Bogleech.com's 2019 Horror Write-off:
The 1,047 Doors
Submitted by Farquarl
When I was 2 years old, the first door closed.
While I remember little from my infanthood, this memory stands out clear as day. I was sleeping in my crib, cradling close my teddy bear, drifting off into nothingness after what I assume must have been a day of exhausting play. I dreamt of my mother, my father, some animals I saw, the sky. They combined and swirled together in my childish fantasy as my brain recapitulated all the exciting things I experienced that day. And then there was that door. Matte dark brown, no extraordinary stains or blemishes, just an unremarkable door, it stood there, slightly recessed in the wall of my fantasy. It was ajar, dim whiteish light pouring out, and I could hear a faint sobbing from the crack, and I remember that the voice reminded me of my mother. In my dream, I stopped to listen to the pained sounds, eventually walking towards them, because even as an infant, I could sense that something was not right. But as my dream consciousness floated closer to the door, it started to shut, slowly but relentlessly, until all the light coming from the other side was quenched, and the sobbing became more and more muffled and finally subsided completely as I awoke restless and mewling like the infant that I was. I did not think about it much back then, as I lacked the capacity to do so, but it never left my mind.
It happened again when I was 5, in kindergarten, after the nursery workers put me and the other children to sleep after lunch. In my dreams, I kicked a red rubber ball around the infinite corners of an impossible version of the kindergarten building, until I stood before that same door, slightly ajar again, but not enough for me to peer inside. I recognized it immediately, but before I could make another step towards it, a car horn blared from the other side and it slammed shut, making me jolt upright in my bed, panting heavily, staring wildly into the darkness of the unlit dormitory. I must have screamed as I woke up, as two kindergarteners rushed into the room as quietly as they could to comfort me and tuck the other children back in. They asked me what was wrong, and when I told them of my dream, they assured me that the door could not hurt me, that it was not real, and I was put back to sleep.
I dreamt of the door two more times before I entered elementary school, and seventeen more times until I reached the end of fourth grade, when I finally decided to investigate this strange occurance. I had long before concluded that there was something ominous about this dream I kept having, but I could not think of anything to do about it. Now, 10 years old, I decided that it was time to start with the most obvious part of my nightly vision: the door itself. I spent the afternoons roaming the streets of my family’s townhouse complex and the neighboring villages, looking for that dark brown four-panel door, and while I found a lot that matched the description, none evoked in me the visceral feeling of familiarity that I had hoped to experience on my after-school strolls. They were either too small, too large, too stained or too polished, or simply not ordinary enough. I lay asleep plenty a night, trying to will myself to find that door again, but I could never conjure it up on my own, and when it appeared, it still managed to catch me off-guard every single time. The door entered my dreams sporadically, maybe once or twice every two months, and no matter how hard I tried to peer inside, it always closed before I managed to get near it, and from time to time it was accompanied by some weird and inexplicable noise, like the high-pitched screeching of a rotary saw or the rubbery stroking sound of flesh on flesh. By the time I was 18, and ready to go to university, I had dreamt of that strange door 117 times.
It may perhaps be unsurprising to find out that I went on to study psychology at the University of Freiberg, taking every course and reading every book that even made a passing mention of oneirology, delving far beyond Freud, Jung and Faraday into scientifically dubious territory, for I had long decided that what was haunting my dreams was no psychosexual hangup or subconscious expression of some deep-seated anxiety. I found my first real lead during a research session in the university library, in a tiny self-published volume squeezed between two folios about the origins of psychology. It was called “Dreams as Corridors” and written by one Angelika Meisner. A quick Google search revealed Meisner to be a disgraced psychologist and self-professed dream reader and medium, dabbling in everything from séances to narconeirology, the obscure sub-science examining the synergy of recreational drugs and dreams. It did not inspire a lot of confidence in me, but something about that door filled me with an urgent dread, like something bad was going to happen once it closed enough times, with no specific feeling as to what ‘enough’ even meant. I just knew, on a sort of gut level, that I needed to find out what it portended before it was too late, and I was willing to take my chances, however slim they would seem.
The book was, as I feared, written in the overly brimborious manner that most esoteric parascience texts exhibit, hiding most of its information behind page-spanning parataxes. The gist of it, as far as I could gather, was that Meisner believed that dreams could function as corridors into different realities; not just imaginary ones, but actual realities, physically just as existent as the one that I inhabited, but divided by a sort of metaphysical fold, which was in itself a tall thesis. Dreams, Meisner speculated, could pierce this fold, if only temporarily, and would allow us to peer into a reality that was not our own. These corridors between realities would be disguised by our subconscious as doors, windows, keyholes, et cetera, randomly manifesting in our dreams to offer a glimpse into a foreign yet familiar world. The significance and origins of these visions was something that Meisner could only speculate about, and I was surprised to find that she kept her musings on those aspects unusually brief. I was even more surprised to discover that Angelika Meisner was still very much practicing, and had set up her office in Oelsa, a small town nestled into a dell barely an hour from Freiberg. I was not particularly excited to talk about my dreams to some crystal-clutching crone, but I felt oddly compelled by this strange woman’s fabulations about dreams and different realities. In addition, that cursed door had started to make its visits more frequently, popping up in my nightly visions every month now with an eerie regularity, making me anxious in anticipation of its appearance. It was an easy decision; I booked an overnight stay in one of the tiny guesthouses that were the only mode of accommodation this far from any bigger cities, looking forward to a change of air from the relative bustle of Freiberg’s academy district. The Dippoldiswalder Heide was rather close by, and I planned to free my head on some afternoon strolls through the forest.
I arrived by bus, driving past abandoned factory buildings that were already in the process of being reclaimed by nature, and neat but unmistakably old family homes housing three to four generations at once, and surprisingly busy churches. I had almost overslept; I had dreamt of the door again, for the 156th time, coming achingly close to looking inside before the roaring sound of what I think must have been a combine harvester blared out of the door milliseconds before it slammed shut and startled me awake, sweating and barely able to see, only partially registering the angry thumping against the other side of my decidedly thin bedroom wall as my neighbor yelled at me about filing a noise complaint for screaming at the top of my lungs for several minutes straight at three in the morning, for the fourth time this month. I fell asleep again in minutes, dreaming doorless dreams. Needless to say I almost missed my bus stop, gazing idly out of the window as city streets gave way to open fields and unkempt underwood, with the occasional hamlet breaking up the vista, all blurring together before my tired vision. I got out at a station fittingly called Oelsa Gasthaus, just opposite the hotel inn I would be staying at over the weekend. Like most houses in the village it was clean and friendly-looking, but there was an air of hermeticism to it and the entirety of Oelsa. I would not go so far as to label is incestuous, but calling it close-knit would certainly be an understatement.
The network coverage was rather subpar, as was to be expected of the German hinterland, which made finding Angelika Meisner’s office a challenge to say the least. The receptionist at the guesthouse had been welcoming in that earnest, rural way, but for all her friendliness I never bothered to ask her for directions. I wandered through the rather deserted village for almost thirty minutes, with all the businesses being closed for the weekend, until I found a bakery that was able to point me in the right direction. Tucked away six turns from the main road, without even the slightest signage anywhere, lay Angelika Meisner’s Praxis für Träume und Dergleichen. The outside decor was tasteful for the most part, with the exception of a faded yet still garish ad poster in one of the windows pitching salt grotto therapy for a suspiciously low price. I tried the door and found it unlocked. The office was somber, the light muffled by thick dark magenta curtains. The furniture had a homely feel to it, comfortable chairs, plush carpets, and a chaise longue of regal proportions in an annex, all serving to evoke a rather TV psychology aesthetic that was not unwelcoming, if a bit tacky.
“Do you have an appointment?” came a voice from behind a dark wooden counter. Behind it sat who I reckoned had to be Angelika Meisner, looking strikingly less eccentric than I pictured her. She looked like she was in her 50s, with bold bushy matte black hair surrounding a deeply serious, if slightly saggy, face. A dark woolen dress gave her an imposing, formless appearance. I declined, and she asked me what she could do for me. I awkwardly told her that I read her book, then went on to recount the weird dreams I kept having since I was an infant, starting over several times until I had told her the entirety of my door visions, up to the most recent episode just the other night. She fell silent for a moment after I finished my tale. Then she rose, and gestured me to the chaise longue in the adjacent room, where she told me to lie down.
“Can you lead me to these doors?” she asked me, her voice neutral, a penetrating gaze fixated on me.
“Well, I can’t really influence when they show up.'' I said, apologetically.
“Let us at least try.” She replied in a manner that made clear that she was not expecting any protest from me. She fetched a lumpy sandstone pendant from a drawer.
“Are you willing to be hypnotised by me?”
“I need to ask for your consent. Otherwise it does not work.” She did not seem annoyed or condescending, just extraordinarily matter-of-fact, which was understandable, as this was likely a lot weirder for me than it was for her.
“I know, I was just… surprised, is all. Yes. Go ahead, hypnotize me.” She nodded, and gently but firmly pressed me down onto the velvety chaise longue. She raised the pendant, and started to slowly swing it in front of my face, murmuring in a smooth, deep tone.
“Dunkelheit umfängt dich nun. Wehre dich nicht. Gib dich ihr hin. Gib. Dich. Ihr. Hin.” Before I could ponder how absurd and cartoonish this all was, I felt myself compelled by an extraordinary urge to close my eyes, put my thinking on hold, and give in to the encroaching darkness enveloping all of my senses.
My subconscious placed me on a bus, vaguely similar to the one that brought me to Oelsa in the first place, driving along a neverending road through fields of wheat and corn. I looked to my left, and there sat Angelika Meisner. I was not surprised in the slightest about her being there, even though I probably should have been. We were the only people on the bus, not even a driver was present. She looked around, familiarising herself with her surroundings.
“This is pleasantly mundane.” she said, leaving me unsure as to whether this was a compliment or a veiled insult.
“Now, where do you usually encounter these doors?”
“Why do you keep referring to them in plural? It’s the same door every time.” I was slightly irritated, and her pulling up her eyebrow at this did not help.
“If you say so. How do you normally come upon this door? Does it just appear out of thin air?”
“No, it’s more like it is there from the beginning of the dream, but I only become aware of it once it is starting to close.”
“Mmhmh. Remind me what it looks like?”
I shuddered slightly, for no apparent reason. “Matte dark brown, four panels, nothing special about it.”
“Like that one over there?” She nodded to the back of the bus. My head shot around, and there it was, bolted impossibly into the back wall of the bus like it had always been there. Digital noises and unintelligible shouting sounded from the crack, and a stinging aseptic smell wafted into the bus.
“What are you waiting for?” Angelika Meisner looked at me encouragingly, scientific curiosity glinting in her eyes. I nodded numbly and slowly got up from my seat, walking through the empty bus towards the still open door. My legs felt heavy, my head spinning, dreading what I would see, should that door stay open. With every step, that hospital smell grew stronger and stronger, mixing with the unmistakable stench of open wounds. Eventually I reached it and peered inside. An operating room. Masked surgeons standing around a table, medicinal machinery surrounding them, a heartbeat monitor showing a discerningly slow graph. All I could see of the figure were their feet, or rather their foot, as one of them was nothing more than a horrifically gnawed off, bloody stump. One of the doctors moved, and I could get a better look at the patient. He was in terrible shape, huge marks of what had to be claws or teeth of a bear-like animal, but much larger, disfiguring his entire body, and chunks of it had been torn out, leaving gaping wounds that the surgeons were desperately trying to mend. My gaze panned up, over an all too familiar face until I locked eyes with myself.
The eyes of what was unmistakably me were wide with terror and unfiltered pain, but they stared at me with clear recognition. They saw me. I saw myself, bleeding out on an operating table, and a wave of nausea washed over me, as one of the surgeons shouted “We’re losing him!” and the door slammed shut with the sound of the heartbeat monitor’s flatline beeping rattling in my ear as I shot awake. Angelika Meisner stood there, her otherwise placid face grotesquely contorted in anticipation.
“What did you see?”, she asked, and I just violently shook my head, lifting myself from the chaise longue.
“What did you see behind the door?”, she asked again, more insistent this time, but I shook my head again and hurried past her out of the door and into the street, ignoring her calls after me. I left Oelsa the same day, never to return.
I have since tried to forget the door, ignore it, to no avail. Every single dream is burned into my memory like it was carved into the membrane of my subconscious. I have gone without sleep for days, weeks, but eventually it takes me, and there it is, that cursed door. I have seen it 1,046 times now. I know this, without ever having consciously counted them. It is driving me insane, even more now that I know what hides behind them, and maybe you will find my actions extreme, but I implore you to think again. I have taken a good amount of strychnine mixed into my nightcap, and have lain down in bed, awaiting the night to take me away.
The next door to close will be my own.