The Locked Door

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


Adventure Fiction Creative Nonfiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I sit here in demanding patience as my father taught me and his father taught him!

Exclaimed Cris from the corner of his bed. He, bent over a writing desk, quill in hand, paper unfolded before him, and a dram of ink near the corner of the parchment. Ink dribbled across the face of parchment as if a nervous servant had handed the pen to his weak shaking hand.

Did I not tell you, to handle my quill with the must utmost carefulness?

Cris questioned. His head nestled into his upturned right hand cupped into a sort of couch just for the position.

Right, you did, sir. Please forgive me, and I made sure that your sacrament of tea was also seated simultaneously —the black-skinned servant standing in front of Cris explained the mistake.

Ahhh! Yes, the tea. Ronald, my old friend, you have never discouraged giving my sacred tea, have you, my dark friend?

No, I have not.

Why is that so, you intolerant beast? Questioned Cris.

It is as you have instructed me since you gained my employment, sir.

Ronald soothed Cris as he adjusted the crystalline glass towards Cris’s other hand, the non-writing one.

Well, I will not take it this time, you simpleton! I know your ways of magic! You and your darkies in the central part of that infernal continent my father brought you to me so many years ago! Damn you, beast!

Cris was again agitated to the upmost and swept the paper from his desk but was careful to avoid the crystal glass of warm brown liquid that confronted him on the corner. He gazed at it with much hatred, drool dripping from the corner of one lip. Cris slapped his hand against the side of his face, followed by wrenching at the hair of his head.

I can not drink this, you are a stupid insubordinate fool, why do you do this to me?

Cris berated Ronald as spittle flew from his lips. Cris stood, grabbing poor Ronald by his coat white dress lapels. Ronald remained stolid and stern, his face as calm as if he were studying a painting.

Master, you know it is the elixir you want, and I know that this anxiety you are now exhibiting is just a phase you go through before drinking the potion. There is a powerful root in that tea, but you know it is necessary to accomplish what you have asked of me.

And what is it that I have asked of you, Ronald?

Cris began regaining some composure as he let up on the grip of Ronald’s shirt and patted his chest. Seeing the calmness on Ronald’s face, and hearing it within his low voice-enabled Cris to feign his moment of madness.

To become like me, sir.

To become like you. Why on earth would I want to do such a thing?

I do not understand why you ask me this every time you take the journey, sir?

I am a scientist! That is why Ronald! I know your kind does not understand the white man’s science culture, but questioning is a part of it.

Perhaps it is more to do with your father, sir?

Yes, my father. The esteemed naturalist explorer of Central Africa. The man who found you and brought you to me. The man who recorded so much about your people’s way of life and showed a beam of light into that dark continent. So brave, so enlightened, but he could never go far enough.

No, not as far as you, sir. I may not know white man’s science, but you may find in your journey, sir that my kind knows just as many things but in different ways.

Ronald reached down picked up the crystal glass with the steaming brown tea and handed it to Cris.

Now drink, but remember there is no going back the door will be unlocked. This will complete the transformation.

Cris took the glass from Ronald and held it just below his mouth for what seemed like an eternity. He felt his nerves crawling through his skin up to the fingers that gripped the glass. His lips trembled as he stared into the brown liquid that gave up small thin wisps of vapor that gave a slight minty but pungent smell. Cris lifted his eyes to those of Ronald’s who stared deeply back. He could read Ronald’s thoughts through those enlarged pupils that were telling him to continue without fear, but for success, there is a price.

Cris pulled the glass to his lower lip, his nostrils filled with the smell of the concoction already sending off synaptic responses within the brain. Up he tilted his hand while opening his mouth, allowing the liquid to pour across his tongue and down into his throat. His tongue registered a tart, and tangy taste, then went utterly numb as the wetness flowed down his esophagus. Cris felt his pupils expand as light flooded into them. His hand released the glass, and it fell to the floor as his whole body began to convulse. The last thing he saw through his own eyes was the face of Ronald melting in front of him like a wax figure being put to the flame. The sounds were the next thing he saw as vibrations themselves became visions within his mind, and they were loud.

Cris found himself within a dark forest near a large bonfire. At the edge of the firelight, he could see figures like shadows dancing about along with voices of a language that he didn’t know but somehow understood. There was drumming, and Cris felt the need to move his body up and down while violently thrashing about in a dance. As he did this, faces would appear in front of him wearing strange masks. Some appeared as demonic beings, others as benevolent soothers; all were in a concert of cacophony illuminated by eerie firelight. The dancing, sound, and movement congealed into one magnificent escapade that emptied the flesh of all energy, leaving Cris in a trance-like state, as if he were a specter floating in the ether of space.

Cris…Cris…Hello? Cris, are you all right?

Cris’s vision began to clear as his father’s face appeared, hovering over him.

I found you huddled half-naked here in the garden, cackling like a mad man. What have you been up to, son?

His father helped him to his feet. Cris warbled on shaky legs as he regained his footing while his father wrapped his coat around his naked upper body. Only his pants remained on him, and they were in tatters and soiled.

Over the next month, Cris became ever-elusive and aloof with his family and friends. He was rarely found going into the village to spend time with his close acquaintances in the pub or local eatery. When he was seen, it was usually in the nearby forest or in the manor’s gardens he would often be wearing nothing but those tattered pants dancing around covered in markings of paint and dirt. Most of the servants and household began avoiding him, and talk started to spread in particular over the fact that his main servant Ronald had disappeared since the first night his father had discovered Cris in the garden. Cris’s father had enough and called for his son one evening after dinner.

Cris, you must tell me about what is going on. I know of your interest in my work, but now your habits are beginning to impact the family name with the local community. We have always been considered eccentric due to our wealth, and our lineage of male world explorers has always caused a certain amount of queerness between us and others of the village. Still, you are pushing the limit of what these people can tolerate. The local magistrate has asked that if this continues that I seek the help of the Priests from the home and you know what happens there, son.

I know father and I…I…am sorry.

Cris’s face then changed from a drooping sad look to that of stern anger.

No! I am not sorry!

He then threw his arms into the air and spun around in a dance, cackling in laughter.

I have discovered something! Something that has made life free! Really I have you to thank father. You and Ronald.

Speaking of Ronald, where is he? I have simmered the rest of the servants’ questioning somewhat by telling them that you had him sent off over some discretion. What has become of him?

Cris stopped dancing and walked toward his father with a serious look in his eyes as he gave little laughs under his breath.

Think about it father. Think of your work from the Congo in Africa and from where you brought Ronald from. You know what’s become of him. Hugh! Haha! Ha!

Cris began laughing unrelenting.

My God! Please tell me you didn’t go through the tea ceremony with him, son?

Cris looked his father squarely into his eyes and began pounding his chest, then began to stomp his feet while humming some African chant. He kept doing this, getting louder and louder as his father spoke over the noise.

Even I would not go that far son. That ceremony was their initiation rite for young men to become a warrior of the group. It was not meant for European white men. How you convinced him to do that with you, I don’t know, but it was wrong! You have no idea what you have done! I spent years studying that area and those people. I had respect for them and knew my place with them as they did with me. I know you had the same interest as me, but I never thought you would have broken the bounds I taught you. No matter now, it’s too late, and you will pay the price!

Within the week-Anton- Cris’s father had his son on a ship sailing for the west coast of Africa. He was sent along with one of the other servants from the Congo who would arrange for guides and a trip up the river to the area that Ronald and some of the other servants were from. After the group left the manor Anton and his head servant sat together near the grand fireplace as Andre consulted Anton.

You had no choice, sir. You know that the price that Cris’s actions had to be settled. A life for a life. Ronald understood this, and Cris must have convinced him that it was what he wanted even though Ronald was foolish to do so.

You are right Andre. You always have been. If it wasn’t for you, I would have been in Cris’s position all those years ago.

Yes sir, but you saw what happened to your colleague there and knew of its power. Your son is just an over-curious boy of youth.

But such a price to pay. Do you think he will uncover the mystery he was searching for?

Perhaps sir. Perhaps, who is to say? Although, he did seem to gain some happiness from the experience when he was here? And you, I am happy that you respect the magic of the ceremony and are doing the right thing. If you hadn’t, you know that your possessions and prospects would be cursed, and only ruin would follow.

Anton shook his head at Andre as Andre looked down at the opened journal he had in his lap. It was the journal Anton had written during his expeditions within the Congo, and he was rereading a final entry:

This river is full of natural wealth, and these people are full of superstitions and madness. Though they are very dangerous, and there is power in their magic, as I had seen happen to my colleague who tried going too far in one of their rituals. The damn experience drove him quite mad, and he became some cannibalistic creature. I can’t describe it, but it had a tremendous impact upon the local group who began revering him and treating him, or it, I should say, as some spirit being or god. At any rate, Stephen was quite mad and his actions unpredictable. One evening, he killed a young boy and began feasting on his remains. The powerful men of the group managed to subdue Steven and then began a three-day festival of turning him into a human sacrifice. My god, it was horrible! The things they did to that thing that was once a man. I tried to protest, but it was no use. I was risking my own life and the rest of my group. Now that I am out and traveling back down the river away from there, I have been thinking. That the ceremony that Steven originally went through may be the way to the heart of these people and a way to the riches of this land, avoiding much bloodshed. I am bringing a few of the local men. One Andre is knowledgeable and knows of the ways of the whites, I shall keep as my confidant. There is another I’ve named Ronald. He has not been with whites but is very curious. I think I shall have him be a close servant to my son Cris back home and see where that leads. To future prospects. Anton Liston 1875.

January 21, 2022 18:42

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