I have a jar full of story prompts and sometimes I pick one out at random to write a story about. This is one of those stories. The prompt that came out of the jar was - a new door appears in your home. This is what I came up with...
It was a sleepy Sunday morning when I first noticed the new door. It could have appeared on the Saturday night - I had been out drinking with my boyfriend Robert that night and was pretty distracted at bedtime, I might not have noticed it. It definitely wasn't there Saturday morning.
My house isn't the biggest - just a living room with a small kitchen attached downstairs, a bedroom and small bathroom upstairs. It's not like I have a huge old rambling house where a door might be overlooked.
I walked straight past it the first time, my hung-over brain not really registering it as I stumbled downstairs to make coffee. While I stood waiting for the kettle to boil, I started to feel like something wasn't right, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. My head was sore and my mouth was dry and I just wanted to get the coffee and go back to bed. I could hear Robert moving around upstairs and I smiled to myself. We had a whole day together before he had to go for the working week. I wish he didn't work so far away.
It wasn't until I was halfway up the stairs that I looked up and saw it. A solid oak door, with black, cast iron hinges and an ornate door knob, right there at the top of the stairs. I stopped dead, didn't know how to react. I didn't even really feel the hot coffee slop against my pyjama bottoms as the mugs fell from my hands and bounced down the stairs. I must have screamed or something because the next thing I knew Robert was charging out of the bathroom asking what was wrong, wrapping his arms around me as I sank to my knees on the stairs. My head was spinning, I couldn't see, couldn't breathe, my whole body was overtaken with waves of shock.
"Oh my God, tell me what's wrong? What's happened?" He demanded but I couldn't get the breath to speak. I just pointed. He looked over his shoulder at the door.
"What? Kathy please, you're scaring me! What's wrong?"
I didn't understand why he wasn't as panicked as me.
"The door" I managed to gasp "Can't you see the door?"
"The door?" He frowned at me. "Of course I can see it baby. What's wrong with it?"
I stared at him blankly. What could he mean, what's wrong with it? Did he think it was normal for a door to just appear out of nowhere?
"Let's get you off the stairs" he said soothingly, helping me to my feet. He half led, half carried me up the stairs. I couldn't take my eyes off the door. An icy draft hung around it and I shuddered convulsively as we passed it.
Robert sat me on the bed.
"Just take a few deep breaths my love" he said. I could see it through the open, familiar, white, plywood bedroom door, the new door, just sitting there staring at me over Robert's shoulder.
"What's happened?" He asked, when he thought I had calmed down. I hadn't calmed at all though, I was just trying to concentrate on suckling air into my lungs. What should I do? What are you meant to do when a new door appears in your home? Call the council? The police?
"That door" I said, my voice trembling. I cleared my throat and started again, "that door. It wasn't there yesterday."
He snorted, half smiled and then shook his head a little.
"I don't get the joke? " He said, confused.
"I'm not joking" I snapped "it wasn't, you know it wasn't. There has never been a door there." I started to get annoyed. If this was some kind of elaborate prank it certainly wasn't very funny.
"Babe, you've lived here two years. That door has always been there." He said. "Are you feeling ok? Did you bump your head last night?" He looked genuinely concerned.
"This isn't funny" I yelled at him, "of course I didn't bump my head!"
"Okay, it's okay" he said soothingly, and it just made me angrier.
"Why are you talking to me like I'm crazy? You know as well as me that door wasn't there yesterday! Where would it even Lead? That's an external wall!"
I jumped up off the bed and strode towards the door, my rage smothering my fear. I grabbed the iron door knob. It was cold enough to hurt my hand. Undeterred, I turned it, pushing on the door. It was locked.
"Babe, come on. You know the door has always been locked. The landlord told you that before you moved in." Robert frowned, concerned confusion clouded his features. "Should I call your mum or something?"
"Why would you call my mum?" I asked, "Did you hear that?" I held my head close to the wood, not daring to lay my skin on its cold surface, straining my ears.
"It sounded like a kid, laughing"
"It was probably just a kid outside. I think maybe we should call a doctor"
"No, it came from in here, I'm sure of it"
He strode across to me, took my face in his hands.
"Babe, listen. No one is in there. You've lived here two years and the door has been locked all this time. There is no one in there."
I stared at him for a little while, blankly. Then I turned and stared at the door. I barely registered him walking past me, going downstairs.
I started to think about ways I could get it open. Maybe if I unscrewed the hinges? Did I even have a screwdriver? I decided I could go to the DIY store, get screwdrivers, maybe a chisel or an axe? I went back into my room and threw on yesterday's jeans and a jumper. I didn't like turning my back to the door to go downstairs.
Robert was on the phone when I got down there. I ignored him while I looked for for my keys. I was annoyed with him, but not sure why.
"No, she was fine last night. I don't know what's wrong" he was saying as I found my keys. "Kathy wait-" but I slammed the door on his words, jumped into my car and headed for the DIY store.
As I threw the screwdriver set into my basket I realised that I hadn't had a proper look at the hinges. The screws might be hidden, or on the other side of the door. I ended up buying a mallet and chisel, a small saw and an axe as well. I'm surprised they didn't question it when when I got to the till. Thank goodness for apathetic minimum wage workers I suppose.
I expected Robert to be gone when I get got home, but he was still there, my mum and the landlord with him, drinking tea out of mismatched mugs.
"Where did you go babe?" He asked quietly, in the kind of tone you might use to speak to an animal you were afraid of spooking.
"I went to buy some tools. I want that new door opened."
"Katherine, you're being ridiculous" Mum said "there is no new door. Doors don't just appear overnight. It has always been there, isn't that right Mr Singh?"
The landlord nodded.
"It has always been there. It's just a storeroom is all. We talked about it before you signed the lease, remember?"
I stared at them. Whatever this was, they were clearly in it together.
"If it is just a store room, why is it locked?" I asked, playing for time. What were they playing at?
"Like I said when you moved in" said Mr Singh "a previous tenant lost the key. That's all. We've not been able to replace it because the door is so old."
I stared some more. I knew that door was new. I was certain of it. Why was everyone pretending it had always been there?
"Well I bought some tools now." I said, playing along " we can get it open and start using it again."
"Like I said before, the door is very old. Antique in fact. You can't damage it" said Mr Singh "you are a good tenant, I don't want to lose you, but I'd can't be letting you damage the property."
"Come now Katherine, you are being silly. It's never been a problem before." Mum snapped.
I didn't know what to do. I was never going to get the door open with everyone here.
"Maybe I did bump my head after all" I said. "I do feel a bit headachey"
"Maybe we should go to the hospital?" Robert suggested, chewing on his bottom lip.
"No!" I said " I mean, I'm sure I will be fine. I just need some rest is all. I'll be fine."
It didn't take the landlord long to leave, but it took Mum hours before she decided to go.
The rest of the day with Robert was strained and awkward. I tried to pretend like I remembered the door, but but I think he knew I was lying. Usually Sundays go so fast and I dread him leaving, but on that particular Sunday I couldn't wait for him to leave so I could attack the door. He stayed later than usual though, and I ended up falling asleep on the sofa with him still there.
When I woke up the next morning he was gone, but had tucked me in and left a note saying saying he would call later, as always. The note didn't mention the door.
I went straight out to the car and brought my new tools in. I started by unscrewing every screw screw could see. Then I turned the knob and shoved against the door with my shoulder. It didn't budge. I slammed my shoulder into it again but my only reward was a white hot pain that shot from my shoulder to my elbow, leaving my hand tingling. I heard a faint giggle from the other side of the door, I'm sure I did.
Next I took the chisel and tried to get it into the gap between the door and frame, but it was too tight. I hit the door with the mallet, trying to get it to budge enough to get the chisel in. I might might as well have tried to shift a mountain. Nevertheless, I kept trying anyway. I was determined to get the door open.
It was getting dark by the time I decided to get the axe. I had tried kicking it, chiselling it, pounding it with the mallet, but the door looked as perfect as before, unmarked, ice cold wood. The door had no face, of course, but it felt like it was smirking at me.
I stood as far back as I could, right at the top of the stairs, and ran at the door, my axe raised. The force of the blow vibrated up my arms, jarred my whole body. The axe head went flying off over my shoulder, down the stairs, before settling with a sickening thunk into the front door. The new door remained pristine. I sank to my knees, panting, despairing, trying to convince myself I couldn't hear the gales of giggles coming from behind the door.
It was fully dark before I moved again, getting up to switch the landing light on. The bulb flickered on and off, buzzing loudly. Fear gripped me and I ran around the house switching on every light and lamp I had. Then I rummaged through the kitchen drawers until I found my torch.
I took the blanket off the sofa and wrapped it around myself, then sat sat with my back to the front door, watching the new door at the top of the stairs. I'm not sure when, but at some point I fell asleep.
The week continued in that pattern, me trying to open the door all day, watching it until I fell asleep at night. I'm not sure when Robert stopped calling. I think it was Friday when my boss' concerned voice mails became angry. I don't think I have a job anymore.
Whatever lives behind the door is getting bolder now. Last night when I woke in the night the door was slightly open, I'm sure of it, a faint greenish blue light coming from inside. I grabbed my big torch like a weapon and headed upstairs, but by the time I reached the door it was locked tight again, as if it had never been opened.
Sometimes in the morning I wake and find things in my house have moved. Nothing large or significant; my childhood teddy bear that sat on top of the wardrobe is now on my bed, the magnets on my fridge have been rearranged, my photo album was open on the coffee table.
It's too cold to go upstairs now. My breathe turns to clouds halfway up the stairs. I go up only when the need to go to the bathroom is too great, and never after dark.
I don't know why I don't move house. I just can't seem to bring myself to. More than once I have thought about just burning the place down. I play with matches, lighting them, watching them burn out, never quite daring to do it. I don't think I will ever leave here.
My only company now is the eternal sound, echoing through my house, the laughter of an unseen child.