February 20, 2013
Here's this week's challenge from Flash Fiction Friday.
There are passageways everywhere, quietly waiting to let us pass. Some just lead to other rooms right next door. Others stand guard between us and treasure or danger. What’s behind that door? Is it the bathroom or a path to a different world? Let us in…
Prompt: Write a story where a door figures prominently in the plot
Deadline: Wednesday, February 20 at 9:00 pm ET
This is mine, at 700 words or so. I had the idea within a few minutes, but of course had to wait to write it until the last minute.
"There, that's the last one unpacked."
Mary closed the cupboard door and handed her husband the empty box. It had taken all day but the movers were finally gone and she'd at least unpacked the kitchen stuff. The rest could wait.
"I'm glad this place was childproofed already," said Dave. "Saves us a lot of work, putting in all those latches and covers to keep Danny out of trouble. I still wonder what happened to the Johnston's kid, though."
The house had been a real bargain, a cute row unit, priced for a quick sell. They owners had only been there a few months, but refused to say why they were suddenly selling. They seemed in a daze, shell-shocked, still recovering from a recent loss of their child, according to the agent. They had been packing up when Mary and Dave had stopped by to measure for curtains, and, while they were helpful, neither one of them would go near the kitchen.
"They looked spooked," said Mary. "Poor dears. It's a beautiful place, great layout. I love this kitchen, too - look, it even has a doggie door for Sparks."
"I saw that," said Dave. "All fastened shut though." He opened the door and looked at the outside of the flap. "Certainly a lot of claw marks on this side, wonder what that was."
"Must have been their dog," said Mary. "Couldn't be anything else, not with that fence. Six feet tall, solid panels, right down to the ground."
"Just the same," said Dave. "Maybe we should leave it closed that so Danny doesn't crawl out too."
"He's not that mobile dear, and besides, where would he go? There are no gates, the only access is through the each unit."
She'd been hoping for a bigger back yard actually, but this one would do. So far it was just a few patio stones and a patch of grass - no trees, no plants, just a few dry leaves blown into a corner by a breeze. A cold breeze that always seemed to be there, in spite of the high fence on all sides.
The next day, after Dave left for work, she tackled the rest of the boxes. Danny was content to sit in one spot with some toys, watching her work, listening to her chatter about the new house. Sparks seemed to like it too, although he couldn't seem to make up his mind if he wanted to stay inside or out.
"Sparks, that's enough!" she said. "I'm tired of opening the door for you - come on, you can do your part too." She grabbed a butter knife from the drawer, squatted down by the back door, and tackled the row of screws on the flap. There seemed to be a lot of them for such a little door. Sparks sat patiently next to her while she worked, not bothered at all by the occasional swear word she let out.
"There," she said, sucking on a skinned knuckle. "Your very own door. Go ahead."
The dog cautiously pushed the door open with his nose, sniffed, and sat back with a little whine.
"What? It's the back yard. Go on through, it won't bite you. It's still the same beautiful sunny day out there. Don't look at me like that, buddy, it's your only way out."
She was in the middle of unpacking some things for the china cabinet when she heard the sound of claws skittering across the kitchen floor. When she went in to look, she found a trail of muddy footprints across the tiles and Sparks cowering under the table.
"What's the matter," she said. "Did you forget how to get back in? Poor baby. You are such a messy dog, though. How you can get so dirty in an empty yard, is beyond me." She bent down to clean him off and was surprised to feel that his fur was damp. She looked out the door - there were a few clouds but it was still sunny.
By the time she had cleaned off his paws, and wiped the floor, Sparks had calmed down. She carried Danny into the kitchen, and started on the casserole for supper. It seemed the baby was determined to crawl underfoot no matter where she went, so she finally grabbed some toys, and plopped him down next to the dog.
"Here, you two, amuse each other for a few minutes."
She was just about to put the dinner in the oven when she caught a movement in the corner of her eye, over by the door. She turned quickly, just in time to see Danny's back end disappear through the flap.
She smiled. "You little bugger," she said. "And you!" She glared at the dog. "Fine babysitter you are. Good thing he can't go anywhere out there."
She popped in the dinner, set the timer, and then went to the back door. She opened it and said, "Nice try at escaping, buddy."
The yard was empty. The sun shone brightly, the cold breeze stirred the few leaves.
Behind her, in the kitchen, Sparks started to howl.
So... Portal to another dimension, stolen by someone from Faerie... predators living in the pet door?
Cool story. Though now, I'm thinking about how it might not be a happy ending for the parents (maybe they really don't deserve one--maybe their so-called happy lives are covers for the fact that they stole the child from the hospital first and now the real mother has snuck in and taken her son home)....
Oh, it has a lot of potential for more, and yet it's good as it is.
(I confess, the "what if"s are half of why I don't write short stories. I see way too many of them. But I'm always glad to read the works of people who can stop themselves from following the next tangent.)
Posted by: Eden Mabee | February 21, 2013 at 01:41 PM
I agree - lots of possibilities. Does she panic and call 911? Does she think back to Sparks and the other people, and then see if peering through the door looks different? Of course, it does. Can she/does she squeeze through - with Sparks - to find Danny? All of them back through the portal in time, to hear the casserole ding for dinner. Maybe she had to promise to return if she got her baby back, so every afternoon she crawls through. Maybe a Narnia sort of thing, different timescale too, so she spends days/weeks each afternoon.
Posted by: Ravens | February 21, 2013 at 08:20 PM
Wow. This is great. I knew something sinister was close at hand when she heard the sound of claws. I didn't think her dog went out. In my gut, I felt 'something' came in. So, I'm reading and reading and get to where 'Sparks started to howl.', and rolled the screen up only to find that's where it ended. NO! You can't leave us hanging there! There are a million ways that this could go. Did someone or something draw the baby out? Did he go on his own and then was taken simply because he went through the door? What goes back and forth through that door? Come to think of it, I'm not sure I really want to know the answer to that one!
Posted by: Joyce Juzwik | February 23, 2013 at 01:22 PM
I like the idea that she has to return, often, with her kid. That was part of the deal in getting him back - someone on the other side wanted him for themselves, but was forced to agree to frequent visits when they saw how much she loved her child. And they knew other kids had been taken over the years, by others, so wanted to make up for that. She returns to visit, ends up fighting - hubby takes a while to notice she's geting pretty buff and tanned for someone he assumes is a stay at home mom with one little baby and a house full of labour saving devices. Sparks goes with them too - maybe someone does a spell so that on the other side he's a huge wolf - a Direwolf like in Game of Thrones - and he helps protect them. The baby grows in these two worlds, and takes him a while to realize the other kids at day care don't do the same sort of things when they are at home. He gets sent home from kindergarten for inappropriate behaviour - setting a deadfall snare for the school bully - so she decides to homeschool Danny.
Posted by: Ravens | February 23, 2013 at 01:53 PM
A great story and a cool premise for a longer sinister tale. I have written stories like this as short stories and they are now growing novellas as there were ideas brewing within me for the tales. If you think on that one, films like Darkness Falls and They started with a jolt of terror over a few minutes. Those first scenes could stand alone as flash fiction or be extended into the tales they became. I do believe that this is how great stories start: the first inciting incident takes form and the story grows. Maybe you can extend this one.
Posted by: steve | February 26, 2013 at 04:32 PM