On the Road to Nowhere: Short Story response to a Challenge; Taking advantage & opening doors
This is Bill Holland’s challenge. You’ll find it at http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/A-Writing-Challenge-The-Door-to-Nowhere .
In a nutshell it’s this:
Your prompt is a visual one. The picture above is the Door to Nowhere. Yes, you may use the picture with your essay/story. Also, as part of your prompt, you have to begin your challenge with the following sentence:
Was it really only yesterday?
What's behind the Door?
We go through many doors in our lifetime. We see even more and then have to choose whether or not to open them. Where will they lead us? What's on the other side? Will it be good or bad? Should we take a chance? Should we answer the urge to satisfy our own curiosity?
They can be physical doors which give us access to a building, to rooms, or there are doors to our future, opportunities to explore, be they physical or spiritual, to obtain a job or to test ourselves in some way. Some open onto misfortune. Some we should never consider opening.
This is a story of someone who opened a door and found more than he bargained for.
Is it true that events sometimes shake people into following a different path? Do experiences impact on people’s lives? Are there such things as life-changing moments? An old boy told me a story once. Didn’t know whether to believe him or not but I’ll pass it on to you. This is his story.
On the Road to Nowhere
Was it really only yesterday? ‘Spose it must be. I know I stood in this stinking alley, looking up at that door just there, wondering if it was locked and if there was enough inside to make it worth my while breaking in.
I’d even hung around the night before, to do a recky for any signs of life, occupation, pets. Not even a mangy moggy poked its scrawny neck above the window-sill or scratched at the door. No disease-ridden dog barked, no pesky parrot screeched its presence. Only the rats rattled the bin lids and scurried in and out the shadows. Only sad neons lit the roofs and bounced off dirty window panes.
So, I reckoned it was safe to have a go. Even if the pickings were scarce, at least it’d be a night’s shelter. Up I went, cowering at each echo as my boots hit the rungs; don’t know why ‘cos the city noises blanketed even the humdrum shrieks of those who were battered, stabbed or needled every night.
At the top of the fire escape, a furtive glance up and down the alley told me that, for the moment, I remained unnoticed. I patted my loyal array of lock-picks in my tattered pocket, next to the Swiss army knife (there purely for chopping food you understand), just in case. I tried the door handle.
Saints be praised! No need to force my way; I was invited into this humble abode. Polite as ever, I wiped my heel-worn, well-aired boots and shut the door behind me with barely a click.
Another pocket surrendered a torch. Keeping it angled to the floor, I let the beam search the room. Floorboards revealed..... floorboards. No table, no chairs, no cupboards, this room offered no clue to its identity. The torch explored the walls for pictures; nothing. I expected maybe an old sleeping bag some old tramp might’ve left or crumbs of food gone moldy or a broken light bulb.
There was no dust, no cobwebs, no smell. Now that was strange; everywhere has a smell doesn’t it? Pee or vomit or dried blood or rotting flesh (it’s ok, only rats); something to make me feel at home. The absence of any made me wary.
A doorway loomed. I ventured across the threshold to find... more floorboards. The city lights encroached from a small window, revealing another empty room, equally dust free. A survey of the walls confirmed that I was on a wasted errand, a hiding to nowhere. Nothing to nick, I’d taken a risk for zilch.
We're Watching You!
Now I was getting mad. I turned in a hurry to regain the ladder, my torn sole caught a jagged board, I tripped and plunged to the floor which stroked the side of my head with a thousand splinters. On the way down I had a nasty sensation of being watched.
As I made my graceful landing, the torch, still in my hand, stopped its rapid skim of the premises and came to rest beaming upwards. I screamed.
I was being watched. Eyes stared down from an endless ceiling. The eyes of the world; any shape, size, colour you care to imagine, they were all there, looking down, deep down into my soul. I screamed again. Who cared if someone heard? Who was going to nick me for burgling an open empty apartment, a free-for-all night’s kip? In fact, come and nick me, please, get me out of this living nightmare!
Malevolence & Disdain
I switched off the torch. In the dark, the eyes were a faint glow, less threatening, and I remembered to breathe. I heard my own desperate intake of air. I located the door I’d entered a lifetime ago and crawled towards it. My foot hurt, my head throbbed and my back was sore. My arms were stiff.
The doorway beckoned. I pulled myself up, leant heavily on the window-sill and wondered if I’d been dreaming. I looked up. The torch remained in my grasp and I couldn’t stop myself. Yes, I switched it back on. Just a quick look then I’d be off.
The beam of light rested on those eyes, those eyes still looking at the floor. Then one, in a swift, mesmerising movement, immobilising my limbs, turned its malevolence to hold my gaze. Its icy blue froze my heart. Another followed its example, its dirty brown pulling me hell-wards into a murky mud pool; another, with an amused twinkle, shed such disdain that fear strangled my throat. Soon, all were facing me, all burned into my being, saturated me with disgrace, fear, loathing and dismissal. Then they switched off.
No, my torch was still on; the eyes switched off. My body surged into action. I don’t remember touching the railings or the rungs. I don’t even remember running but this morning found me curled up in heap of rubbish at the end of the alley, sore, aching and confused. I swear I didn’t touch a drop nor inhale a wisp. All I know is that last night is etched on every fibre of my being, for ever.
I’ve just walked back to the bottom of the ladder. I’m gazing up at that door, that unlocked door to nothing, to nowhere. Well, nowhere but a universe of piercing eyes.
I can’t shake off the fear. I can’t erase that image. Next time I’ll think twice about entering without an invitation. Next time? Think twice? There won’t be a next time. I won’t be thinking even once about such things. But what’s my alternative? Look at me. No decent clothes, no money, no life worth anything.
A Road to Somewhere?
Saw you yesterday, didn’t I, lady? Tried to get me to go to the Soup Kitchen, didn’t ya? Don’t want no charity, I told ya. Could sure do with a spoonful of soup now though.
Maybe I’ll give it a go. Ok, I'm a bit cold, I’ll try your soup, see if it’s up to my standards. Know anyone who needs a hand with a bit of repairing? I can turn my hand to a few things. My old man taught me carpentry once, long ago, in a different world.
Hey, this place is warm enough. That table needs mending though. Want me to fix it? No, nowhere to stay. I’ll find something. Spare room down the road? Can’t pay for it, can I? Work for it? Mending for keep? Well, ok then, we’ll give it a go. Can’t promise anything though. Bit of a wanderer, me. Can’t tie me down. Hey, those cupboards are hanging a bit loose, that chair needs a bit of foam to cushion that old boy’s bones.
What you doin’ here, mate? Give me a hand, can ya? Well, ok, we’ll see how good y’are and maybe you’ll do for a chippy’s mate. Might take you on.
Gettin’ late. Bit of shut-eye, then we’ll get going on these repairs in the mornin’, eh? Yeah.