A short story based on the prompt from Reedsy: write about a character standing in front of door doors and what happens when they choose one.
Doors are funny things.
Maybe not “haha” funny… but maybe more like “force a smile and nod” funny. The kind of gut-wrenching funny that hurts so bad, all you can do is laugh.
Yes, they’re that kind of funny, which is why I’m laughing now as I stare at two doors.
My fingers tremble as I raise my hand toward one and then the other.
The doors are so similar, but there’s enough difference to give me pause. One path is darker than the other, more intimidating, but I suspect it’s the better choice in the long run. The other is brighter, easier… but there’s something I don’t trust.
One of them is the door I made, and the other handed to me.
These are doors. But as you may have guessed, they are also not doors.
One of them begins to shake as if something is trying to break through. The disturbance is unnaturally loud in my mind, the thuds growing louder as I stand before it, stuck in my anxiety.
I grab the door by its edges and hold it in place, squeezing my eyes shut as I will it to calm. It doesn’t, at first, only growing louder until it becomes nearly unbearable. Only when I’ve finally convinced myself it will never end, does it finally descend into stillness.
I let go of the door and step back. It is back in place. I have control over my mind… for the moment.
That’s the amazing thing about doors; they offer the illusion of control. I decide when to allow the world to pass through my walls. I decide when to leave my home behind. I decide… Unless the doors decide for me.
The other door doesn’t move, doesn’t shake, but I can feel it weakening. It will disintegrate any second now, betraying the illusion.
I grab it like the other, but more gentle this time, holding it close to my chest as I attempt to lend it my strength. I will not have the decision made for me. I will open the door I choose… I have not already chosen. I HAVE NOT.
The door grows thin, weakening… but it still stands, held together by my arms, so I remain, afraid to let it go. My arms shake at the effort, but my mind is strong, strong enough to choose. I have control. I have control. I have… two choices and no time left.
The door in my arms grows so thin that I can see through it. I can see what will happen if I walk through it, and it’s so dark that I wonder how I could ever go through this door knowing what I know now.
I pull my eyes away, staring at the other door instead. I can’t see through it. I have no idea what would happen if I open it, but the desire to know… it’s stronger than ever before.
I want to go to it, to open it just far enough to peak, but I cannot move. Even as I lament, the other door trembles yet again, and this time there will be no stopping it.
One door will fall or the other will be broken. I must choose or have no choice at all. Control and anxiety, they fit so well together… until they don’t.
A second passes.
The doors no longer exist.
I have already chosen, long before my mind was mired in sand. Long before I laughed at my choices.
I never had control at all. This is what pulls me out of my mind, bringing me back to reality.
A doctor is staring at me, having asked a question I can no longer remember.
She gives me a tight smile. “Do you remember what happened?”
I begin to nod and stop immediately as a shooting pain flares down my spine. “Yes,” I say instead. “I… I chose the wrong door.”
“You were hit by a car.”
I worked my lips, scrunching my nose as I felt for the bandages on my face. “And I immediately regretted it.”
The doctor’s eyes narrowed. “Are you saying you got hit on purpose?”
“So, what are you saying?”
“That I opened the wrong door.”
She tilts her head. “The car door?” I nod, wincing at the pain. “You couldn’t have known,” she said after a moment, her face softening.
“I could have.” My mind wants to shut down, to replay that moment over and over again until it discovers a different outcome. I had a choice. I had control. Until I had neither.
“Stay with me, Grace.”
My eyes refocus on hers, the edges of my mind at bay. “Are they okay?”
The doctor hesitates, her eyes flickering between her chart and me. “They will be.”
“How bad is it?”
“You need to rest,” she tells me, her eyes no longer able to meet mine.
I push myself up, ignoring the pain in my limbs as I straighten in the bed. “You wanted to know what happened.”
She nods, her mouth opening to object, but I interject before she can.
“I saw them coming. I thought I had time, so I… I opened my door, and they hit me. They tried to swerve away, but… well, I didn’t see it, but I heard the car over the ringing in my ears. It was so loud…”
“There’s no need for more,” the doctor says, resting a hand on my shoulder. “It was a mistake.”
“It was a choice.” But the heat in my voice dissipates under the pressure of the words. “It was a stupid decision made by a stupid person.”
“We all make mistakes.”
“Yes,” I agree, trying to hold back the tears pooling in my eyes, but my mind will not relent. Most people would have waited for the cars to pass, they would have opened the other door, they would have… well, done anything else.
“The family asked after you,” the doctor says after some moments of silence. “They wanted to make sure you were okay. They even asked to come and see you, as long as you were okay with it.”
I hesitate before giving the slightest shake of my head. “Tell them I’m fine.”
The doctor watches me for a second before leaving the room, closing the door behind her.
And now I face another door, thinking of the family I hurt and the ways I could have avoided it. I welcome the many parts of my body throbbing with pain, using it as a reminder of my choice and the hurt I inflicted.
I want to sit in my room, protected and alone behind my closed doors so I can wallow in my mind. That’s what anxiety says… what it insists on doing… but there’s another door: one that leads to my victims and the potential for forgiveness. An opportunity that I do not deserve.
I slowly roll out of my bed, acting before my mind could freeze as it so often would. A machine starts to beep, but I ignore it as I reach out to my door. Despite every warning in my head, I will seek out the family and accept what comes. I will open that door.
And just as I reach the handle, the door slams outward and knocks me to the ground, revealing a frazzled nurse standing over me, and at the sight of her shocked face, an eruption of laughter takes over. I am in so much pain, but I am stuck no longer.
Doors are funny things.