Another week of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenges. This week is all about what is on the other side of the secret door. I thought I would try a little first person for this one. I also banged the whole thing out and let it simmer, spelling errors and all before revising. It comes in at exactly 1000 words (title excluded). I welcome all comments of value.
Chuck’s challenge can be found here.
The Secret Door
by Mark Snider
The partially finished garage was cold and quiet. I stood shivering, half asleep, looking at the strange door where none had been previously. Its location suggested it would lead to the laundry room. There was no handle or any sign of a hinge. I pushed firmly on one side of the rugged door and watched with bated breath as it began to open.
There was no awe-inspiring vista awaiting me on the other side. It was a square room, poorly lit, and badly cluttered. Files were stacked haphazardly in every available space. I stood before a mound of folders and lifted one from the heap.
There was only one word written across the front page in bold letters – Bears. I turned the page and read about a boy lying next to his mother on her bed. He was waiting for the bears to come. He’d seen them approaching his home earlier in the day. A humidifier wheezed miserably in the corner of the room. First one bear appeared at the window, then another. The boy was holding several flimsy steak knives with wooden-handles. He tried to sit up and throw them at the fury beasts now climbing into the house but he couldn’t move. Death was certain if he didn’t get up but all he could manage was to lift his head enough to watch their approach.
I dropped the papers on the floor, backing away in shock. My childhood dream had been recorded on paper with unbelievable accuracy. I could feel traces of the sore neck I’d experienced the morning following the dream. So vivid it had been to my young mind that I had actually tried lifting my head while sleeping.
I quickly fetched another file. My face grew hot as the words pulled me into yet another forgotten memory. This time, a graphic sexual fantasy I’d dreamt up about one of the girls I went to high school with. I skimmed it briefly before fetching a different file. A Tolkien style fantasy I’d contemplated writing early in my naval career. I had written the rough draft of the opening scene while deployed. That had been followed by an immediate revision, more polishing, and a final edit of the first pages of what were sure to be the greatest novel ever. It was the only work I ever did on that project. Here in my hands were several more chapters I didn’t write. A quick read of the pages had me remembering idea fragments I’d once tossed about as possible directions for my epic trilogy.
Hours passed as I relived the memories, dreams, and random thoughts from my life. Some had been nicely fleshed out into story ideas while others merely listed thoughts with just enough detail to bring forth the specific memory. There were easily over a thousand folders in the room.
I was suddenly overcome with the urge to write. Ideas swelled, threatening to split me open. I selected a random file from the heap and cleared a space to work. I selected a sharpened number two pencil from an old Campbell’s soup can on the desk, and then went about the task of letting the words flow.
The hours flew by as I worked on the files. I was immersed in forgotten details from my life. Sleep eventually found me at some point and I dreamed of multi-million dollar book deals falling from the heavens as I churned out one best seller after another.
I awoke on my laptop’s keyboard, the soft white glow of an empty Word document lighting the mosaic of my face. The memories were already disappearing. I tried to remember the hundreds of files I’d looked at in that room. If nothing else I should be able to salvage something from the ones I’d worked on.
I sat back in my chair and banged sentence fragments into my word processor. My eyes, not yet adjusted to the light and without the aid of glasses, blindly observed as my fingers feverishly attempted to recapture a portion of the details. The memories were disappearing like survivors in escape pods fleeing a doomed ship. My fingers began bleeding from the furious attempt to recover something useful from that room. Desperation gave way to despair at the thought of how much I couldn’t save and my pace slowed. I decided it was time to pause long enough to fetch my glasses and skim over my work. My mind crashed into the floor of realization when I stared at line after line of unreadable nonsense. I’d lost it all. After closing my laptop, I crawled into my bed and let sleep take me once again.
Since childhood, I rarely have been able to recall dreaming. Several months had passed since my episode in the room behind the secret door and I’d not been able to retrieve even one item from the files locked within. My blank page was now a vacant billboard mocking my incompetence. On occasion I would find myself staring at the unfinished sheetrock wall in the garage. Other times I just mouth-breathed at the screen displaying the file I created that night. I let my eyes run over my electronic version of chicken scratch. I was about to delete it when my eyes came to rest on four actual words – bears will kill her. Memories of lying in bed next to my mom came rushing back. Vivid memories of talking with her about books and movies we liked were fresh again. I recalled feeling that she needed my protection. It was coming back faster now. I inhaled in the moist air of the humidifier. I could feel the rivets in the wooden handles of the steak knives. I eased up to the keyboard and slowly allowed the words to appear on the screen. I could sense the files stacked all around me. I glanced over my shoulder and there it was, the secret door. This time I’ll get it all I thought.