The First Door
I could feel every cell in my body moving. It felt like every cell inside me was quaking in irregular patters all around the surface of my skin. The effect was numbing. I couldn’t see anything. I was in a dark void, grasping for anything concrete; it didn’t matter if it was recognizable-I just wanted some proof that I wasn’t going insane.
There was a continuous rush of wind all around my head, though I could not figure out where it was coming from. It carried with it the sound of a multitude of voices whispering incomprehensible phrases. I stumbled in this black void, completely directionless. In vain, I tried to find the source of the whispering. There was no telling how long I was wondering; time seemed like something altogether lost. I couldn’t even figure out how I got there in the first place, much less how long I had been wondering around wherever it was I had lost myself. And quite suddenly, I began to perceive something slowly fading in and out of clarity: the woman in white light.
“Yes!” I screamed desperately, relieved at having found some form of contact.
“Where am I?”
More whisper-filled wind. I was nowhere nearer to understanding what was happening or where I was. I expected more from the lady in white. Especially since it was her appearance that began the cycle of events that lead to my quick escape from everything I knew. I had to leave my home. I had to leave my friends. I had nothing left familiar, nothing left to make me feel stable or safe in any way.
Oliver and I had been running for weeks, always being found out. Whoever these creatures were working for was a clever leader indeed. He or she or whatever it was that wanted me, and my necklace, was unstoppable. Most of the time, Oliver and I were lucky to get away when we did.
But where was I now?
The woman was becoming clearer, and she seemed to be getting closer to wherever I was in this abyss. I reached out for her, but to no avail; she faded slightly and the space between us grew wider. I tried to walk towards her, but she was like a mirage, mocking me with a promised respite that would never come. She was saying something, but it was caught up with the rest of the voices in the wind; I couldn’t distinguish her calls to me no matter how hard I tried to drown out the rest of the voices.
I could feel some unknown force pulling me back, or at least in this void it felt as if I was being pulled backwards, further into the darkness. I tried to fight against it, but I was ultimately powerless to win this particular battle.
Those were the only clear words I could hear, someone calling my name as I was being pulled further and further into this black purgatory. I could feel a rush of anguish wash over me like a waterfall. There was no escape.
Suddenly, I awoke.
Oliver was hovering over me. As my vision became less blurred, I could take in the setting. We were in a bare room that immediately felt like a prison at first glance. The walls were a light gray that resembled concrete blocks. The curtains were a similar gray and covered a small window on my right. I felt beads of sweat dripping down my temples. I felt feverish and lethargic like I had been sleeping for days.
“Where are we?” I asked languidly still trying to wake from such a terrifyingly life-like dream.
“Did you see her again? Did she say anything?” Oliver asked hurriedly as if he knew exactly what I was dreaming about.
I had nothing to say. I was thoroughly confused at this point. Oliver’s face looked so expectant as if this wasn’t the first time I had awoken in this state. He was beginning to look impatient for an answer I didn’t know I had.
“Grey, did she say anything?” he asked more calmly and deliberately.
I knew immediately whom he was referring to.
“No, I’m sorry, I didn’t hear anything,” I said faintly, resting my eyes, trying to gather myself and trying to remember something that I had clearly forgotten at this point.
“You were out for so much longer this time around, I was sure you had spoken with her directly,” he said.
I couldn’t speak anymore. I was still feeling incredibly exhausted and confused as to what I was supposed to hear from her. I was certain of one thing: whatever it was I was trying to figure out with the lady in white, I was getting closer.
“Here, Grey, sit up. Drink some water and eat something,” Oliver directed me. I was too out of it to protest.
“We can’t leave this room until I figure it out,” I said plainly, finally understanding why I was in this tiny cell of a room.
Oliver simply nodded in agreement. We sat there for what seemed like hours in total silence. There was nothing to say really. We both understood what had to be done. I had to figure out where we were supposed to go, and the only one in the entire universe who could supply me with that information was the lady in white. There was no going forward and no going back until I could talk to her directly.
All of a sudden, I felt that same force I felt in the void tugging at me again. It was some invisible force beckoning me to go back to the darkness, to find the lady in white, to figure out where and what I was supposed to do. I succumbed to this force with no apprehension; I was determined to talk to her this time around. I immediately felt my body go numb. I’m not sure if I closed my eyes, but in an instant, I was no longer in the gray room, though I hadn’t quite yet reached the void I had been in before. It felt like I was suspended in mid-air, flying through a cool and colorless tunnel, and, just as instantly, I was planted in the dark and endless abyss. Unlike the last time, I understood clearly what I had to do. The whisper-filled wind surrounded me like a swirling tornado. I ignored it, focusing more heavily on a spot of clarity.
And there she was-slowly coming into view. I didn’t wait for her to close the distance this time around. I ran for what seemed like eternity towards her glowing figure, and before I knew it, I was planted right in front of her, amazed that my sheer determination finally paid off. It was the first time I had ever been this close to her; I was stunned into silence.
She was breathtaking. I couldn’t explain it exactly. Although I could see her features and I could distinguish human qualities in her form, it felt as if she appeared to me only in that way because I wanted her to-it was the only way I could understand her or feel at ease with her. It was as if she knew this already. Every now and then, her human form would fade away, leaving me with something altogether alien to look at. Even in those moments, she was beautiful and comforting. I had never been in the presence of anything like her kind before. Yet I did not feel the urge to run away. Rather, it was quite the opposite, I couldn’t get close enough. I wanted to stay in her presence, forever in awe of her. I started to cry, not in confusion or anger or fear, but with the feeling that I had finally reached something I had been looking for nearly all my life. It felt as if she answered all of my inner thoughts and questions without uttering one word. I was finally free.
“Grey,” she said, sounding both happy and relieved to finally be face to face with me. She took on her human form, so she could take hold of my hand and quell my falling tears.
“Who are you?” I finally managed to ask.
“I am exactly who you know me to be. I am the one who can help you do what it is you were made to do,” she said simply.
“Do you have a name?”
“I do not. But if you’d like, you may call me Elora when you need to find me again.”
“You mean you’re not staying with me?” I finally found what I felt I had been looking for. I didn’t want to lose it so soon.
“I am always with you, but I cannot show you every way to go. I can only help you when you need me most.”
“Where am I supposed to go?” I asked quickly. Something outside of us was changing the atmosphere. I could sense a presence, something unwanted pressing in on all sides of where we stood. I could tell from Elora’s face that she also understood our time was limited.
“Find one-zero-one-seven. It stands tall in the midst of everything. It is there you will find your first door,” she answered.
“Door? What door? Do you have the key?” I asked hurriedly, feeling the tension of outside forces rising.
“You are the key. Only you can find the door.”
I had no idea what she was talking about. What did the door look like? Was this one-zero-one-seven a building? A house? Was the front door to this place the door she was talking about? If so, how was I supposed to open it? She was fading away quickly and did not come back into view even though I yelled for her. I felt the whirlwind of voices surrounding me once again, and though I tried to fight against it, it carried me away from her, despite my efforts to get away. I could hear howling and snarling in the distance. It was where the invisible strength was now pulling me: back to consciousness.
I awoke to an incredible din. I looked at the small window on my left. There were shadows hovering in front of it accompanied by sounds of creatures prowling and pacing. I could feel their intensity and hostility emanating through the space that separated us, and I knew Oliver and I had been found out. We had to escape again. Oliver looked at me expectantly.
“One-zero-one-seven. I think it’s a building. We have to find it,” I said in a rush.
I sprang out of bed and began rummaging for my things, but realized they had already been neatly packed away. I looked at my clothes and realized that I was already dressed. As I was looking for my shoes, Oliver made a quick noise to get my attention and tossed me my boots. I put them on hastily understanding that we had to leave immediately. I slung my backpack over my shoulder while running towards the door Oliver was already standing next to. Very quickly, by force of habit, I reached for my necklace to be sure that it was still securely fastened around my neck with the charm in tow. It was then that I realized that the charm was glowing. It was different from the normal colors that they shone in on a regular basis-blue, red and gold. This time, it was glowing and pulsing a bright white light, similar to the lady, Elora. I knew we had reached a breakthrough.
Leaving the room, I was not at all surprised to see a Spartan-like hall before me. The walls were gray like the room we had been occupying. There were a few pictures up, hanging listlessly, as if they had not been seen for decades, their features derelict and discarded. I finally began to wonder where it was exactly we had been staying. And for that matter, I began to wonder where we even were.
“How long have I been out? And where are we?” I asked hastily, trying to keep calm. I could no longer hear the baying and growling of the creatures who awaited us outside the gray walls, but I felt their presence still.
“We’re on the outskirts of a small town near Jacksonville. You’ve been out for days now. You weren’t even aware when we found this place to camp out in,” Oliver replied.
“And what is this place exactly?” I asked.
“Just some abandoned house of some kind. I’m not sure who lived here before, but they left very little behind as you can see,” was his reply.
I didn’t need to hear more. Now, I was focused on the goal: one-zero-one-seven. But if this place stood “tall in the midst of everything,” then being in an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere didn’t seem to afford me any comforts. How were we going to get out of this one?
“Don’t worry-we have a car,” Oliver said, answering my silent thoughts.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but it lasted for a moment before I had my next anxious thought.
“It’s not far, but our timing in getting to the car from the back door will be crucial,” he answered again.
Right. I was determined to make it to this place. To find the door. Almost as it agreed with my inner resolutions, the necklace pulsated its white radiance ever brighter. There was no time for mistakes or missteps. We would make it out of here no matter what.
“The car is not far from this door, you’ll see it as soon as we open it. Run as fast as you can and don’t look back,” Oliver said, hand tensing in anticipation before the handle. I looked at him resolutely, hoping that I inspired some confidence in him. Though I felt a little uneasy and disoriented, I forced myself to look self-assured for his sake. I don’t know why, but I felt like I was protecting him as much as he was protecting me. He nodded to me and threw the door open. I didn’t think twice as I ran full speed towards the car. Luckily, we made it there with no hitches, though I was unsettled by the howling of wolves I could hear in the distance.
Oliver started the car just as quickly, and soon we were on the road, on our way to Jacksonville. All I could hear were Elora’s words, all I could think about was the number one-zero-one-seven. We had to find this building. There was no more time to hide away from the wolves. I’m not sure how long it took to get to Jacksonville, but we made it with little to no problems. As we neared the exit into the city, I could feel this strange sensation coming over me. It was like I was electrified, something was humming through my body, pulsating. It was the same feeling that came over me when I was a kid, and I knew my father was coming home.
It couldn’t be possible. I hadn’t seen my father for many years now. However, there was no denying that strange sensation, that surge of electricity running through my veins which always signaled his return. I pushed this feeling aside, knowing that it wouldn’t help us now. It couldn’t really. We had to find this one-zero-one-seven, and we had to find it fast.
“I don’t mean to push, but what’s our next move?” We had been wondering around several blocks with no luck at finding anything related to the number. It was then that I noticed – the absence or near absence of something. That electric pulse that I tried to ignore was fading away, and by pure instinct, I felt that it was somehow not irrelevant, not a fluke that it had come back to me so suddenly.
“Wait!” I screamed out, not knowing if I was talking to Oliver or yelling out for that electric current to come back to me. Like I was screaming out for my father the same way I had all those years ago. Oliver screeched to a halt. Luckily, there were no cars on this particular stretch of road, so the sudden stop didn’t result in an accident.
“Are you okay?” Oliver asked, worry in his eyes.
“I’m fine. I’m just…feeling something out,” I replied, semi-aware of the physical space around me. I was starting to use a different sense, one that I had repressed from an early age. One that, until this very moment I hadn’t understood, bore extreme significance. I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply and let the pulse through my veins take control over me.
For the first time in my life, I let go.
There was something in the air, I could feel it all around me. It was like floating in a sea, feeling the waves ripple around me. I needed to find the source of these ripples, these pulses. And when I reached the focal point, the source from which I felt this electricity, I knew I would find what I was looking for, whatever that was. Elora said something about a door…
Suddenly, I caught a thread of energy. It pulled at me, called me in. I knew where we needed to go.
“We need to turn back around,” I concluded, “It’s this way.”
“What’s that way?” Oliver questioned.
“The door,” I replied, my understanding riding on the cusp between physical reality and intuition. I expected to be met with consternation, confusion, but when I finally looked at Oliver to see his reaction, I saw something unexpected: excitement. As if he had been waiting for me to get to this place, to this understanding.
Without hesitating, Oliver turned the car around and drove on. He didn’t speak, and I knew this was because he was waiting for me to tell him our next move. I closed my eyes again, breathed steadily and allowed that other sense, that electricity to take me over once again. I could see things so clearly, even with my eyes closed. I didn’t quite understand this new sense, but I didn’t question it.
“Left,” I breathed dreamily, feeling the car turn with my direction, as if I were controlling every motion with just my mind.
“Keep moving forward…now right…”
The pulses were getting stronger, almost too hard to handle. I could feel my entire body quaking with the effort of it all, but I didn’t want to stop. Though the discomfort I felt increased the stronger the current felt, I knew Oliver was relying on me to get us to the door. He put his whole trust in me; I couldn’t let him down. Something deep within me knew how badly he needed me to pull through, to not give up.
“Grey, are you there? Are you okay? You’re growing pale…” Oliver asked, concerned, slowing the car.
“I’m fine, keep going. We’re almost there…”
I was shaking all over now, unable to keep myself from quivering with the effort. The pulses were overpowering, almost too strong for me to handle. And just as I was about to give up, to do anything to make it stop, the electricity ceased. It was not the same as before, when I felt as if I was moving away from where I needed to go. It was like I fell into a pocket, a vacuum of stillness. We reached our destination.
“I didn’t think you could do it…” Oliver’s voice trailed off in disbelief, leaving something unsaid. My eyes were still closed. When I opened them, the very first thing I saw, right there in front of me, were the numbers: one-zero-one-seven. There was something else pulling my attention, and when I looked down at my necklace it was no longer hanging on my neck. Still radiating that brilliant white light, it floated in the air, pointing towards the building we had finally reached, like an arrow in a compass, directing us north. This was obviously what stopped Oliver short, and looking at him confirmed my suspicions. He was dumbstruck. I couldn’t believe it myself. I thought I was dreaming. Any moment now, I’d open my eyes, be in my bed and realize this was all a fantasy.
That’s when we heard the howls, not far off from where we were had stopped. Oliver and I looked back simultaneously – the wolves were coming, right on our heels. Without thinking, we grabbed what few things we had and rushed towards the building. Locked. Oliver and I were slamming our bodies against the door with all of our might, trying to get inside before the wolves got to us.
There was precious little time now. We could see the three of them running with all of their might to get to us, jaws agape and snapping, eyes wild with the anticipation of finally catching their prey. This would be our end surely. Over before anything could really begin. I’m not sure what came over me, but with my last fleeting thought I grabbed the floating charm, pressed it to my chest and begged for Elora to tell me what to do. You promised, I thought. And with that final thought, the door opened so smoothly, as if it hadn’t been locked after all. We were greeted by that same figure, both human and something altogether different – Elora – only this time, I could see her more clearly.
“You’re growing stronger, Grey,” she said, a hint of pride coloring her tone. Nothing else passed between us. With the last few yards separating the wolves from us growing smaller and smaller, Oliver and I lunged forward and closed the door with all the force we could muster, bolting is shut.
“You don’t have long,” Elora whispered as she beckoned us further into the building.
“Where do we go next?” I asked her.
“That’s for you to discover,” she said as she slowly faded away.
I didn’t have time to call out for her. I had hoped that she would lead us to the door, but I was understanding more and more how that was a task only I could undertake. She came to me when I needed her most as promised. Now it was time for me to fulfill my end of the deal. I didn’t take the time to wonder where she had gone. As the pounding at the door grew louder and fiercer, I knew I had bigger things to think about.
I closed my eyes, feeling for the ripple of electricity again, but I couldn’t find it. You can’t panic, I told myself. Breath, wait for it, it will come…and there it was. Rippling through the halls, through me, pulling me forward. This time around, I could sense where I was being called. I didn’t have to guess, didn’t have to move around to know. As I opened my eyes, I saw my charm, glowing white, pointing us is the direction we needed to go, confirming what I knew instinctively.
“Up,” I said as Oliver and I locked eyes on each other.
We ran towards the stairs. We were halfway up, going towards the roof when I heard it: pieces of wood shattering, finally giving way to the relentless beasts on the other side.
“Faster!” Oliver yelled at me, overtaking me on the stairs. I ran with everything in me, knowing that any hesitation or misstep would end in disaster. Though my body ached with fatigue, I pushed myself harder, fighting against my natural inclination to stop. We burst through the door leading to the roof, and while Oliver searched for something to blockade the door, I followed the path that led us here, moving towards the ledge and looking over, where the locket and my inner understanding pointed towards.
“No need to block the door, Oliver. We don’t need time to find the door,” I said flatly, already trying to gather the rest of my courage for what we had to do.
“Where is it?” Oliver replied, running towards me. He looked over the ledge, but I could see the disbelief in his eyes as he searched for something only I could see. It was right there, suspended just a few feet below us in midair. I looked over at Oliver, and he met my gaze with confusion and fear. He didn’t trust me because he couldn’t see it. I grabbed his hand in reassurance, resolve in my expression.
As the wolves reached the door, stalking towards us and ready to strike, I squeezed Oliver’s hand, took one last look at where the door suspended in midair and jumped.