Short story: Behind the Door

The sun was shining and she’d got an A for her essay, life was good. As they strolled down the corridor to their next class, she felt that the world was her onion.

“There’s something weird about that classroom,” she said, stopping and gesturing with a wave of her books. “Have you noticed? The door doesn’t look like the other doors, it’s too thick, with bars across the little window. Freaky,” she added, trying to peer in.

“Just leave it!” he hissed in response.

“What? Why?” he really was unnecessarily huffy at times.

“It’s better if you just don’t pay attention, it’s safer,” his voice was becoming a whine now and her curiosity had only grown, filling her concentration.

“Why?” she asked again, adding a small pout, she liked to know things, she didn’t like to be left out. “Is it a cult? Or a nudist colony?” Their college was like hive for unpopular courses and rooms rented out to oddball organizations.

He sighed and leaned in close to her, his eyes darting back and forth.

“That’s where the war is. You can’t do anything about it, it’s best if you don’t look.”

“What?” the answer was so unexpected she wasn’t sure how to reply, but he said nothing and was already scurrying away down the corridor. “What war? What are you talking about?” but he was gone.

Impatient with his nonsense, she barely hesitated before opening the door and looking inside. She watched for only moment before slamming the door, but the images stayed, hovering just beneath the eyes, ready to flash. A child’s face in horror, his arm severed; a soldier holding the head of his dying friend; an explosion that caused nobody even to raise their heads, their ability to feel already exceeded. She ran.

Nobody listened when she told them about the room. She suspected that some knew, she saw the shifty, desperate look in their eyes. Anyone who didn’t know, saw her as yet another hysterical student with a ridiculous complaint. And she was tired, an exhaustion that seemed to play with her certainty, so that she wasn’t sure. Had she really seen it? Was it as bad as she had thought? Maybe it was an acting class, maybe it was just a film playing.

Sometimes she would be sitting in class and she’d hear the sound of gunshot, or distant screams, but the teacher only spoke a little louder and his expression never changed. There were days when the door to the war would be open a crack and inside she would glimpse a moment of death, but she learned to keep her eyes straight ahead. The war wouldn’t ever end, it was best to not look.

16 thoughts on “Short story: Behind the Door

  1. Heavy stuff. I love the surreal setting — the idea that a sort of ubiquitous war is set behind this door in an academic institution, where typically we learn to think about these sorts of things but are kept entirely sheltered from them. What a great concept. It’s actually one I’d like to see developed more. Any chance you’ve read the short story “The School”
    by Donald Barthelme? It has a similar vibe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really glad you liked it. It was based on a dream, so I thought it might be TOO surreal. I don’t know the School, although I’ll have a scout around, see if I can find it. Thanks for reading! 🙂

      Like

  2. This is an excellent piece with a great theme and concept behind it. Once seen the scene behind the door cannot be forgotten, and your story poses a good question: do we try to turn away accepting the inevitable or try to intervene. Fine writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading. And yes, you’re totally right, I did want to capture a bit of the hopeless apathy that people get when seeing news of terrible wars that they can’t stop.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Totally quirky story – but so powerful an idea and concept. You had me hooked from the line “she felt that the world was her onion.” Which had me laughing while my brain was whirring “what???” but enjoying itself nonetheless. Too cool 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for stopping by and liking my post. I’ve enjoyed reading some of your stories and appreciate your sharing your BI/PTSD story. It’s hard to talk about yourself – I’ve suffered from multiple go-arounds of PPD and I keep swearing I’ll share and try to help others but it always comes out awkward and sounding so exaggerated… hopefully I’ll get there eventually. In any case, I admire your courage in sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It took me a long time to finally write the BI posts, for the same reasons you’ve said. In the end, I thought I’d just settle for sounding awkward and exaggerated 😉 Wishing you peace and happiness, my friend.

      Like

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