These entries from October's challenge were selected as Honorable Mentions. Those who completed this challenge are now encouraged to share their stories in the comments section of the "October Writing Challenge."
The Door of False Hope
For as long as Emilee could remember, the door at the top of the stairs had been off limits. Her mother had told her that behind the door was just a dusty old attic that her family used for storage, and when she asked why it was off limits, her father had replied, “The floorboards up there aren’t stable. We don’t want you to fall and get hurt.” He would give his oldest daughter a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes and would turn back to the mountains of paperwork that never seemed to leave the desktop in his office.
Her parents’ excuse was as good as the truth for nine-year-old Emilee, but today, seeing as she had just turned seventeen and was bursting with curiosity, Emilee decided that she wouldn’t pretend to believe the family lie anymore. The door had always stood there, at the top of the staircase, all peeling white paint and rusty brass doorknob. Emilee had to walk past the door every morning as she left for school and every night as she headed to bed, and it always felt as if there was a magnetic pull, drawing her in further and further, begging her to discover what was beyond the eerie door.
Lately, it had seemed as if that pull was getting stronger. Day by day, Emilee would hesitate at the door, hand poised three centimeters above the knob, for a split-second longer than she had the day before. She would draw in a shaky breath before turning around and heading to her own bedroom door, freshly coated with a layer of white paint and a gleaming brass doorknob — such a contrast to the gateway she was previously pondering.
Tonight was different. Tonight was Halloween, and the attraction that she felt to the splintered piece of wood was too much to ignore. Her curiosity couldn’t take it any longer. She had to know what was behind the door that stood before her. Glancing over her left shoulder to be sure her family wasn’t suspicious as to why she had left their long-awaited family movie night, Emilee continued. Her converse-clad feet shuffling against the wood, Emilee was now back to the same position she had been in every night for the past two years. Hand placed exactly three centimeters above the dusty brass, sharp intake of breath, and she did it. As she swung the door open, a gust of wind hit her like a brick wall, and she lost her footing slightly. Quickly regaining her balance, Emilee stepped into the attic, excited to see what big secret her family was trying to hide.
But, instead of being met with a few skeletons in the closet, Emilee was faced with yet another wooden door. Hastily throwing that door open as well, Emilee stepped inside the room once again. It was like déjà vu because the exact same door stood in front of her for a third time. Frustrated, she threw that door open as well but to no avail, seeing as she stood in front of another rusty handled door again.
Spinning around to figure out what was going on, Emilee realized that the door she had entered the room in was no longer there. Instead, she was surrounded by wood paneling on all four sides of her, the only light coming from a barred up window in the corner of the room that was letting the faintest hint of moonlight in. There was no furniture, no decor, just herself and the mysterious door.
Emilee threw the fourth door open, praying that the outcome would be different than the four previous times she had opened this door. She wasn’t surprised when she found she was still stuck in the same room. Stuck with the same door. She had let her curiosity get the best of her, and now she was stuck. Trapped inside her mind, chasing the promise of a better outcome than the last, all to find that she was still stuck exactly where she had started. No way out. It was just her, the moon, and the door of false hope.
The Dancing Door
She walked up the rickety stairs to the attic, wincing every time the wood groaned under her weight. Her curiosity couldn’t take it any longer. She had to know what was behind the door that now stood before her. It was large, but no larger than a normal door—she imagined her friend trying to fit under it, as she was extremely tall. If it weren’t for the unusual circumstances, she would have laughed.
But no, inquisitiveness gripped her stomach and wouldn’t let go. It twisted and pulled and gnawed at her until she finally obeyed her curious instincts.
She tried the handle, expecting it to be locked, but it wasn’t. She gasped quietly as the door gave way and she stumbled inwards.
What she was not expecting was a room.
Filled with people.
Dancing people. Music, waiters, drunken adults.
She gasped again and staggered into a waiter carrying alcoholic drinks. The door slammed behind her, making her jump and nearly fall into the kneeling waiter. He looked at her, storms brewing in his sea-grey eyes as he stomped away, leaving the girl with the discontent feeling of unanswered questions.
She carefully tiptoed around the mess, careful not to slip, and found her way into the dancing mob. She was surrounded by the heat of bodies and the musky scent of sweat and feet filled her nostrils. Looking up, she saw only elbows and drinks. She was swallowed by the crowd—she saw it as black and infinite as the depths of the ocean. So she would continue swimming until one of two things happened—she would find herself in the darkest, most unforgiving part of the ocean, or she would emerge from the water, sputtering and gasping for breath to fill her lungs. She chose the latter and ducked under moving limbs, attempting to escape the throng of people.
After what seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes, she appeared on the other side of the room. This room is so large, I hardly believe that it is in my own house, she thought to herself.
After being compacted tightly against other sweating bodies, being in an open space allowed her to breathe a sigh of relief. She was not claustrophobic, although she felt as if she could breathe again, even if it was only slightly less crowded here.
Looking around to see if she saw any familiar faces, she caught sight of a tall man, dressed in a black and white tailored suit. He was staring at her, and she wiped her face self-consciously, checking for bits of her last meal, as if that’s what he was staring at. He shook his head, almost imperceptibly, and she noticed piercing blue eyes that looked straight through her. She started forward, given that he was the only one, apart from the waiter, that had noticed her. But he disappeared into the shadows as if he were just that—a shadow.
Suddenly, she jolted awake. Surprised, she looked around her own bedroom. She shivered involuntarily, but not from the cold. The dream had felt so realistic.
Just like the unusual dream, curiosity got the better of her and she found her way to the door. She breathed deeply, pushed the door open slowly, and peeked inside.
She let out a breath. Nothing there. The room was empty, empty as her mind after the new revelation. Confusion set in, but not far behind was the last shred of hope that was immediately incinerated. She had hoped that something interesting would happen in her fourteen-year-old mundane life, but was disappointed.
As she processed this, something caught her eye on the floor, a few feet in front of her. Broken glass, she realized belatedly. It was reflecting the black light that hung above her head. At the same instant something moved in the shadows and she saw a flash of a piercing blue colour.
She shook her head and set off determinedly back to her bedroom. She could not let herself become joyous and hopeful.
With a dispirited heart, she collapsed on her bed. She laid awake, her thoughts resting upon her tiresome eyelids—her thoughts infinite as the millions of galaxies above her head and as useless as she could do or say to change them.
And the most haunting thought of all resounded in her mind and heart: why her dead brother, with the piercing blue eyes, was in the attic.
Alyssa Jett Chaney
Beyond the Closed Door
My sister was a fascinating young woman. Growing up, we would play as usual kids would, but when she was alone, it was like she was in her own world. Her eyes would gloss over as she looked at the stars at night, and she would be just as radiant in the daytime. She was a positive person, but you could never tell her that to her face. When our mother died, she locked herself in her room for a week, and she said she’d changed when she walked back through that door. Yet, her eyes still glossed over at night as if they were crying for a better tomorrow.
She loved books and anything with words on them. She could find different meanings in the simplest or most confusing phrases. The stories she would tell were spectacular and made you dream of a different world, universe, or (most beautifully) state of mind.
One time when we were younger, she told me this story of this place beyond the closed door.
“Beyond what door?” I asked her.
“Beyond the doors we keep closed in here,” she said as she pointed her finger to her temple.
I didn’t understand what she meant by that, let alone the beauty it could mean when you thought about it for more than a second. I didn’t understand this until one simple, fateful day. The last day I would see my sister in the darkness.
We were moving to what I thought was the definition of “the middle of nowhere.” The middle of the country, the middle of the state, the last place people would ever think to live. The house we would move into looked as rickety outside as it was inside. Just looking at the house gave me an uneasy feeling.
Dad told us to pack the last of our things because this was the last day that we would get to live in our shiny, squeaky-clean home. Which would be known as just a house in the next week.
My sister was a fast packer and couldn’t wait to move to this dreaded house.
“Why are you so excited for this?” I asked her.
“Do you know what this is? A chance to start over. To start anew.”
Why did she need to? She was never really popular in school, but she was well liked by many. She attracted the attention of many boys that wouldn’t dare lay an eye on me and would be asked on dates at least once a month. Yet, no matter how they looked or how they acted, she always said no in her sweet voice for the same reason that they weren’t part of her destiny.
Did you always know this would be yours?
We lived in that house for a year, and I always managed to avoid the attic. It’s not that I was scared, but something kept giving me a weird vibe about it. My sister loved being in that room, though, because there was a window; she said she had a great view of the stars.
One day, we heard a weird noise from the attic and my sister began to cry.
“Something is waiting for me there, and I wish you could come,” she mumbled.
Confused, I let her be in her room to let her tears out. I was waiting for Dad to come home when I heard her footsteps and found her in front of the stairs to the attic.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“I see it now. More than I’ve ever seen it before.”
“What are you talking about? Get back over here.”
I grabbed her hand, but she pulled away, glaring at me.
“I need to go,” and with that I let her go.
She walked up the rickety stairs to the attic, wincing every time the wood groaned under her weight. Her curiosity couldn’t take it any longer. She had to know what was behind the door that now stood before her. The place beyond the closed door.
Her delicate hand found its way around the knob.
“If Dad asks, I’m where I need to be.”
“What are you saying?” I yelled at her.
Then her eyes met mine for one last time. She wasn’t panicked at what could be behind this door. Instead, her eyes were glossed over like they would when she was a child, when she was dreaming. I backed off, naturally, for who could yell at a child dreaming for a way out of reality?
“I love you all,” were her last words to us all.
Her hand turned the knob and pushed open the door.
There was nothing in that attic.
Not even my sister.
I broke in front of the place that took my sister away from me. Where could she have gone in the blink of an eye?
A month later the tears are dry, but I can still feel where they landed on my face. It’s a beautiful day outside, and the glow on my window outlines a ripped piece of paper I’ve never seen before.
It says: The place beyond the closed door is a glow of light. Find it and she’ll be found inside.
I’m worried, scared, but excited for some odd reason. All I can think of is the attic.
I walk to the attic, and the door looks as peaceful as it did before she left through it. I have to open this door, and with a small turn of the knob, I’m engulfed in light.
The light blazes through me and I’m carried by it, yet I’m not panicking…I’m dreaming. The light forms itself a hand and then a body connected to that hand. She smiles at me and touches my hand, telling me in that touch how well she’s been in her own world she’d been dreaming of for so long.
Did you always know this would be yours?
Ella Redstone was not a girl to be told what to do, especially when it involved anything to do with the strange and supernatural. Within days of moving into the rickety three-story home, ripped right out of a horror movie, Ella had been warned seemingly a million times to stay away from the attic. The reasons they gave only peaked Ella’s curiousity; they said it was haunted. Oh, how wrong they were.
Yes, everyone warned Ella about the attic, even her neglecting parents. Dangerous, they claimed, swallows people whole, never to be seen again. This intrigued Ella more than anything. She felt she had nothing to lose anyway, bickering parents who often forgot she existed, no friends in this new town, and of course her insufferable peers who mocked her “frightful” interests.
Ella hadn’t been in the home more than a week before she began to hear the whispers of the attic, ever changing. “Come up,” they whispered. “We won’t harm you, there’s magic up here.” “Stay away, girl, monsters crawl in these walls, unholy worlds lie beyond this door,” others argued, almost begging.
Day and night Ella listened to the voices, the only one who could hear them. Steadily they grew worse. “No one will miss you. Your parents haven’t spoken to you since you moved, come join us.” “Stay away, girl, run while you can.” “JOIN US!” “STAY SAFE!” Finally, they overpowered her.
Grabbing a flashlight from the hall, Ella made her way to the attic stairs. She walked up the rickety stairs to the attic, wincing every time the wood groaned under her weight. Her curiosity couldn’t take it any longer. She had to know what was behind the door that now stood before her.
Much to Ella’s surprise, the door stood locked tightly before her. Sighing in defeat, she swung around to face what would always be her reality. That’s when she heard it, the faintest creak that almost wasn’t there. Ella now stood in an open door, a dazzling emerald glow shining lowly, before being swallowed by ravenous darkness.
Suddenly, scenes of unimaginable beauty danced before her. Wondrous worlds of magic lay just beyond the brittle, maroon door of the attic. Everyone was wrong, this place was beautiful, not dangerous. Footsteps sounded near the bottom of the stairs, Ella’s parents voices raising to where she stood. The minute her back was turned, the illusion inside the attic changed, revealing monsters so dreadful not even hell would take them.
Realizing Ella’s parents still spared no concern for where their daughter lurked, she made her decision. The attic would be a very improved home.
With one quick breathe, Ella stepped inside. She was never seen again. No one came looking for her.