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So I found a letter.

I've just moved into a sweet little apartment in a new city (not sure if I want you all knowing exactly where I am), all excited for my new job, new relationship, new life… And now I've found… THIS stuffed in an old filing cabinet amongst a bunch of old trash, The basement in this place is smaller than my old office and it's all just old crap that the landlord must have collected over the years. The cabinet was way down the back under a thick enough layer of dust. I've no idea how old this thing is, although references in the letter to a “hurricane” could mean only a couple of years old. Last year, even? That huge storm that swept the East Coast?

None of this makes much sense.

I don't see the door he references in the letter in the living room, although I've been knocking around the walls and there is a, for lack of a better term, “door shaped” part of the wall that sounds different than the rest of the wall.

I dunno guys. Here's the letter anyway.

Enjoy?

“Dear Jeff, I cannot think of any way to start this letter other than with a warning; DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OPEN THE NEW DOOR. Paint over and re-plaster it. If that doesn't work for any reason then seal off the room, or just abandon this property- although I understand you probably can’t. I have left my share of the rent in an envelope at the top of the TV. I will not be returning. Sorry to leave you like this, buddy, but… I should explain, but my hand is shaking, this may take a while. I’ve never told any of my friends about this before. I never even told Harriet. Why would I? It never seemed to be that big an issue, like if you had a particularly bad peanut allergy, why would you tell someone unless they offered you a PBJ? I certainly never imagined it would come to this.

I can only imagine that your reaction to my confession will be the same as that of my parents when, at a very early age, I called them to my room after suffering a nightmare, the specifics of which I have never been able to recall. I asked them who it was that would come knocking at my door whenever I was afraid. Of course they had no idea what I was talking about, which confused me. How could they not know about my door? Was I strange, was I the only one who heard the scrabbling of hands pressed against my door whenever dread began to build within me? Was I the only person who, when he received a shock, the rapid beating of my heart would be punctuated by the sound of heavy fists and the splintering of wood? I clearly remember them asking me why then was my door so pristine if someone had been pounding so hard at it to make it splinter? My mother turned my bedroom light on, closed my bedroom door and my father began to rap on it, running his hands across the varnished white wood. The door of course, was unscratched and perfectly unmolested, save for the small dint just above my Ninja Turtles poster, that as far as I know had always been there. I was incredulous. How could they not understand that the door I was speaking of was not the door to my bedroom. It was my door.

The door behind me. The door that had always behind me, since the day that I was born. The one that not even I could see, that was always just behind my back, following me wherever I went and turning as I turned. They asked me how I knew it was there, and I told them that I just knew, I had always known. That if I concentrated hard enough, I could feel it’s smooth panelling behind me, the large cold doorknob. I had always assumed that everyone had a private door, and since they just sort of followed you around, invisible and barely tangible, that it was just some grown-up thing that we never spoke of. Perhaps when you grew up you got to enter it, perhaps it was the door to heaven for when you died. My parents dismissed this as part of my nightmare, and I never brought it up again, suddenly aware that I might just be imagining it. Until very recently the possibility that I might just be slightly mad had always appealed to me.

Since then, I have never really believed in the supernatural. Religion, mind-readers, tarot- everything is just a scam or a mental crutch to those too afraid to live their lives without a moral guide or excuse for laziness. However the door has always been there behind, and on the off chance that I might not actually be insane, I have gone to aura readers, psychics and all manner of bizarre shamans in every corner of the world that I have ever set foot on, and no matter how terrifically accurate their observations and predictions were, none of them ever mentioned the door. I never brought it up, and neither did they.

I had experimented a few times with the thing, backing into walls to see if it would stick there, creating a physical portal which I could finally step through. Also, on certain occasions, I tried to open the damn thing. The knob would turn freely and the door would slide open with ease, but naturally, as it was stuck behind me and so close, the door would only open a fraction of an inch before getting obstructed by my body. Opening the door never caused any major revelations, other than a slight chilly breeze and, rarely, a distant sound of waves lapping or some kind of birdsong that I could never identify.

Something of note, However, is that by opening the door near a thermostat, I would almost always cause the temperature nearby to drop by anything between 3 and 12 degrees. Doing it with a group of people around often resulted in them displaying signs of being chilled by some unknown cold.

Proof of my claims? Possibly, but I never attempted to show my finding to anyone. For all I knew I could show them my notebooks and it would turn out that I had just been drawing graphic stick figure rape scenes all these years, or something equally disturbing. I decided that perhaps I should follow this gnawing doubt, considering the imagined outcomes of whether or not I was believed or ousted as a psychopath were equally unpleasant in their ramifications.

No matter. Real or not, the chill of the open door was pretty comforting during summer heat waves, and my college dorm was always a popular spot around July, although we came to the conclusion that no matter how many times I changed apartments (I think it was 4 in total), that I had always managed to move into “the shady side of the dorms”.

By now, Jeff, I assume you’ve spotted it, between the bookshelf and the TV, behind the red leather love seat. You’re probably tempted to go have a look, so you can get to the bottom of this, to file your report to the police or maybe the detective you could try to hire to track me down. But I certainly hope it dosen’t come to that. I implore you to finish this letter before you jump to any decision, and remember what I asked my parents that night when I was a child. I asked them who, when I was afraid, was it that would come knocking on my door.

Well, perhaps knocking is too childish a term to use now. You see, ever since I was a child, the thing I have been most afraid of, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, is fear itself. Upon feeling the slightest twinge of angst, I would hear something from the door behind me. The stress of a school test in the morning that I hadn’t studied for would summon, perhaps, the sound of a single sharp nail, tracing across the wood on the other side of my door. One time when I was nineteen I was working in a shoe store near my house. After a long series of snide exchanges and low grade threats with a co-worker, I plucked a large fat slug from the pavement on a particularly rainy morning and left it to drown in his morning coffee.

A teenage prank, nothing more, but as he took his first sip of coffee at the tills, while I was still opening up shop, I knew when he saw what happened he would know it was me, and I’d be fired. I’d have to move back in with my parents, and lose my rather high-maintenance girlfriend due to lack of funds. A cold sweat took me, and a deep fear welled up in the pit of my stomach, giving life to my guts as they seemed to squirm around inside me. The door behind me began to creak and groan, and I could hear a myriad of fingers and hands pushing and scraping against it, thumping with feeble palms and scraping with nails that sounded too sharp and too long to be allowed to be seen. As my co-worker took the cup to his lips and drank deeply, I could feel physical splinters of wood in my back. It was excruciating, but I maintained my poker face. I was used to hiding this sort of thing.

After all that, he just downed the cup, throwing it in the trash without even looking under the plastic lid, none the wiser. The fear and the pressure went away instantly. I spent the rest of the day walking around with a cool breeze on my back, and the sound of creaking wood haunting me down every hallway. Checking in the mirror I could see that my back had no marks from the “splinters”, and the next morning the door was good as new. I once again dismissed it as my own faulty mental wiring.

I’ve already told you that I am a rational man. I never once believed, well, for much longer than a dark hour or two, that this door could be anything more than the product of a deformed, possibly damaged brain. Even so, in moments like the one at the shoe store, I would never dare to open the door, for fear what may slip through the cracks. In my mind at least, when I became afraid, there were things knocking on my door, and on a few occasions they very nearly came through. And if these creatures did exist, even only in my fevered imagination, what would happen if they did come through?

Would I snap mentally, suffer a brain haemorrhage or heart attack and drop dead? Would I be lost in some eternal nightmare moment that my brain would cook up in the moment of death? Perhaps I would lash out in fear, becoming a danger to myself and others? If I was going to be responsible with this one life that I had been given, it was up to me to eliminate fear from my brain.

It took years of psychological and philosophical training. Of yoga, meditation, martial arts. I became a nurse, I worked with terminal patients, I spoke to them, I held their hands as they died. I had to realise that death is inevitable, and that the only way to avoid bad things happening to me in life is to be logical, meticulous, and try my best to make every one of my life’s plans fool proof. Anything that happens after that would be beyond my control. I am a speck of ignorant carbon, adrift in an infinite sea of chaos. My life is as unimportant as fear is unnecessary.

The lack of fear brought the hunger, for adventure, for conquest. I quit nursing when I was 26, joined the marines, and when I was 30 did a tour of duty in Iraq. We caught the ass end of the conflict but it still wasn’t pretty.

I faced death, injury and a large period of near fatal illness in the wake of an amateur dirty-bombing, but I never once heard anything at my door.

I shot up a few ranks and by the time I got home I was being offered the chance to train new recruits. I turned them down, then told them about the door to make sure that I was never going to be redacted. It didn’t take me long to tire of war. It was disgusting, boring and pointless. Being part of a technologically superior invading force, stationed in a country that was so broken that it was so clearly not a real threat to home was sobering, to say the least.

So there you have it, Jeff, the story of my time in Iraq. Since we won’t be seeing each other again I figured I’d give you what you’ve always wanted to hear about. Told you it wasn’t that interesting. You know the rest, the sandwich chain leaving me near homeless, with only you and Harriet left to keep me out of the gutter. For that I’ll always be grateful. I suppose now I should explain the blood on the kitchen floor. And the living room walls, and the bathroom ceiling, and on the staircase, leading in trails up to the bedrooms, which I don’t advise you walk into any time soon. Or at all. Leave that to the police. You’re damn lucky you took tonight off, man. We should have joined you, but the hurricane was coming and if we didn’t stormproof the whole damn house we would have lost our investment. I must admit I was pretty pissed at you leaving us to go visit your sister, with the floods about to start and all hands needed on deck, but that’s not really important any more.

I was working on fixing up the cracks in the ensuite bedroom's windowframe, and Harriet was preparing a quick dinner and a fire to keep us warm. We'd been working for 8 hours straight, the wind was howling outside, and the house was freezing us to the bone. I was tired, and the night was harsh, but I was content- until I heard the only sound on earth that could have brought upon the pounding fear that manifested behind me as a hefty fist on my long undisturbed door. Harriets scream.

“I saw somebody looking in the window!” She called up to me in a high, wavering voice. I told her that I was coming, set down my tools and dusted myself off. “He's back! He's.. knocking. Looks like he wants me to let him in.” Then came the sound of glass shattering. Then she screamed.

There were 4 guys, there had been 5 but I think they lost track of him in the storm. From what I can gather, our latest house was once the old haunt of this particular group of individuals. Apparently just a few years ago, this neighbourhood was even worse than it is now. To put it bluntly, the little fixer upper that we'd been preparing to flip was once these boy's favourite crack house. I'm not sure to be honest what led them back here, and why they were so suprised to see us fixing the place up. I think maybe one or more of them had recently been released from jail, or on the run from somebody, or maybe they'd just been caught in the floods and forced to retreat to their nearest safe location. Maybe all three. They must have been really happy to come home to their little hovel all done up nice and homely, with a petite woman preparing food in a bathrobe, across from a roaring fire. They, of course, were far less happy to find her ex-marine husband bearing down on them and screaming bloody murder. With my training it shouldn't have been much of a problem. None of them had come packing heat, but one of the scumbags did have a hefty claw hammer tucked away in his pocket. A couple of lucky whacks from that thing had me on the floor. I had to watch them tuck into Harriets dinner with their bare hands, listen to them joke about how nice the place looked, as they stripped her and tossed her onto the couch. I made threats and tried to get to my feet, to do anything, but the fat one had his foot planted squarely between my shoulder blades and responded to any unruly behavior on my part with a stomp to the back.

I couldn't control it. I was afraid. Too afraid. My life meant nothing, but I couldn't bear to see something so horrific unfold right in front of me. They had Harriet on the couch, tormenting her, tormenting me. I could feel the splinters of the door in my back. The hands came, the scratching. One of the thugs, this little rat faced bastard with patchy facial hair, couldn't have been more than 25 years old, pulled her towards him and spread her legs wide with such force that i heard something snap. She was crying hysterically, and he was just- staring down at her. It was like he couldn't believe his luck.

There was a massive groan of warping wood, and a crack from behind me. The door was giving away, and what's more. The others could hear it. It was so loud that it caused that fat motherfucker to jump back, away from me. The rat faced asshole let go of Harriet and looked over at me. I took the opportunity to stand up, but I was unable to move. Pain was shooting through me and causing me to seize up. I was being impaled, shards of the broken door sinking deep into my flesh and bone. A blast of air, colder then that of the storm that had been leaking into the room through the broken window, hit us all. A high pitched whine filled the room, and I could feel something moving inside me. My head was spinning- vision fading, sound dissapearing. All I can really remember hearing was one of the thugs from the kitchen saying something like “What did you do? He's bleeding everywhere!” and that was it.

I'm trying my hardest to recall it all, but im just getting flashes. The walls are different, covered in something moving, I can see the shadows of hands, flashing lights, blood. I can hear, things.. sounds like people screaming underwater, ripping, wet, crunching sounds. Something was watching me, judging me. Waiting for some kind of reaction, like it was a test. Exposed muscle, breaking bones. Something collecting the eyes, and the teeth. Something shining in the darkness, pale as the moon. Not quite a face, but watching me, not quite hands, but reaching for me- an embrace?

Look, as far as I know, i could have completely snapped, gone off the deep end. I'm a trained killer, a United States marine sargeant, there are many ways I could have killed them all and made it painful. But I can't find Harriet among the bodies. I can't contact her phone. Nobody has heard from her. It's very possible that I'm totally insane, that I'm still there in the living room or somewhere else in the house, catatonic or worse, but all that I know is that when I came too I was surrounded by the dead, with not a drop of blood on me. For the first time in my life I couldn't feel the door. There was no more invisible door, there was nothing behind me but the wall. What there was.. was a new door in the living room, between the bookshelves and the TV, behind the red leather love seat that you thought would be a nice touch to include with the place.

If there's no door there, then call the police. I'm still here, or out on the streets and I've lost my mind. But if the door is there, if there is a door in the living room that you've never seen before standing as if it has always been a part of this house, then for the love of God do not open it. Seal it off, seal off the damn room if you have to, close off the house and leave it to stand in silence if you possibly can.

I can't stop staring at the door. It's been behind me all my life and now here it is in front of me. I can hear nothing from the other side. It looks plain as day. Could Harriet have gone beyond it?

I hope the storm washes away this house and me with it. I'm going to go through the door. God help me.”

So.. Yeah. This thing has kinda knocked the momentum i've been feeling lately out of everything. Staying in this place is making me pretty uncomfortable, but that's just my usual irrational paranoia (I've never QUITE gotten over the childhood fear of the dark). I'm finding it hard to sleep and I start my new job tomorrow.

Just wish my SO would hurry up and move in already so I won't have to be here in the dark by myself. Goddamn I'm tired.

Fiction


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