Writing exercise – three doors, fifteen minutes per door.
It was a nondescript, wooden door, greyed with age but not cracked. It opened into a fog. Walking through she found herself in a dimly lit forest. The trees half veiled by the mist that settled across everything, weaving translucent ribbons over branches and ferns.
Standing in a clearing she tried to decide on a way to go. A stag, so white it almost glowed in the shimmer of the mist, appeared to her left and she took that as her sign, moving towards it, and following as it calmly turned and walked into the forest.
Away from the clearing, it was darker and she needed to watch her step, but the stag was clear in the gloom and so she followed.
She walked for a while, could have been minutes, could have been hours, time had no meaning there. The stag brought her to another clearing, the moon shining down and setting the foggy air alight with silver.
There was a cliff of sorts on the other side, and a waterfall dropping from it, to splash into a luminous silver and grey pool, before spilling over into a stream, running away to another part of the forest. She felt no need to follow.
Beneath the cliff, near enough to the pool for convenience, but far enough to be clear of its spray, a small cottage stood, closed door, windows shuttered, but she was sure there was someone home. It didn’t have the air of an abandoned place.
The stag walked to the cottage, and struck its antlers once against the door and then walked off, duty clearly done.
She moved forward, so anyone opening the door could see her in the spill of light that would surely come from the interior, and so it unfolded.
The door opened, light flowed out and a figure appeared, silhouetted against the gold. They spotted her as expected, and motioned her inside. Again, she moved forward and into the cottage and the door was closed behind her.
The light was now gold, not silver, and danced from flames in a fireplace and candles, rather than quivering in moonlit ambivalence.
The figure turned out to be a woodsman, lean and strong, kind and concerned. The woods were no place for anyone after dark. He stoked up the fire and offered tea and toast – both of which she gladly accepted. The walk had been cold and damp and she wondered if her bones will ever be warm again.
But then the corridor beckoned her back. She opened the door next to the fireplace, that should only hold wood, and stepped back through, out of his world and into her limbo.
The next time, the door was all flash and drama, neon lights surrounding it and music’s heady beat faintly heard through its blackened metal panels.
She opened it and stepped into a dive bar. One where people go for music that hits their soul and drinks that help them forget.
The floor was sticky and strewn with used napkins, straws, and the occasional remanent of a broken glass.
Picking her way carefully through the mess, her shoes weren’t the best for this sort of ground, she stopped at the bar for a drink, took the vodka mix the barman recommended, and moved to a table tucked into the wall near the stage.
Sitting in the shadows, she had a good view of the room, of the people sitting entranced by the music. A clear view of the stage, and the singer and her band, wallowing in the melody of a blues number that could only be sung by someone who had walked that path to hell and was still not sure if they’d returned.
Sipping on her drink, she became aware of another, a figure sitting in the mirror image table from her, on the other side of the stage. A man, lean and strong, kind and concerned. She tensed. She’d been wandering the corridor for a long time, through many doors and many worlds. This was a first. Should she go over there? Should she react at all? Was it a coincidence? Or her imagination?
The singer ended on a rich, drawn out note and, during the hushed, reverential applause, the man stood and walked across the floor.
He sat across from her at the table, and put down the cup he had been carrying.
“You didn’t get to finish your tea.”
She pushed back against the wall.
“Practice. I used to walk the doors as you do, but I found people to learn from, and how to choose my worlds. Which ones to go back to, which ones to avoid, how to know if someone I needed to find, or avoid, was in a certain place. You know the corridor now. Do you wish to learn to control it?”
He smiled, it was another light and one she hadn’t realised how much she’d missed. The light from one human to another.
“Where would you like to go first? And where would you like to make your home?”
Two questions that she thought would have been one. They were better as separate entities though. Where she wanted to plan, and where she wanted to simply be, were very different worlds.
“Before I make that decision, could you tell my why you chose that misty forest for your home?”
“I didn’t. I just knew you’d be opening that door tonight, and it’s time for you to be given the freedom to choose, rather than surrender to the dictates of the doors.”
“Are you the master of the castle?”
“No, she is far too important to pay attention to the likes of us. I’ve only met her once and she is as far from us as the moon, with about the same interest in our struggles and triumphs.”
“Well I’d like to finally be able to give her a triumph or two of mine to watch.”
He smiled and gestured to the door.
Back in the corridor, he held up his hand as she would have turned to the next door.
“Where would you like to go?”
“There was a tropical beach with a bar, and an afternoon rainstorm. It seems like the perfect place to sit and think through everything, that will then help me work out the answer to your second question.”
“Do you remember what the door looked like?”
She closed her eyes to conjure it, “Yes, it was rough, like weathered old planks had been tied together with rope and dried out vines.”
“Good, keep that in your mind’s eye as you move to the next door. If it helps, keep your eyes closed and I’ll guide you.”
She nodded and he carefully cupped his hand under her elbow, guiding her slowly to the door.
Putting her other hand out, she felt the rough, grainy texture of the door, and opened it.
Stepping through, the scene that greeted her was sunshine, white sand, clear water – the perfect South Seas paradise.
She stooped to remove her shoes – they were difficult on a sticky bar floor, on powder-soft sand, they were a handicap.
Looking to her companion, she realised he’d managed to change his entire outfit as they’d walked through the door. Gone were the dark trousers, boots and deep wine shirt from the club, he was now in surfer shorts, a t-shirt and had a pair of flip-flops dangling from one hand.
He smiled, “It’s all about the visualisation. It’s easiest to do as you go through the door, but when you’re starting out, that can be a bit too much to try and deal with all at once. I can give you a sort of boost, though, if you describe how you’d like to be dressed.”
She stood and thought for a minute, then turned to him and closed her eyes, “I want my shoes to be pretty, shell-decorated sandals, and my clothes to be a long, cool sundress in the same shades as the sea, along with a scarf to wrap around my shoulders when the breeze comes in.”
She felt her clothes lighten and soften, opened her eyes and smiled in victory and delight. The dress was exactly as she’d pictured it. The sandals in her hand though, were not something she had any intention of putting on. The decorative shells were everywhere and would make the shoes impossible to wear. No one could walk on a bed of jagged shell edges, no matter how pretty.
His eyes followed hers, “That is why it’s hard to start with, unless you have a very clear vision when you focus, things tend to take a very literal turn and I’ve never known that to be comfortable.”
He touched them and concentrated. The shells retreated and became a simple pair of flip-flops, similar to his, but with a set of five small shells, arranged like a flower, above the big toe.
She thanked him and they walked towards the beach bar.