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The door was locked. It had been for as long as I could remember, and it would probably remain so until the day that I died. Maybe even longer than that. It wasn’t that I couldn’t unlock the door to find out what she had hidden away so carefully. It was that I made a promise.

The door stood at the far end of the hallway from the room where I slept. I didn’t sleep in my bedroom anymore at that point. It seemed futile to try to fall asleep in that bed after she was gone. No, the room where I now slept, where I had been sleeping for nearly ten years now, was my study. The overstuffed recliner next to the fireplace served as a better bed for me, and I had lost count of how many times I had nodded off while a fire roared to counter the howling wind and snow outside of my windows.

The door led to a room that had been intended as a nursery, but the children had never come. One day she had gone into the room, and stayed there for several hours. When she came out, her face was pale, but filled with grim accomplishment. She locked the door then, and made me swear to never open it again. She threw the key into the fire that night, and we sat together in the recliner and watched as it melted away.

For a time, we were happy again, and we ignored the door at the far end of the hallway next to the bedroom, when the bed was still shared and we didn’t need the fire to stay warm. The door stayed locked, and I never asked her the reason. We trusted each other with every secret but this one, and it eventually drove us apart.

I don’t remember exactly what happened on the day (or night, I can’t seem to recall the hour) when she left. I don’t know where she went, but I know why. The locked door seemed to torment her more than me, a reminder of the life that she couldn’t carry. I want to say that I plead with her that night, got down on my knees and begged her to tell me what was eating away at her, what this secret was, but I don’t know. I may have, instead, filled my heart with courage from an increasingly empty bottle and told her that if she couldn’t live with herself then she couldn’t live with me, and that she needed to get out.

I don’t remember when it was that I took every one of my books and my lamps and my blankets and my pillows from the room that had been ours and left every one of hers behind. I haven’t been back in that bedroom for years, but I’ve left it unlocked. I can’t risk doing what she did. I can’t leave the house, either. That’s not to say that I can’t go out my door to buy groceries or to find a new book, but I can’t move. I can’t pack up and find somewhere new to live. I’m held here by my promise to her. If someone else were to buy the house, they might open the locked door, and I cannot bear the thought of some stranger learning the secret that tore her away from me.

The door sits at the end of the hallway, on the second floor of my home. My kitchen is directly beneath the room, and some days I find myself staring at the ceiling in wonder. What-if’s fill my head, and I find that I lose my appetite until the next day, when another empty bottle of whiskey or rum or vodka has turned up next to my recliner and I have no memory of coming back upstairs. One morning, I woke up on the floor of the hallway next to the locked door, a screwdriver and a hammer beside me. I must have decided that I had to open the door, but I had passed out before I could put my plan into action.

It’s better that way, really. I don’t want to know what’s behind that door, or at least that’s what I tell myself. Instead I sit next to the fire, or at my desk, and I read, or I write, or I try to do one or the other and fail miserably at both because I remember how much she used to inspire me and remember that she’s gone and she’s not coming back. Occasionally a magazine calls and asks me if I can finish another story for them this month, and I tell them yes, because I still need to eat.

Once in a while, I thought about having a new key made, or having a locksmith come in and open the door, but I realized that would still be breaking my promise, and even now I am still a man of my word. I know what I’m going to do now, though. I’m not going to break my promise to her. I’m not going to unlock the door. I’m going to stoke the fire high tonight, and I’m going to leave my chair closer to it than usual. I’m going to have a drink, and I’m going to fall asleep, surrounded by my books and covered in an afghan that she made for me the winter after I proposed, one of the blankets that I took from our old bedroom after she left. I’m not going to leave a note. It wouldn’t survive anyway. I suppose that the fire will start slowly, kissing the pages of the books, blackening them and turning them to ash. It will start in the study, and make its way down the hall.

It will consume everything in its path. It’s fire, after all, and it will devour the house that was once ours and is now mine and mine alone. The hallway will offer little resistance. Likewise the bedroom we once shared and I now shun. It will burn, and the smoke alarms will attempt to wake me to save me from myself, but it will be in vain. The locked door will stand at the end of the hall, but it too will burn, and her secret will die with me.

4 Comments

  1. I like this. Reminds me of a short story I wrote in college (also focused on the horror of a closed door). Think I’m going to dig it up and freshen it.

    • ANGELA M MONDRAGON
    • Posted October 7, 2016 at 11:56 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Dark and creepy, but beautifully written. You have a gift for getting inside people’s heads and letting us know them. I can picture it all.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By A Door | The Swords of the Ancients on 07 Oct 2016 at 11:17 am

    […] written a lot about doors. Secret passages, locked doors that contain various secrets, portals to other places… It’s definitely a recurring theme in my work. So imagine my […]

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