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Featured Stories, Week of Sept. 29, 2018: "Hallowed Ground" and "The Door"


Each week we feature a story written by one or two of our group members at our weekly meetings. For this week's featured stories, we picked conditions from the pre-set list below and let the stories go from there.

Who: a seemingly regular person What: is trapped When: after regular business hours Where: in an irregular part of their place of business Why: because they were investigating an irregular noise How: because the door locked behind them…

HALLOWED GROUND

By Laurel Haberman

The coach slammed the gym door shut and headed straight for locker number five.

Those damn kids. In my day, we listened to our elders. In my day, we at least tried to win.

16-24-32. He opened locker number five and pulled out the half-empty bottle of Jack with the well-worn label. He held the bottle to his lips.

Damn kids.

A shriek ripped through the stale air and echoed against the metal of the lockers. Coach Calhoun could not swallow. He gulped hard, the whiskey burning his throat, and turned toward the shower doors.

“Who’s in there?”

The silence grew louder, as he took two steps toward the door. He shook off the whiskey haze, knocked once, and opened the door. Pristine white walls met his gaze. Comingled with the ubiquitous scent of mold and athlete’s foot was the wave of fresh blood and that minty Irish soap they don’t make anymore.

Halloween. He smiled.

These damn kids are playing tricks on their old coach.

He should know. He was once one of them. The crackle of a blazing bonfire. The aroma of burning hickory. Cleats sinking into the damp ground of the football field. Anticipation buzzing electric through the cool night air. That fall evening so long ago, The Tigers were on the precipice of victory.

Tommy Doyle had the ball. One point was all they needed. Adrenaline pumped through Ricky Calhoun’s coarse young veins. Tommy ran, tripped, fumbled and instantly lost The Tigers the game. Boos boomed from the stands. Young Calhoun felt sorry for Tommy Doyle. Most of the other Tigers did not.

Coach Calhoun blinked away the past and reached out to open shower number two.

SLAM! That was the gym locker door. He ran over and jiggled the handle. He was locked in.

Was it the kids? Was it a fragment of guilt from an old shattered dream? Sweat seeped over his cotton shirt. All the tales of terror from his day as a player at Rydell High flooded his brain, and he could think of nothing else. The bullying he had done nothing to stop, the beatings that thudded fists against flesh, the wave of fresh blood, mint and mildew, and the shriek from Tommy Doyle’s lips that had kept him up at night for years, bottle of Jack on the bedside table.

He could not open the door of shower number two. He could not look inside. He tried the gym door again. The lock was stiff in his unsteady hand.

He tossed the bottle into the trash and sunk to the floor. He would sit frozen all night, with his ghosts in the darkness, waiting for the sweet light of a new morning.

THE DOOR

By Ryan Carbery

There is a door in every building of significant size that no one knows where it goes. It never bothers anyone that no one knows where it goes because it is always assumed that it someone knows where it goes, just not them, and it's none of their business. People can live in houses for months upon years and never be possessed of the urge to lay eyes upon their water heaters, it is no different with the door in the building where no one knows where it goes.

It's not that it's an unremarkable door, in fact it is often the most remarkable door in the building. It is not made of wood or have a fancy finish to it. More often than not it is a metal door with a very serious looking doorknob and a paint color found nowhere else in the building. It advertises its arcane nature by being home to spiderwebs and dust. Sometimes it has a menacing looking lock, sometimes it does not. If it does have a lock it will often be unclear which direction the lock is protecting.

In the Taylor Building of 385 W Dalton Street in the downtown that was the downtown before the new downtown, that door sat behind two other layers of somebody elses problem. It was in the basement of a building that did not require a basement that housed businesses that also did not require basements.

Inside this basement were various tanks and pipes and valves that may or may not have actual functions or only had ones. Or perhaps they were things that buildings were required to have due to rules written down before things changed and no one thought to change those rules.

Among the pipes and valves and levers was also a nest of wires and panels that wires connected to with lights that presumably told you that the wires and the connections were doing whatever it was that the wires and connections were supposed to do. On the third panel in the fifth row down the eighth column one of these lights was holding a distinct solid red in contrast to the blinking greens and yellows that the other lights exchanged.

It was this red light that had brought Kevin to the unrequited basement of the Taylor Building of 385 W Dalton Street. On the fifteenth floor in suite 1549 in an office with no windows to the outside world Kevin's computer had stopped communicating with the rest of the computers in suite 1549.

Kevin was an engineer in so much as that was a skill that Kevin had acquired complete with a certificate that granted him status as a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering and telecommunications. Kevin was not paid for his skill at engineering computers or getting them to talk to each other. Kevin was paid to compile numbers and then make up reasons why those number happened and what people should do about that. In order to do that his computer in the office with no window to the outside world needed to talk to the other computers in suite 1549 of the Taylor Building of 385 W. Dalton St. It was simply good fortune that he also happened to be an engineer when this happened at 9 pm with no one else in the building except Sam who was probably not an engineer but Kevin had not asked. Presumably Sam was something else in addition to a man who made sure only people who were supposed to be in the building came into the building.

The problem, as Kevin had rightly assumed, was that the wire was burnt out. Since he had assumed this he brought a replacement from a supply closet with other fiddly bits that no one really knew what did. Well, Kevin did but no one had ever thought to ask Kevin since Kevin's job was compiling numbers and not knowing what the parts in the cabinet were supposed to do.

When Kevin replaced the wire and the light turned from red to yellow and then to a flashing green he heard it.

The first time he heard it, he didn't seem to care. It was an old basement in a building that didn't need a basement full of valves and tanks and pipes. If they knocked then who was to say that this wasn't what they were supposed to do? Kevin wasn't an engineer of pipes and valves and tanks.

The second knock, however, stood out. It stood out because it was shave and a haircut, and shave and a haircut is not something pipes and valves and tanks should do.

Kevin's first thought that the noise came from the door that no one knew where it went. But that's not the case. The knock came from the door which Kevin had come through. It was the next noise that came from the door that no one knew where it went.

“Hey! It's coming!”

“What?” At various times Kevin could give you several different versions of what he meant by 'what'. But this was the answer he got.

“It! You'll be safe in here.”

The fact that Kevin unlocked the door would later haunt him. It would seem obvious in retrospect. He would reflect on it when he sat in the metal chairs with the other people in short sleeve shirts and ties in the concrete room with the metal door and the lock that locked from the outside. He would ask if any of the other people knew what 'it' was and none of them could say. He would ask who it was that said they would be safe and no one really knew. But they all felt that it was true, that in their concrete room with a metal door that locked from the outside they were safe from it, whatever it was.

#RyanCarbery #LaurelHaberman #ShortStories #Fiction #FeaturedStory #writinggames #writingprompts

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