The Door in the Kitchen
There was a door I had never seen before. I have lived in this house since I was seven years old and walked through the kitchen for twenty-five years without seeing that next to the basement door was another, smaller door. I wondered if my husband knew about it. As a relative newcomer to the house, he often noticed things I took for granted, or that I had seen with child eyes and thus never seen again as an adult. Surely, though, I would have noticed a door and opened it. It looked like a regular door, paneled and Victorian like the rest of the house, but it was a little shorter, a little narrower. Its paint was chipping, revealing other layers of paint below, traces of previous occupants and other lives.
I thought about opening it then, but I decided to wait until my family returned from the store; mostly I was worried about rats. Last year Paul, my husband, found them in the attic and the basement. He put down poison and traps, and they seem to have worked as no rats have appeared. The last thing I wanted to do was open a new door if it might unleash a plague of them on my house. I would wait until we could devise a plan.
When the car pulled into the driveway, I ran out to kiss the girls and help with the groceries. I told Paul what I had found. He swore he’d never seen a door there, either, and when we took the bags into the kitchen, he gave me a worried look: there was no mysterious second door, just the old one that led to the basement. I felt sick; I knew I had seen it, but now it was gone. He kindly changed the subject, and we put the groceries away while talking about signing the kids up at the Y. He asked if I was feeling ok, saying I looked flushed, a little feverish.
Later, while we ate dinner around the big table in the family room, my husband went back to the kitchen to refill the water jug. When he didn’t return, I assumed he’d gotten a call from work and I’d better get the water before the kids amped up their threats to die of thirst. When I got to the kitchen door, it was three quarters closed and I could hear him talking. He often had to take calls from work at night, and I didn’t want to interrupt him, so I gently nudged the door open and was so shocked at what I saw that I yelped.
The small door was there, and it was open, and my Paul was talking to someone whom I couldn’t see in the dark on the other side of it. When he heard me, he slammed the extra door shut, then turned around and leaned against it. By the time I got inside the kitchen and over to him, the extra door had completely disappeared. He didn’t look at me or say anything, just coolly walked over to the sink and filled up the jug.
“What’s going on?” I whimpered. “Paul? I don’t understand!”
“You don’t look well, you should take something,” he said. He handed me a glass of water then walked right past me and out of the room.
I ran over to the wall and ran my fingers over it, but I felt nothing. I put my ear to it but heard nothing. When I went back to the family room, everyone was eating their dinner. Paul seemed his normal self, and my two daughters were completely oblivious. I tried not to look at my husband and after dinner he carried on as if nothing had happened. We all washed the dishes together in the kitchen, and he didn’t so much as glance over to where the door had been. I began to wonder if nothing had actually happened at all, if perhaps something was wrong with me. My elder daughter asked if I was feeling sick, and I hoped perhaps I was.
Eventually, I had to put the kids to bed. I contemplated “accidentally” falling asleep in their room. I feared what would happen when I left them and was alone with my husband, but I decided for their sake I’d better behave as if everything was normal. Once I had a better handle on what was happening, I could decide what to do. I turned on their nightlight and was about to leave their room when out of the corner of my eye I saw something near Kathie’s dollhouse. There was an extra door, child-sized and slightly ajar. On the other side of the door was darkness so thick and black it seemed physical. Looking at it, I could feel the dim glow of the night lights being sucked towards it, streaming like water, then the light devoured. With effort I pulled my eyes away and looked at my daughters. The littlest one was watching me.
“You’re not supposed to know, Mommy,” she said sweetly. “It’s a surprise.”
“I won’t tell,” I said and backed out of the room.
E.A. Fow writes and paints in Brooklyn, NY. She currently has stories currently online at Penduline and Fiction 365 and Luna Station Quarterly and forthcoming in anthologies from Imagination and Place Press, Fiction Attic Press, and Green Gecko Publishing.