The Locked Door

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

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Fiction Mystery Sad

The Locked Door Nick Cevennes

Autumn 1891, London, England.

Litchfield Dimitri collapsed on the bed as soon as he got home. Finally, he decided that, he was in deep aversion with this life, this repression, this silence, the stench of engine oil he smelled when the sea breeze found him along the sunless streets, and his attitude towards this life, this repression, this silence. He took off his black bowler hat with its bent brim and hesitated to put it over his face to blind him from the sickening pale yellow light. Hours passed by as he hesitated and got tranced. He sat up with difficulty afterwards, at his desk and he turned on the lamp as the same light burnt his eyes at his discretion.

He gawked at the heavy manuscript, its dusty outline on the pen-scratched desk. He always readjusted the order of its pages after each day's writing task, regressing them to their original order, and he insisted on writing by hand. He was still entangled, while inflamed puffiness under his eyes furrowed, his fingers clasped tightly around his forehead, as if trying to wring something from his skull worth recording. Such was his reaction when faced with a critical decision, and once more he sank into bed to face the flames of another lamp. He really felt the pressure of time, but in fact, at this hour, 1:15 a.m., no one or nothing was urging him in any way, not even Mr. Polsinelli —— he had faded back behind the door. For now, at least, Mr. Polsinelli's shadow was lurking out of sight.

What Litchfield Dimitri was struggling with was, in fact, pure and simple: 15 years ago, a local newspaper at Blackpool launched a novel competition. At the very thought of this, Litchfield Dimitri beat his chest again and fell back, rubbing his left toe against his right foot until one of them bled. He had indeed created the tragic figure that he considered to be comparable to Agamemnon, and this figure, Mr. Bruce Harold, was modeled after himself, wearing the same bowler and the same grey trench coat.

Litchfield Dimitri had grown dewy-eyed to think that he had tasted all pain of his life after he had lost his wife. That was 12 years ago, and he decided he had nothing more to lose. He left his job and the rest of his family behind to come to London to be alone, and got a job as a handout.

Time went by, as he finally began to try to get Mr. Bruce Harold out of his misery as well, just as he himself had tried to forget, but failed. When Litchfield Dimitri open the first three hundred pages of his great book, this monumentality, he could even hear Harold yelling, his screams bloodshot, who also wanted to escape, but was imprisoned by Mr. Dimitri. It was a form of abuse: putting your character through a lot of pain every day as you were also, but astricting him to be only silent and calm. He could shed no tear, but blood.

In those boundless tenebrous days and nights, Litchfield Dimitri kept flogging Mr. Bruce Harold with words. Atrocity made him happy and atingle.

Ten years ago, Litchfield Dimitri finally realized this and before the door closed, he chose to release him, as well as himself, from the haze. But it was too late. The competition had ended almost at the same moment as his wife's death, and he had lost his only chance of bringing Bruce Harold back to life in the hearts of every Londoner, or Blackpool-er.

Litchfield Dmitry could clearly see through the rear window, in the dark night sky, the dark clouds were gathering, and he noted that something similar seemed to be coming, just like 12 years ago, at the Grant Cemetery. What a gloomy sky that was, not a single tear to be shed from that overturned bucket, it seems to have dried up, before the next second, blood ought to flow out of the corner. Litchfield Dmitry stroked his tousled hair and picked up the pen again.

He looked at the short lines he had written yesterday: "... So Harold sat up in his shaded chair in the corner. He shall be next. He strode up to his boss, Mr. Bresette, and awaited his bounty at the end of the month. Mr. Bresette merely looked at him coldly. 'Mr. Harold, isn’t? Mr. Bruce Harold, you're fired. The truth is, the company never needed you. Thank you for your gracious service. '" Litchfield Dimitri leafed through the pages agitated. He was expecting an eloquence that would stun everyone, and a rakish departure as the man would slam the door hard. 

"Harold calmly listened, calmly picked up his bag from the floor, calmly walked out the door of his boss's office, calmly said goodbye to everyone he knew. He got the boot. It was nothing. He just needed to start living his life calmly again, and live it in peace."

Litchfield Dimitri was the only one stunned. His mouth opened slightly and hot air came out of it. His fingers, red with cold, steaming after washed out in the weather, quivered. The steam congealed into drips of water in the cold of the bonfire night. But it was a subjective behavior of the finger. It and the pen it was holding wept. Litchfield Dimitri frantically flipped forward a hundred pages. He couldn't find a word that would stir his feelings, not even a "frown".

But fortunately, on page 640, he found it. Bruce Harold was mad at his colleagues for stuffing his hat into a shredder. He had to buy a new black bowler hat. That was six years ago.

He soon forgot the matter. The next morning Litchfield Dimitri calmly put on his bowler hat and went back to his work. He flung open the iron door to his work area. Gelidity and deathly silence then enveloped him directly, welcoming him back with enthusiasm. He frigidly looked at the black body bags on the rows of stainless-steel tables. He could even see through the bag the bodies inside, greeting him calmly. He needed to register them successively onto a book as thick as his Mr. Bruce Harold. It was the only thing he had to do, but he had to spend the whole day doing it, from six in the morning to twelve at night, and he had to stay in this airtight room, except to defecate, or to eat. "It's the only price," Mr. Polsinelli always said, "But it pays good."

Litchfield Dimitri put on his rubber gloves and set to work. He mechanically placed the heavy book on a cart, starting with the body in the far corner. "... Pearson Green, Harry Hakluyt, Keough Bredon..." Litchfield Dimitri forced himself to read every name word for word so he could remember as many names as possible. There would be at least 10,000 more characters in his Mr. Bruce Harold.

But never 10,000 dead men, he thought.

Finally, at 9:40, he reached the last body. He turned his eyes from the heavy book to the body bag.

He shuddered for a moment. He kept shuddering, but it was obviously an empty bag.

Litchfield Dimitri stood there, calm. He looked around. He proceeded to deal with the matter, picking up the cardboard paper representing the name of the "corpse" on an iron tray.

It said, "The Sad Bruce Harold."

Litchfield Dimitri froze.

The occurrence of such an incident would never allow him to remain calm. He knew what he should do first. He copied the name straight down onto the yellowing paper. It was even only when he copied it that he realized who Bruce Harold was. Litchfield Dimitri felt for a moment that nothing was left in his head but the burning marks of the electric lamp, followed by utter disillusionment. He changed his path. He tried to open the bag, but at the very moment he was about to do so was awakened by a cry of pain from somewhere. So he made his choice to seek Mr. Polsinelli's help. He transmitted the message through a copper voice tube in the corner of the room.

Mr. Polsinelli calmly covered his nose and mouth with a rose-printed handkerchief, his little fingers upwarped, his stomach wobbling, and entered the airtight room. He followed Litchfield Dimitri as he stumbled to where the body bag was.

"Mr. Polsinelli... I know... I know it's my delinquency that..."

Mr. Polsinelli's eyes were fixed on Litchfield Dimitri like those of a vulture-hunting carrion, stern, calm, irrebuttable, though his two pupils were not even looking in the same direction.

"Remember your work, Mr. Litchfield Dimitri," he said calmly, but his face swelled purple, as if a dead man had tightened his grip on his throat. "What you should do is to register the names of all the dead people in this room, and leave it to me to take care of the rest. I'll handle it, not you." Mr. Polsinelli held up a finger. "Now you should go on with your work, and get well paid for it." Then he went quietly away, and did not return for the rest of the day.

Twelve forty-five at midnight, Litchfield Dimitri collapsed on the bed as soon as he got home. Finally, he decided that, he was in deep aversion with this life, this repression, this silence, and his attitude towards this life, this repression, this silence. He remained in such perplexity until the first light shot through the back window and burned the nape of his neck as he leaned over his desk. Aware of the passage of time, he sat up quickly to read what he had written the night before.

"Bruce Harold was on his way home. He wanted his life back so badly that he would trade something more expensive than life. On the way he met a swelldom in a sharp suit, wearing the latest tie, but with a knife in his hand. 'Give me all your money, and I'll consider letting you live,' said the man. Bruce Harold politely replied, 'Of course I will do that for you, sir. If that's not enough for you, you can nail my head to that billboard with your knife, if it that shall make you more satisfied."

The next morning Litchfield Dimitri calmly put on his bowler hat and went back to his work. He flung open the iron door to his work area. Gelidity and deathly silence then enveloped him directly, welcoming him back with enthusiasm.

"... Michael Gremio, Robert Rodriguez, Antonio Barakat..."

9:40.

Litchfield Dimitri could feel his eyes almost pop out of his eyes, but it wasn't because he was once again looking at the empty body bag.

"The Terrified Bruce Harold" was clearly written on the card. Litchfield Dimitri ran through a million different explanations of what happened, but each one buried so deep in his soul that he couldn't discern what it was. There was only one way to stay afloat. Above was the dark blood-weeping sky. He shivered and hesitated for a long time. He should swing open the iron unlocked door that shut out the outside world, walk out, trembling, and calmly tell Mr. Polsinelli to his face. He was about to do so, but returned to his post, again trembling: he had forgotten to register the name onto the heavy book. And he never told Mr. Polsinelli about it again through the day he watched himself repeat the routine, calmly.

Litchfield Dimitri went home and slumped down on the old mattress until work time strike the next day. He lay awake all night, almost blinded by the glow of the electric lamp, but he gazed into the corners less lightful without once closing his eyes.

He stared at his stack of manuscripts before going to work. On the first page, the huge "Bruce Harold" glowed brightly. But he simply left placidly.

Then he entered into one of the most torturous, painful, and grotesque periods of his life.

"The Fiery Bruce Harold."

"The Gloomy Bruce Harold."

"The Obstinate Bruce Harold."

"The Capricious Bruce Harold."

"The Forgetful Bruce Harold."

...

"The Calm Bruce Harold."

Litchfield Dimitri stared so hard at the cardboard he received on the last day of autumn it almost melted. He finally realized that all this might really be more than a fantasy. It was the gift granted by life. It was god's will. Somehow, he realized: Mr. Bruce Harold might have been completed by him, that it might have reached a moment that would transfix London and the whole Europe. He fell to his knees in excitement and gratitude and he kissed the cold ground that made him sick. He danced with joy and transcribed this last name into the heavy book. Litchfield Dimitri knew that when he got home and opened the locked door of his humble but cozy cabin, he would see the holy light emanating from that massive copy of Mr. Bruce Harold.

Litchfield Dimitri could no longer be in peace. He needed someone, and the only one to share the message with.

"You are dismissed, Mr. Litchfield Dimitri. I can't tolerate a deranged employee like you doing such a lucrative job. Thank you for your service, Mr. Litchfield Dimitri, but you are fired." Mr. Polsinelli's words gradually cooled him down and quickly restored him to his regular state of calm. He tried to find any reason for the fat, clouded, calm man to keep him. That was something he couldn't do.

His mind now had only a vague idea of some sudden invasion of feelings. Suddenly he realized that something bad had obviously happened.

Litchfield Dimitri realized that he had left his job and that this was not the time to defecate, much less to eat. He dashed back to the airtight room and before realizing that he had been fired, before the void started to linger.

Litchfield Dimitri was ready to leave, but almost tripped over the heavy book. He stared at the thick, yellowing pile of paper and lifted it off the floor and back onto the cart.

Suddenly, for the first time, his eyes were drawn to the content of the book. He noticed distinctly that on the very page he was turning, every name he wrote was Bruce Harold. He tried to recall other names in his head that had different meanings, but it was obviously difficult, undeliverable for him. But he did. He thought of Mr. Polsinelli.

Suddenly, without a moment's sigh, a figure rushed straight to the iron door, his entire body clinging on the small piece of glass inlaid in the center of the iron door. Litchfield Dimitri saw that the man was also wearing a black bowler hat and the same gray trench coat as him. Litchfield Dimitri suddenly felt that time seemed to be standing still, and there was only anger rushing towards him. The man must be yelling at him rather loudly. Litchfield Dimitri saw his grim expression and tears gushing from the corners of his eyes, but he couldn't hear the words in the man's mouth at all, since the iron door could block all sounds. He saw the man angrily tap the pane of glass, but it didn't cause any crack.

Litchfield Dimitri thought calmly. "Maybe this man wants me to let him out," he thought, "But why doesn't he try the handle?"

January 29, 2022 00:10

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