The door at the end of the hall

About a week or so ago we moved into a new house. It was a fairly ordinary house; two stories high, average-sized yard, garden out front, but when you went inside there was something odd. There was a door at the end of the hall. The problem with this door was that it had no reason to be there. It didn’t open and it didn’t lead anywhere. When you looked at it from the outside there was nothing but a plain wall.

So why was it there?

I found this door purely by chance. I was cleaning the walls not long after we moved in when suddenly my finger went through the wallpaper. I freaked out – we’d just bought the place, after all – but I soon noticed it went the entire way around. As I followed the line it created the shape of a door. When my fiance got home we removed the wallpaper and there it was, plain as day. No handle, no lock, but it was a door alright. Why was it there? Why was it covered?

A few days later strange things started to happen. I work night shifts as a nurse so I’m often coming and going at all hours of the night. I was coming home from a particularly rough shift, it was around 3.30 in the morning and some god awful pop song was playing on the radio. I took my eyes off the road just for a second to turn the radio off when something hit my passenger side window. I screamed and swerved, running up the side of the gutter. I’d heard those stories about gangs throwing things at cars to get people to stop so they could carjack them so I flicked my high beams on and drove a little faster, running over a small garden in the process. I felt bad but the flowers would grow back. My life would not. Then I saw it. Spikes covering the road, like those the police use to stop high speed chases. What the hell? It was a quiet suburban area. Thanks to my kneejerk reaction I’d just managed to miss them. Then something moved in the trees nearby.

My heart raced. I looked in the side mirror and the figure was just standing there, watching me as I drove away. When I turned the corner I saw him start moving in my direction.

‘I can’t go home,’ I thought. I lived only two streets away, he could easily follow me. There was a 24 hour diner just a suburb over. I decided to go grab something to eat and wait for sunrise before going home.

When I told my partner David about it the next morning he frowned, took a swig off his coffee and said, “Did you get a good look at the guy?”

“What do you think? It was 3am and there’s barely a single street lamp to go around out here. No I didn’t get a good look, but that’s beside the point. There were spikes on the road! Spikes! He was trying to stop me!”

“I’ll have a look on my way to work,” he replied. “And wait, what time did you get back?” I looked at the clock. It said 7.13am. “About 6. Why?” He shrugged his shoulders and finished his coffee. “Oh, I thought you got back earlier.” He kissed me on the cheek and left for work, leaving me alone in the large, unfamiliar house that was now ours in a strange neighbourhood I didn’t know. I suddenly felt uncomfortable in my own home, but what could I do? As I went upstairs to shower and get to bed I noticed the door at the end of the hall again. A plain old wooden door with nowhere to go and no reason to exist.

Something shifted in the attic. The floorboards creaked and then the house fell silent once more.

I stopped dead in my tracks. All I could think was that it was him. It was the guy from last night. He’d somehow found where I lived and snuck in while David was sleeping. David worked on-call and until we got a second key cut he had the only one, so he often left the door unlocked – even at night – for me to get in. I told him not to but he ‘didn’t want to be disturbed’ from his precious sleep. Well now he could be disturbed by some precious murder.

I’d been awake for 19 hours. I was beyond tired. I pushed open the door to the study and it groaned. I stopped, waiting to see if there would be any noise from the attic again. Nothing moved. I grabbed one of David’s golf clubs and stood beneath the entrance. Supposing the crazy stalker was up there what exactly was I going to do anyway? Beat him to death with a golf club before he managed to stab me eighty three times over and maybe if I was lucky leave something of my corpse for David to identify?

As my hand reached up for the string the doorbell rang. I jumped and dropped the club to the carpet below. I glanced at the attic and then the door that went nowhere and went downstairs.

It was one of our neighbours.

“Hi! I saw you moving in a few days ago and just wanted to drop by and say hi! My name’s Tim.”

He was rather tall and well-built but something about him still screamed nerd. Perhaps it was the glasses, the slicked over hair and the Jedi T-shirt. A nasty bruise spread out from underneath his left eye down his cheek. He smiled and put his hand out. His fingernails were covered in dirt and oil. I smiled as politely as I could and he took his hand back and awkwardly rubbed the back of his head.

“Sorry,” he muttered. “I’m, uh, a vehicle technician for the local police department. I think the oil is just a part of me now.”

“You’re a police officer?” Well that would explain his size. Probably the bruise, too.

“Yes ma’am. Here to protect and serve. If you ever see anything suspicious or ever need any help, just let me know!”

Well now that he mentioned it…

There was a loud bang upstairs, much louder than before. In my tired state I’d already forgotten about the potential crazed stalker up there. Tim heard it too.

“Is everything alright, ma’am?”

I told him about the thing that hit my car, the spikes on the road, the figure in the trees and the sounds I’d heard in the attic. He was a police officer, he could help.

“Would you like me to investigate for you?”

I nodded, rubbing my eyes and standing aside to let him in. I pointed him in the direction of the stairs but he was already there. “Hello?” he called out as he reached the second floor. “Hello, this is the police. If there’s anyone up there come down with your hands up.”

I thought they only said that line in the movies.

Silence.

“You have until the count of three and then I’m coming up! One! Two!”

I realised the golf club I dropped was missing. Before Tim got to ‘three’ something collided with the back of his leg. He dropped to one knee and screamed out in pain. Another hit connected with his shoulder, and as he grabbed it a final hit to the temple sent him tumbling to the ground. He was out cold.

A figure stepped out of the study. He was in all black with a black beanie pulled down over his face. The eyes were cut out. He was holding the golf club, a trickle of blood now dripping off the end.

“Wha… what do you want?” I stammered, doing my best to edge my way back to the stairs. The front door was still open. If I could reach the stairs before he reached me I could get outside and get help.

“Trust no-one,” the dark figure rasped. “Not even the police. Trust no-one. It’s the door.”

“It’s… what?” Nothing was making any sense. The figure looked at me for a moment, just a moment too long, then jumped over Tim and disappeared through the door. Just like that, like he’d never been there at all. Vanished into thin air.

Tim began to stir. We called the police and explained everything that happened at the station. I didn’t tell them about the vanishing through the door part. Just said the man ran out the front door after knocking Tim out. Tim was fine, no concussion, but he’d be feeling woozy for a little while, they said. They told me to change the locks and make sure to always lock up whenever someone left the house. If I heard anything else I was to let them know right away.

By the time I got to sleep over 26 hours had passed. I was out before I even hit the pillow.

Two days passed in relative silence. We changed the locks, there were no more bumps in the night (or day) and I almost forgot anything strange had happened at all.

But the door was still there. It was like it was calling to me.

‘It’s the door.’ The words echoed over and over in my mind. What was the door? But even more than that just how did the man vanish into thin air right before my eyes? I still couldn’t explain it.

I went to visit Tim. He answered the door with a very large, very angry welt on his right temple.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Been better, been worse.” He smiled. “I take it the intruder hasn’t returned?”

I shook my head. “Look, can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“Did you know the people living in our house before us?”

His brow furrowed. “Why do you ask?”

“Just wondering. There’s…” I paused. Here it comes, crazy lady alert, “… a door. At the end of the hallway. It was covered over in wallpaper, I think by the previous tenants. Like they didn’t want anyone to know it was there.”

“Okay… What’s so special about this door?”

“Well, I mean, that’s what I’d like to know. It doesn’t go anywhere. The other side is just a wall, and there’s not even a handle to open it.” I considered telling him about what the intruder said but thought better of it. Not just yet.

He scratched his chin for a moment. “Well, we were friendly. I dunno if I’d say we were friends, as such, but my wife and I had dinner with the couple that lived there a few times. They seemed nice enough. They moved out after their son went missing though. It hit them really hard, they never really recovered from that. Can’t say I blame them. They never said anything about a mysterious door though.”

My shoulders slumped.

“Sorry,” he said.

“No, it’s okay. Thanks anyway, and uh, I hope you feel better soon!” I went back home. I had work in five hours, best to try and get what little sleep I could.

After an uneventful night and thankfully uneventful drive home I pulled into the driveway as the sun was rising in the distance. I put the key in the lock, turned and stepped inside. Sunlight filtered through the sheer curtains. There was a crumpled note on the desk.

“I’m sorry. I tried but I couldn’t do it. I was too late. You need to keep trying. We’ll end this. Remember. It’s the door. Remember.”

My heart began to race. “Sweetie?” I called out. The house was silent. David was usually awake by now. I put the note back down on the table and ran upstairs.

“David?” I opened the door to our bedroom and time stopped. Bile rose in my throat. My temples pounded. My vision swam. I was a nurse by profession and over the course of my career I’d seen some of the most painful things that could happen to a human body, but this… this was David. My fiance. The love of my life and he was lying crumpled at the foot of the bed, his blood painting the walls and roof and bedposts. His face was bloody and beat up, barely recognisable, his left radius was sticking out of his arm, and the stab wounds… there were so many holes poked in his body he looked like a human pin cushion.

I dropped to my knees and threw up.

I don’t remember how long I sat against the wall, just looking at him. The image burned into my brain. The copper tang in the air was not an unfamiliar smell but soon the stench of the room became too much. On my hands and feet I crawled out into the hall.

There was a click.

Steadying myself against the wall I stood up and walked towards the door. The door at the end of the hall. I placed a bloodied hand on it, searching for somewhere, anywhere I could grab.

The door budged. The door opened.

I stepped inside.

It was night. A single street lamp shone about 40 metres away. Beneath it stood a dark figure. About 20 metres in front of him spikes lay across the road.

I froze.

No. No way. There was no way.

A car turned the corner and entered the street. My car. I was sitting in the driver seat and I was looking at the radio. I didn’t see the spikes that were in front of me.

I looked around and picked up the closest thing I could find; a newspaper. I hurled it at the car. It hit the passenger window and the car swerved up onto the gutter. My heart was pounding in my throat. The dark figure started to move towards the car sitting on the sidewalk.

“Come on, come on!”

Finally it drove over the flower bed and sped off down the street. The figure stood there, watching, before he began to follow, too. As he stood under the streetlight I finally saw his face.

It was Tim.

I followed from a safe distance. He watched the car – my car – turn left. He stopped, looked around, and then turned back. I ducked behind some bushes. He rolled up the spikes, put the bundle under his arm and began walking back home.

My insides burned. It was that asshole that killed David. I knew it. I didn’t know why but in the moment it didn’t matter. I followed him. I followed him all the way back to his house as he stashed the spikes and dark robe he was wearing in his basement and I watched him as he stood by the hedges that separated our properties. He was looking at the door. The door on the other side of the hall.

Tim turned to go back inside and my fist met his cheek. Perhaps not the smartest idea. He was nearly twice my size and a trained officer. I took off running over the hedge before he had a chance to recover and slipped in through the unlocked door. Bless you, David. I’d never complain about you leaving things unlocked ever again.

I snuck upstairs and stood before our bedroom door. David’s body flashed before my eyes. I swallowed and twisted the handle. He was lying there, asleep. His chest rose and fell softly. I fought back tears. He was there, alive. I stepped inside and shut the door behind me with a soft ‘click.’

I wanted to go over to him but I knew I shouldn’t. The words on the note played over in my mind. ‘You need to keep trying. We’ll end this. Remember.’ Remember what?

“Hmm, honey, is that you? You finished already?” David rolled over and looked right at me. My heart thumped wildly in my chest.

“Yeah, just go back to sleep sweetie, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Okay.” He rolled back over and within moments I could hear the familiar sounds of his breathing. I got into bed with him and lay against his back. My arm trembled but he grabbed it and pulled me closer. A tear rolled down my cheek. I buried my face in the back of his neck and lay there, listening to him sleep. I lay there until the first rays of the sun began to peek through the bedroom curtains. I extracted myself from his arms, closed the door behind me with another ‘click’ and pulled down the stairs to the attic. I’d be home soon. I couldn’t be here then.

The attic was full of boxes and all the things we’d yet to unpack. The box marked ‘WINTER GEAR’ caught my eye.

‘Remember.’

I pulled the lid off and rummaged through, pulling out some of David’s dark ski pants and an old sweater. A black beanie was sitting at the bottom. I got the scissors from a nearby box and cut some eye holes. I got dressed and waited for the conversation that I knew would soon be taking place.

The attic was dusty and covered in cobwebs. I covered my mouth as a cough tried to force its way out. I listened to the mumbled sounds of myself telling David about the strange night I’d just experienced and waited. The door closed and his car sped off down the street. Footsteps dragged up the stairs. Now I was about to…

A spider ran up my leg. I covered my mouth and forced the scream back down my throat before it could free itself but in my fear I fell backwards, hard. I frantically flicked it away and waited, frozen. Downstairs was silent. I’d be grabbing that golf club right around now. And then…

‘Ding dong.’ The doorbell rang. As I went downstairs to answer it I waited and then let myself down. The door to the attic closed with a loud bang. I silently cursed and grabbed the golf club, hiding myself in the study. I waited for myself and Tim to come back upstairs.

‘Remember.’

Remember… I shook my head. It was pounding. My vision was getting blurry and my ability to focus was fading in and out. I shook my head again, harder, and slapped my cheek a few times. Get it together. I had to do this first. This was how it happens, right?

Tim came up the stairs, followed by myself. He called out several times, asking whatever intruder might be there to come out with their hands up, but he was focused on the door before him. How had I not noticed that the first time?

“You have until the count of three and then I’m coming up! One! Two!”

I waited for ‘three’ and swung the golf club. He fell to a knee, I hit him again in the shoulder and then in the temple. He dropped like a sack. As much as I wanted to, I resisted the urge to keep hitting him. Getting myself arrested for murder wouldn’t bring David back.

Ugh, it was so hard to focus. Black dots swam before my eyes.

I affected my best gruff voice. “Trust no-one,” I said, looking at Tim. “Not even the police. Trust no-one.” ‘Remember.’ “It’s the door.”

It was calling me. I took a few steps and jumped over Tim and through the door. I landed in the hallway. My head pounded, my heart raced and my stomach lurched. I threw up.

David was still lying at the foot of the bed, dead. Nothing was different. I walked downstairs. The note was still on the table in my own handwriting. I picked it up and turned it over.

“It’s not Tim. Remember. You need to remember.”

My head was still swimming and I could no longer tell up from down, left from right. It wasn’t Tim? If Tim didn’t murder David then who did? What was I supposed to remember? I crumpled the note in my fist and went upstairs. I grabbed the golf club and started hitting the door. All the rage, all the confusion pent up inside me, I channeled it through the club and into the door, the cause of all this. I tossed the club and fell to my knees, exhausted. When was the last time I slept? The last time I ate? The last time I…

The door was still open. It hadn’t closed on this side yet. I closed my eyes and crawled through again. I had to try again. When I opened my eyes I was back in the hallway, like I’d never even moved. Maybe I hadn’t?

The world flashed black. My head was going to explode. Something rumbled in the attic. Something rumbled in the walls. The floor began to bleed. The roof closed in on me. I screamed. Where was I? This wasn’t my house. Where had the door taken me? I ran downstairs to the kitchen. It was my kitchen but it wasn’t. Laughter bellowed from the lounge room. Laughter bellowed from the front yard. Laughter bellowed from the cupboards above the stove.

“What do you want!?” I screamed. The door handle jiggled. Something moved in the lounge. I grabbed the knife sitting on the counter and ran upstairs. The stairs dropped out beneath me. I grabbed onto the handrails, feeling seasick as they lurched. I found my footing on whatever I could and scrambled the rest of the way up. When I reached the hall I ran for the study and hid myself inside the cupboard. Footsteps echoed up the stairs. Laughter rang out down the hall.

The thing called out my name. I froze. It was unlike any voice I’d ever heard before. It was like several voices speaking at once, all at the same time but just slightly off from each other. There was a scraping, like a claw being dragged along the wall. The footsteps got closer. I gripped the knife even tighter and held my breath. The pounding in my head refused to stop and I could feel consciousness slipping away.

The footsteps were in front of the cupboard.

My head was going to explode.

Tap. Tap.

Tap.

I let out the breathe, flung the door open and stuck my knife in the creature’s chest. I scrambled out of the room and slammed the bedroom door behind me. The creature howled an ungodly scream. It thundered out of the study and kicked the bedroom door open.

No. I needed to get rid of it before David got home. This was it. This was the thing that killed him. Not Tim. Tim was a creep and most definitely should not have been in possession of a badge but he was no murderer. It was this… thing. This monster.

Over and over I plunged the knife in, crying. The sight of David, burned forever into my memory, fueled the rage and sorrow burning deep within me. I stabbed and I slashed, hoping to cause as much damage as I could before it killed me. Just make the thing bleed out. It was bleeding, and if it could bleed it could die. The demon grabbed the knife as I pressed forward and tossed it aside with a growl. It grabbed me by the neck and slammed me into the wall. Out the corner of my eye I could see the door at the end of the hall. It was throbbing with life. My way back. I had to get back.

The world before me faded in and out. No, focus. You didn’t come all this way to die now.

The golf club was still lying in the hall. I lifted my knee, hard, then kicked against the demon’s chest. It fell back into the bedpost just long enough for me to grab the club. I brought it down as hard as I could and heard a loud crack. I swung for the creature’s head, hitting one of its horns with what I could only describe as a solid clang. Over and over I hit it, beating its flesh to a pulp until finally the creature slumped by the bed and stopped moving.

I fell to my knees, exhausted. The adrenaline keeping me on my feet was gone, my heart could no longer keep up the pace. There was a dull thrumming in my ears and when I turned I heard the door at the end of the hall calling me. Finally, I could get back home and out of this hellish place. Because that’s what it was, I realised. Hell. The door had lead me down into Hell. That was why they hid it behind wallpaper. They didn’t want anyone else to know it was there, to be drawn into its horrors.

I turned back and the sight before caused my heart to drop. It was like that moment where everything is so quiet you can hear a pin drop.

The creature was David. The bloodied, broken monster lying at the end of the bed was David. The blood on my hands, my clothes, my face, it wasn’t a demon’s…

The door thrummed.

‘Remember.’

I took the note out of my pocket. I was too late. How many times had this happened? How many times had I not remembered that it was David I was stabbing and not a creature from Hell?

I stumbled downstairs in a daze. I put the note on the table, stumbled back up with the last of my strength and stood before the door. I closed my eyes and felt the world shift around me as I fell forward. I didn’t remember. I had failed. I’m sorry, David.

When I opened my eyes I was back in the hall. The door clicked shut behind me, closed once more. It was dark outside. The clock read 9pm. David was still lying there, dead. I realised someone was banging on the door downstairs.

“Open up!”

It was Tim.

I dragged myself down, all will to live gone. There was no note on the table. I opened the door with the demon’s… with David’s blood on my hands. Tim took one look at me and turned his head with a pained sigh.

“God dammit, I’m too late.”

Tim tried to explain to me about the previous tenants and the incident that caused them to sell the house. About their son going missing without a trace. The wife claimed it was something in the house before the husband shut her up and they moved away. He’d heard rumours of the door, that it led to some terrifying place that no-one could return from. Late at night he could hear things coming from that side of the house, he said. He could feel something calling to him. When we moved in he planned to scare us into moving out before anything bad happened, but it looked like he was already too late.

He kept talking but the sounds became background noise. My ears thrummed. My blood burned.

It all clicked.

The door needed a sacrifice to open each time. I looked at Tim. I could still save David. I could try again.

“Would you like to come up and see the door?”

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