“Four Doors”: A Short Story


Faith Blackaby, '22

“Wait. Wait. Wait. Walk. Walk. Walk.” Henry moved according to the mechanical man’s instructions. He stepped forward over the faded paint of the pedestrian crosswalk on the corner of Rod street and Sterling Avenue. It was the same corner he passed everyday, the same faded paint he’d crossed a million times before. Henry walked down the sidewalk towards his home and thought to himself, “broken window, one story building, empty lot, and five-story dump.” He noted every building as he passed them. Henry continued walking the next few blocks until he arrived at his destination, home. A feeling of deep regret and annoyance filled his every pore. He jiggled the door handle awkwardly, slipping his key into the lock.

The sound of high-pitch squeals greeted him. Of course… why would he need the restful environment required in order to remain sane and provide for his wife and two kids?

“Papa! Papa! Look! I’m using a real cup!” Kit, his daughter said proudly, a tiny glass cup between her small hands.

Henry looked down at her and exhaled sharply, “Put that down, you’ll only break it like last time.” Kit, deflated, moved quietly according to his orders, setting down the cup. Henry took off his overcoat and hooked it on the nearby knob. He then proceeded slowly into the kitchen. As he entered, he found his wife, Beatrice, pouring some flour into the tin.

“You shouldn’t be so blunt with her, you know,” she said calmly, continuing to put the groceries into their correct bottles, tins, and cabinets.

“What? I’m supposed to lie to her then?” Henry jeered.

“Well, no,” Beatrice muttered.

Henry finally comprehended the actions of his wife, “ What’s all this?” He said gesturing to groceries lying on the counter.

“Well, we were almost out, and the children were getting hungry; so, I went and bought the essential.” Henry had no sympathy towards his wife’s excuses.

“You know we can’t afford this. You can’t go out buying things without telling me like this”  His wife gave her usual, brush off reply.

“I know, I’ll try to be better.” Henry scoffed angrily and exited the kitchen.

Henry finally concluded to just ignore Beatrice and Kit until he calmed down. Henry settled in at his desk to do some paperwork. Why did he turn out like this? Stuck in this cycle; waking up, dealing with family, going to work, coming home, having to deal with them again, and then do more work? Henry didn’t move from his desk for hours, consumed by his responsibilities. His youngest, Peter, cautiously cracked the door open. “Papa?” Peter asked, clutching something tight behind his back,” I have something for you.” Peter said. Why did Henry have to deal with them all the time?

“Can’t you see I’m working? You’re not allowed to come in when I’m working. Just give it to your mother.”

Peter’s eyes widened, “ Are you… you sure? I drew it for just for you.”

Henry continued to look over his papers, “Just give it to your mother, and shut the door on your way out.”  Peter, obviously hurt, complied.

“ Mom said you’d like it.”

Henry got up at 7:00 am, the same time as he had the day before and the one before that, and continued to get dressed and walk to work. His day was long, tedious, stressful and downright depressing, but this wasn’t anything new. Finally ending his work day at 5:00, he packed up and headed home. “ Wait. Wait. Wait. Walk. Walk. Walk.” He stepped over the faded paint, and walked down the block. He noted every building as he passed them, “broken window, one story building, empty…” He stopped abruptly, turning his head towards the oddity. He found himself staring at a building where the previously empty lot had been. That shouldn’t be there. No one can construct a building overnight. Henry crossed the street, approaching the out-of-place building. The building had no signs posted and no address to be seen; suddenly, Henry found himself excited, curious even. Finally something outside his endless cycle. He slowly and carefully turned the door handle of the strange building. It swung open with ease. The sight that greeted him was peculiar one.

A standard room. There were four walls and a door on each wall. There wasn’t any variation between the doors, each looked identical to the other. He slid into the room. The room was a dull gray, made completely of concrete; then, without even a sound, the door slowly swung closed behind him. Henry, not having noticed the door close, proceeded to the center of room. “It’s so quiet,” Henry thought, “If only it was always this quiet.” He approached one of the four doors within the room. “What could be behind them? This isn’t a very big lot,” Henry mused. When commanded, the door gilded open just as smoothly as the last. The room this door revealed wasn’t any different than the one he had first discovered, dominated by the dull gray concrete. “Strange…” Henry curiously open another door….and another and another. They all led back to the same quiet, concrete room. “I should really be… be getting back.” Henry stuttered, curiosity giving out to panic. He had to get home, home to Peter, to Kit, and to Beatrice.

He must have run through a dozen identical doors in a panicked frenzy before exhausting himself. Only his weighted gasping could be heard within the confines of the nefarious building, “It’s..it’s so..so quiet.” He lowered himself to the floor. To his surprise, as he sat down his hand felt something crinkle. He looked towards the out-of-place object, a paper. The paper was simple, a plain white with deformed stick figures scribbled all over it in a bright yellow. Pushing his eyebrows together in confusion, he read the words sprawled over the top of the page, it read, “to papa!” Henry slowly started to comprehend the irony of his circumstances. He sat, his only opinions to sit and stare at the picture which he had earlier refused to see, repeatedly run through the never-changing doors, or sitting in the never-ending silence.