😀 Hello there, Dear Reader. Welcome back for the third installment of Cade F.O.N. Apollyon’s short stories from the Underdog Anthology V. This little gem is called ‘Sometimes A Door’…
*True, the LoL is a shade of grey, Clicky, but Cade’s story is ‘Sometimes A Door’, not ‘Sometimes Dor A’…*
*Exactly! But, blimey, wot a shock…*
She had no idea where she was. Everything was missing. Her memory was not a blur, not fuzzy…gone. But how can it be gone? If she knew that something was previously there, and now is no longer there, how could it be gone? So weird, so strange. There was a succinct and immediate knowing of herself and all that she was, so why is everything so distant and vague? So strange that everything was so crisp and sharp. Everything was right there for the taking, yet she could not seem to grasp anything.
She surveyed her immediate surroundings. There was hardly any light or color. In fact, there was almost no color at all. Or at least, no colors that she could make out or discern as individual colors. And yet everything in these unfamiliar surroundings was as vivid as she had ever experienced. So much light.
As she continued to try and understand where she was and how she came to be there, she became aware of a process enveloping her that could only be described as a darkness that she could actually see.
She pondered the darkness as another odd thought suddenly crept into her head. Something clear that she could finally almost latch onto. Yet for some reason, once this thought had manifested itself clearly in her mind, she found herself unconsciously ducking her head; almost as if the process of manifesting clarity was forbidden here, and her doing so had somehow awoken some dormant response of self-preservation, both inwardly and outwardly within the very being of this unusual place. That in thinking of something specific, there was some need for her to dodge an as of yet unseen slap of retribution from some outside force, in response to the specificity of her thought.
Silence. A silence accompanied by a simultaneous and ironic call for her not to further disturb the existing silence of this place, and yet…
“Maybe it’s me?” she whispered aloud to herself. Upon hearing her own voice, she immediately thought, that was most likely the loudest, most discernible whisper ever uttered. “Maybe it was a good idea that I ducked,” she again whispered aloud, chuckling slightly. She was using the quietest voice she could think to muster under the circumstances of this unknown and unfamiliar place, but there was a resonance to her whispers that seemed anything but quiet.
She suddenly had the urge to giggle at the absurdity of it all and found herself smiling. “I can, and have thought thoughts like this before, but never quite in this detail. Never felt quite so safe in thinking about such preposterous things,” she pontificated aloud and bluntly. Gaining some courage, she continued, A loud and clear whisper, she thought to herself. Does that still qualify as a whisper? And, is it possible to scream a whisper? Her smile broadened as she continued to contemplate the mechanics of the concept of whispering, but did so in the certainty that any conclusions she might reach would likely not be applicable in this place. Wherever and whatever this place is. Yes, definitely not applicable here.
The growing urge to actually laugh aloud at these thoughts passed quickly as she began to wonder if she had actually said her thoughts aloud. The thought of “insanity” crept into her mind as this unfamiliar place, and the unknown reasons for her being within it, again took center stage in her thinking.
“I can’t talk to myself…and certainly not aloud.”
“Why not?” she immediately heard a voice from behind her say. “I’m betting you can do both, and perhaps even do both of those quite well,” the voice continued. “Both individually, separately, and sometimes even individually together, and maybe even both at the same time. Yep. I’d feel safe in betting you can indeed do both, and maybe even any and all of those things.”
The cold chill that should be creeping up her spine was mysteriously absent. But her natural instincts that she should be feeling, something, was not. It made her question her earlier unconscious instinct to duck.
Is there something…wrong with me? she thought to herself.
“People think that all the time,” the voice said.
“Did I say that aloud? Am I speaking aloud again?” Her heart sank. It occurred to her that she should be terrified at the thought of saying something aloud that she knew others could hear, and especially if she did not want to say it nor someone else to hear it.
“Talking aloud, to yourself, when you are alone, is something only the insane do. So say the sane,” asserted the voice. The timbre of the unseen voice trailed at the end thought as if they somehow both agreed and disagreed with all potentialities under all circumstances. And yet, the best that she could muster in response to the unseen voice’s assertion was something very contrary sounding to her previous more balanced lines of thinking on the subject.
“The sane…are they wrong?” she said without thinking further.
“The insane sure seem to think so,” replied the voice with a knowing that seemed to affirm her previous thought as to who knows what and when. But her contrary thinking was quickly countermanded by her needing side. Her needing side needed to know, and it quickly demanded an answer. “But which is right?” she asked.
“First you want to know which is ‘wrong’. And then, if ‘wrong’ don’t work, you trundle straight for ‘right’ to see if you can figure that one out. Then you’ll somehow use that understanding of ‘right’ to further apply to ‘wrong’ in order to see if you can figure ‘wrong’ out from ‘right’. It can, and does, get messy at times.” The voice spoke as if they were playing a game of intellectual Ping Pong with themselves, with her as more of a player suddenly turned spectator. “Some things never change,” the voice added but trailed; almost as if the last part of the thought were something of a more a contemplative footnote of a thought for the voice to get back to at a later time, and not necessarily anything directed at her. However, there was a marked feeling nested within this strange dialogue, that somehow, every word and every thought was meant for her. She was back in the game.
“You seem a bit out of sorts,” the voice continued. “Anything else I might be able to help you with outside of the merits of right and wrong as it, perhaps, under certain circumstances, occasionally may pertain to the concept of sanity from the viewpoint and/or viewpoints of, and between, complete strangers?”
The voice had somehow managed the menagerie of mangled words without any sign of an audible breath, and ended with a markedly high note that under any other circumstances would likely be interpreted as contempt. But she did not interpret the thought nor it’s inflections and inferences that way, and yet, she could only imagine the blank look that must now occupy her face. She felt like someone had just read an entire book to her, in a single sentence, on a single breath. But the urge to explode into laughter was overwhelming. This is nuts. Completely insane!
Her thoughts turned to the implied absurdity of suddenly discussing these abstract and somewhat mired intermingling concepts with someone she did not know, nor could she even see. I wouldn’t even consider opening up like this to someone I know intimately. So why am I? Why now? Why here? It was almost impossible to fathom. She had no idea how to respond, or even if she should respond, and continued to wrestle with her desire to laugh. The urge to say something, anything, to stifle her desire to laugh was becoming almost unbearable.
The voice interrupted her thoughts, “By the way…I don’t work here. I mean…I used to work here, but no longer. I remember my way around quite well though, and I just so happened to be passing through. So perhaps, if you would like, I may be able to assist you in some way,” said the voice in a rather unusual tone.
He knows something. Knows this place. Hell, he may know everything about this place, and it’s almost as if he knows me. But how can that be? I’ve never been here before, and am not even sure where here is. Where the hell am I? His voice is familiar, but I’m quite sure that I don’t know his voice, so I cannot possibly know him. Perhaps that is our connection. This is new to me, but not him. But that would make it new for both of us…wouldn’t it?
She garnered a bit of courage nestled within her growing frustration at the absurdity of this chaotic calm, and managed to manifest a single, independent thought. But the first thought was quickly muddied by a second, surely to be followed in short order by a third. As she felt her mind hopelessly slipping away from the steadfastness of her original premise, she found herself angrily blurting the first thought as best she could before it was lost. “WHERE AM I?!?!?”
She waited for the echo that was sure to follow a scream like that within a place as cavernous as this, but her returning voice never came. Instead, she felt a pause in her strange surroundings, along with an accompanying pause and a sense of hesitation in the voice’s purpose and direction. At the same time, it was almost as if the entirety of the makeup of these unknown surroundings had completely stopped, and then, instantaneously changed directions in response to her frustrated outburst. Almost as if all of existence was now suddenly running in reverse while somehow still maintaining it’s original course.
“You know where you’ve been, but not where you are. And you also know who and what you are, but nothing…um…’specific’, currently comes to mind under all of those pretexts. Am I close on my estimations?”
“Yes,” she responded almost obediently without the slightest air of hesitation.
“So, that means that the real questions are?” the voice paused with a patient and encouraging, but expectant rhythm.
“What am I doing here?” she blurted while trying to mask her frustration in vain.
“That’s one of two, which usually appear in no particular order, and you are free to continue at your leisure under no pressure whatsoever,” replied the voice with a sarcastic but gentle and leading tone.
“Where am I going?” she said anxiously, and suddenly finding herself hoping that her second question was the correct one.
“Correct,” said the voice.
“How did you know those would be the two questions I asked?” She immediately caught herself thinking of how she had just asked yet a third question before even getting an answer to the first two. This gave her pause to wonder about the answer that was actually given, but the voice again interrupted her thoughts.
“Like I said, I used to work here,” the voice said almost singing the words. “Those two questions were fairly common. Sometimes almost like clockwork.”
She suddenly became angry, but attempted to maintain her composure while a barrage of questions sprung in defense of her mind. Did you ever answer them? Like…did you actually give direct, comprehensible, understandable and satisfactory answers? Do you even know these answers?!?!? Or do you only have an intimate knowledge of the specific questions themselves? The mock-screaming in her head suddenly ceased. She wondered if she could keep track of all the questions she had just been inspired to ask. As the internal recollection and enumeration of her ‘questions to ask’ began, she thought to herself, now all that remains is garnering the courage to actually ask them while maintaining some semblance of decorum.
“I might just know someone who has some answers,” the voice interrupted. “Fair enough?”
No sooner had the voice said these words, that a figure began to appear out of the nothingness in front of her. Smaller, as if distant, and growing larger as he approached, without actually covering any measurable or definable distance. Almost like the summoning of an apparition by a terrible side-show conjurer one would find at a traveling carnival. But as she attempted to adjust her focus and maintain her bearings it became obvious that this was no illusion. As she continued her study of what was happening and how, it also became apparent that this man’s presence was simultaneously creating the light and darkness that was surrounding both him and the entirety of this place. She felt her anger begin to melt away, and she tried in almost desperation to forget about the barrage of questions she had only just contemplated firing in this man’s direction.
He was stocky with no particular distinctions as to his being either muscular nor fat, neither short nor tall – just stocky. Distinctly indistinct was the best description that she could quickly muster upon his sudden and yet ever increasing appearance. He had short-ish red hair that was extremely curly, but not necessarily fuzzy or frayed. Almost like that of a well-kept wig that a circus clown might wear, except the hair was quite long for a clown wig; almost to his shoulders. Does shoulder-length hair still qualify as…short-ish? She suddenly felt a bit of guilt and shame for making the “clown-hair wig” distinction in her observations, but her thoughts quickly changed direction when she noticed his attire.
A long white-ish grey robe with both black and white sashes around the waist. The actual lengths and proportions of the robe and sashes were hidden in, and accentuated by the fact that he was carrying his hands behind his back, and he was therefore leaning slightly forward as he walked. She caught the sudden glint of a third sash tied in and almost braided through the other two sashes around his waist. Is that yellow? Or gold? She straightened her posture as he came ever closer.
Walking with a slight shuffling in his manner, he continued his somewhat determined but slow approach in her direction – steady and non-threatening. This left little doubt that his destination was certain, but that only he knew what and where his ultimate destination lay. His head was bowed, yet there was still a raised nature to his head. Almost as if he were contemplating something heavy or dark….and also like his head was simultaneously submitting to, and fighting against both its own and some other unseen weights. She found this detail odd considering the smile in this man’s voice; there was nothing even remotely strained about it. It was unusual and evasive perhaps, but she didn’t recollect any sign of stress nor strain in their brief exchanges. She noted that this made his physical appearance seem even more odd when mixed in and among the overwhelming brightness of this dark place.
Odd that she hadn’t really noticed the same smile on his face. Have I even seen his face? She made a mental note to seek out his face, but noted to do so without appearing to stare or evaluate.
As she wondered to herself as to the particulars of his face and how best to look at it, and almost as if on cue, he looked up at her briefly via the unusual positioning of his bowed head, and there it was. The smile reflected in his voice was clearly visible and unmistakable via his eyes. She could detect the smile in his mouth and facial expression as well. But unlike the smile of the voice and eyes, there was something else hidden behind it and the other contours of his face. If it were strain that she was detecting, it certainly was not reflected elsewhere in the man’s being. Although not particularly muscular nor brawny, his appearance were as though there were no weight he could not lift. She caught herself suddenly wanting to smile, noticed that she was staring, and quickly looked away in shame.
After what seemed like an extremely long walk for both of them, and an even longer and certainly more elaborate observation period of her watching him walk, he finally came to a stop only slightly in front of her, as she continued her almost vain attempts to look anywhere but directly at him. She could almost feel the pulse of his breathing as he stood otherwise motionless in front of her, but she kept her head turned so as to see him only indirectly. He had seemed so massive and ever larger-looming previously as the distance closed between them.
Yet she now noticed that he was considerably shorter than she, and she now dreaded looking directly at him for fear of giving the appearance of looking down her nose at him.
As she continued to wonder what to do at this point, she could feel his eyes upon her. Waiting. But she could also sense that he was not visually evaluating her in the same way that she had evaluated him as he approached her location. Where is my location, current or otherwise? she wondered to herself.
She surmised there was no internal knowing to be had in her query, and turned her head in his direction as if to seek the answer elsewhere. As soon as their eyes met, the man said, “I dreamed of you.”
Her head sagged suddenly in defeat, and she immediately burst into tears as the weight of his words somehow sunk in. But almost as soon as the tears started, she quickly began to question her own motivation in the sudden outpouring. I know this, she thought to herself as she continued to sob. I don’t know this at all, she countermanded her own previous thought.
No more answers to seek boomed in her mind via some unknown voice emanating from some unknown source in her being. The chill that was absent earlier made it’s presence and intentions known. But its desire to creep through her being was quickly quashed by the manifesting of a single thought that resonated distinctly with and in her own voice. Am I…
“Aw now, let’s not have too much of that,” the man said with a fatherly concern that seemed to lift the weight of the questions manifested in her mind by his previous cryptic yet weighty statement.
“I’m sorry. I’ve no idea what you mean by that, but somehow I also do know for some reason. I don’t know,” she said, also beginning again to wipe fresh tears from her own eyes. “I’m so lost.”
“Well…let’s see if we can remedy that, and maybe even get some of those tears dried up in the process. Maybe even both at the same time. Nudge nudge, wink wink.”
She saw him neither move his arms to nudge her, nor move his eyes from their fixed gaze even slightly, but she knew that he had somehow done both and all. As it occurred to her to actually ask the man if he had done either, she looked up to see him looking into her eyes and smiling. She suddenly recalled his opening words as to her own abilities to do certain things at the same time. She let out a slight chuckle and smiled at the thought. “Maybe…but no promises.” She continued to dab at her tears as she attempted to straighten her posture and regain her composure.
“No…promises,” he purposefully chopped his words, simultaneously asking and answering before continuing, “No promises sounds fair enough.” He smiled at her again, then continued, almost interrupting himself, “Listen…I was just heading down this way if you care to tag along. But if you’ve another destination in mind, I’d be happy to accompany you wherever you prefer to trod,” he said with a jovial spring in his voice.
“Trod?” she chuckled slightly as she said it aloud. “I’m sorry…but that’s a word you simply don’t hear everyday.” She continued to chuckle and attempted to further collect herself, but felt the need to say it again, “Trod,” she chuckled again. “That’s funny.”
“Well, whenever it is that we get to wherever it is that we are going, hopefully, it’ll still be both pertinent and applicable in it’s humor. Maybe it’ll be at least as amusing to both of us then as it is now.” As he finished speaking, he shot her a wink.
“Let’s hope so,” she said while beaming a smile that she could not restrain in response to the wink. She couldn’t help it. She wanted to laugh again, as she pondered the merits of suddenly having a dictionary handy so that she could look up the word ‘trod’ and all it’s tenses and applications. But the thought of stumbling through a dictionary in this man’s presence, simply to have a better understanding of his odd vernacular made the situation just that much more comical. She wanted to know more. She had to know more. Such as, where would I even begin to look for a dictionary at this point, she wondered to herself as she stifled the urge to again chuckle.
“Let’s us trod down this way,” he said.
She let out a giggle. “OK…” she paused, “let’s us trod. After you.”
“After you, she says. I guess I’m leading the way,” he mumbled aloud in a faux-vibrato that was obviously meant to be humorous. At least, that’s what it sounded like and what she was familiar with. A sarcastic yet comforting tone, nested within a certain kind of knowing.
I guess he’s trying to keep the conversation light, she rationalized to herself.
The unusual man again started walking in the same short, shuffling steps as before. As he passed her, she caught herself looking at him and studying his movements more than the man himself. She caught herself staring and again began to feel a tad shameful for doing so. She decided it was best to follow as politely as she could, and began imagining what the proper way to follow someone ‘politely’ would actually be.
As she began walking, she noticed something odd about his hands and arms, and the way that they were placed behind his back. Are his hands tied? Or is he carrying something on his back? Or…both? It was too dark to tell, but the thoughts of either or any of those made her shudder, and she felt herself shake a bit almost with a chill within her own being.
Odd it being so dark surrounding this man. He himself was almost…glowing.
They continued to walk, but she quickened her pace to catch up so that she could walk beside him instead of behind. Once caught up, she slowed and turned her head to look at his feet to better match his pace. She couldn’t actually see his feet, but she was able to quickly match his pace and cadence.
“OK if I walk with, instead of behind?” she asked, smiling confidently as she tried to match his steps.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
His face, from the side, appeared to her to be relaxing a bit as he answered her question.
“Say. Do you like movies?” he suddenly asked; almost as if to interrupt an unspoken conversation between them.
“Yes. Very much,” she replied.
“Have you ever seen that movie that came out a few years back, that was a kind of spoof of the Frankenstein book and movies?”
“Young Frankenstein?” she suggested brightly.
“That’s the one. I love that movie, but never can recall its name for some reason.”
“Oh I love that movie too,” she agreed. “One of my favorites.”
“There’s a part in that movie…” His voice trailed in the vast expanse of nothingness as they disappeared together into the darkness.
We hope you enjoyed that, Dear Reader, as well as ‘Hee Haw Hockey‘ and ‘Pour, Know… Poor, No‘. Fingers crossed the Okie Devil of Text US will pen some new tales for Underdog Anthology VI, the Halloween edition…
*Now THAT is a door, Clicky…*