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The Door

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"The door at the end of the hallway must never be opened," the old woman said, her milky white eyes nearly hidden by the sagging skin around her eyes. "The last time someone tried was back when I was a child."

"Why?" It seemed unnecessarily forward, but Naimh knew that her grandmother would likely speak in riddles or vague half-truths unless asked directly.

If her grandmother was offended by the question, she didn't show it. Instead, she shifted her weight slightly, leaning into the antique wooden cane that she held at her right side.

"I don't have the answers that you seek," her voice cracked, adding weight to her words. A dainty rosary wove around the woman's weathered left hand and balled up in her palm, nestled in long-worn indentions in her skin.

"Alright," Naimh said slowly. "Do you have any information at all? What happened the last time someone tried to open it? We really need to get in there and start clearing it out."

The old woman shook her head resolutely. "Just leave it."

There was no way Naimh was going to "just leave it" like her grandmother suggested. It was supposed to be an entire mother-in-law suite, complete with a kitchenette through that door, and the family rumor mill hinted that there were full sets of antiques stored away in the extra space.

"Mamó," Naimh said, "We have to empty it out. Someone's bought the house."

Her grandmother hadn't been to the house in a little over 3 months. Her last fall made it clear that she was no longer capable of living alone, but neither Naimh nor her parents had space for her or could move to her side of town. It was a difficult decision to make, but assisted living was their only option.

The elderly woman sighed, shaking her head. She knew it was pointless to fight.

"Tell you what," Naimh said, gesturing to her phone, "I'll go in there, take photos, and we can go through everything together. How does that sound?"

Her grandmother sighed again, lowering her gaze to the floor.

"I'll be back in a few minutes, ok?" Naimh said. "If you need anything, just call for me."

Naimh never considered herself to be superstitious, but as she neared the door she could have sworn that the hallway stretched at her every step, the door extending further and further away from her grasp. It must have been an illusion that was playing with her eyes. All of the horizontal stripes and long floor panels made the hallway appear more lengthy.

She finally reached the door, the metal knob cool to the touch in her hand. It turned without issue, but when Naimh pushed the door open, it felt as if something was on the other side, pressing against her.

"Must be stuck," she said and shouldered it open. Something cracked in the jamb, most likely fused paint since the door had been closed for such a long time.

Naimh was met with a sudden onslaught of dust rising to invade her sinuses. Coughing and sneezing, she lifted the collar of her t-shirt to her nose and walked further into the room. It was dark and musty, with linens draped haphazardly over all the furniture in the room, and a thick layer of dust and grime covered every surface.

"Mamó, there's a lot of stuff in here!" she called back to her grandmother. The older woman remained silent.

Naimh flicked the light switch, but nothing happened. There was either no electricity coming to this portion of the house or all of the lights were dead. Naimh placed a mental bet on the latter and turned on the flashlight on her phone. The harsh light threw an eerie cast over the whole space, throwing elongated shadows behind all elements in the forefront.

Taking pictures as she perused, Naimh lifted the white sheets off of each item of furniture. First to be uncovered was a chaise lounge upholstered in a heavy brocade fabric embroidered with fine gold thread. The sheet had kept it in pristine quality except for one of the wooden clawed legs which had been left exposed over the years. Naimh found it interesting that simply sitting unused in a dark room would show wear after a certain amount of time.

Suddenly, the door slammed shut behind her, sending prickles up and down the back of her neck. Her phone also shut off inexplicably, leaving her enshrouded in complete darkness. Naimh cursed from the startle and turned toward the door, pressing the power button on her phone.

"What is up with this thing," she said aloud. "It was at 80% just a minute ago."

-- END EXERCISE --

That brought us to 782 words. I may go back and turn this one into a flash fiction in the future.

Pretty fun stuff! What do you think happens next? If you did this exercise, what did you come up with? Please feel free to share in the comments section!

Peace.
Stef.

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