Doors left and right, never ending, never stopping. Floating always floating in this in between place.
Grit pressed to the side of my face. I groaned, my head throbbing. The acrid smell of petrol tortured my head. I twitched my fingers. Good, I still had those. Broad hands, thick and muscular. Calloused on the fingers. A man’s hands. Who was I? I rolled on my back and reached up, grunting at the effort. Smooth and greasy. My fingers brushed the rusty parts and came away streaked with black. An engine, a radiator. I was under a car. What the hell was I doing under a car?
I rolled over, ignoring the pain in my head, and kept going until I was out from under the car, sprawled on the dirt road. I pressed my hand to the cracked blue paint of the car and shakily.
Pain spiked in my chest and gasping, I fell to the ground.
Oh Yeah. I thought as I drifted away, that’s why.
I fall back through the door. Tumbling, falling, diving.
I am waiting in a colourless place. The air here feels like water, thick and heavy. I know this place, I have been here many times before, and will be many times again.
The row of doors is waiting silently.
I’ll pick a door, any door. One that is clean and bright and new.
Step, arabesque, step, step, pirouette. My feet moved across the polished wooden floor in well-practiced steps. Pretty feet, dainty feet, adorned with ribbons and anchored in shoes. I glided, stepped and turned. My back straight, head held up under the bright lights. Too intense to make out the rows of dim faces beyond. I spun, balancing on my toes. Fouette, one, two, three, four, five and down. I raised my arms, holding them gracefully above my head as I leaped across the stage. Bending and turning as I landed. I was perfectly symmetrical, swaying with the violins and spinning with the flutes. The music swelled, not long now. Step, step, pirouette- and I spun away.
I spin back into this place, carried by the momentum.
The feeling of movement left my feet like sand in the tide.
There and back again- I hadn’t stayed long this time, not long at all.
The doors were before me, the detail could be seen on the closest ones. A large metal door caked with rust, a door painted baby pink with butterflies drawn onto the wood. It was the door next to it that caught my attention. It was little more than an archway, fashioned roughly out of sandstone. It was beautiful. It was a fresh start.
I placed my hand on the stone and fell through, spinning down.
Brick dust. Disease. Heat, thick and suffocating wrapped around me, the scents of the shattered town below overwhelming. I crossed the broken wooden floor quickly; it no longer mattered if the rotting timbers got the best of it. I swung my rifle off my shoulder and placed it on the stone window ledge. Once it was clamped into place, I pulled off my headscarf, freeing my sweaty neck and face. Hair tumbled down, free of society’s constraints.
It was almost time.
I tied the scarf under my hair, tying it and any other distractions out of the way. The metal of the gun was smooth under my fingers. I squinted through the lens, searching the crowd of people below for the target. It was not hard to find him, the only one standing tall in a street of slumped bodies and limping legs. His clothes were slightly to clean, the linen covered with dust but lacking patches or wear. It was everything about him, once noticed was impossible to miss; his skin unblemished without the welts and scars that had found their way on to even my hands. Yes, it was him, the only one living in the parade of the dead. I turned the rifle slightly, tracking his face. His attention had been caught by someone in the crowd and he had turned, displaying the side of his face. Perfect. I focused on his temple and placed my finger on the trigger. One clean shot, one less cog in the war machine. One clean shot and another broken cog would be on the ground where it belonged. I pulled the trigger, the bang threw me backwards, spiralling down into the depths of my own mind.
Floating was easier this time. It was slower, gentler. Like drifting rather than falling.
Before me the doors stretch on and on into forever.
They are the only things solid in this place. They stand still, unmoving in the currents of this colourless sea, the silent guardians of time.
I spot one, simple and small. It is polished wood. I want to go closer so I am. The currents move me.
I reach out, seeking a new chance.
The cloud of hairspray enveloped me, the cloying smell making me splutter. I fanned my hand in front of my face and took one last look in the mirror. My hair was a lost cause. Curls falling, hanging, the bun twisting apart. The eyeliner on my right eye was slightly smudged, blurring near the centre of the eye. The line tailed off funny, I noticed. The wing was slightly too wide. Nothing I could do about it- it would only become worse if I tried to fix it. I turned my attention to the rest of my face. Plum lips, a bruise on my white skin. Smeared at the corner, it was the makeup of a child- or a vampire gorged on blood. I plucked a tissue from the box on my dressing table and brought it to my face.
A, G, Bb, A.
I looked down my phone as it continued to cry from the dressing table.
A, G, Bb, A.
I scooped it up and turned around.
Doors of every size, shape and colour are behind me. Some are large, ornate with brass handles, others are nothing more than an opening between sticks. They are beautiful, varied- and suddenly, much closer. I can make out the wood grain and rose patterned doorknob. I stretch out my hand.
I turn, but it is too late, the door is open.
And I am pulled through.
The heat pressed down, stifling me. A bead of sweat crept out of my hairline and crawled down my temple, gathering in the crevice below my ear. I shifted, the mattress clinging to my skin. She was beautiful, even in the darkness. Bare skin, smooth and unblemished. Her thick hair spilled over her shoulders as she lay on her stomach, one arm tucked under her pillow. She looked like a princess, a goddess of the highest order.
The ceiling fan kept turning, the time rattling away with every shaky rotation.
The smell of sweat and spices mixed in the air. Coming from the bustling street below, rich and tantalising. God, I would miss it. I turned on my back and closed my eyes, keen to soak up every last second.
Above me the rattling continued.
I took a deep breath, tasting the thick air.
Doors left and right, never ending, never stopping, always going on and on. No choice, no way back, just extending into forever. I’ll pick a door, any door. One that’s clean and bright and new. Rusted paint, broken handle. A new door, a new chance. There is nothing else for me. Alone, floating in a colourless sea. The currents would move me. They always had in the past. A thought was all it took. One thought and a gateway to eternity opens. The doors were waiting on my choice.
I stop. Something is different, someone is here.
They are behind me. I can feel their presence.
It is gold, shot with tangerine and blurred slightly around the edges.
Warm. Safe. Pure.
‘Please, don’t go. You’ll only get lost again.’
I find my voice, grey and pasty and small.
‘Lost? I am not lost. I am here.’
‘Yes, you are here. And there. And everywhere.’
Blurred memories crept into my mind.
The rust on the underside of a car, feet gliding across a stage, a rifle watching a dead city, smeared makeup.
Four people, four places, four lives. Four times four times infinity.
Infinite lives, infinite doors.
‘Who am I?’
‘No-one and everyone, you were someone once but you opened a door and fell through the cracks. That’s where you are. You’re in the cracks.’
‘What are the doors?’
‘You see them as doors? How curious.’
I stop, bobbing in the colourless sea beside the presence. Considering, waiting. My voice spoke the ideas floating in my mind.
‘Who are you?’
‘A wanderer, just like you. I have been seeking you.’
‘I can help. I can stop the falling. I can lock the doors. Please, let me help you.’
The presence holds out a hand towards me, offering a lifeline.
I stretch out mine.
Next to his, mine doesn’t look grey. It is silver, bright and shining. It becomes a presence.
I take his hand.