The first time I opened a door and it really stunned me I was nine years old. I had just woken up from a nightmare where I had died three times, in three different ways – knotted ropes, deep waters, falling from skyscrapers. When I staggered to my parents’ room to find some comfort, I discovered them tangled under a duvet and a mound of pillows, my dad’s head angled down into the mattress and in a muffled voice he snarled, “Close the door. Now.”

I pulled the door until it clicked and then I shut my eyes tight, trying to obliterate what I did or did not see – visions of my death still infecting my mind.

From then on, doors have presented themselves to me throughout my short life, exposing more and more outlandish sights, each one leaving an indelible mark.

One door opened up onto a birthing ceremony with shamans who wore patched-up jeans and gold-plated chains around their necks, another was in a hotel in the Swiss alps where two lovers spoke to each other in unknown dialects while listening to the wail of the mountain winds, another had a group of shoppers singing pop songs as they blocked oncoming traffic while snow fell, and finally, walking out of a log cabin in the woods there was a helicopter silently hurtling towards a lake.

One door meant more to me than most, however. It belonged to a car that I found during a country stroll – a walk that had taken me further from home than I had ever been before, leaving me completely lost. The car was wrecked – the bonnet wrapped around a sycamore tree, surrounded by stacks of autumn leaves swirling in the wind like pools of water. Shards of glass were scattered over the dashboard and they absorbed the light from the flashing indicators. As I wrenched open the mangled door, I saw a man’s head engulfed by an expanded air bag. A bold impulse struck me and I grabbed the man by his hair and rotated his head towards me. The face, though scarred and streaked with blood, held a familiar aspect. In shock, I let the head flop back into the air bag. The victim was me or another version of me, I was almost certain. 

How can you stop opening doors that haunt your mind like shadows in twisting alleyways? How do you escape imaginative worlds that never let you go? I think I need to climb out of windows instead of doors, and lower myself into deserted streets where nothing ever happens. And if I do dream of doors, visions of my death won’t trail me like rattlesnakes in the dirt, because I will have purged my evil thoughts by tracing them back to my childhood fears, and realize dreams are just dreams and doors are just doors.

— Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in Bourbon Penn, Eunoia Review, Menacing Hedge, Maudlin House and elsewhere. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal.

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