchange numbers that night. Why, see, how comfortable was he? How comfortable was she? Hell, I’d say she was about ready to strip herself. What if her sister hadn’t been there, what then? The two of them… alone?”

“Stop it! Nothing happened that night. I know that for a fact. You can’t fool me, you devil, son of a bitch.”

“My god, you are a hopeless man! You deny yourself the truth about this woman! What must I show you? What will convince you!? Would you like to catch them in the middle of it, right there in your bed!?”

I ran out the  door, but I came out to a different time, and to a different space.

“Now I’ll show ya. But this will be the last,” he said to me, sounding confident with an absolute certainty that he would somehow prevail in his endeavor.

“Look it there, you remember this don’t you?” he then said to me.

The halls were silent, the clack from soles striking the hard-wood filled the void left by the want of sonorous chatter, for it was far too preoccupied in private, analytical discussions regarding the artifacts sealed within cases of glass. I roamed the area a little; I remembered it for its modernist architecture, minimalist in style, white; my steps were deliberate. My feet knew exactly where to take me.

The art museum, my mind began to think, acquainting itself with the memory of it.

It was then when I first entered the exhibit that I was met by Aphrodite of Milos, as if conscious of waiting thousands of years to meet me finally, standing patiently under a cone of light. On seeing her the first time, I remembered well marveling at her sensual figure, half-revealed by a reluctant garment that hung from around her wide hips. Her flexible form drew in large crowds around her, and she appeared happy to entertain its glances and arouse its combined admiration. 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 the naked Aphrodite before him. The more she received attention from the man that slew Goliath, the more in my estimation a seductive inclination she assumed, and shameless to say no more.

Just bending the corner, I heard her voice, her giggling, her pleasantries falling on the recipient like white handkerchiefs, or a rain of cherry blossoms, but to whom were they for, if not for me? I’ll say who, it was 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. 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, emerging from behind Aphrodite’s pedestal, “do you believe me now?”

“I knew of this meeting. She told me. I knew she’d be here, but --- ”

“She never said with whom she would be.” 

“She might have mentioned it! I just… can’t remember…”

“Look, the way he is with her. He moves with great stealth. Look at her for a moment, and tell me, is that not the face of infatuation?!”

My heart began to grow cold then. I felt the frigid air of loneliness enveloping me within its small eddies, isolating me from her. He still had Alice hidden away, but I pondered whether I should carry on.

“Take me back,” I requested, sullenly.

He turned, orienting himself to set off for a new direction, and hailed for me as he began to walk away. I followed his heavy footsteps that echoed throughout the silent halls of the museum, and we approached yet another door.

He grabbed on to a silver handle and turned it. The door opened with a creak. I did not recognize where we were, but he assured me it to be the same place as before, the white room, though it had somehow lost its immaculate white walls. In their stead were walls with many stains, and cracks, succumbing to degradation. I could see at last where the room began and where it ended. Shadows swept in where there were none and have since conquered the purity of the place. I laid eyes on the door behind which Alice was kept.

“Well, there is the door. Go on… open it. I won’t stop you.”

“Is there anyone to even save in there at all?”

“That is for you to discover. So, open it young fella.”

Why should I anymore? Almost serves her right for what she did...

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 held back by enormous cinder blocks chained to my ankles.

“Well?” He asked me, “I thought you had come to rescue her.”

To ascertain finally whether my wife was alive or dead, I had to look past the door. It was intricately carved with hellish images of men succumbing to their own madness, faces become twisted, bodies contorted by the very distortions of the mind that plagued all figures on it; the intricacy of that work grew more grotesque the more I approached it, as if it were almost possible to hear the screams of those poor, tormented souls from the hardwood. The handle was made of a metal, now turned rusted.

I grabbed hold of It, and I was determined to rotate the damn thing, but I had become reticent when I turned the knob  a fourth of the way around. 

I began to think thusly: If I open this door I will either be turned a savior or a murderer why a murderer because ignorance keeps her alive if I knew before hand then surely I will have killed her by the simple act of knowing I don’t know what to do not knowing is all that is keeping her alive but she gave herself willingly to that handsome man but on the other hand she is my wife…

I shook my head to rattle my mind into rectitude, and I turned the rusty, decayed knob the entire way and I pulled. The door opened.

I was returned to one of my classrooms, the particular one in which Alice and I met, way back when I was a young and inexperienced professor; when she herself wore a rebellious, younger woman’s clothes, experimenting in love, proving and disproving her own hypotheses thereof. Some time after (it is difficult to indicate precisely when) our furtive relationship entered into more serious matters, she confessed to me, one night, the conclusions she had reached from the experiments conducted on the subject in her youth, during her days at University. 

“Mark,” she said to me, in soft whispers in the dark, beneath the sheets, “you know what I learned about love during my time in College?”

“Do I want to know? I am the jealous type, just so you know, my dear,” I said to her, teasingly.

“No, silly… not that,” she smiled, “I learned something else entirely. I learned that love shares some similarities to physics, did you know?” 

“Oh, really? How so?”

“Well, for instance, when you love someone, there is this strange attachment that is developed, almost as if you become entangled to them somehow, so that the one pair knows something about the other no matter what distance they are apart.”

“Go on,” I said to her.

She gave me a look that complemented the coquette that I knew she was.

“I’ve never felt it before with any other man that I’ve been with, but I do with you, and it is strange. It was a moment of eureka, just like you scientists have during an intense period of insight."

"I know the feeling..."

"Well, If the sensation is true, you therefore must know --- ”

I gave her a look then, and I reached across the bed for her hand.

“I feel the same of you, Alice. So then, there must be no other explanation for it, other than your discovery proven true, that is, we must truly be an entangled pair.”

The entire class was in attendance, watching me. I assumed I was in the middle of a lecture when one of the students called out to me. 

“You were explaining, professor? The superposition of a particle?”

“Y --- Yes. I was… sorry. Now, where was I…”

I could not see Alice. No matter where I looked, not near the pillar at the far end of the classroom, where I saw her originally on that first occasion, nor was she at the front. She was nowhere. I went ahead with the lecture, discussing subjects that concerned the nature of reality, and a voice again called out.

“She's not here, professor.”

Perplexed, I replied, “what do you mean?”

“your wife, Alice, she isn’t here. She never was. She’s dead.”

“No, she’s not, she’s alive!” Another student shouted in refutation.

Each student thus decided to express their own opinion on the matter, and the entire affair grew too overwhelming to continue to listen to. Voices back and forth affirming she lived, others affirming the contrary. The voices easily numbered in the hundreds, affirming both yes and no regarding her welfare. Their chorus of back and forth refutations entered into a terrible crescendo.

“Dead!”

“Alive!”

“Dead!”

“Alive!”

I held my head between my hands. I screamed and I knelt before the entire class. I closed my eyes and fell to the floor. I called out to her. She wasn’t there.

Moments later, I opened my eyes. 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. Alice had always been an early-riser. I had hoped to see her outdoors, just as I did every morning, attending to the flowers in the garden bed as I looked outside the kitchen window. I longed to see her beautiful face, bent over, wearing her soiled gloves; I wanted to share with her the details of my odious dream that she inspired, so to alleviate the fright still within me.

I walked through a narrow corridor; I passed a mirror hanging from a nail that had been driven into the wall. My reflection revealed as I passed by a lonely, convalescent ambulant. The door to the bathroom was open; 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; 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. The gardening gloves were not on the table, near the entrance. I hurried to the kitchen window, thinking there she’d be, and I looked out.

The flowers in the garden swayed in the wind, bent over by it as if weeping.

 


Submitted: July 15, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Leon Casillas. All rights reserved.

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