After fifteen brutal years of adventure, love, and loss, I had finally found the doorway on the wooded island again.
Had it really been that long? Had I really been merely a child since I had stepped through it?
A lot had happened. So much so that I was overwhelmed and merely laughed when I saw it again - like seeing an old, sardonic friend at an obscure cafe. I placed myself at the bottom of a tree and just looked at it.
It looked pretty much the same as it did when I was little. I wondered if I could destroy it, but I had lost my shotgun days ago and my axe a few days before that.
My dress was in rags and who knows what was living in my hair, but I had finally found it again: the thing that had turned my life upside down and inside out. I heard the roars in the far distance and a tremble went up my spine.
“All right,” I said to the door. “All right.”
I stood up and beyond the treeline going down the hill I could see my parents’ old summer home rotting on the other side of the lake. I put my hand on the doorknob carefully: as though it was filled with electricity. I wondered what would be on the other side... my old life? A worse version of this one?
I brushed the twigs and leaves off what was left of my dress and opened it and stopped.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hello,” I said back.
I sighed. Of course. My other self was still sitting against a tree in a torn - but still cool-looking - denim jacket, and overall seemed a little less worse-for-wear than my myself.
“Did you decide not to open the door?” I asked. She-me merely nodded back to me and gave me a wry smile. I stepped through and firmly closed the door behind me: that part of my existence was over.
“Did you run away after dad stabbed mom?” She asked. That caused me to stumble.
“Mom stabbed dad in my universe,” I said, not surprised at anything anymore. ‘My universe’? Whatever. “Any idea where the door came from?”
She nodded, which was the first surprising thing I had experienced in years - but then she knocked me back to what I had been referring to as ‘reality’.
“You don’t want to know,” she said.
I scoffed and sat down next to her-me.
“Yes I do!” I said, annoyed. She merely shook her head. I blinked, frustrated.
“Charlotte, when I found out who made it, it only made things more complicated.”
For the second time I was surprised when she called me ‘Charlotte,’ but I didn’t say anything. I simply went to the door and opened it.
Again, I found myself staring at myself... but I was much worse for wear in that universe, wearing what appeared to be a burlap sack barely convering me from the elements.
“My god, my god!” I was saying in a scraggly voice. “Please help, and close the door behind you!”
My new other self - wild-eyed and confused - ran through the doorway, almost knocking me over, and closed the door behind us, breathing heavily all the while.
“Wow,” my old other self said, now standing. “What happened to you?”
My new other self turned her head while holding the door closed. “Haven’t you seen them?”
I shook my head as my new other self took out a lighter and tried to destroy the door in vain. I put my hand delicately on her shoulder and she recoiled like a beaten animal.
“Let’s just... put a chain around it or something,” I said, chain-less. I looked at my first other self. “Is this a... popular island?”
My first other self hugged herself and simply shrugged and shook her head ‘no’. I examined the door and it was much like I had seen before, except I noticed something... a doorknob on the other, more weathered side. I found a vine and the third me had a knife. She cut it and we ‘tied’ the door shut, doorknob to doorknob.
We made a little fire on the island and started telling stories about our adventures. I was the only one whose dad was the instigator. After talking over our tragedy with my new friends, I found myself feeling a little better. As the sun started setting, the sparks from the fire climbed up into the sky.
We tiptoed around sensitive subjects, such as the Faceless Man and the sentient bees - of whom only me number three was unaware - and just talked about things we liked to do. I talked about James for a while. They, too, had all heard of him and had adventures with him. I wiped away a tear hearing them talk about him.
I had known him for the shortest amount of time: a week before I lost him to the Faceless Man in that weird basement. I was the only one who had been followed by the statue of the Headless Angel. They talked about other horrors, but we also talked about calming things:
...How society still went on even though things were bleak.
...How people still got married and had parties.
We all missed showers and new clothes and morning coffee, but there would always be spring rain.
The morning was nice: birds chirping just as they had done for millions of years. We wept for the world that was lost, but were ready to trudge on. This was a new world for me, but I had new friends. We made our way down the hill to the lakeside and tied some driftwood together to make a makeshift raft.
The summer home was there, rotting. None of us wanted to enter. None of us felt strong enough... and that was okay.
We cheered ourselves up by singing ‘Fortunate Son’ but changed the lyrics for females, as we made our way to the old freeway. Weeds were sprouting and nature was retaking the cars and signs and metal guide rails.
Humanity survived. One day there would be an internet again - hopefully more positive and such - and one day we’d explore the stars again... but for now, humanity survived.
As we continued walking, we could hear singing in the woods. I turned to my friends.
“Let’s see what that’s all about.”