The Locked Door

Submitted into Contest #130 in response to: Write a story titled ‘The Locked Door.’... view prompt


Drama Fiction

He gripped the doorknob, the cold brass sending a chill through his small hand. He turned his wrist, not surprised to hear the click that always accompanied the knob’s premature halt. 

Well, the door always clicked now. It didn't before... but he could hardly remember a time when the knob was able to rotate past this point.

Was there ever a time when this door opened? 

The doorknob stopped at exactly the same spot when he rotated it left and when he rotated it to the right. He didn’t react; he no longer reacted. He no longer cried out, screaming at the barrier in hopes that they might hear him on the other side. He was sure they heard him.

They no longer cared.

They didn't care when they surely heard his cries that first night when he tried to open the door they'd locked tight. They ignored his shouts, his screams to open the door.

They never listened.

The door hadn't opened in so long.


He gripped the doorknob, the cool brass spreading a soothing sensation across his palm. He turned the knob - first to the left, then to the right. This daily ritual represented more hope than expectation. He didn't even wait to hear the first click before turning the knob in the other direction. He jiggled the handle a few more times before his hand flopped to his side, dangling there as he stared at the wooden barrier.

He wanted to call out for them, but he’d called out for them so many times. It didn't matter how loudly or how many times he called out for them, his parents never came to the door.

The shouts softened over the months since he screamed himself hoarse that first night. Now, he could hardly hear his own voice when he called for them through the door; he doubted anyone on the other side could hear him.

Still, he made an attempt every day - however meager it may have been.

"Hello? Are you there? Is anyone there?"

He heard nothing but his soft voice bounce off the wooden door - yet again.

A notion popped in his head. Crazy, to be sure, but he entertained it for a moment. What would it have been like to actually hear a response? Or, even crazier, if the door had actually opened.

The shock! 

Oh! What a shock that would have been. But…

The door hadn't opened in so long.


He gripped the doorknob, the brass sphere smooth and lifeless in his hand. It always felt the same - yet today, it felt a bit... different. Or maybe it was him. He felt differently.

He was almost... optimistic.

He was even hopeful that maybe the door would…

No. He shook his head. Best not to get his hopes up. He knew the door wouldn't open. But perhaps he would at least hear them on the other side. There, that was something he could be hopeful about.

Where this wave of optimism was coming from, he had no idea. As he began to turn the brass handle, though, he pressed his ear against the crack where the door seemed glued to its frame.

He heard the metallic click of the knob hitting its left and right limits. 

He heard the wood creak as he leaned his body against the door. 

But he also heard...


Perfect silence, same as always.

He let out a short sigh, releasing the breath he hadn't realized he was holding. It was a pointless pursuit, listening for sounds that no longer existed to him. He didn't even know what he was listening for. There was -


What was that

So quiet he could barely perceive it. If not for his ears being attuned to the sound of silence, he might not have noticed the slight deviation from the norm.

He even thought he recognized the sound, but he couldn’t quite place it.  He hadn’t been around others in so long. What sounds did people make? What sounds did his parents make? Would he even recognize those sounds?

He struggled, his mind warped by months of inescapable silence in his prison cell. What was it?


He tested his overgrown fingernails against the wood of the door, listening to the sound of the nails on the ripples of the wood pattern. No, it wasn’t scratching.


He tested his soft voice against the quiet air. “Hello”, he whispered. “Is there anyone there?” 

No, that wasn't it either. He knew it wasn't when he heard the same sound as it grew quieter. Quieter... until it disappeared altogether.

What was that sound? If only he could ask someone. 


He considered the possibility that they'd come to finally open the door. What would he do the moment he burst through the doorway?

Oh, he knew very well what he would do if the door was ever opened. He'd had so long to think about it - years to think about it. But...

The door hadn't opened in so long.


He gripped the doorknob, the warm brass a welcome sensation as he held onto the smooth metal.  He paused, letting the warmth seep into his palm. He smiled; something felt different today.

He pressed his ear to the corner as he always did. Sometimes he heard the sound of footsteps shuffling away from the door – a sound he eventually recognized after hearing it on various occasions. Other times, he heard nothing more than the hum of life existing on the other side of the door, completely separated from him and his existence. 

Today, as he took a deep breath to call again for his parents, a new sound cut his words off, leaving them unspoken and dangling in his throat. Caught off guard, he stepped back from the door.

Was that... clicking? It sounded like a clicking sound.

It also sounded like something... scraping against the door, maybe? 

Yes, scraping, but not a fingernail. He’d tested that a few times already and knew that sound. No, this was harder. Moving along the edge of the door next to the frame.

He pressed his ear against the door, hard enough now to flatten his ear completely. The pain of the hard surface crushing his ear was nothing compared to the novelty of a new sound. 

What was it? 

What did it mean? 

The sliding sound stopped. Another small click.

Then silence once more. 

The only other sound was the all-too-familiar sound of feet shuffling, getting quieter. Quieter...

The disappointment caused by the newfound silence lasted mere moments before a thought hit him like a freight train.

Maybe they unlocked the door!

He lurched for the handle, his chest leaping as much as he was. He wrapped his hand around the handle and turned, not even considering the possibility of it stopping where it'd been stopping for months now.

He should've known better.

The door hadn't opened in so long.


He gripped the doorknob, though his focus was centered on the ear he again pressed against the door. He tugged at the knob, twisting halfheartedly, not bothering to jiggle the knob after the first click. 

Would there be more sliding and clicking today? He hoped they would. He spent all night thinking about the sound, testing various surfaces around him to see if he could figure out what the sounds represented. What were they?

He didn’t call out for his parents, not today. They seemed to stick around more when they thought he wasn't next to the door.

He stood pressed against the door, listening but hearing nothing. Seconds passed, then minutes. His ear was aching by the time he pulled back, the pain too much to bear with nothing to listen to. He pressed his back to the door, sliding down to sit in disappointment. 

Another day of silence.

Another day of being ignored.

Another day of being locked out of his parent’s lives.

Another day of…

There… the soft sound of shuffling feet. His ear wasn’t pressed to the door but he’d learned to recognize the sound. His heart leapt, but he didn’t move. He didn’t want them to hear him near the door.

For a moment, the sound of shuffling feet ceased after it reached the door. What were they thinking? Were they wondering if he was going to call out again? Did they think he wouldn’t be next to the door? 

The sound of clicking, rattling, preceded the same sliding sound as before. He wanted to leap to his feet, to call out to the person on the other side. He knew better.

He waited.

The sliding ended with a final, quiet click. Something small hit the door.

Then silence. Seconds passed without a sound. He waited, curious what would come next. Shuffling feet? More sliding? Even hearing the sounds again, he had no idea what they were. He’d heard sliding sounds before, but those sounds were metal sliding against metal. This was different.

The silence was broken by a sound he was very familiar with: the sound of the doorknob being jiggled – but this time, there was no click. And his hand wasn’t on the knob.

Realization hit him at the same moment the wood supporting his back pulled away ever so slightly. His breath caught in his through, he whipped his head around and looked up.

At first, his father didn’t look down – the old man’s eyes seemed to be searching, scanning through the small gap between the frame and the door. 

While his father was occupied overlooking him, he reached his hand through the small opening. His father was caught off guard by the sound of his son’s voice. “Finally.” 

His father gasped. “Shit!

The pain registered before the sound of the slamming door reached his ears. He yanked his hand back, tearing the skin from the top of his hand. His father didn’t notice – or care – that his hand was caught in the door. The door slammed shut the moment his hand was free.

He looked up at the place where his father’s face had been just moments before.

He smiled.

The door hadn't opened in so long


He gripped the windowsill, the grit of the concrete rough against his palm. That was good, he’d need it to maintain his grip. The skin he’d lose to the concrete’s sandpaper surface was nothing compared to what he would gain if he could hold on.

His leg bent, kicked, flailed… trying to find a suitable foothold somewhere on the brick wall. He could feel the soft skin of his palm grating against the windowsill, his grip not quite strong enough to support his weight. He needed to get a foothold before his hands gave out and caused him to fall the two stories back to the ground.

He felt his toe slip into a crevice big enough to press down against. The pressure on his palms eased instantly. 

Was he doing the right thing?

No, he’d made up his mind. Truthfully, he’d made up his mind long ago, but he was willing to wait until his parents opened the door for him. Welcomed him. Embraced him.

Perhaps that would've changed his mind.

The throbbing he felt from his scab-covered hand, freshly bleeding from the strain of his climb, was all the reminder he needed of the reality of the situation. That they’d embraced him for the last time years ago.

He pressed his hand against the window to his parent's bedroom, watching his mother to see if she noticed. How would she react? Would his father come running?

Time to find out.

Pushing up with both hands, he easily lifted the window left unlocked due to the perceived protection of being on the second floor. They'd always left this window unlocked.

"What the... what the hell?! Frank! Frank he's coming through the window!"

He smiled.

"Well, I would have rather walked through the door, but that door hasn't been opened in so long Mom."


He gripped the doorknob, the brass ball familiar yet incredibly strange. It had been so long since the last time he’d held the knob on this side of the door.

He ran his fingers over the doorknob's brass dial, leaving a small crimson smudge along its edge. How difficult was it turn this dial? He checked...

Not difficult at all.

So why didn't they let him back in?

Oh, he'd heard their lies. Their excuses.

We just wanted you to get the help you needed, son.

Have you taken your medication, son?

We love you, son.

He couldn't believe them; the audacity to call him "son".

He turned the knob, still half-expecting the brass ball to stop after a moment of turning. The door eased back as the metal catch retracted from the frame. He gave the door a push, finally able to open...

It stopped.

He still couldn't open the door?! He could see the orange rays from sunrise through the crack between the frame and the door, but he couldn't push any further.

He looked up to where he heard a clank sound. A shiny, new brass chain sat in a similarly shiny sliding lock chamber, preventing the door from moving further than two inches or so from its frame.

He chuckled. Mystery solved.

He closed the door momentarily, sliding the brass bolt and chain out of the sliding chamber. When he turned the handle and pushed, this time the door offered no resistance. No more locks, no more barriers.

It had been years since he'd had this kind of freedom - and this time, they wouldn't be sending him back. They couldn't... not anymore.

He shut the door behind him one last time and walked out to the street. On the way, he passed a younger man in a tie carrying a clipboard under his arm. He watched as the young man turned down the sidewalk towards the door he'd just shut.

After the man knocked for the second time, he called out.

"I wouldn't bother. That door hasn't opened in so long.

I doubt they'll ever open it again."

January 27, 2022 18:28

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