Throughout my childhood, and even now into my teenage years, my mother has always drilled into my head not to open any doors if I don’t know what is behind them. Of course, all the doors in the house are not off limits, but she means outside of the house. Any side doors in the mall, stores, other houses, the list goes on. I’ve tried and tried over the years to ask why she’s so adamant about knowing what’s there before opening a door, and she refuses to tell me. Though she refuses to tell me, her eyes give away that she’s afraid. Being afraid of a door is absolutely ridiculous, right? There’s no reason to be scared, unless you’ve seen something that’s etched into your brain for eternity.
I’ve been going on a run every night for the past few weeks, as I’ve found I can’t sleep and compared to the scorching heat of the sun, I prefer the breeze and the gentle moonlight. Normally, I tend to take the same path each night, so that if I accidentally get lost in my thoughts, I don’t actually get physically lost, but a few nights ago, I decided it’s time to try a new path. Maybe, I’ll find something I haven’t before, I thought to myself. Maybe I’ll find a new scene to drink in until I’m sick of it.
I ended up downtown, and I no longer felt the need to run. Instead, I felt like I was being drawn to a specific place, but I consciously did not know where. I was anxious and curious all at once. Where am I going? My brain demanded. My rational thoughts were flashing through my mind, yelling at me to turn around, and go home. But the part of me that is younger, curious, and too awake to surrender to my bed, followed the invisible leash that drew me towards the place; it drew me towards a door.
As soon as I realized that I was standing on the steps leading to a building, leading me straight into a door, I froze. Panic set in, but calmness and and warmth washed away the anxiety that was attempting to take over, telling me to run! All I was ever told and reminded of as a child was to stay away from unknown doors, don’t put your hand on the handle, and most importantly… “Do not open the door if you don’t know what’s behind it,” I muttered, annoyed. My mom’s warnings never made sense and always confused me, but they never made me feel as irritated as I was in that moment. It wouldn’t hurt to open the door, even just a crack.. I pondered. All I know is that I need to at least take a peek, and find out what could possibly be inside…
My phone then began to ring, making me jump. Even though I had a soft, melodic ringtone, I was so focused on a door that I forgot everything else that was happening in the world around me. I fumbled for my pocket, pausing to glance at the caller ID before answering. “Hey, mom,” I hesitated.
“Brooke? Where are you, and why are you gone so late at night?” my mom shrieked. Crap. Not good. She always knew I had trouble sleeping, but never knew I went on a run at night by myself. And she definitely did not know that I ran downtown, ending up by an old, dark door with a beautiful gold doorknob and matching door knocker.
“Mom, you know I can’t sleep-”
“And normally, what do you do when you can’t sleep? You sneak out, and sneak around? Wherever you are, I want to come get you. Nobody should be out by themselves at two in the morning, especially a small seventeen year old girl.” She sounded genuinely worried, like if she didn’t come get me right now, in that instant, I was going to disappear into thin air, that she would never see me again. I instantly felt awful for putting her through this, but mostly, I felt awful for just leaving the house, without a word of where I was going or what I was doing.
“It’s okay, Mom, I’m just wandering around the neighborhood, by the park,” I paused, taking a big breath before continuing to lie, “I’ll be home soon. I was just out for a run and I can run back home and be in soon.”
Mom hesitated before responding. “Alright, honey. Stay where it’s light and stay safe. Call me if you decide you want a ride home or if you have any trouble.” I giggled softly as we said our goodbyes, and I stuffed the phone back in my pocket. Before I left for home again, I took one last, long look at the beautiful door in front of me, part of the dark brick building I don’t remember seeing before.
For the next few nights, I found my mind racing, obsessing over this random building and the dark door. I could not make my brain stop thinking about it, and the longer I stayed away, the more anxious I felt, as if I was missing a part of myself, as if I was out of routine and had been going for years. I could say I forced myself to stay away, and to stay inside, but the reality was after my small adventure downtown in the middle of the night, my mom was seriously upset and had me on lockdown. I wasn’t allowed to leave the house without telling her exactly where I was going and when I would be back home- even when I went to school! Cabin fever set in quickly, and I soon felt like I was overwhelmed, because I had a lot on my mind and there was nothing I could do about it.
I couldn’t stop from obsessing about the door, even in my dreams. In each dream, I relived that first night I saw it, each with a similar outcome.. I always would work up the courage to finally defy my mother’s rule and open the door, though once my hand met the cool, gold doorknob, I would hesitate. And before I was allowed to see what was on the other side, I would wake up, frustrated and sweating, and mostly- angry.
After a week of being trapped in the house, I snapped. “Mom!” I bounded up the stairs, determined to convince her to let me out, even just for an hour or two to go on a nice, lengthy run. As I turned the corner to her office, she held up one finger, wanting me to wait to speak since she was on the phone. She quickly and quietly ended the call, looking frustrated and taking a breath before looking back up at me. She fidgeted with the bobby pins in her hair for a second before smiling at me, and asking, “What is it, Brooke? How is everything-”
“I am losing my mind, Mother.” I cut her off, agitated. “I want to leave the house, and I need to leave this house before I go completely insane.” The small lump in my throat grew in size, and I knew that soon I wouldn’t be able to swallow it and talk normally anymore. Warm tears stung my eyes, when Mom’s smile disappeared, and she reached across the desk, grabbing both of my hands with hers. Her kind smile was replaced by a mother’s concern, something anybody could see and feel at least a mile away.
“Brooke, what really happened last week when you left?” She paused, and, when I looked down, she continued. “I know you weren’t really around the neighborhood or at the park, because I used to go there, too.”
Nothing prepared me for that. She put on a face and refused to tell me anything for seventeen years, and I think she was finally about to confess. I had to get it out of her, even if that meant I had to confess, too. “I lied, Mom,” I sobbed. I knew I was about to launch into hysterics, but I was not able to control my emotions anymore. I blew my nose and wiped my eyes before continuing. “I tried to fall asleep that night, and for a few weeks before, I was just not able to sleep. My mind won’t stop racing, all day, and all night, and while I’m running-”
“You’re finally able to relax and stop overthinking?” Mom finished my sentence before I could form the words. I nodded slowly, both of us relaxing into the comfortable silence. Mom was the one who finally broke it. “I had the same problem when I was younger, I was about nineteen. I went to college close enough to home that I didn’t have to live on campus, and could stay with your grandparents for another couple of years. Initially, I didn’t think anything of me not sleeping; I drank coffee all day long, so I could stay awake and study for a couple extra hours. Then one night, I seriously counted over one hundred sheep, before deciding to run around the neighborhoods until I was completely exhausted and forced to sleep.”
“What happened then, Mom?” I asked. I picked at my fingernails absentmindedly, squirming in my seat. Listening to her tell a story like this made me remember the times she would tell fascinating stories about princesses and ballerinas before bedtime as a young child, and I didn’t realize that I missed those times, being so close and engrossed in the story unfolding before me.
She looked up at me. “You don’t know?” She whispered. I met her wide-eyed gaze, before slowly shaking my head, allowing her to continue. Mom broke our eye contact and looked away, obviously composing herself before her launch into a haunting memory.
“When I went for my run that night, I did not get tired, I felt more energized than ever. Out of frustration, I began wandering around the park, right around here. I swang, climbed up slides and stairs, and nothing tired me out. I started feeling the urge to wander around the town more, maybe further away from home, so that by the time I crawled back in bed, I would have no choice but to give in to sleep.” She paused for some more composure, and continued.
“I didn’t realize where exactly I was going, just that I was headed towards downtown.” She hesitated as I sucked in a breath. “I walked and finally, I felt like I wasn’t getting there quickly enough, so I sprinted, with everything I had, towards the giant metal gate in front of what appeared to be a mansion. When I got there, I felt alright at first, but I realized that this wasn’t calming my anxiety any, and that I needed to go beyond the gate. I didn’t, and still don’t understand why, but I was physically and emotionally unable to rest until I got there.”
“Until you went where, Mom?” I asked quietly, “Where did you have to go?”
I handed her a tissue, and she quickly grabbed it and dabbed at her eyes carefully, trying to save what was left of her mascara. She grabbed another tissue to wipe her nose quickly before finishing the story.
“The building and the door were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen- a brick mansion, well kept, and a beautiful, black door with gold detailing, including the door knocker and the doorknob.”
As I heard that, I felt the color drain from my face as I gulped. I’m so glad I’m sitting down, so I won’t fall if I do pass out. I zoned out for a quick moment.
“Brooke, honey? If you don’t want to hear this I can st-”
“No!” I interrupted. “No, I want to hear what happened. I need to know what happened.”
“If it gets to be too much, it’s okay to walk away, but if you truly want to know, I suppose I can carry on,” she sighed. I relaxed into the chair. There was a dull ache in my hands from gripping on to the chair so tight, as if I was holding on for dear life. “I’m unsure how I knew, but I was able to unlock the padlock on the front gate, and lock it again from the inside, without being seen. I snuck all the way up to the front steps, and there it was. The door that caused me to warn you about doors your entire life.” She breathed deeply, allowing her words to hang there in the silence.
“What did you see?”
Mom had been looking down the whole time we had been talking, but when I asked what I thought was an obvious question, she looked up at me with wild, red eyes. She looked angry, and sad, even a little hateful. When I sat back more in my chair, she immediately switched back to the kind, deep stormy blue eyes I had grown accustomed to during my life. She swallowed the lump in her throat, and carried on, just as she had before.
“I opened the door quickly, without a knock, no questions asked. What I saw, Brooke, was what no one would ever want to see. I saw everything I ever wanted and everything I feared all at once. In a way, this door allowed me to see the future, and in that vision, I made a choice- a choice to follow my dreams, but even though I was able to do what I wanted, I was unhappy, and I lost everything. The last thing I remembered seeing was my baby, my very first baby girl, being stillborn, and mourning the loss at her funeral.”
Tears now flowed freely down her face, she met my gaze once more as I reached out and took her hand, rubbing small, gentle circles over her thumb. She wept silently, only for a minute, before wiping her eyes and nose again and giving me a final warning, a choice.
“Brooke, I know not everyone will see what I saw through the door, and you will have to open it at your own risk. Either way you choose, I will be here for you, through it all, in the aftermath.” Mom gave my hand a gentle squeeze. “This is a journey you must take alone. The only thing I ask is that should you decide to go to the door again, that you let me know before you go, only so I know where you are.”
I nodded slowly in agreement, and stood to give her a hug, and turned to walk to my room again, even just to process everything I learned. As Mom sat back down, I turned back towards her, leaning against the doorframe for support. “Hey, Mom?”
“What happens to those that decide not to go back, not to see what happens at the door?” I blurted the question before I even had a chance to think about wording it, but at least the question was out there.
“Well, sweetie, “ she responded, “There’s no way for me to truly know what happens to people if they don’t go. If anyone went and found the door, or the door found them, they never told me about it, and especially if they decided to walk away from the door for good.”
I paused, stomach turning and uneasy at what I was about to reveal. “I, umm,” I hesitated, “I think I’m going to umm, go back to the door tonight.” I looked her right in the eye, and instead of her being angry with my choice, she nodded.
“When are you going to go?”
“I don’t know an exact time yet,” I replied slowly, “but it will probably be after midnight. That’s when I figure out I need to run before I can sleep.”
“Just make sure to wake me before you leave,” Mom warned. “And, Brooke.”
“Even though I had a terrifying vision of my future at the door, please, do not be afraid.” She said breathlessly. The way she spoke the sentence sounded as if she was as nervous as I felt, and like she wouldn’t get a chance to tell me later tonight.
I swallowed hard, and nodded quickly. “I won’t, I promise.”
She smiled at me, before I turned and padded quickly back to my room, to hide and process all of this information and my emotions, before going on an adventure. Mostly, I hid in my closet, with my knees tucked into my chest in the dark, trying to relax and get my emotions in check. She had a vision that I died, I thought to myself. I would have a meltdown the same way she did if I saw what she did.
I prepared for the run like I did every other time in the past- usually concentrating on other things, allowing my mind to run wild for just a few minutes longer before silencing it for the night. I slipped into a loose teal tank top, and tied the laces on my beat up matching tennis shoes. I tiptoed down the hall to Mom’s room, and as I raised my hand to knock, the door opened in front of me. Mom’s warm smile shocked me, as the whole night I had gotten ready, I was sure she would be in tears. She folded me into a quick hug and guided me to the door, with one hand resting on my shoulder. “I’m going to leave the porch light on for you,” she whispered, “I can’t wait to hear about your vision, whenever you’re ready to talk about it- whether it’s tomorrow or in twenty years.” She gave me one last tight embrace, then pushed me out the door, into the humid August night.
While my mind was racing, my body was on autopilot, moving quickly towards my destination. I didn’t have to think about where I was going, because my feet already knew exactly where I needed to go. Tonight, it took me around a half hour to jog here at a consistent pace, with no stops taken for water or a rest. Outside of the front gate, I stopped on the sidewalk for a moment to catch my breath, wiping cold sweat off of my brow. The house was beautiful, and looked exactly the same as last time. Dark bricks with a black door, gold detailing, all the same as last time, and it all looked brand new.
This is it, there’s no turning back now.
As I rested my hand on the gate handle and went to move forward, my feet were like cement blocks. I was trying to fight the fear and the anxiety, and as soon as I latched the gate behind me and faced the door once more, all of the fear, the anxiety, and doubts I had before had instantly dissolved into a warm puddle of happiness and safety. The closer I got to the door, the more I noticed it’s soft, golden glow.
My fingers inched towards the doorknob once more, the metal warm under my hand as if someone had touched it only moments before me. This is it, I thought.
My life is about to change, for better or for worse. There’s no turning back now.
TO BE CONTINUED…