Can anyone hear me?
Oh yes, who are you?
Who are you?
Well, I asked first but alright. My name is _____ , what about you?
_____ , what about you?
But I already said my — nevermind. We have the same name, that’s pretty rare.
Do you know where we are?
Here we are.
I’m getting the feeling that you are one of those cryptic types. Aha! Are you supposed to be my spirit guide or something? Is this all one big fat test?
I knew it! What’s my first trial? Are there trials? Do I complete a number of tasks and then you finally reveal yourself?
Self-reflection? A bit cliché don’t you think? There’s not much to say really. I have a wife, _________. She’s great, high-strung and extremely Type A, but great. Met her in college while I was studying Film and she English. I believe I wooed her with my ability to keep up with her in a debate about the morality of Nabokov. She’s a great mother. Oh and, I forgot to mention we have a son, ______, he’s seven. My wife is a bit … shielding towards him. Every time she drops him off at school she has this terrified look on her face — which was admittedly cute the first few times — but now two years in it’s getting kind of annoying. I feel like she’s not giving him enough space, you know? I try to show him how to build things and create with his own hands, but it seems like she does everything in her power to try to sway him away from it. I keep telling her preventing the freedom for him to be a kid will only make him gravitate more toward danger, but she won’t listen. I’m just trying to be a good father figure.
What, you mean my dad? I mean, he hasn’t been around since I was seven so there’s not much I can say. He was nice, I think. Most of my memory of that period is foggy. I can remember his smile. It was bright. Goofy in a kind of knowing way. He was fucking smart too, and not in a meek he-can-correct-your-intellectual-faux-pas-but-can’t-do-a-damn-thing-to-solve-an-actual-problem way. He was booksmart, handsmart, streetsmart, you name it. Also extremely inquisitive. He seemed to go out of his way to find problems he could solve, which often meant him disappearing for hours only to come back with a smear of dirt, grease and sweat on his face as well as a large toothy grin that signified a problem solved. He would often take up a new passion every week, and he was justified in doing so because he seemed to master anything he tried. Although his one true love was photography. He became pretty famous in the photography world for making subjects that are purposefully indistinct look artful. “I’m just bringing out what isn’t there,” he’d always say. The clearest memory I have of him was when he was sitting out on the porch taking pictures of my mom.
Christ, don’t get me started on this. What do you want me to say? That she’s a total nutcase? Because she is. Happy now? I keep putting words in your mouth, I’m sorry. It’s just, clearly this a sore subject, you know? … You’ve been patient with me so I guess you deserve the truth. She wasn’t always a basket case. She was normal, a bit high-strung if anything, but normal. I always thought she was pretty overprotective of me. Always concerned about who I was associating with, always doted over me. Rarely gave me the space to just be a kid, which forced me to get sneaky. Ha, I remember this one time when I snuck out to hang out with some friends at the creek and brought back a couple toads. When I came back, mom was sleeping on the couch so I decided to have some fun. When she woke up, she was more concerned with the cut on my arm than the toads in her pocket. She was a professor at the local college, and was hoping to get tenure. Loved to talk about everything related to Russian literature, that was her concentration. Once my dad was gone, something flipped. She’s in a mental hospital now. I still occasionally receive letters. The last one she sent was … different. Before that, they were pretty standard. She’d talk about how she was swinging on the porch with dad or dropping me off at school or that she was happy that I was smart but worried that it was causing my reckless behavior. You know, basic crazy-person talk. Seems like she has forgotten everything that happened after his departure. This recent one was unlike anything I’d ever seen. The top half had this sharp-looking symbol on it, similar to that never-ending triangle thing, Penrose triangle I think. And whatever she was writing with, it was clear she was scraping it deep against the paper. The bottom half just had the same phrase written over and over again. I’ve been torturing myself trying to figure out what it means but, nothing. Maybe you could piece it together. You do have a … strange way of processing information to say the least. Parts of it were scrawled beyond legibility, but I’ll do my best to remember it for you.
The disappeared are _____ the scarred do ______ or …
The scar, red door?
Yeah, I guess there was a red door, the one with a large scar across from my childhood bedroom. The scar was more like a large gash that somebody carved out and repainted, but we all just called it ‘the scar.’ No one knows how it got there — my parents contacted the previous owner and they said there never was a door next to my bedroom. And, um, I don’t know, my Mom hated it. She forbade me from opening the door. In fact, most of her high-strung attitude could be attributed to that stupid door. Although, I don’t think I would’ve gone in the door anyway, and I was a rebellious child back then. It was unnerving, to say the least. Every morning, I would exit my room to go downstairs and there it was, staring back at me, with its deep scar that seemed to go on forever. I would have this recurring dream, although it was more like a nightmare, where I would be staring at the scar and my vision would zoom in directly on the crevice of it, pushing deeper into the blood-red wooden edges, going down to the microscopic only to see the texture remain unchanged, no sharp edges, no distinctive grooves, no signs of plant cells or any biological evidence for that matter, and then going further, beyond microscopic and still things remained the same. If I had to go to the bathroom at night, I held it. I know that my dad was obsessed with it, the door. Wanted to know what the scar was, why it was there, who put it there. He also wanted to understand why it was so red. I remember one time he took a trip to the library and came back with a stack of books and papers regarding the symbolism of colors in ancient cultures. I know he learned that there was one common factor about red: desire. But most of all, he wanted to know what the hell was on the other side of it. Of course, he loved my mother so he never went in it, at least as far as I know. Hey man, why are you bringing this up? Do you want me to remember something about it? Is there something my mom’s not telling me? Is it about my dad? Fuck man, my head just feels like two sides constantly fighting.
Two sides … constantly fighting
That … that’s not true, my parents almost never fought except, except for one night. I woke up to the sound of my mom going ballistic outside my room. They were having an argument. “I can’t live in this house anymore as long as that thing still stays there! I’ve been telling you for months to hire someone to cover it!” “It’s just a door honey, I don’t understand what the problem is.” “If it’s just a door, why are you so obsessed with it?” “BECAUSE YOU WON’T LET ME INSIDE!” Things got louder until they climaxed with a door slamming shut and my mother crying hysterically. I walked out of my room and there she was, on her knees, paralyzed from moving, only to be interrupted by the heaving of her chest. And then I saw it: the red door left slightly ajar. Christ, it’s all coming back to me now. There was no doubt about it. He went in. I moved around to get a better look. There was a draft coming in from the gap of the door. I don’t know if I have the capabilities to describe the feeling. It wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t cold either, more like an absolute absence of temperature. No, that’s not a good way to put it. How about this: Right then and there, the concept of temperature had no meaning. It was like a vacuum, but I can’t say that there was any physical sensation pulling me in, and yet, I was still being pulled in. And in that moment, I knew exactly how my father felt. Oh god, the sound of my mother’s wounded screams as I walked through that door, no one should ever have to hear that. But just as soon as the door shut behind me — silence. It took my eyes a second to adjust, and when they did, an empty room opened before me. It was so remarkably unremarkable. It wasn’t dark, even though there were no light sources to be seen. A whole room cloaked in a thin veil of moonlight. There was some bland-looking trim tracing the upper and lower regions of the wall. Some signs of wear and tear, as if it was unfinished, left as a dedication to liminality. However, the one thing I did expect to find, was nowhere to be found. I called out to my dad, and all I received was a mimic of my own voice, echoing my desperation back at me. I kept looking around, and nothing. He was gone. I decided with great pain to cut my losses and turned around. To be met with nothing. Just a blank wall. I was frantic now, clawing at the surface of the wall, screaming to my mother as if I didn’t just experience the soundproof nature of the walls and door just moments ago. Living in the blank room, the only reminder of your existence being the sound of your own voice bouncing mockingly against the walls. I can’t remember how long I spent. I don’t think time functioned the same in that hell. Finally, I slumped against the wall in defeat, only to notice there was a door to my left. It wasn’t red, it was black, and the scar on the front seemed to go deeper, and the door itself was larger. I rushed through only to be met with another blank room. This one had several doors, each with their own color and style, but all sharing a similar scar that gouged even deeper. I ran through a chartreuse Victorian one, praying for some semblance of sanity on the other side. Once again, another blank room, another set of doors. I can’t say for certain how many doors I went through, but I remember going through an alabaster French door and then started to hear a noise other than the deep echoing of my panting breath inside my head. This room only had one door; I was making progress. I went through the next door and the noise became more audible. It was clearly a voice. My dad’s voice. From then on, I was an animal, bursting through all the doors. He was calling out to me. The echo of my voice was now a powerful wave crashing against my skull. At one point, the scars on the doors appeared to be deeper than the doors were thick. His voice felt like it was inside me. It felt like I was draining myself of myself. I collapsed against a door this time, and fell into the arms of my mother who was wailing my name. I had to tell her he was gone.
Why? Why are you forcing me to remember? I want to forget, make me forget again. Why have you …. you put me through this torture! You, you still haven’t even told me where we are, who you are. Maybe this is Hell. Maybe you are my personal demon, inflicting the worst suffering you could think of upon me. Yeah, I may be a piece of shit, but isn’t it a bit understandable; Or maybe you’ve been here the whole time, maybe you never left.
You never left.
Daily Arts Writer Andrew Gadbois can be reached at email@example.com.