Nine Glass Doors

Submitted into Contest #136 in response to: Write about a character giving something one last shot.... view prompt

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Science Fiction Speculative Coming of Age

When I open my eyes, all I can feel is a gust of cold air. It makes me shiver, but that’s not what I’m focused on. What I am focused on is the white room around me, with three brown doors imprinted into them. Where am I?

I stand up, and immediately shiver. I’ve always been a warm blooded person, so it’s safe to say I don’t do the best in the cold. I turn around and see another door, parallel to one of the three. When I reach for the handle and try to twist it, it just stays in place. It’s locked.

Did I get kidnapped somehow? The last thing I can remember is arguing with Mom, but that’s not unusual for me. Someone could have wiped my memory, but I don’t get how they could have just wiped one part of it. Maybe this is some kind of dream. I pinch myself, but I don’t wake up. There’s no way this is just a dream.

Finally, the single door opens, and out walks a man in a black cloak. I try to see what’s behind it, but he shuts it too quickly for me to see anything. I think I could make out a black landscape. “Hello, Ryder Willaton.”

I’m confused how he knows my name, but I cut to the chase. “What the hell happened to me? Where am I? Who are you?”

“Woah,” the man says. “What happened to 'hello’? Normally I would take time to get to know my subjects, but you seem so eager to get started. I guess we can, then.” He takes out a clipboard and starts writing on it while talking, like he isn’t even concerned. “Ryder, you’re in a coma. Don’t even try waking up, that’s not how this works.”

I feel my throat close. This can’t be happening. I can’t die right here. I can’t die right after a stupid argument with my mom. “Normally, we would leave the fate up to the human body on whether you survive or not. But for more interesting cases like you, who had tons of human interactions, it feels necessary.” 

He finally puts his clipboard away. “In front of you lies three doors.” Suddenly, the three doors in the white room change to different colors. One green, one red, one gray. “In the green room will be three people who have done great things to you. Behind the red doors will be three who hurt you, or people who you hurt. Behind gray is someone who impacted you, whether good or not. You’ll be able to talk to one person in each room for two minutes. However, one of the three people is the correct person to choose. If you choose the right person to talk to in each room, you will wake up from your coma and continue your life like normal. If not, you will die.”

“What if I only get the right people twice?” I ask, starting to shake. “Do I just die right there and then?”

“I’m sorry, but we can’t disclose any more information about the test.”

Anger immediately fills me. I’m tempted to swing at him, but I stop. Those are the exact things that lost me friendships on earth. Also, he’ll probably just deflect it because he seems to be a literal god. “I’m only a teenager! Why is my entire life determined by six minutes?”

“You were an interesting case, Ryder,” he adds, lowering his eyebrows. “You weren’t exactly the best person on earth. Whether that was a product or not of your parents is up for debate, but this is what we’ve decided.”

He begins to walk away, I assume for my test to start, but I chase after him. “Sir! Wait! Please!” He turns around, a bothered look on his face. 

“I’ll be out after you’re done talking to each subject,” he says, beginning to walk again.

“No! Not that.” He turns back around. “How did I die on earth?”

He pauses for a second, as if he’s pondering something. Maybe this was an invasive question to ask, considering my fate is up to him. “We don’t tell people in this test how they died in order to prevent traumatic memories.” I give him a look. “If you insist, though, I can tell you how you died after your test is over.”

I have objections to that, but before I can say something, he’s out the door. I turn around. This is happening. There’s no way it’s a prank. I could be dead if I pick the wrong people. I need to take this seriously.

I look at the three doors, examining the colors. Why not enter the green one first? It could lift my spirits to see someone that was good in my life. When I open the green door, three glass doors appear, all with different people on the seats. They’re asleep. “They’ll wake up when you enter,” a voice says, which sounds like the man.

I recognize them all immediately. Noelle, my sister. That’s probably the wrong one. I can’t think of much good she’s done for me. Next is Alessandro, and I’m pretty sure it’s him. He saved my life from falling off a cliff in Arizona. The last one is Jordan, my ex-friend who turned into my bully. That has to be a joke. All he did was cause me pain.

I walk to Alessandro’s door, ready to open it, until I pause. This test is making me confront people, and I’ve talked to Alessandro every day for the past seven years. I haven’t talked to Jordan though in over a year. Maybe he did help me in some way I didn’t know. So, I walk towards his door, and open it.

The second I close the door behind me, his eyes open, and a timer above us begins counting down from two minutes. “Look who it is,” he says.

“Yeah, it’s me,” I say, crossing my arms.

“Well, school was happy when they found out that you’re in a coma. It’s a huge weight off all our shoulders.”

“What happened to hello?” I say, mocking his tone.

“Oh, just shut up, you asshole. It’s nice not to have a dick in our school.”

I want to know he’s just doing it to bother me, and that he just wants to get under my skin and give him a reaction. However, knowing how the rest of the school thinks of me, there’s a decent chance that it’s true. I can’t show that, though. “Cut the shit, Jordan. You just spread rumors about me and got me hated. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Actually, you were the one that ended the friendship.”

I pause, thinking about what he said. I don’t want to think anything he says has value, but I know it’s true. “I made dumb decisions in eighth grade. It’s been two years. Why won’t you let go with the bullying?”

“Because it’s fun to see you squirm,” he says, getting close to me. I don’t move, but a menacing frown grows on my face. “It’s fun to see how your own actions come back to bite you. How you pretend to not care about anything that’s happening, when it’s clear you do.”

I stare at the red clock above us, and it glows 1:29. Time goes by too fast in the afterlife, if that’s even where I am. Why did I even come here? It’s just him projecting his own insecurities onto me. Sure, I had a big part in the friendship ending, but so did he. He wasn’t a response friend, and didn’t seem to care about any of my problems. It was always him and his issues.

“And here you go again, not having any response. Looks like you only have about a minute to talk to me. I guess if you’re not gonna say something, I’ll show it.” 

He takes out his phone and pulls up a text. When I see who it’s from, I get excited, but it’s short lived. It’s Eden, my best friend on earth. I never wanted him to literally die, it reads. But he’s been so annoying lately. He never listened to us, and what we wanted, and of course, that’s what led to his death. Maybe it’s for the better.

All I can do is stand in place, mouth open. Eden is talking to my bully. My tormentor. And he doesn’t want to be friends with me.

Jordan knows how to get to me, and obviously this is a great time to pull out his methods. “Oh, it appears Ryder’s best friend didn’t want friendship anymore. How sad!”

I start sputtering, but I can’t say anything else. “None of this is real,” I say. “You aren’t real, either. This is just some kind of perfect reconstruction of you. Choke on glass.” I sprint out of the room, and when I close the glass door, Jordan’s eyes shut. That may be the last time I ever get to see him.

I walk out of the green room, closing the door. When I exit the room of good people, the door disintegrates behind me and just turns into another white wall. All that remains in front of me now is two doors, red and gray.

Tears flow from my eyes, and I fall to the ground. My own best friend thought that my death was for the better. Now he doesn’t even want to be friends anymore. Was it my fault, though? What did I do to make him hate me?

I have to get up. At least I have an incentive to get back on Earth. I can ask what happened. Why he hates me. Maybe I can even tell him off. I wipe away my tears, and look at the gray door in front of me. This could be the weirdest one. Just someone that’s impacted me.

I open the door, and read the three labels in front of me. First one is my therapist, Kelly. That could work. It’s literally her job to impact me. Second is my mom, which is definitely a shock. I haven’t seen her since dad kicked her out. I never knew the reasons, but I think it had to do with her cheating. It definitely has to be one of those two, since the last one is my dog.

At first I think it’s my mom. I never really had closure with her, and I never really figured out if she was cheating or not. However, I need to talk to someone about Eden, and how it relates to my death. Kelly knows everything about my life. So, I open the door.

When the door shuts, her eyes open right away, which still freaks me out. The clock starts. “Hey, Ryder,” she says, in her calming voice.

“Hey, Kelly,” I say, beginning to pace around her chair. “I would talk, but I can’t. I just found out that Eden wants to stop being friends. He says that I’m annoying lately, and that I’m not listening to his needs. He said that maybe my death was for the better, but I don’t even know how I died! No one will tell me!”

“I can tell you if you want,” she says, finally standing up. “It was in the newspaper. Boy Goes Into Coma After Fatal Accident.” I raise an eyebrow at her. “You folks were walking by the bridge. You said you wanted to walk on the sides of the bridge, right on the edge. They told you how dangerous it was, but you did it anyway. You tripped and, well, yeah. You fell down hundreds of feet into a stream below. You somehow survived, since you’re here.”

It takes me a second to process that completely. I want to just sit and think, but the clock is close to a minute. I need to get as much info as possible. “I really ended up like this because I wasn’t listening to my friends?” She nods. “That makes more sense. I should apologize to them.”

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” she says. “There have been many other things from Eden’s friendship that you told me about that signify a toxic friendship. Even if you made mistakes as a friend, you don’t deserve to be in a friendship where one doesn’t care about you.”

I don’t have any idea of what to say. She’s right, for sure. Eden probably isn’t the best friend. However, everything comes into the clear now. Kelly warned me about Eden, yet I didn’t listen. I could have prevented my death and this stupid test if I just listened a little.

The clock is now at thirty seconds. Shit. “Kelly, we only have thirty seconds. How do I pass this test? I can’t die right here.”

“What test?” she says. 

I don’t say anything. I have no idea what kind of intense brain cycle she’s going through to be in this alternate universe, but she probably isn’t questioning where she is. “Kelly, please help! Have I picked the right people?”

“Picked who?”

“In each room! How do you not know what’s happening? Was Jordan the best person to talk to? Or was it my other friend?”

It’s too late, however. The timer hits zero, and her eyes slam shut.

Thoughts race in my mind like a Chicago freeway, but I don’t have time to think. I need to get to the last room before it’s too late.

I walk out of the room and watch the door disappear behind me, making the gray room into nothing more than a white wall. It’s still mesmerizing. I take a deep breath. The red room. This is definitely going to be hard. Who hurt me the most in my life?

When I walk into the room, I see the three name tags, and the first to appear is Eden. Without looking at the other tags, I walk into his room. I have nothing to lose at this point. There’s no way that I picked either of the right people. So, if I’m gonna die, I’ll die by telling off Eden.

When he opens his eyes, I immediately start talking. “You thought I was better off dead? What’s wrong with you?”

He looks like he wants to say hi, but since I’m cutting to the chase, he obviously wants to cut to the chase too. “This is your own fault, Eden! You were the one who was being so controlling! You never listened to me!”

I take a deep breath, not knowing how to respond. I lower my head, shutting my eyes in frustration. “That doesn’t mean I deserve to die.”

“Well, I guess we both have lessons to learn.”

That’s when it hits me. There’s no way. It’s a suicide mission to even try it. But I have nothing to lose. I start to walk out of the room. “Why are you leaving already-” I close the door before he can say more. When I walk out of the red room, the cloaked man is already standing there. He still has his clipboard in his hands, but it scares me a bit less now.

“I see you’re already done with your-”

“This was never a real test,” I state, interrupting him. “The whole point of this thing was to teach me a lesson.”

He begins to laugh, and it eventually gets so hard that he drops his clipboard. “What exactly are you talking about?”

“It never really mattered if I picked the right person,” I say, pacing around the area. Even in some kind of warped world, I still manage to do my signature move. “I just needed to learn about why I died on my own. I needed to hear that my selfishness and not listening of my friends led to my own demise, and how it even caused me to lose a friend.”

“But what about-”

“Everyone in those rooms had helped me in some way,” I say, interrupting him again. It’s probably not best to do that to an all eternal being, but it feels right. “Jordan helped me realize what to avoid in a friend, and how to deal with harassment and bullying. Obviously my therapist helped me. And now, Eden is helping me realize that just because I made mistakes in a friendship doesn’t mean I should have to settle for less! If I want to continue living my life on earth, I need to start listening to others and putting their needs before my own. Doesn’t that make sense? Isn’t that all of our goals in life?”

“Are you done with your little tirade?” he says, raising an eyebrow.

My heart starts to beat really fast. This was a mistake. I shouldn’t have said anything. I should have just accepted my fate. However, when I think more about my thoughts, they don't make sense. I had nothing to lose. Either I die or die with pride. However, a small smile forms on his face. “Congratulations, Ryder Willaton. You passed the test.”

Before I can say anything, he snaps his fingers, and my eyes forcefully shut. Not much long later, I’m able to open them again.

Everything around me looks hazy, but I can see a nurse over me. My dad bursts into tears, and my brother smiles.

“He’s come back,” the nurse says. “Ryder Willaton is alive again.”

March 11, 2022 02:46

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2 comments

Shea West
02:38 Mar 17, 2022

This was a fun ride Luke!! I love how you gave us an almost unlikable character with a mission to help him get answers. He was a bit brash and annoyed, but I liked that about him anyway. The speculative genre is always one I enjoy seeing used on this platform, and I think you executed really well!!

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Michael Hemmings
02:06 Mar 17, 2022

Hello Luke; I quite liked the premise. I am learning it is better to edit or prune the work as much as one can, getting rid of filler words and changing sentences to sharpen the story. It hurts to cut s but it 's worth the effort. I recommend that to you. The last sentence, spoken by the nurse struck me as the wrong sentence for the ending. The sentence seems like it should relate back to the main point of the story which is not that he is alive again but he has learned valuable lessons. Could the nurse say something like, 'He's back. ...

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