The Door, flash fiction by David O'Mahony at
Vidar Nordli Mathisen

The Door

The Door

written by: David O’Mahony



Bill couldn’t get past the door.

It didn’t matter what way he came at it. He’d tried going slowly, like a cat sneaking up on a mouse. He’d tried charging like an Olympic sprinter. He’d tried pretending he was a suave actor who always played the hero and approaching it confidently. Didn’t matter. It always ended with him waking up in twilight at the far end of the hallway.

It was always twilight, he realised. All the rooms were in perpetual twilight. The windows were painted with something that kept most of the light out. Had he done that? He couldn’t remember.

It wasn’t a very impressive door, really. Heavy white metal with a brushed aluminium handle. It fit immaculately against the door frame, so perfectly in fact that you could barely see the joins. It might be keeping him in one place but he could appreciate good workmanship all the same. But he couldn’t say why he was so focused on getting through it.

Now, truth be told, he didn’t have a bad life. There was an enormous library of books in one room, a fitness room with equipment only some of which he knew how to use, and a room like a movie theatre with any selection of movies and porn he could think of. There was never a shortage of food in the kitchen, which he thought was probably on the small side and definitely sterile, with floor to ceiling bright white cabinets and appliances. There was even a redoubtable cake mixer that looked expensive. He’d never needed it, never even thought why he might need it, but he liked that it was there just in case.

Upstairs was his bedroom. It was the size of an average living room and fairly spartan – everything he needed was downstairs – and the same sterile white as the kitchen. What must have been a large window had been blacked out at some stage, and if there was a way of opening it he couldn’t see it. There was a nightstand with two empty shelves, and on top of it every day was a glass of cloudy water he drank in one gulp. There was one large walk-in closet to the right of the bed which had a seemingly endless supply of brown chinos and button down shirts, and a very modest en suite with a shower that was always just a little too hot.

On the left-hand side of the bed, opposite the stairs up from the hallway, was a doorway he couldn’t open. It had no handles and was perfectly set back into the wall.

Then, one day (or at least, after one sleep; he had no way of keeping time), he found a note on the floor outside that door. It said, in thick block letters, “Don’t drink it.” He had no idea who wrote it. He had never seen a pen in the house. He didn’t even know if he could write. But somebody had written this, which meant somebody had been in the room while he was asleep, and he found that both terrifying and exhilarating. The sheer novelty was intoxicating. Maybe they’d come back and kill him – he’d certainly get out the door that way!

Feeling the need to be surreptitious, he hid the note in his waistband and flushed it away after using the toilet, then brought the glass into the shower and turned on the water. Letting it pour onto his face, and ignoring the sting of the heat, he made a show (for who? Why did he suddenly know somebody was watching?) of putting the glass to his lips and then letting it spill all over himself.

The rest of the day was mundane. He ate, he watched TV, he ran on a treadmill that screeched like it needed repairs, he passed out trying to get to the door.

But when he woke in bed the next time, he had a feeling he was more himself than he’d been in years. There was another note. “02.15” it said, with an arrow pointing under the bed, where he found a tiny digital timer that said 22.43. Curiouser and curiouser, he said, shocked to hear his voice. Enjoying the game, he dived back under the thin wool sheets, peeking at the timer, his treasure, under droopy lids.

As it flicked from 02.14 to 02.15 the left-hand door clicked softly open and a man in a grey smock and heavy black goggles emerged with a glass of water in one hand and a canvas bag of food in the other. Listening to an instinct long dormant, Bill leaped out and sent the man sprawling, then dived into the little alcove.

It was full of him. Pictures, silent videos on loop, notes saying things like “political #243,” “no lactose,” “may have friends on staff,” and “still hasn’t used cake mixer.” Then, from a screen on the left, came a chime. A man in a white hat, yellow cummerbund, tartan trousers, and no shirt was waiting. He had a bag over one shoulder that seemed full of handyman’s tools. Without knowing how he knew, Bill tapped a little icon on the screen and the door opened.

From downstairs came a little creak. It was his door!

He sprinted downstairs and flung himself full force into the man, who swore violently in Latin as he was bowled over.

And then, before he knew it, Bill was free! He had made it through the door! He closed his eyes and roared with pure ecstasy.

After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and looked around.

He was standing on a metal platform that stretched into the distance both left and right. Above him was another platform, and as he crept to the edge he saw more below him. And more across the way from him.

Up, down, left, right, it was all the same. An endless array of doors, with no way out.

Latest posts by David O'Mahony (see all)