Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Going Out (A short story)

This story first appeared
in the July/August 1981 issue
of ARKENSTONE magazine.

The door began to open slowly. But not so slow as to be melodramatic, like in spook stories. No, not that kind of slowly. But, rather, it was an odd, foreboding slowness. An omen of something unusual, maybe even sinister, to come.

It was not one of the familiar openings he knew well. It wasn't the opening of coming home from being away. The glad, relieved bursting in. Neither was it the quick, jerky, haphazard opening of a child coming in from play. Yelling for his mother, hoping for cookies and milk before supper. Nor was it the hesitant, opening-closing, lingering of his daughter back from a date. Remembering one more vital piece of sharing to whisper, and wanting one more one last kiss. It was none of these familiar openings.

He had seen the door open an endless succession of times and knew its timber language. Sitting in his chair, smoking his pipe, reading the paper or glancing at the TV, the door was always in sight. At the slightest sound of opening, he would look toward the door, alert to the details of opening. The movement of the knob and the way the light danced around its turning. It was a stylish brass fixture recently replacing the worn one and fit incongruously in the d├ęcor of his memories. A vague annoyance implying age, emphasizing the past's distance. Then there was the final opening, the enlarging of the space between the jamb and the door, a revelation of entrance just before the coming in. Followed always with a quick, solid closing. Mustn't let too much inside out, or outside in, he always thought, amused. As if the mistake would be volatile, or the loss deadly.

Between the going outs and coming ins, he had often sat for hours, now accumulated into years, just thinking and remembering, always aware of, often staring at, mediating on the door. He marveled at the simple beauty of the grain and the sheen of the natural finish. Even as a child he had been fascinated by the grainwork of doors, how one half seemed the mirror image of the other. A wooden Rorschach. Sometimes the patterns would take on frightening personalities that would worm into his boyish dreams. He was no longer frightened. Just fascinated by the intricate and graceful network of lines and shades and texture. He did not know what type of wood it was. He had known, but had forgotten. And it really didn't matter. This was a door of wood. An entrance. An exit. Security. Beautiful and functional.

And now it was opening unlike any opening he'd ever observed. There had been no forewarning sound of coming up to the door. He had merely sensed something, or thought he had sensed something, and on impulse glanced at the knob. And then, feeling it move, he had to stare intently, concentrating on the knob and the area immediately behind the knob to see it moving. He still wasn't sure it did turn. But it had to have turned for now the door was opening. Very oddly. But it was opening. He felt no anxiety or fear. Only curiosity. It was a game of guessing now. Prediction and probabilities. It had been a long while, but he had played the game before....

What do you think has happened at the end of the story? Where did Ed go?Please share your thoughts in the comments.

And please go vote for the cover you like best for my forthcoming novel, "The Hungering Dark: Awakening."

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