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Author Topic: [Nov 2013] Doors - Submission Thread  (Read 5057 times)

Offline Autumn2May

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[Nov 2013] Doors - Submission Thread
« on: November 04, 2013, 02:13:08 AM »
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley

Image by wojtar

Doors are portals to new places and new possibilities. The can lead you home or to exciting discoveries. Then can be open and easily accessible or closed, blocking out all hope of moving forward. They can trap you or set you free. Where will the doors in your story lead?

This month, your challenge is to write a story with a door, or multiple doors in it. They can be open or closed, locked or unlocked, hidden or blatantly obvious, but they must be a major part of your story. (No fan fiction please.) Once again, we are opening the contest to both prose and poetry.

Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. A door or doors must be a core element in your piece.
4. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
5. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits.

The contest will close on the November 30th 2013 and voting will begin December 1st.

Please post your entry below. All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their writing displayed on the main Fantasy-Faction website in January 2014.

Good Luck and Happy Writing! :)
« Last Edit: November 04, 2013, 03:03:00 AM by Autumn2May »

Offline RS Bohn

Re: [Nov 2013] Doors - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2013, 03:32:21 PM »
The Dragon in the Attic                                                                         

The dragon in the attic is just beginning to roar as Katie closes the curtains in the living room.

She pauses, hand on the sash, and closes her eyes. The dragon grows louder, bellowing and stomping two floors above. When she finishes counting to fifty, the dragon stops and is silent. She lets out a breath and bites her lip, hoping no one heard.

She's kept the dragon locked there for three months. It wasn't her idea; the dragon climbed up there on its own, shut the door behind it, and instructed Katie to lock it. So she did, and now she's alone in the rest of the house, without even a dragon for company.

After the curtains are shut and all the doors are triple-checked, Katie makes the last of the oatmeal in the kitchen. She carefully turns on the gas, holding a match to the burner. The flame gusts into life, and she sets a pot atop it and adds water from a whipped topping container. All around the house, she's placed little jars and cans and plastic tubs to catch rain.

She makes the oatmeal like her mom used to cook it in the mornings before Katie went to school: a touch a salt, a touch of honey, and some dried cranberries. She hasn't had milk since before the dragon climbed into the attic; things are becoming scarce in the house. There's plenty of salt, but this is the last of the honey and the last of the cranberries. There are two cans of mixed peas and carrots and a can of tomato soup in the cupboard, things she doesn't particularly care for but will have to eat soon.

While the oatmeal cooks, she licks the inside of the honey jar. Her tongue can't reach all the way. She'd offer it to the dragon, but dragons don't eat honey.

Outside, other dragons are roaring far off. It sounds like thunder, if she concentrates on eating her oatmeal and thinks of late night storms in summer. Except it's November, and two nights ago there was a light snow for the first time.

The outside dragons are getting closer. They howl and roar together, which is strange because dragons are solitary creatures.

She can barely see in the house. Dark comes early these days, and though she's become accustomed to finding her way around the house by touch at night, she gathers her blanket and pillow from the couch and goes upstairs before it gets too dim to see.

She creeps up the steps, trying not to make a noise. Dragons sleep during the day, and as long as one doesn't make too much noise, they don't wake up. But once it's dark, they hear every little sound.

Katie is so good at climbing the stairs in silence that the dragon doesn't make a peep. She settles on her blanket, lying on her back so that her head is on the pillow directly under the door to the attic. The flashlight in her pocket pokes her, and she takes it out and places it within hand's reach. Her fingers touch the button but don't turn it on.

Like the dragons, Katie mostly sleeps during the day. But at night, she is awake, listening to those outside. Listening to her own dragon.

The dragon shuffles above her, scuffing its claws along the old boards.

Sometimes, it passes over the door and tries it. The lock jiggles above her head. She can't see the lock in the dark, but each morning, she gets up on the step stool and makes sure the lock looks secure.

Each attempt at the lock, the dragon huffs in frustration. Near dawn, it will whine with each thwarted attempt. It sounds just like a puppy Katie once had, and she feels bad for it, but the dragon told her, once it was locked in the attic, that she should never, ever open the door. No matter what. It made her promise.

She hates promises. They're never made for anything good.

To ignore the outside dragons and their bellowing, Katie tries to remember what the dragon looks like.

It is pale blue, with black scales rising out of its back, and green eyes. It has yellow teeth and claws, and its breath smells like the inside of the puppy Katie once had.

That was the day the dragon climbed into the attic. It left the puppy in her mom's bedroom. She hasn't opened that door in three months. She tries to never think about the puppy in that room.

A sob catches in her throat, and hiccups out. She puts her hand over her mouth, but the tears keep coming.

Too late. The dragon heard her.

It's over the door. It stops moving.

"Katie, is that you?"

She sucks her lips into her mouth and bites, trying not to make another sound.

"Katie, please say something. I miss you." The lock, very softly, jiggles. "Katie..."

She wants to turn over, smash her face into the pillow, but she can't. It's so dark now that she can't see even the edges and shadows of the railing or other doors. All she can do is stare into the dark and imagine the door above her.

"Katie, let me out."

A thump from above.

"I said, let me out!"

The lock shakes. And shakes again.

"I said, let me out, Katie!"

"Please be quiet," she whispers into the dark. Outside, the other dragons scream, and she can hear the pounding of their feet, they are so close. "Please."

"Let me out, Katie!" roars the dragon. "Let me out! Let me out!"

A bang against the downstairs door. Both of them fall silent. She holds her breath and there it is again. Sometimes, if the dragon in the attic is quiet, they'll go away. They'll go after some other noise, some other little girl crying on the floor in some other house.

This time, they continue to crash against it. Again. The door is heavy. It won't break. If they smash the windows, they'll have to heave themselves up and climb in. There's one broken window on the first floor but the dragon that did it gave up and went away. Maybe these ones will too.

They don't. The horrible, unmistakable sound of wood splintering echoes through the house. Splintering, splintering, then cracking.

Katie jumps up. She shoves the dresser she dragged into the hall just for this purpose in front of the stairs. It's heavy and takes all her strength to do it. Atop the dresser, she feels for the knife she left there. Her mom's old kitchen knife, too big for her to wield well but big enough, she thinks, to hurt a dragon.

The door crashes in, and dragons roar as they thump through.

"Katie, open the door. I'll pull you up."

She trembles.

"Open the door. I won't hurt you, Katie."

A dragon is on the stairs. It clambers upward, growling.

"I promise."

She lets her breath out. Searches for the step stool, and kicks its over. Snatches it up and hurriedly puts it beneath the door. Her hands shake as she fumbles for the lock in the dark. She can't find the door.

Flashlight on. There's an instant scream from below, and a din of dragons on the stairs. They shove against the dresser.

"Hurry!"

As the latch slides free, the door flies open, nearly knocking her off the stool. The dresser crashes to the floor behind her. Claws grab her wrist and haul her up.

The door shuts. She remembers there's no lock on this side. If the dragons realize she's up here—

"Shh," says the dragon, drawing her close. Its claws grip her arms, and she feels scales rough against her cheek.

Its mouth rests atop of her head. Its breath is hot and smells like her mom's room, like the inside of dead puppies and refrigerators shut off for three months.

"Daddy's got you."

She begins to cry.

 


ACSmyth

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Re: [Nov 2013] Doors - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2013, 01:57:16 PM »
Like Father, Like Daughter?

AC Smyth

Senstan threw the set of lock picks to the floor. “Gods-be-damned, thrice-accursed pox-ridden piss-drinker! Bastard whoreson said these would open any gods-damned door.”

“I’m not sure you should say that sort of thing in front of me. Ma wouldn’t like it.” Niessa was on the floor by the door, keeping her voice down as he’d instructed. He lowered his own voice, but couldn’t keep the annoyance out of his tone.

“Your mother gave up her right to dictate what language I use around you when she took off and left you with me, girl. Especially since I’m not convinced any of my seed went into your making. Not with that colour hair. None in my family ever had hair like that.”

The silence that followed left a chill in the air. Damn it all, why had he said that? He’d accepted her as his daughter when he took her in. He could hardly throw his own doubts about her parentage in her face now. Senstan took the flask of wine from his belt and downed a few mouthfuls. If he couldn’t open the door sober, there was no point not drinking, as far as he could see.

“So why’d you keep me, then, if you don’t think I’m your kid?”

“Couldn’t see you starve, could I? Your ma counted on me doing right by you, at least. Always did have too soft a heart for my own good.”

He’d loved her mother as much as he’d ever loved anyone. And the child’s age was right for when they’d been together. If it weren’t for that damn red hair…

“I’m sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry about.” He took another drink and stoppered the flask. “Let’s try this again. I’ll keep calm this time, eh? Keep my wits about me.” He felt on the floor around him for the picks, found them. Gods alive, but even a cat wouldn’t see anything in this dark. He couldn’t see his own fingers as they searched once more for the keyhole.

“I mean, it’s my fault we’re here.”

He paused, metal needle between thumb and index finger.

Now that was the gods’ own truth.

If she hadn’t lost her grip, they’d neither of them be sitting hard up against the jail door in the darkness, waiting for the gentle click of the lock mechanisms and listening for the guards to come back from their supper. When she’d taken that tumble, his heart had almost stopped. He thought it had killed her, for sure.

“Ah, well, lass. I’ve been on the wrong side of this door a few times before. Never a fix I couldn’t get out of.” Not yet, anyway, but stealing the duke’s horse would see a more serious punishment levied than the odd night of drunkenness in the taverns and whorehouses ever had. He’d never been caught thieving, thank the light. He’d always been quick, had fast hands. All the more reason why he was so gods-be-damned frustrated with this poxy door.

If he couldn’t get it open there’d be a hanging in the morning. Maybe just her hand cut off, if the judge felt especially lenient on account of the child’s age. Up before the court at just short of seven years old. Damn it all. Even earlier than his first time. His mother had cried and told the court she didn’t know what to do with her delinquent son. They’d taken pity on her.

This time Senstan kept his temper on a shorter rope. He muttered and huffed as he teased at the lock, but it was no good. It wouldn’t open. He rested his forehead against one of the door’s metal bracers, wondering how to tell his daughter—for she was his daughter now, whatever else she was—that he had failed.

“Let me try.”

“What do you know about picking locks?”

“Nothing. But I can’t do any worse than you’re doing.”

That was the gods’ own truth, too.

He put the set of needles on the floor and slid them in the direction of her voice. They chinked against the stone floor as she felt for them and picked them up.

“Which one do I use?”

He shrugged, not that she could see. “Whichever. Don’t make much difference. I’d start with the longest, but this lock’s different than any I’ve broken before.”

By habit, he listened to the sound of metal on metal, trying to work out what the child was doing. Probably just poking around at random, playing at lock breaking. He pulled out the flask again. He’d finish his wine off, then get the kit back from her and have one last go. Admit defeat if he still couldn’t open it. Hope the judge would be merciful.

Thunk. The unmistakable sound of the lock turning.

“How in blue blazes did you do that?”

“Beginner’s luck?” She was smiling. He couldn’t see her, but he could tell from her voice. It had the sound of an upturned mouth and eyes that sparkled with amusement, just like his mother’s always had.

The door swung open and she threw herself into his arms. He lifted her up onto his hip and turned, feeling for the wall with his free hand and heading for the light.

“Come on. We’d best make ourselves scarce. We’ll have to leave town tonight. I was going to leave in a day or two anyway. I’ll just bring my plans forward a bit.”

When they were out of town, her in front, him behind, he asked, “So why’d you do it? Why steal a horse, you stupid maggot? And why the duke’s horse, of any you could have picked?”

She tossed her head. That was her mother’s gesture, to the life, and his stomach turned at the thought of her with someone else.

“I knew you didn’t want me. I knew you were planning on going soon, and reckoned you might go without me. Thought if I could steal something good it might impress you. His horse was just standing there, you know?”

Just standing there because no one would be the dumb arse who’d dare to steal the duke’s horse. But he didn’t say that. She’d learned her lesson, he hoped. And the sight of her falling from the palfrey’s back, and being scooped up and carried away by the duke’s retinue, had scared him so badly he’d wanted to sob right there in front of everyone. He’d loved her mother and not really realised it until he’d lost her. As they took Niessa away a part of him knew she didn’t have to be his responsibility any more. He could leave with no attachments, be just as he’d always been. A bigger part wanted to scream at them to put his child down—bloody well put her down! But he had to stay quiet. How could he rescue her if he shared her cell?

“I was clean away, though. If I hadn’t fallen I mean. No one would have been able to stop me.” Her voice glowed with pride.

“Yes, you were at that. But had you thought what you were going to do with it, once you’d got it? That’s as recognisable a horse as you’ll find anywhere.”

Niessa tossed her head again. “That wasn’t important. It was the taking that was important. Just to show you I could.”

She had the heart of a thief, and no mistake. He chuckled. It had been her who had opened the lock, not him. Thank the gods the picks had been small enough to slide under the door. Maybe she’d follow in his footsteps. It might be quite fun teaching a child his tricks, and a youngster might have her uses. No one in a crowd would ever dream that the man with a little girl on his shoulders might be relieving them of their purses. And any fine lady with jewels in her hair—why, from that level they might find their way into a certain little girl’s dresses.

His daughter squirmed around so she could look at him directly. “Why did you rescue me? If you don’t believe I’m yours. Why not just leave without me?”

She knew. She knew that was what he had thought, and he was almost ashamed to look her in the eye. He hesitated, then took her chin in his hand and tilted her face up to his. She stared steadily back while he studied her, until finally he spoke.

“You might be my spawn after all, I’m thinking. You’ve got the knack, that’s for sure. Bugger me if I know where that red hair came from. But you’ve got me ma’s eyes.”

He flicked the reins of the horse he had liberated on the outskirts of town—one rather less valuable than the duke’s—and they made their way eastwards. They’d be a father and daughter team, then. He’d teach her, just as his own mother had taught him. After all, she had his mother’s eyes.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 09:16:13 AM by ACSmyth »

Offline Carter

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Re: [Nov 2013] Doors - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2013, 02:48:26 PM »
The Door of Whispers

“You’ll tell me eventually or I’ll destroy them all.”

Callum’s voice remained calm, the corners of his mouth curling upwards in a self-satisfied smirk.  Only his eyes betrayed his frustration, smouldering with suppressed rage.  With axe in hand and words of unbinding on his lips, she knew he meant every threat.  Already the remnants of three of her doorways lay scattered around the room, each chosen with meticulous care to prevent her from seeking aid. 

“No.”

Her voice trembled but she had to remain steadfast.  She could not afford to give in to her apprentice’s demands.
 
Crackling, sibilant syllables rolled from Callum’s tongue.  The door of flame flickered and glowed, brighter and brighter still, giving off waves of blistering heat.  The frame buckled under the pressure and exploded into fragments, peppering the far wall, the noise deafening in the confined space.  Freed from their confines, the flames spluttered and died. 

The wanton destruction of such carefully wrought magic tore at her heart.  The careful crafting, the long hours spent coaxing each delicate spark into place, Callum’s invaluable aid in constructing the frame; all gone, all wasted.  No more could she draw on its heat or marvel at the intricate dance of the fires.

“Tell me.”

Not for the first time she cursed the crippling pain that shot through her joints.  Without it she would not have sought an apprentice.  Without it she might have been able to prevent him.  Without it she might have been able to save something.
 
She shook her head.
 
A brutal swing of his axe gouged a fissure in the nearest door.  Splinters flew as Callum hacked at the precious wood.  Wrenching, twisting, it collapsed before her eyes, the intricate runes inscribed in the frame broken and fading.  Tears started to flow down her cheeks. 

It had been one of the first doors she had made.  Fashioned from deadwood scavenged from the Alloran Forest, it opened onto one of her favourite places.  Many hours she had spent on the banks of the Magorlian River, watching the mayflies, the kingfishers, all darting and flashing in the sunlight, the sounds of the forest around her.
 
Never again. 

“You don’t want to see them all destroyed any more than I do,” said Callum, gesturing to the remaining doors.
 
Almost, almost, she believed him.  Yet even if it were true, she could not give in.  She remained silent. 

Harsh, bitter consonants reverberated in Callum’s throat, the guttural sound filling the room with power.   A jagged crack fractured through the door of ice and stone.  The first she and Callum had worked on together, it held meaning for her even in the face of his wrath.  Almost she could feel the icy winds of Valarian’s Peak on her skin, the driving snow melting on her cheek.  Only the fires from beyond the door of flame had kept the chill from their bones as they hunted for rocks and clear ice on the mountain’s slopes. 

Now the rocks skittered across the stone floor, the ice forming puddles around her feet.  This time she did not shiver from cold. 

“You only have to tell me and this will all be over.”

“Some doors are best left closed,” she whispered, her eyes dropping from his face for the first time. 

He shook his head.  Whether in denial or despair, she could not tell. 

She closed her eyes tight as he made his way to another door.  She did not want to look, to witness any more.  The sounds of the axe biting into wood were bad enough.  Her fingers curled around the arms of her chair, agony screaming through her knuckles as she sought to banish one pain with another.
 
It did not help.
 
“You’ve been through.  It is only fair for me to follow.  I helped, after all.  I collected the whispers.  I bound them and brought them to you.  Without me, you would have nothing.”

Under any other circumstances, his arguments would have been reasonable.  With any other door, she would have agreed in a heartbeat.   

“You will never go through.  I cannot let you.”

The door of whispers was her greatest triumph and her greatest folly.  The scholarship alone was an unsurpassable feat.  Pieced together over many years from fragments, from rumour, from hearsay, little evidence of such a door existed, the very notion scoffed at by the greatest doorwrights of ages past.  Yet she had dared to dream, dared to try.

And to her shame she had succeeded.
 
Invisible to the eye, it existed only as sound, as the voices of those whose whispers Callum had gathered.  Each individual whisper had to be bound before adding another, each binding more delicate than the last lest the pattern be broken, until finally they had fashioned a door. 

The lure of it, the possibilities it offered, had proved too seductive to resist.  And now she wished she had never made the attempt, had never pursued its crafting. 

“I will destroy them all unless you tell me.”

“I don’t doubt it,” she said, somehow managing to force the words out. 

“Just tell me!”

Finally Callum’s face twisted in anger.  A ferocious swing gouged a deep hole in the El Alarami door.  Briefly the scent of cinnamon and delicate rosewater filled the air as the bindings broke, the sounds of haggling desert-folk erupting.  A final, brief reminder of all that had been lost. 

Only impossible choices lay before her.  Yet she could not tell him.  Neither could she allow him to break both her work and her body.  Just one path lay before her and she feared it even more.  If she had been wiser, she would never have started the door.  If she had been wiser, she would never have enlisted Callum’s help.  If she had been wiser, she would never have discovered the secret of opening it.  Now it seemed the only wise decision left was to pass through it. 

She squeezed her eyes tight, taking a deep, shaking breath.  When she opened them again her decision was made.  Around her the remnants of doorways lay strewn across the floor, frames buckled and broken, rocks and splinters littering the once pristine tiles.  And amidst it all; Callum.  His chest rose and fell in ragged gulps, the muscles in his arms tensed and aching for action, ready to tear doors to pieces with his bare hands if necessary.
 
“Vevila Macalla.”

She whispered her name.  Callum’s eyes widened in surprise and exultation.  The whispers quietened and in the hush her name slipped inside.  Unlike all other doorways, the door of whispers demanded no physical movement, no body.  Instead it demanded something much more precious.  She felt her mind begin to splinter.  The voices of those who had contributed to the door filled her head.  Each whisper was a path, a route to the one who uttered it.  The door led not into a place but into the minds of a thousand people.  With a single word, with a single thought she could influence them all. 

If she had been wise, it would never have come this far.  If she had been wise, she would have seen Callum for what he was, seen his lust for power, not knowledge.  If she had been wise, she would have destroyed the door the moment she had retreated from it in horror after she had first tasted its power.  Yet only now did she find wisdom. 

One mind sounded louder than all the others.  One voice crashed inside her head, its joy unconfined, its rage subsiding with every beat of her heart.  Callum had bound the door together, wove each whisper into the next and that made him vulnerable.  Yet with every beat of her heart she felt herself slipping away, her thoughts drifting apart as she was overwhelmed by the thoughts of a thousand people.
 
“Callum, stop,” she whispered with a thousand voices.  “Stop.”

She felt his shock as her own.  The sudden realisation of what had happened swept through her even as it did him.  As he struggled to breathe, so did she.  The compulsion to cease, to stop everything, suffused her even as his body began to obey.  Her mind struggled to find a way back, a way out, even as his thrashed against the overwhelming urge to die. 

Just as she had expected, there was no escape.  Her body slumped in her chair.  Callum collapsed to the floor.  And finally she relaxed, her thoughts scattering across the globe, splintering like logs beneath the woodsman’s axe, like whispers in the wind. 

Offline Woggiedoug

Re: [Nov 2013] Doors - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2013, 02:16:49 PM »
The Door by Graham Wright

Home, a rectangle 6 feet by 8 feet, no windows, a single barred door, single metal bed welded to the wall, a flushing toilet (no seat) and a wash basin = zero privacy. It had been Zak Thomas’s home for over ten years and still felt like a prison cell.
Either side of his ‘home’ were other homes all with residents he never saw but sometimes heard. Nothing opposite, just the walkway used by the guards and then another wall. The guards, names unknown, had been the same ones for three years. They never entered the cell unless to search, never spoke other than to say his number, fifteen forty three, everything else was done by gestures.
Zak hadn’t had a conversation, except with himself, since he’d entered the cell. He didn’t think he was mad. In truth he didn’t think much at all, except to escape into the imaginary world he’d invented to protect his sanity.
The door, it had been painted a mid-blue that now was chipped and flaked, had appeared one morning in the wall opposite to his bunk. It might have been there before and Zak hadn’t noticed. The never changing surroundings didn’t hold his attention.
Zak tapped the door; it seemed to be made of wood. The only wood he’d felt in ten years was when of the original guards had laid into him for something, what Zak couldn’t remember.
There was no lock of any kind but there was a single white post card pinned to the door. On it, written in capital red letters was a simple message ‘THROUGH HERE IS FREEDOM.’
Zak just stared; there was no way of opening the door that shouldn’t be there in the first place. In the next few hours he kicked, scratched and generally tried to damage the door in the simple theory that he could break the door down.
When the cell light was automatically switched off, bathing Zak in darkness he noticed a sliver of light passing beneath the door. He lay and watched the light until sleep overtook him.
The next morning the message had been joined by another with the message ‘THINK ABOUT YOURSELF’ with an arrow pointing towards a brown coloured nine number lock with a simple door knob.
Instinct told Zak to try the door knob. It didn’t budge. So he tried the numbers, 1-2-3-4 and then 2-3-4-5. After each attempt he tried the door knob. He tried four digit codes because Zak’s only profession in the real world had been as a burglar and he knew that such locks usually opened to a four digit code.
In Zak’s world time was an irrelevance. The trying of codes quickly became an obsession. Zak was still trying when the light went out leaving him to crawl back to his bunk. Once again the light from beneath the door tantalised and tormented him.
The next day the message was a simple one. ‘THINK?’ Zak discovered that thinking was difficult and he resorted to once more attacking the door, without success. That night Zak resolved to stay awake and see how any new message appeared.
‘ARE YOU STUPID?’ The message was laughing at him, taunting and teasing him. He’d fallen asleep, that was the only answer. When the guard appeared with Zak’s week of provisions, a cardboard box filled with military style rations, Zak was prepared for trouble. There was no way that a faded blue door set into a dull brown wall could be missed.
The guard, the regular guard, pointed to the furthest corner of the cell and did nothing until Zak had obeyed the gesture. Then the guard opened the cardboard box and emptied the contents through the bars. He left without a word or even a glance towards the door, leaving an amazed Zak rooted in the corner.
There came the moment when Zak started to wonder if he were imagining the door. It felt real, it even tasted real but was it and where and how did the messages appear. He took the first post card off the door. It appeared to be just that. A simple post card. Tentatively Zak started to tear the post card up, nothing. He flushed the fragments down the toilet.
When Zak awoke the next day there were two messages. ‘THROUGH HERE IS FREEDOM.’ The postcard was back in its original position and had been joined by another postcard. ‘WHO ARE YOU?’
The last message made no sense to a now puzzled and frustrated Zak. Despairingly Zak spent the day on his bunk, staring at the door with his mind a million miles or worlds away.

‘A NUMBER UNLUCKY FOR SOME’ The latest message seemed to be laughing at him. “Thirteen.” Zak answered and then louder “THIRTEEN, THIRTY FUCKING TEEN!” the words echoed and rebounded off the walls.
A guard appeared and pressed his finger to his lips and then shook his head, slowly. “Fifteen Forty Three.” The guard said and continued to shake his head.
Zak nodded. This was how they conversed, by signs and gestures. The guard nodded, almost smiled, and then left. The cells either side of Zak’s were strangely quiet.

Zak had been staring at the door for a long time before the blindingly obvious hit him like a knockout punch. Fifteen Forty Three is one; five, four, three and that totalled thirteen. It couldn’t be? Zak’s own prison number?
Tentatively he tapped in the four digit code and then even more tentatively he tried to twist the door knob which clicked four times as each tumbler dropped into place and then the door sprang open, only a few centimetres but it opened.
Zak thought his heart was about to explode or burst out of his chest. He opened the door, only a little because he still didn’t believe his own eyes … and senses. He was so used to smells his own body created that the smell of freshly cut grass threatened to overwhelm his senses.
He sat on his bunk, just staring through the door, drinking in the sight. It might be a park or a field. There were no people but that didn’t matter. Hurriedly Zak collected the rations still on the cell floor and then took his first step outside his cell in ten long years …

“You are sure?” The prison warden asked the doctor.
“Try his pulse yourself. He is in there somewhere, but as to where?” The doctor adjusted the saline drip, waiting until the drip of clear liquid was constant. “Same as all the others, here but not here.”
They left the body of Zakary Thomas, one time burglar and wife killer in his cell. The cell door remained open as where the other cell doors in the prison. The hundred worse criminals in the country wouldn’t bother anyone anymore.

theryanthoward

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Re: [Nov 2013] Doors - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2013, 07:05:10 PM »
A Wizard's Test

Nal trudged down the narrow trail jutting through the forest. As he flexed his hands, he felt the gems cut into his palms. The skin had since healed over, but it still felt weird, like his palms were stretched too tight. After he paid different magicians to enchant ten gems, he cut them into his palms so he could touch each one with a different finger to activate their magic. He mimicked touching the different gems, remembering which one’s held which magical enchantment.
The path Nal was on lead to the one great magic door that connected his world to the magic world. 126 years ago a magician from the magic world discovered that he could magically enchanted a door to open into another world. Ever since then, the magic world and his world has been connected by this magical door. Now, only magicians of a certain power are allowed to pass through the door, because magicians and non magical people have been producing weaker and weaker magicians, diluting the magic lines.
But Nal wasn’t a Wizard. That is why he had to trick the authorities into letting him pass. Hopefully he would be able to do that with the gems hidden in his palms.
Nal was nearing the end of the trail and he could already see ahead past the clearing to the magic door. It appeared to be a normal wooden door with a silver handle except it was fused into the side of the mountain. One man sat next to the door, on a wooden chair. He had a long beard that all wizards seemed to sport and looked to be asleep.
As Nal neared the stone steps leading up to the door, the magician blinked opened his eyes and looked down at him. “Hello there,” the man said, feebly getting up from his chair. “Planning on visiting the magic land?”
“Yes I am,” Nal replied, marching up the steps.
“Well show me your pass and I’ll lower the magic wards.”
“I don’t have a pass yet.”
“Oh, a youngster off to see his homeland. Well do you have a letter of recommendation or are you going to have to take the test?” he asked. If you had a letter of recommendation from any of the five great wizards, you were already approved to get through the door. He had heard of men using fake letters of recommendation to get through the door but they all got caught from what he heard. Their punishments had been two years in the dungeons and a branding marking them as fraud magicians.
“No I’ll take the test,” Nal answered.
“Well let me go get the other head wizards and we can start over there in the clearing," he said, leaving Nal standing in front of the door alone. He thought he could hear the door humming with magic, probably from the enchantments keeping unwanted fiends out.
Nal walked down into the clearing. From what he’d heard the test would probably be lifting something heavy with magic or performing a stronger spell like invisibility to prove he was an adept wizard. He had gems that could do both of those things, so he was fairly confident he could fake his way through the door if the test was along those lines.
The gatekeeper came back with two other bearded wizards. They all looked to be about in their 50’s. The youngest looking one asked, “So, what wizarding family do you come from?”
This caught him off guard. “The Hanlows, he said quickly, thinking of a name that sounded like a last name of a wizard.
“Hmm, I’ve never heard of the Hanlows,” he said.
“We’re a small wizarding family,” Nal lied.
“Well okay,” he said, to Nal's relief. “Tinrad, will you tell him about the test?"
The oldest looking wizard started to talk. “Your test to prove yourself will be a test of magical aptitude. You will have to defeat a summoned reacher bat with magic. If you do this you will be able to go to our magical homeland.” He stopped speaking and started to stroke his beard again. This wasn’t the type of test he was expecting but he thought he could still win.
“Sounds challenging,” Nal said. “When can I start?”
“Right now.” The wizards backed up to the stone steps and he stepped towards the middle of the clearing. Tinrad started waving his hands and chanting in a language Nal couldn’t understand. In the air a blackish red void formed and out of it came a reacher bat.
It flew away from him and circled around the edge of the clearing. He turned in a circle, following it, his thumbs wavering around his palms, ready to chose a gem.  The creature suddenly turned off its path and dove straight at him while heaving something from its mouth. Nal reacted quickly, outstretching his right arm and touching a topaz. An invisible barrier formed around him just in time. The creatures acid cascaded around him in a sphere, sliding off the invisible shield onto the ground. When he let off the gem and he could see in a circle around him the wilted remains of the grass. He didn't want to know what the acid could do to human flesh.
The reacher bat circled around him again while he touched a ruby with his index finger. Flames appeared in front of his hands and projected out over the clearing at the bat. The creature saw it coming and dogged. It flew back around, spurting acid at him a few more times, but Nal blocked them each time.
It was time for a different plan of attack. He touched a gem on his left palm and became completely invisible. The bat flew over head but couldn't locate him. In frustration it spurted acid all over the field.
“Dammit,” he yelled, letting off the invisibility gem, becoming visible. Some of the acid got on his left arm, burning his skin. Angered he shot fire blast after fire blast at it but it dodged each one.
The bat flew in for the kill, teeth outstretched for his throat, but right before the bat reached him, he touched a purple amethyst. Nal teleported five feet in front of the creature, missing it as it flew passed confused. Turning around quickly, he engulfed it in flames.
It struggling to stay in the air, but fell to the ground. Nal walked towards it slowly. Touching a topaz on his right hand made a dagger materialized in his hand. The bat started struggling to get away but he brought the dagger down into the creature's neck before it could go anywhere. Blood oozed onto the green grass until it stopped twitching.
The bat dissipated into magical energy. He turned to the wizards and dropped the dagger. It faded to nothing before it hit the ground.
“Well done,” the old wizard said. “I don't think I've ever seen the test completed quite like that.
“Good job boy. I’d say you passed,” the younger wizard said. He walked up to Nal and healed his arm with magic. “You agree Youlund?”
“I do. I’ll lower the wards on the door and one of you can get his pass.” He went to the door and started chanting words and waving his hands around.
Tinrad walked up to him holding a metal card. “Now to activate this pass I will just need a little prick of your blood on the side.” He took a knife out of his pocket. “If you don’t mind.”
“Go ahead.” Nal held out his finger and the magician nicked it with the point of his knife. A little blood welled up on his finger.
“Now just wipe the blood across the card and it should glow blue when it is registered with you.” Nal did as he said but the card never glowed blue. The wizard scowled at it when he realized it didn't work. “It's not working for some reason. It's like your blood isn't magical.”
“I’ve got the door open,” Youlund said. He reached the handle and pulled open the door. It was everything Nal had imagined it to be. Blue and red waves rippled around inside the door. The portal looked immensely deep like it had no end.
“It must be the card,” said the gatekeeper. “I’ll go get a different one.” The old wizard walked away with the gatekeeper leaving Nal at the door with Youlund.
“So what’s it like going through the door?” Nal asked Youlund.
“Well it is kind of like jumping into vertical water.”
“That sounds nauseous.”
“It’s not really. It’s actually relaxing.” He saw Tinrad and the other wizard coming back holding a new card. He took this opportunity and jumped into the portal. It felt like he was floating in a blue void. He would make it into the magical land, that was comforting, but he didn’t know what his fate held there.

Timekeeper

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Re: [Nov 2013] Doors - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2013, 04:06:05 AM »
Thorns in the Garden

She didn't feel the thorns tearing at her flesh, only the oppressive chill as she ran heedless through the misty gloom.

The archway of the garden loomed ahead like some great leviathan's widening maw, welcoming its prey. In the dark as she ran through the archway, it almost seemed as if the thorns clawing at her came from some fell beast, its talons holding her captive.

“The thorns are perilously sharp, my lady. I hope they did not take too precious a toll.”

Her head jerked toward the source of the voice, its haunting tone still ringing in her ears. Through the gloom she saw the figure bathed in mist. He was just as she remembered – tall but not imposing, lithe, the misty evening air swirling around him to welcome her. She was not yet close enough, but she knew what awaited – hands soft like velvet, fresh vibrant moss in his eyes looking back toward her. She felt her breath catch in her throat.

“You came again?” she heard herself ask, an echo swallowed by the mist and garden.

She was close enough then to catch his coy smile, the corners of his mouth dimpling as he spoke. “How could I not?” he asked, his rich fabrics crinkling he leaned against the garden archway. “I knew you would be here if I came.”

She paused before the threshold, watching him through the mist. “We shouldn't keep doing this. We shouldn't meet...”

His laugh was low and earthy, tendrils of warmth spreading through her with its sounds. “That's what you said the last two times, my lady. Even our second time together, and that was half a year past. Come inside with me.” He held out his hands. “Give me yours.”

She hesitated, watching him through the trails of mist between them. “My... hands?” She suddenly felt her nightgown clinging tightly against her, damp and heavy with the mist. A shiver ran down her skin as she leaned against him, thoughts of the thorny hedge leading into the garden. “What for?”

He merely smiled, lifting her hands to his lips. The angry welts from the thorns softened, the crimson sinking to a rosy hue flush with her skin. In moments only the scarlet drops on her nightgown bore testament to the thorns' toll.

“How did...?” she asked, staring down at her hands.

He shook his head. “A flower more beautiful than all others in this garden does not deserve such injury. Did your mother not kiss your wounds better when you ran to her with scraped knees and hands?” He smiled again, and she felt the warmth ripple through her. “My little belladonna. My most precious little flower.”

She didn't know what to say to that. She felt the warmth in his hands, the pulse of the mist with each breath as she stepped forward, passing through the archway into the herb patch beyond. “You think I am?”

“How not?” His left hand tightened reassuringly over hers while his right gestured to the herbs in their beds. “The lilies and roses are drab things compared to your beauty. Sunflowers are not near so bright as your smile. The sweet peals of foxgloves' bells in your hair, a garland of aconite draped across your neck...” He shifted the ball of his thumb over the back of her hand as a hot shiver ran up her arm.

“You must say that to all the girls you bring here,” she teased, leaning into his side. She watched his mossy eyes drink in her features and felt the nightgown cling uncomfortably to her skin. “I can't be the only one you sing praises to.”

That earthy laughter rang in her ears again as he spoke. “Others? Common weeds unworthy of tending, the dross before your golden radiance. You are the fairest to sprout in my garden.” His free hand cupped her cheek, the tip of his thumb brushing against her lips. “Would you like to stay here?”

The corners of her eyes crinkled as she gave him an amused smile. “You've known that already. Of course I would.”

A mischievous gleam shone in his eyes as he listened to her answer. “Here, with me?” he asked again, his fingertips caressing her cheek.

“Yes, I told you,” she said. “You don't need to keep asking.”

He leaned against her as his hand shifted to the back of her head, fingers brushing through her hair. “In my garden with me, here?”

She broke into an exasperated laugh, playfully shoving her hand against his chest. “What's wrong with you? I said yes and yes and yes. What more would you want?”

He laughed again, the tone low and rumbling through her like a wave. “Thrice-agreed, then. My little belladonna is always welcome in my garden. Its doors are always open for you to enter.” He pressed forward, his lips closing over hers with a hungry feel.

Surprise took her as she welcomed the sudden kiss, her cheeks flushed from his attention. Her breath came in a gasp while she swallowed, her hands pressed to his cheeks. “I should be going,” she managed to say, her voice ringing in her ears. “It'll be dawn soon, and my mother...”

The fingertips against the back of her head slid down her neck, caressing between her shoulders through the nightgown. “Go?” he asked, his mossy green eyes gleaming impishly. “My garden was always open to you when you came unbidden. Thrice you said you wished to stay.”

She felt a stirring within herself, a spreading warmth running as a shiver up her back. “Yes, but...”

“Then stay.” His hands lightly brushed over her shoulders, tracing along the tops of her arms. “You paid the toll to enter my garden, my little belladonna. The weeds here are nothing compared to you. Ugly little mandrakes jealous of your regal crown, stink-weeds who tremble at your fragrance. You are my shining jewel who puts these others to shame.”

She shook her head, hands sliding down to his shoulders as she edged away. “I... I need to go,” she murmured. “I'm sorry, I can't stay tonight. I'll be back again, but...” She took a step back, beginning to turn toward the archway, but the world spun around her as she fell into the herbs.

“Are you okay?” she heard him ask as he loomed above, pulling her to a sitting posture.

She held up a hand to wave before her face, looking toward him. “Just... dizzy,” she eked out, wincing as she rubbed at her back. “Everything was spinning, and...”

His hands were gentle as he braced her shoulders, crouching in the dirt behind her to keep her propped up. “Shh, my sweet bloom,” he intoned, one hand moving to cradle the back of her head. “You are safe here. No harm will ever come to you.” His left hand sunk to the soil below, encircling the dirt surrounding her.

“No, I have to go,” she said weakly, swaying back in his arms. “I can't stay anymore, I have...” She tried to shift, to stand, but a tremor of panic washed over her as she looked up to him with fright. “...I can't move.”

He shook his head, his fingers brushing reassuringly through her hair. “No, you cannot, and that makes me sad. But your beauty will always bloom and shine here. This is a good place to put down roots.”

She tried to speak but the words were caught in her throat, making no sound. A terrified expression crossed her face as she watched him, seeming as if looming above her, larger each passing moment. Her sight dimmed as she sank back against the soil, the only sound in her ears being the rustling leaves so close to her.

“My most beautiful belladonna,” he whispered, crouching against the soil. “Thrice-given, you said, and I could ask for nothing better. You are home now, my special bloom. You will always be welcome here.” He cupped the violet flower in his hands, his thumbs brushing against stem and leaves.

Rising to his feet, he dusted the soil from the knees of his trousers, bowing his head reverently to the herbs. He turned toward the archway through the hedge, closing the gate behind as he passed through. “The poet was right,” he spoke into the air, reaching out to caress the thorns lining the gate's hedge.“This world is more full of weeping than any understand. But my garden will always be beautiful and unspoiled. They know the toll they pay when they come. You see to that.” The hedge drank in a quiet, short peal of laughter as he walked away, disappearing into the mist.

The laughter faded in the garden, and only the rustling of leaves and flowers remained. The night was calm, and only the rustling remained.