The Green Door

Submitted into Contest #30 in response to: Write a story in which someone finds a secret passageway.... view prompt

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Mystery

“Val…Hey, Val,”

“What, Ro” I glared blearily at my younger brother, who interrupted my nap.

“We’re here!” he grins at me, fully aware of how much I despised feigned excitement. I scowled at him, then at the direction of the house looming over the family sedan. It seemed to be just large enough, and just square enough, to be perfectly pretentious. Pretentious is a good word for this event tonight. Dad’s new boss invited the whole family over for dinner, just weeks after joining the company.

As I trudged behind Dad and Ro to the front door, I couldn’t help but notice, how perfectly trimmed the shrubs, perfectly decorated the front porch, and perfectly dainty the frosted glass double doors looked. Obnoxious would be an understatement. If I didn’t know any better, I would expect the door be answered by Mr. Boss’s wife, dressed to the nines of a 50’s housewife down to a detailed strand of pearls around her neck. It would be a surprise to be thoroughly wrong. Obviously, a teenager on the verge of graduation would want nothing more to do on a Friday night than to accompany her parents and younger brother to a stiffly hosted “dinner party” where our family was the only one invited. “Mom, do I really have to be here?” I grumbled.

“Shush, yes you do. Your Dad’s boss insisted we all attend. And besides, you’re absolutely the cutest in your dress and flats” she responded as I forced myself to resist the ever famous Vallory eyeroll. Dad approached the door and pressed the bell. The night around us seemed to grow quieter, and quieter still. The awkwardness left me desiring to be in my room, wearing a fuzzy onesie, watching meaningless episode after episode on Netflix.

“Hello! Welcome!” Mrs. Boss erupted through the door. No 50’s housewife ensemble, but maybe this night could be interesting yet. “Oh, do come in,” she ushered us towards the sitting room, “my husband will be joining us soon, he just had to run and get this sauce…” She droned on for what seemed like hours, and my parents chuckled charmingly, as appropriate in social situations that require the utmost politeness.

Ro kept himself occupied with the new game app on his phone. He and his school friends challenged each other on it constantly. However, I was curious as to how a house like this became available on the market so abruptly. It almost looked brand new, but nothing in this neighborhood was brand new. The people that resided here were notorious for having immense pride in heritage, and expressed so by renovating their homes in various antiquated styles of architecture. I twisted the ring on my left hand as my vague attention dissolved into blatant boredom. “Excuse me, may I use your bathroom?” I interrupt.

“Sure, right down the hall to your left,” Mrs. Boss smiled brightly at me- a complete façade. This woman didn’t want to host this “party” as much as I didn’t want to be here. I nodded to her in thanks and made my way to get “lost” in her home.

I turned the corner, and found myself staring at boxes upon boxes overflowing with posters, trophies, and framed pictures. The whole corridor appeared to have been upchucked from the eighties, from what looked like an assortment of tired rock band t-shirts, and a Walkman, to a seemingly extensive collection of cassettes and records…but no record player. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mrs. Boss, or Mr. Boss himself couldn’t help but revisit their teenage years every now and then. A booming voice resonated from the sitting room, “Well look who it is! The Mendelle family!” The pleasantries resumed, the sound travelling away. Everyone began moving towards the dining room.

I stepped carefully through the crowded space and snuck up the stairs. A quick survey of the place made it obvious that although Mr. Boss took over the role a couple months ago, the family altogether had not moved up here until much more recently. None of the rooms seemed filled with any semblance of life. There was no chaotic explosion of half unpacked necessities. There were no bare essentials laying out on the floors like a promise of a home to be made. The sitting room and dining room looked like the only areas of the house unpacked, especially for our arrival.

Lost in thought, I almost missed the last door to the right, across from the landing. All of the rooms in this proud house had perfectly shiny, faceted, clear glass doorknobs. They fit in thematically with the shrubs, the porch, the front doors, and the elegant sitting room. This door, however, was the glaring antithesis to all of the picturesque qualities leading up to it. The door itself was surprisingly unappealing. The handle was a rudimental carving of an infinity symbol, out of a sizable crystal, cloudy to the point it was almost dirty. There was something about the way it demanded to exist in imperfection, an enticing energy on its own. This strange infinity, had shallow dips in stone filled with luminescence where the hollows should be, making eyes that sear past the deceptive exterior most people wish to portray to others. How ironic.

I blinked, and the sensation was gone just as soon as it came. It was the laughter from downstairs that broke the reverie. Reluctantly I turned away from the mysterious door, and peeked over the banister curious at the sound, only to meet the careful stare of Mrs. Boss. She wore a smile that didn’t quite reach the warning in her imperceptibly widened eyes. She was the only one that could see me up here from the positioning at the table. Ever so slightly, she shook her head, don’t touch that I mean it. It went unnoticed by the others. Of course, that only intrigued me further. I held her gaze intentionally a moment more, turned abruptly back to the mysterious door, and yanked it open by the infinity. I stepped forward without looking backwards. There was no lighting save for the dim glow of a second banister that seemed to lead downwards in the opposite direction of the one I climbed to get up here. For a moment I hesitated…but forget this dinner party; I’m more interested in an adventure.

A gentle hum resonated from the crystal banister as soon as I trailed a finger along the top. One step, two steps, three steps…A door appeared to my right, and at the top ledge sat a plaque back-lit with the same glow from the infinity knob. It read “February 27, 2020.” Today’s date. Underneath, was the word “confused.” Truly confused, and thoroughly fascinated, I pushed the unremarkable door open only to see a vast darkness. It was a blank vision completely unmuted; this was no room, but a gap in space and time that cradled a sense of anticipation. It was a slow and satisfying sense of fulfillment that made breathing feel like utter freedom, like anything was possible in the world. A silent white smoke appeared in the distance, tendrils rising from an unseen source, as though a giant candle was snuffed out. Curling upwards, this sole visible entity reached for something beyond my comprehension, before inevitably dissipating into the nothingness once more. I couldn’t perceive a ground or floor of any kind, and didn’t dare step forward for a closer look. Eventually the smoke consolidated into a vague figure taking on more definition as the moments passed. It became a young woman of medium height wearing dark wash jeans and a simple long-sleeved maroon t-shirt. The ends of her loose wavy hair occasionally fluttered on an obscure breeze, when a door appeared before her just as unremarkable as the one I was clinging to, completely entranced. Her hand reached out to turn the handle- wait a moment, her hand wore the same ring mine did. There was no possible way. Was that me? The apparition pushed it open and looked inside clinging to the door in the exact same manner…A chill shuddered up my spine and I twist around, feeling the draw of those luminescent eyes once more on my back. The uneasiness rising in my stomach was entangled with the ribbons of excitement shooting through my chest with every pounding heartbeat. I jerked my head back around and met with the faraway look of none other, than myself. We stood locked in each other’s intense gaze, suspended in time. Neither of us moved for fear of breaking this otherworldly connection. Suddenly, something unrecognizable flashed across her eyes, my eyes, and she nodded deliberately in my direction; a silent acknowledgement. A corner of her mouth quirked up, and she vanished on a similar tendril of smoke from which she appeared. The hammering in my chest finally began to calm, and I closed the door gently, in awe of what I witnessed.

The steps past this portal descended further and further, and I could tell it delved deeper than I could imagine. As I pressed my hand along the banister, now warm enough to emanate the heat, I passed a series of identical doors, labeled with a variety of dates and emotions. The dates were in no particular order, and the emotions always simple and singular. At random choice, I swung open a door dated last year and labeled “happy,” proceeding to walk into a replica of my family’s kitchen. The warm tones of color so familiar brought to me a peace that I had not felt in some time as of late. Laughter faded in and grew louder from the direction of the round breakfast table in the corner by a window. There I was, dressed in my favorite ratty pajamas, sitting at the table enveloped in the sunlight pouring into the house. Ro sat to my right chuckling, his gangly shoulders shaking in amusement, as my dad mussed his dark hair already wayward from sleep. Usually the stoic Mr. Mendelle to the outside world, my father became an incredibly relaxed man on lazy weekend mornings like this one. He always wore his warmest smile on Saturdays. These were the moments of happy vulnerability, when he would tease my mother by tugging at the ends of her auburn hair as she tried to flip breakfast cakes on the stove-top, or when he would juggle fruit before cutting them up for all of us. Mom would swat at him in feigned annoyance, but anyone could tell she was happy all the same. She had a habit of squinting her eyes from the effort of holding back a genuine smile, but then losing all control in a burst of laughter like small bells. My image laughed unhindered at the playfulness, then casually turned her gaze to me a soft smile still gracing her expression. Again, we were locked, and suspended in time. Eventually she nodded to me in a similar manner as previously. As she and the images of my family themselves turned into beams of sunlight, I stepped quietly back out to the mysterious stairwell and continued further after closing the door behind me.

Some steps later, I was urged to open a third portal. There was no plaque, no date, no emotion on this one. It was strange, and something about it made me incredibly nervous. Nevertheless, the curiosity surged surpassing the apprehension and I cautiously pushed it open only to find a second shorter stairwell. At the end of this tunnel, I could clearly see a door painted green, the paint chipping and the hinges weak. Here, I hesitated. It looked harmless, but from what I’ve seen thus far, it would be foolish to expect anything was as it appeared. I forced myself to take one step, and another eventually making it to the bottom and pulling the aged door open.

I found it was the woods from behind my high school, in the midst of autumn, the sun bright, and sky clear with the exception of a handful of clouds. It looked like such a peaceful day; I can’t believe I was afraid of this. Something still tugged at my gut telling me to turn around and get back to my family, but there was no evidence of anything amiss. A walk would be much more peaceful in a place like this, than going back to that stuffy dinner. I spotted a large rock to the side of a trail and wedged it in the opening of the green door in case a gust of wind came by. I made sure to keep an eye on the landmarks as I wandered to know which way to get back to the door, I knew this was not my world to belong to.

“Yoooowwwwwwwl!” The awful noise startled me, ruining the quiet. I step quickly and surely toward the animal that produced so terrible a cry in anguish, and came to a small clearing littered with golds, browns, yellows, and reds. There, in front of a large tree, stood a boy who looked my age. I almost called out to him, then realized where I was. This was different. I thought these were supposed to be reflections of my own memories…But I had no idea who this teenage boy was, with plain brown hair, fairly broad but lanky shoulders. He stood up from the gnarled roots where he seemed to be fiddling with long strands of twine. Another yowl ripped through the air, the smaller birds taking flight in fear. Peeking around him, I realized aghast, that the yowling came from a cat of incredibly white fur tainted with patches of bright crimson, tied to the thick diameter of the tree. Amongst the roots was a mangled blue bird, obviously the source of the blood; the cat had gotten to it, it wasn’t the boy. Wait, it was autumn, and this clearing was much further from the school than I remembered. Involuntarily I gasped, and realizing my mistake darted behind a large oak bringing my hands to my face to stifle the sound of my horror. Shit, he heard me. These woods were gated off by local law enforcement at a curfew in the fall, because these were observed to be the nocturnal hunting grounds of a migrating wolf pack for years. People weren’t even allowed to camp out here for part of the year. That boy was leaving that cat out here to be eaten: a sacrifice.

Despite the anxiety bubbling in my chest, I tried to sneak a look around the tree trunk. My brown gaze met one in sharp blue. He saw me. I was too afraid to move; I had no way of knowing how this apparition would react. It wasn’t one of me. He smirked, and shifted his weight to move towards me, wiping his bloodied hands down a Motorhead t-shirt. Fuck, this. I sprinted back the way I came, rushing past the trees and landmarks, the colors blurring. I had no idea if he was behind me, I couldn’t hear over the roar of the wind, but I didn’t dare stop. Gasping for breath I reached for the green door pulling myself through it, kicking the rock aside and slamming it shut. I raced up the silent stairwell, refusing to give in to the protests of my legs for jumping the steps. I made it back to the crystal banister and kicked the unlabeled door closed behind me. It was quiet once more. The crystal was the only thing making sound, the gentle humming doing little to exacerbate the overwhelming panic threatening to devour me as I stumbled back up the stairwell. Upon reaching the infinity door, I discretely closed it and holding myself still, forced my heartbeat down to a less alarming state. I looked over the banister, everyone must be wondered where I went, but I hoped the event was over. Mrs. Boss was occupied serving something out of a decorated ceramic dish. I padded back downstairs and navigated around the haphazard boxes to the dining room. Taking the seat next to my mother I whispered optimistically, “Mom, can we go home now?”

“Home? Val, we just got here honey, we can’t leave y- sweetie are you alright, your hands are freezing...?” she muttered under her breath. Time had not passed. Whatever transpired behind the infinity door, remained there unattached to the passage of existence on this side. Mrs. Boss glanced at me, questioning. “Well you know what they say darling, curiosity killed the cat,” she replied to something her husband said, without breaking the hold she had on me. I sucked in a breath, there was no way she knew what happened back there. I wasn’t even sure I knew what happened back there. What is this place? Who were these people?

“Mom, I’m back!” a bored voice called in from the front door. The spell broke.

“Son!” his father boomed, “You’re just in time, we’re eating with the Mendelles!” After a series of resounding thunks as he dropped his belongings at the front, a teenage boy strolled in, with the trademark I’m bored and I don’t care about anything attitude I’ve seen a million times. What caught my attention, was the Motorhead t-shirt. No, it couldn’t be. I look up and was captured by sharp blue eyes. “Good evening, Mr. Mendelle, Mrs. Mendelle.”

“Sweetie, did you see Pants today?” Mrs. Boss interrupted, then turned to Mom, “Pants is our family cat, and we can’t seem to find him half the time since we moved here. We haven’t seen him altogether as of a couple days ago! I fear he’s been eaten by those wolves. As tiny as he is, he’s stupid enough that he’d go pick a fight with one,”

“No Mom, I haven’t seen him,” he stated casually, breaking his stare. How was this possible?

He saw me. He knew. He was real. It was real.

February 28, 2020 21:28

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