(October 12, 2014. Summerville Psychiatric Hospital for Extended Stay Patients. Interview of Elizabeth Hope Porter, age 17, admitted on September 27, 2013 by force via parental signature and doctor recommendation, currently undergoing treatment for acute delusional disorder and schizophrenia. Dictated by Porter, recorded, and transcribed for records and training purposes.)
Hello. Can you hear me? The doctor told me to talk into this little tape recorder. Sorry if it’s a little hard to hear me – I can’t move very far in my jacket, and my feet and chair are strapped to the floor. I’m kind of stretching to reach the microphone. Well, the doctors behind the window are giving me the thumbs-up, so I guess that means everything’s fine. High quality mic. I should probably start now, right? Yep, they’re nodding.
The doctor told me to talk about what we discussed when I first came here. I had been ranting on about how I wasn’t afraid anymore, that the thing that I feared was finally gone. He asked me what I was afraid of – or what I had been afraid of.
That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? I mean, humans fear a lot of things, don’t we? We’re scared of bugs, the ocean, a paper cut – normal things, silly things, things we see on a daily basis and yet tremble at the sight of for one reason or another. I can’t really relate to that. I mean, bugs are kind of ugly, but there’s nothing to be afraid of in something you can remove from existence just by smashing it with your dad’s size twelve shoe. And the ocean is indeed full of dangers like sharks and drowning, but why fear it when the answer is perfectly simple – learn to swim or don’t get in the water? As for paper cuts, they only hurt for a second and then are forgotten, no more lethal than stubbing your toe or bumping your elbow. What’s so scary about seeing the fluid that makes you alive bubbling up on the outside? It astounds me, really, the things people are scared of. I understand being cautious of things that will kill you, but stuff like this? Geez, get your priorities straight, humanity.
That said, there is one fear that I can understand, one that, I suppose, you can call irrational, even if it isn’t to me.
You know how, in movies, the character is walking down a dark hall or through some abandoned building at night, and suddenly a door to their right starts to rattle? Or they hear breathing or scratching or downright screams coming from behind it? You know how they move towards it so damn slowly, dreading every step closer, wanting to open it but so incredibly scared to do so?
I’ve always hated that. I’d watch a scene like that and think, “That’s not scary. Why the hell is she so scared of a closed door?”
Most people, I’m sure, would say something like, “Because there’s something terrible on the other side. Because, when she opens it, she might see something awful or get a faceful of straight-up monster-murderer death.”
To that, I say… I don’t disagree. Anything could be hiding behind a closed door, anything at all. A vile monster, a portal to another world, your parents having five minutes’ worth of quick-while-the-kids-are-outside sex – there’s no telling what’s behind a piece of two-inch-thick hardwood in the average house, haunted or otherwise.
But that’s the kicker. It’s behind a door, a closed door. There’s a barrier between you and the potential danger. If there is something on the other side, something sinister and unsightly, it can’t get to you unless the door is opened. That’s why scenes like the ones in bad horror movies always piss me off. If you don’t like the look of that suspicious door in front of you or don’t appreciate the unhealthy sounds coming from behind it, they why don’t you just turn around and walk away from the goddamn door? You don’t have to open it and face a fate worse than death. You can just leave it be, ignore it, maybe even lock it for good measure. Doors have locks for a reason. Better still, how about you just barricade it further? Put up some planks of wood, drag a dresser in front of it, even your own two hands would work if you’re strong enough.
See, to me, a closed door is the most comforting sight in the whole wide world.
Now an opened door… that’s another story.
The doctors just gave each other this look. I can tell this is what they’ve wanted me to talk about this whole time. Sorry, I tend to get ranty about stuff like this. My brain has set paths it likes to go on, and I kind of have to follow them. Not my fault.
Okay, where was I? Oh, right. Open doors. I used to hate open doors. Hate them with a capital H-A-T-E. There’s just something so… unsettling about them. A passageway, left ajar by a careless hand, allowing access to anything and everything that lay on the other side. It’s even worse when the lights are off in the room, and I can’t see what’s inside. Oh, but it can see me, though. Even if I’m all the way down the hall or even around the corner, I knows it’s there, wanting to cross the threshold but unable to, completely aware of my presence on the other side. At least, when a door’s closed, it can’t see me. It’s trapped behind a barrier it can’t physically move on its own, silenced and banished to whatever realm it lives in when it’s not trying to break into my world. Behind the door, it can’t whisper to me, can’t tempt me to close its only entrance, can’t snatch me up and drag me through into some dark and horrid place. It can only get me if someone leaves the door open, like an invitation, you might say.
I bet I know what you’re thinking. What am I talking about? What’s “it”? Well… I don’t really know. I’ve never been one hundred percent on what exactly the… let’s call it the thing in the doorway… is.
I just know that open doors have always frightened me. Since I was in diapers. A doorway wasn’t safe unless I was the one who opened the door. Only I could do it fast enough to trick the thing inside from seizing the opportunity to catch me between rooms. My record is less than two seconds to open, get in, and close, though I think five is probably the longest I have to get the door closed again. I learned over the years exactly how to trick it.
No one else ever seemed to care about this problem. Doors were always left open wherever I went – at school, at the mall, at home, everywhere. Gaping maws filled with something that apparently only I could see. I got mad at people who didn’t close doors behind them, mad enough to throw tantrums and cause some pretty bad scenes out in public. I cried when my parents tucked me in and forgot to close my bedroom door at night, unable to sleep until they did. I even refused to go to the bathroom in my own home if someone left the door open after using it.
I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy living like this. I lost friends faster than I made them, I missed a lot of days at school, and I passed up many opportunities because something (or a lack thereof) stood in my way. I went to a lot of therapists as a child. Both they always asked me why I did this, why I couldn’t be around open doors. To this day, I still can’t give them a better answer than… because I just couldn’t. I knew from the bottom of my heart that something lay in wait inside every doorway I saw, something evil and hungry and waiting for me to finally slip up and fall into its clutches.
Here at the hospital, they make me take little orange pills to calm me down, but, before I came here, I never accepted medication, despite advice from therapists. I’m okay with it now, but back then I was sure that taking anything at all would give the thing in the doorway an advantage over me. Can’t trick a monster when you’re addlebrained, you know? So, instead, my family had to reconstruct their lives to fit around, what they called, “my condition.” Doors were always closed at home, and every knob had a lock on it inside and out, even the closets. I even had a nanny for a while who came to school with me to make sure I wasn’t bothered by carelessly opened lockers or lunchroom doors.
Everything went smoothly for a good sixteen years. It wasn’t perfect – I had many panic attacks and public outbursts, I suffered some pretty bad bouts of depressions, and there was never a moment where I felt truly safe, where I wasn’t thinking of that thing every time a hinge creaked or a lock clicked. But I learned to live with it. I had my routines, my rituals, my coping mechanisms. I had my family’s cooperation and unconditional support. And I had a key for every door in my house.
Sixteen tense but stable years. Then the bad night came.
Ah, that got their attention. All the doctors are looking at me now, a wall of bright, glittering eyes. I think they’re all interns or something, people who haven’t heard this story yet, the reason everyone thinks I belong here. The only one who’s not ogling me is my personal doctor. He’s the only one who knows the whole thing already. Well, I guess I should get around to telling it, right? Maybe they’ll understand better than the doctor did. Maybe they’ll actually be on my side.
Oh, I just realized. I haven’t mentioned Tyler yet, have I? Well, Tyler’s my… little brother. Hmm, how do I put this? He… got a kick out of “my condition.” He just loved to tease me about it. He purposely left doors open around the house, jiggled the locks late at night, and made me chase him to doorways, where I would freeze and glare at him while he made stupid faces and dared me to cross the threshold. God, I despised him for it. He never understood how much panic and terror he caused me every time a door flew open followed by his dorky little laugh. It was a miracle I didn’t have gray hair by the time I was a teenager.
He was getting better, though. When I was thirteen, I’d smashed his face into a doorframe as he was trying to pull me through it into the other room. The doctor said I’d broken his nose and part of his left eye socket. After that, he didn’t tease me as much. I guess pain was the only way to get it through to little brats like him that tormenting me was a no-no. That said, I couldn’t do it all the time. My parents freaked after that first incident, and, any time I was tempted to do it again, they threatened me with trips to the psych ward. That calmed me a little. After all, psych ward meant pills, and pills meant addlebrained, and addlebrained meant the thing in the doorway would have no trouble getting its wicked claws on me.
So, last year, on a warm night in September, my parents were going out to a party and asked me to babysit Tyler. This wasn’t unusual. I was doing much better in terms of handling “my condition,” so they trusted me with watching my brother for short periods of time. They left around five and promised to be home after one in the morning. I made some mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner, and, at the table, I warned Tyler not to cause trouble for the rest of the night. I even promised to let him stay up until midnight if he behaved. He obliged with a mouth full of gooey cheese, but I saw that little gleam in his eye, that impish gleam of mischief yet to come. Pfft. Once a brat, always a brat.
But the night wore on, and everything seemed okay. We kept our distance from each other, I watching TV in the living room on one side of the house, Tyler playing in his room (the door shut) on the other. By eleven o’ clock, I was contently munching on popcorn and getting lost in a marathon of NCIS, my mind the farthest from doorways it had ever been. I even forgot that Tyler was in the house until, during a commercial, I heard his bedroom door open.
Immediately, I hit Mute on the remote and listened. See, I knew the sound of every door in that house. Each creak and squeak was unique in my ears. I counted how many times the hinges pealed open and groaned closed on my brother’s particularly squeaky bedroom door. Open, close, followed by footsteps, then open, close again. That was the bathroom door. I could tell by the wooden erk sound it made when he shut it. Now I just had to wait for him to finish his business and go back to his room. I wouldn’t be able to sit still until I knew all the door sounds were cycled through. Tyler knew this. He also knew that he wouldn’t hear the end of it if I heard an off number of door clicks.
I watched the muted screen and listened carefully.
Toilet flush. Bathroom door, smooth open, erk close.
Footsteps down the hall.
Bedroom door, squeak open and…
I listened, but there was no second squeak that signified he closed the door. The house remained perfectly, painfully silent. My heart was already starting to pound in my chest, a-gong, a-gong, a-gong, liquid in my ears. I pressed back into the couch and waited a moment longer. He’s just messing with me, I thought. He’s just making me paranoid. Hell, he’s probably about to burst out laughing any second now and slam the door shut.
I waited. But there was still nothing. Just silence.
Now the panic kicked in. A door was open. A door was open in the house. Even though it was on the other side of the house, I could practically feel it like a scab on the bottom of my foot. The thing was there now, it was in that open space between my brother’s room and the hallway, gathering itself up, becoming solid, searching for me, waiting for me. I didn’t want to move, but I couldn’t sit still. My body was sweaty and trembling, my legs tapping restlessly, my fingers digging into the sofa cushions. I was shaking so hard that I could’ve bitten my tongue in two.
“Tyler, close the damn door!” I screamed, my voice high and terrified. It echoed back at me and made me flinch. Again, I expected laughter, wanted the laughter, but the house was so quiet that not even the supports creaked. God, why was he being so quiet?
I thought of something. What if the thing had Tyler? I didn’t think it was possible. It never bothered my parents or my little brother before, hence how they could walk past an open door with no problem. It only ever wanted me. But what if it’d changed its mind? What if it’d gotten tired of waiting for me to come to it and decided to go for the easier prey?
Or, maybe… it was holding Tyler captive, using him as bait to lure me out. I could just imagine him trapped in that dark, rotten place inside the doorway, held in a pair of large, monstrous claws. Perhaps he was so quiet because he could not cry out for me to save him. Perhaps he knew the thing would use his cries to drawn me to it and catch me as well.
I clasped the sides of my head, rocking back and forth on the couch, starting to whine. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just let it take Tyler. Even if I hated him, my parents would get so mad at me for letting him die. They’d yell at me and make me take medication and let the thing get me when I couldn’t control myself. I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t. But what should I do? What should I do? What should I do?
Then, in the silence, I heard a small, cheeky snicker.
I froze, my hands leaving my head and curling into fists. It was laughing at me now? Laughing at all the pain it’d caused me, all the torment it’d brought? How dare it. How dare it! I wouldn’t stand for it. Sixteen years, I’d submitted. Sixteen goddamn years, I let it dictate how I lived my life. Well, I was sick of living in fear all the time. I was sick of shaking at the sight of doors, sick of peeing my pants when a bathroom was right in front of me, sick of crying myself to sleep at night because I couldn’t stop dreaming about the thing in the doorway. No more. I’d show it. I’d show it once and for all.
I took the deepest breath I could, stood up from the couch, and started walking towards the bedroom hallway. As I passed through the kitchen, I pulled a boning knife from the block on the counter. It felt much better than going in alone.
There were four doors in the hallway: my parents’ room, the bathroom, my room, and my brother’s room. His was the only open door. Even from the end of the hall, I could see the darkness in the doorway. It wasn’t just that the lights in the room were off; the darkness was thick, coalesced, moving like a black curtain, hiding something sinister in its folds. It was in there, waiting for me. It could hear my heartbeat, I knew it could, it was so damn loud and fast like a machine gun. I bet it wanted to rip it out in front of my face and swallow it whole. I wanted to run back to the living room and crawl under the couch until my parents got home, but I knew I couldn’t. The thing would kill Tyler if I ignored it. Then I’d have to go to the psych ward. Then it would kill me.
So I squeezed the knife and walked slowly towards the doorway, telling myself that I was not afraid.
“T-Tuh-Tyler?” I said, my voice bouncing all over the walls.
No response, but I did hear that laugh again, that tiny, impish snicker. You know what? It sounded an awful lot like my brother’s laugh. That monster… How dare it imitate my brother! It was trying to trick me, trying to make me think this really was just a little game he was playing, trying to get me to let my guard down. But I knew better. I wasn’t about to fall for its game. I was done playing. I was going to make it pay.
I stepped towards the doorway, standing a good five feet away at first. I saw nothing inside, not even the outlines of my brother’s bed or dresser, just a rectangle of solid black. I held the knife flat against my thigh, inching my way closer and closer. The snickering was a little louder now, trying to be quiet, still imitating my brother. I was so angry that my teeth ground together.
Then I saw a flicker of movement in the darkness. I gasped, and the snickers stopped. It was waiting, ready to strike. So was I. Taking one long step, I placed myself directly in front of the doorway.
I’d never been this close to it before, close enough to almost touch the impenetrable blackness within. I finally saw it, the thing, the nightmare that had haunted me all my life. It revealed itself to me at last. It pushed through the darkness with arms outstretched, fingers clawed and reaching, eyes gleaming a dull red and mouth grinning in a crooked, gap-toothed way. It even made a sound, still imitating Tyler with a high, mocking, “Boo!” I’m sure it thought it finally had me, that it was going to grab me and drag me down into whatever hell it had crawled up from.
But I was ready for it. Without even the slightest bit of hesitation, I drove the knife into the darkness.
Oh, God, the relief. You don’t understand how wonderful it felt to plunge that knife into its throat. Blood burst over my hand like a warm bubble, but I didn’t even care. I listened to the thing gurgle, felt its hands reaching up and grabbing at the knife, at my own hand locked tight around the handle. And I didn’t stop there. I yanked the knife back and forth, sawing into the skin and sending more blood splattering across the floor and the front of my shirt. It wasn’t long before the thing dropped to its knees. I followed it down, pushing it to the floor, ripping the knife from its throat. It flapped its lips like it was trying to speak, but only gurgled whistles of air leaked out of its mutilated windpipe. I was so happy to see it bleed, to know I was finally hurting it instead of it hurting me. Exhilarated, I lifted the knife and jabbed it into its mouth, bringing it down again and again and again until its face resembled nothing more than a shapeless red mass on the carpet.
When it had stopped moving, I left the knife lodged in what was once its right eye and sat back against the wall, panting harder than I ever had in my life. Everything was hazy and tinted red. I rubbed my eyes until I could see clearly again, and you know what I saw? The doorway. I was sitting in his bedroom, and I could see the hallway beyond the doorway. No darkness, no sense of menace, nothing. Hardly able to believe it, I reached out with my bloodstained hand and was elated to see it pass through without trouble. Nothing grabbed it, nothing pulled me in. There was nothing in the doorway.
I let out the biggest sigh of relief. I did it. I killed it. I killed the thing that had haunted me for years. I could go through open doors now and not worry about what was on the other side. I was finally free.
“But, wait,” I bet you’re asking. “What about Tyler?”
Well, I couldn’t find him after I killed the thing in the doorway. I checked under his bed, inside his toy box, even inside his closet, but he was nowhere to be found. I called out to him, thinking he’d somehow left the room while I was fighting the monster. No luck there either. I realized a little later that he must still be trapped in the space inside the doorframe, the dark world the thing had come from. Without someone to open the door between its world and mine, the portal was sealed shut, meaning Tyler was still in there, locked away from his home and his family forever. If the monster didn’t eat him before I got to it, that is.
It frustrated me when no one believed this story. When my parents got home later that night, I eagerly began to tell them how I’d conquered my fears at last, but they wouldn’t stop screaming about all the blood in the house. My mother even cradled the corpse of the thing in her arms and begged me to tell her why I had killed my baby brother. In hindsight, I understand their confusion. Even in death, the thing was still masquerading as Tyler, from his clothes to his hair right down to the little V-shaped freckle on the back of his left hand. They were convinced that it really was Tyler, so were the police and the doctors as well, but I knew they were wrong. That bloody mess was a monster, my own personal demon, my mountain finally climbed and conquered. I did not kill my little brother.
Still, my parents were furious that I had lost Tyler. They treated me like I had a disease all my life and had not known about it until now. At the behest of the doctors, they had me put here, in the dreaded psych ward, where I am monitored, fed little orange pills in a cup, and kept in a soft room so I don’t hurt myself or anyone else.
I will say, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I kind of like it here, all bright and clean and with so many closed doors. It’s so comforting to see them locked tight with keycards and surrounded by big bodyguards. Not that I’m worried about stuff like that anymore. Open doors don’t scare me now. There’s nothing in them. Nothing except Tyler, of course, but he only seems to be there, a hazy, not-quite-there outline in the back of my eyes. Sometimes, if I forget to take my pills, he stands by my bed at night, leaning over me, his face all red and pulpy and dripping onto my pajamas. I don’t know if he’s dead or not, but, even if he is, it’s not like his ghost could come back here. He can’t ever really come back, though, not from where he is. Good riddance, if you ask me. He was so annoying and mean. I think my parents are better off without him. I know I am. If the thing hadn’t taken him away, I’d still be trapped in my own hellish hallway of gaping doorways. I should be thanking him for helping me remove my greatest fear.
Guess he was good for something after all.
Oh. The doctors don’t seem to agree with me. They’re all giving me this look like I’ve just done something terrible to their pets. That’s too bad. I really hoped someone would hear me out. Maybe I shouldn’t blame them. After all, it’s hard for others to see a monster that only scares you. It’s harder still when they’re tricked into thinking you are the monster instead.
Credit To – MercuryCoatedVeins