The unopened door, part 9

In this moment, I questioned my very sanity. Had I gone mad, or was this all a dream? The latter explanation seemed implausible, for the experience of my senses appeared far more real, more vivid, than any mere dream could ever be.

Yet madness seemed an entirely inadequate explanation. For if I were truly mad, would I have retained the presence of mind to question my own sanity? My thoughts in this regard were suddenly interrupted, in a most agreeable manner.

For the apparition of my beloved leaned forward again and bestowed another kiss upon my lips. And in that moment I was lost. I returned the kiss, and gave myself over completely to the reality of the situation.

“A ghost?” I heard myself reply, as though nothing out of the ordinary had transpired, “I understand such apparitions to be invisible. That fact alone would render them extremely difficult to see.”

“True,” she laughed, and with the sound of her laughter I felt a great burden lift from my soul. “Now that you have returned to yourself,” she said, “perhaps I can put on the kettle.”

“A spot of tea would be wonderful, my love,” I agreed. We retired to the living room, which seemed to be just as I had remembered it, and soon we were lost in conversation.

Yet there was something about the room that was not quite as I remembered. As our pleasant conversation continued, this discrepancy began to gnaw at me, distantly at first, then gradually with greater urgency.

What, exactly, was amiss? I found myself furtively scanning the room, examining it for details. And then, all at once, I had it.

The unopened door, part 8

Long I stood there, eyes closed, not daring to see into what unfathomable situation I had stepped. I could feel a soft breeze at my back, as the air from the still open doorway behind me wafted gently in from the garden within which I had lingered merely moments before.

I took this occasion of temporary self-imposed darkness to listen carefully, taking in the sounds all around me. Off at some distance I could hear the uncertain rustling of the trees outside the house. Yet here within there were other sounds, sounds that seemed oddly familiar.

For example, I could make out the steady muffled ticking of a clock. It seemed to me that I had heard this particular clock before, although I could not, at the moment, place the memory.

Then I heard another sound that was far more surprising in its nature. It sounded for all the world like footsteps approaching. Yet surely this was impossible, for I knew the house to be abandoned.

My eyes remained tightly closed, now more out of fright than from any act of will on my part. While I stood there, still as a statue, my head was filled with a million thoughts. What manner of creature approached? Was I in mortal danger? Were these to be my last moments upon this earth?

And then I felt something completely unexpected — the touch of lips upon my lips. A kiss, warm wonderful and wholly familiar.

Startled, I opened my eyes wide. Standing there before me, with not a hair out of place, was my deceased bride.

“You are home early,” she said brightly. Then she peered more closely into my face, which in that moment had undoubtedly turned the color of alabaster.

“Darling,” she said, “you look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”

The unopened door, part 7

“Perhaps,” I thought to myself, “this is my long sought for passageway into the house.” It might have been wise, I shall admit, to exhibit prudence, given the eerie and inexplicable events that had attended my arrival.

Yet I found myself becoming oddly impatient. A touch of that strange madness which had earlier overtaken me now appeared once again to possess my will. Determined to tarry no longer, I felt in the moment that I must gain entry into this accursed abode, whatever the cost.

In a headlong rush, I proceeded through the garden in the direction of the little side door. Surely the answers to these mysteries would be found on the other side of that unassuming portal.

But then the oddest thing happened. As I continued to approach the door, it appeared to recede before my eyes. With every step forward, the little doorway seemed to become only smaller and farther away.

“It is but an illusion,” I said under my breath, and in that very moment I was struck with sudden inspiration. I closed my eyes and proceeded blindly onward, reaching out one hand as I walked forward in self-imposed darkness.

In moments my outstretched hand had closed upon a doorknob. Turning the knob, and taking care not to open my eyes until the deed was done, I flung wide the door, and stepped resolutely through the now open portal. At last I had entered the house!

The unopened door, part 6

The revelations of the last several minutes had been so oddly unexpected, so deeply disturbing in their very nature, that some part of my mind wished to cease, then and there, any further exploration of this no doubt accursed abode. Yet there was, in another and perhaps darker portion of my soul, a craving toward the opposite outcome.

For the very madness of this situation, its sheer illogical perversity, had the inexorable effect of compelling some stubborn part of my being to continue in its explorations. Surely, I told myself, hoping to find a rational basis for my own inexplicable desire to continue, it is one’s obligation to seek a logical explanation for such an impossible place.

Perhaps this was all the work of some poor bedlamite, a hopelessly deranged yet undoubtedly talented charlatan, who had suffered a tragedy of his own, parallel to mine in one aspect or another. For this unfortunate individual, perchance my own bereavement had become a kind of mirror by which to illuminate his own grief twisted soul.

Toward this end, perceiving my interest in this singular dwelling, could such an individual have fashioned an elaborate facsimile of that wondrous garden which was held so dear by my late lamented beloved? All of this which I now saw about me, might it be the result of the workings of an insane yet unusually meticulous mind?

I was in the midst of pondering these odd yet strangely compelling possibilities when I perceived, at the end of a narrow path leading from the garden to one side of the house, a small door.

The unopened door, part 5

Arrayed before me was a small and rather perfect garden. It was clear, to my astonished eyes, that this garden was well tended, and well loved.

All here was as it should be, and everything was in its place. I could tell as much from the neat and well trimmed rows of flowers, the clean lines of the paths between plantings, the tidily ordered patches of green and brown, punctuated by phosphorescent splashes of wildest color.

Yet it all seemed familiar — entirely too familiar. “Is this some terrible jest?” I asked myself. “What cruel madman would go to such great effort, merely to achieve an end such as this?”

For I recognized this garden all too well. It was the very image of the well tended little garden that had been the pride and joy of my late departed bride.

The unopened door, part 4

Upon closer examination of the vicinity, I now espied a narrow stone walkway running off toward the left side of the house. Until this very moment I had missed it, as the path was rather overgrown with vines and many years accumulation of fallen foliage.

Determined to effect an entrance into my new abode, I proceeded to push aside the fallen branches and other detritus, continuing steadily with my task until I was able, at last, to see the path’s stonework in full.

Now that I could view the path clearly, I was struck by the odd cut of its constituent stones. Each slab, in and of itself, appeared completely random in form, a product of Nature’s capricious whim. Yet the stones fit together, each to its neighbors, with startling exactness. Taken as a whole, they formed a perfect if utterly wild mosaic.

Each stone of this path had obviously been fashioned with loving care by a master stonecutter. But to what end? Who would go to such extreme effort only to achieve such an idiosyncratic result? There were mysteries here, to be sure.

Quickening my resolve, I set upon the path with steady gait. Yet the moment I turned the corner, I stopped dead in my tracks, and gasped aloud in utter astonishment.

The unopened door, part 3

Before entering, I examined the rather large house key closely, though I fancy myself, at best, a gifted amateur at metalworking. The key was of a curious and archaic design. It had been crafted, I surmised, by some long ago master, one possessed of remarkable skill with punch and press.

Even more curious, though you may think me odd for noting such a thing, from this near distance the house itself appeared to possess a distinct, almost human, personality. By some curious arrangement of the window shutters and of the door itself, the house seemed to be, dare I say it, smiling. It was a strange, mocking smile, which played upon the entranceway as though some private joke were being shared.

But enough of such fancies. It was time to take possession of my rightful property. I inserted the key into the ancient lock. It turned easily, with a satisfying smoothness of motion. Yet the door would not budge. Push or pull as I might, the accursed door would not open — not an inch.

My immediate response to this unexpected turn of events was quite startling and unforeseen. I felt a sudden spasm of pure rage pass through me, quite unlike my generally even temperament. “You are my house now!” I heard myself shout, “I must be allowed entry!”

I took some moments to calm myself. “How absurd,” I thought with amusement, marveling at my own temporary madness. “It is, after all, only a house.” Restored thus to my usual rational state of mind, I set about methodically to discover alternate means of ingress.

The unopened door, part 2

Through the agency of my solicitor, the deal was quickly done. Although there was, for a brief time, some opposition on the part of certain local officials, I was, as ever, persistent.

My success in this endeavor was also due, in no small part, to the considerable estate left to me by my late lamented bride. She was, alas, taken from this earthly coil far too soon. Not a day goes by, I hasten to assure you, that I fail to mourn her unfortunate and untimely passing.

Yet life goes on, and the wheels of fate will turn. There was a moment, I must duly confess, when I hesitated upon the occasion of my eccentric purchase, thinking upon that sainted memory.

I asked myself whether she, my late beloved, would have shared my strange fascination with this sepulchral abode. For she had been a creature of air and light, a luminous being from above, clearly put upon this earth by the angels themselves.

What then would my beloved have thought of my desire to take possession of this unholy abode? In the end I fancied that she would have approved, simply out of love for me and my quaint obsessions.

At least I assumed that this would have been her wish. Yet perhaps we should not assume too much of the dead.

The unopened door, part 1

It was the gloom about the unopened door, a sort of maleficent haze which hung upon the entranceway itself, which first caught my eye. I had been looking for a simple retreat, a quiet respite from the untamed energy of city living.

It had not been my intention to abandon entirely the great Metropolis, but merely to find some peaceable corner in which my tired soul could rest, a still and silent refuge beyond the harsh glare and exuberance of the collective urban hive.

I had been thinking of a cheerful cottage, something prim and proper, tended perhaps by some efficient local retainer, a simple dwelling that might catch the fancy of my eye. Yet in an instant, all such thoughts were thrown aside.

It was, I realize now, the gloom about the unopened door, the dark spectre of its mystery, which drew me in, and played at once upon my inquisitive fancy. At first sight of this apparition, an almost childlike curiosity took hold of me. In that very moment was my decision made.

Happy Birthday Sci Fi

It’s hard to believe it’s the 200th birthday of science fiction.

We tend to think of Sci Fi as something modern, up to date, cutting edge. But of course with a little thought you realize that it dates back to Regency England.

It was the era of Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, the Romantic Poets. It was also the start — with a single publication in 1818 — of a monster of a genre that we now call science fiction.

It is a genre that can produce a galvanic response in its readers, a genre that has the ability to take parts from various other genres and assemble them in new ways, to reanimate ideas once thought long dead.

Together let us celebrate this 200th birthday of science fiction. For better or for worse, it is a magnificent and ungainly creature that we have birthed in our collective laboratory of ideas.