The opening lines are from my friend's AIM profile. They held a certain sort of ring to them, and I really liked the mood they conveyed, so they just inspired me to sit and write this. This took a different direction that what I sort of had in mind, but I like the way it came out. I'll probably expand it later, seeing how I was a bit tired for the last few paragraphs...
It was just midnight when I realized that everything had gone wrong. Terribly wrong.
The door wouldn't fit. I don't know why it bothered me so much, but it wouldn't click. I would push the door into its frame, biting my lip as I waited for it to click reassuringly, to tell me that everything was all right, and that I was safe in this room. But the door would bump up against the frame—almost go in—and then squeak back open, revealing the empty hall behind it.
And it was just a little too dark outside. Maybe a star had extinguished itself; maybe tonight God had decided to take a big brush and swathe the night over with a stroke of black instead of indigo. I could barely see the black limbs of the old sycamore tree outside, and I didn't know whether that was a good or a bad thing. Normally, the branches would look like long, spindly fingers, reaching out to tap tap tap at my window.
It could be disturbing, I suppose. But I wasn't sure.
I took a few ginger steps toward the door again. Push. Swing. Cl—squeak.
The door had closed itself normally yesterday. Or was it a week ago? I wasn't sure. I tried again: Push. Swing. Cl—squeak. No luck. I tried again and again, and always to the same result: the door slowly swinging back open, the doorknob touching my hand, and the dark hallway before me. It was this darkness that scared me, I suppose: I wasn't sure if there was something lurking there. Something behind a corner; something in a pocket of cold shadows; something hanging from a portrait by two long, sinewy fingers. There could be something, and once I knew that it was there, it would be too late.
Push. Swing. Cl—squeak.
When was the last time I had slept? Certainly not today. Maybe not yesterday. When was the last time that I had fallen into the still waters of unconsciousness?
I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure.
Cl—squeak. Cl—squeak. Cl—squeak.
Maybe I didn't need to sleep. Maybe I was a robot. Maybe I was a flower. Do flowers sleep? Certainly flowers don't worry about things lurking in the darkness; certainly flowers don't worry about whether or not this night was darker than last night. Certainly flowers didn't think about stars, about hallways and doors.
It occurred to me that the last time that I had slept was the night before my twenty-eighth birthday. I had been watching TV and drinking a beer when suddenly, inexplicably, the door slammed shut behind me. I had set the bottle down, walked over to the door, and turned the doorknob, expecting it to be heavy, expecting it to be a struggle to turn, expecting that someone was holding onto the doorknob from the other side.
But it opened easily, as frictionlessly as if I were scooping my hand through a bowl of water.
And I was greeted by the dark hall.
The motion became almost mechanical. A swipe of the arm would send the hunk of wood on its way, and my hand reached out afterward, expecting the cool feel of the wood against my palm again. My eyes became accustomed to seeing the darkness before me. And I could see its shape—the way its edges unfurled; the way it curved and warped. I could see how some parts of it were darker than others, how the stifled air was completely and utterly still.
Perhaps it would click this time. I watched as the door flew, watched as the the glint of the golden latch swung in a wide arc, ready to collide with the doorframe. If it would just click and close, if I could just get this over with, then I could sleep. I could sleep, finally sleep, and these weeks of torture would finally be over. I wouldn't have to worry about the shadows outside ensnaring me and destroying me; I wouldn't have to worry about the darkness of the hallway pressing itself through my door and suffocating me.
The smooth wood of the door touched my hand.
And outside, the darkness shone on.