The Forbidden Door
By Casey Murphy
Smith's racing heart suddenly stopped as if he had been struck dead. They were in a small room with no furnishings and only a tiny window that let in a small stream of light. In the middle of the room stood a large, black metallic door. It wasn't part of the room and didn't lead anywhere. Smith could walk all the way around it without being stopped if he wanted to. "Shit," he muttered. "What did we do to deserve this?" Thinking back, the early afternoon felt like an ordinary day. It was bright with no clouds to block the sun. A light breeze made the day cool enough to be outside. Smith sat in a patch of dirt that was shaded by an apple tree drawing out alchemy symbols with a stick. He had been studying alchemy for several months now, and although his teacher never said it to him, Smith knew he was viewed as the prize student. He had won this title because he studied for two hours every day and made sure to commit to memory everything he was taught.
Hearing someone yawn behind him, Smith turned to see his best friend, Eric, leaning against the tree behind him just waking up from a nap. Stretching, Eric glanced over at Smith to see what he was doing. When he saw he was still working on his Alchemy he sighed.
"Are you almost done?" he asked. "I'm bored."
"Bored? You just took a nap!" Smith scolded, not looking at him. "How can you be bored when you just woke up?"
"Easy, I just take a look at you doing school work," Eric retorted. "Well, are you almost done being boring?"
"Almost. Give me a few more minutes," he said.
"You said that a half hour ago!"
Smith ignored the comment. "I promise as soon as I'm done we'll do something fun."
"More school work, right?"
"No," Eric was beginning to get on Smith's nerves. He sounded like a whining child talking to his parents, and the only way Smith knew to take care of this problem was to give in. "Since I've been studying all morning, I'll let you pick what we do next."
Eric looked at him suspiciously. "What's the catch?"
"No catch. Pick whatever you want."
Eric grew quiet as he tried to think of something to do. Smith took advantage of his silence to look over his work and make sure he didn't mess up anything. "Could we explore that old castle?" Eric asked after several minutes of quiet.
Only half paying attention, Smith asked, "What old castle?"
"You know, the abandoned one by Old McMaster's Farm." Smith paused. He knew exactly which castle Eric was talking about. It had stood abandoned for as long as Smith could remember. There were plenty of rumors that it was haunted, but Smith didn't know for certain, and he didn't want to find out. Continuing with his work, Smith said, "I don't know--"
"Oh, come on," Eric cut him off. "You just said we could do whatever I wanted."
"I know but--"
"Is it because of the rumors? That the castle is haunted and whoever goes in never comes back out?" Eric smirked as he watched Smith's body tense up. "I knew it. Wittle Smiffy is a chicken!" Standing up, Eric proceeded to circle Smith while walking like a chicken, and completed the gimmick by making chicken noises.
"No, I'm not," he said over Eric's racket, not looking up from his work.
"Then what's the problem?"
Smith wracked his brain for any excuse that may help him. When no valid excuse came fast enough, he knew he had to give in. Sighing he said, "Fine, we'll go."
"Great!" Crossing over to the road, Eric made it a point to walk across Smith's work.
"Let's go, chicken boy." Smith hesitated. He thought about calling after Eric, and forcing him to pick something else to do, or at least some other place to explore. When it looked like Eric wasn't going to wait for him, Smith even thought about letting him go alone, but something inside him spoke. Standing up, Smith brushed the dirt off his pants and followed. The castle wasn't far off the main road, but the only way to reach it was by following a dirt path that led off the main road into the woods. The grounds of the castle were overgrown and the grass nearly came up to their waists. Wild flowers curled around any object that stayed still long enough, and vines and moss covered the majority of the castle. The two boys walked once around the castle, not able to find any sign of an entrance. On the second time around, Smith almost convinced Eric that they should give up and go home when Eric tripped over a large rock hidden in the grass. Falling into the side of the castle, he slammed right into a door covered in vines. Worn down, the door gave way under Eric's weight and nearly snapped in two as it flung open. Eric fell face forward onto a hard, dirty floor.
"Now that's how you make an entrance," he said as he slowly stood up, brushing himself off. Smith hesitated in the doorway. It was dark. There was no source of light, not even a candle or torch left behind. "Wow, this place is cool!" Eric shouted. He was already up the hallway, almost out of sight. Taking a breath, Smith gathered his courage and followed him.
At the end of the hall was a long room, with two thrones at one end and a large staircase at the other. Old portraits lined the walls and several large metal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Smith didn't know much about castles, but he knew enough to figure out that this must have been the Throne Room.
"Hey Smith! Look at me!" Eric shouted. "I'm a king!" Looking in his direction, Smith saw Eric sitting in the larger of the two thrones at the end of the hall.
"Get off there, Eric!"
"What for? There isn't anyone here but me and you. It's not like the king is going to come in all of a sudden and behead us." Eric stood up anyway and walked toward Smith. His head turned in every direction as he took in the room, finally landing on the staircase. "Hey, I wonder what's up those stairs." Before Smith could open his mouth, Eric rushed across the room and bounded up the stairs two at a time and disappeared around the corner. Smith wasn't in as big of a rush. Traipsing around the hall, he stopped to look at all the portraits, which seemed to be paintings of kings and queens who had once lived in the castle.
"Hurry up, Smith!" Eric called from the top of the staircase. "You have to see this!" Catching up, he followed him to the first room at the top of the stairs. The room was dim. A large window had been placed on the right wall, but a thick curtain blocked out almost all of the light. Crossing over to the window, Smith drew back the curtain, sending up a cloud of dust and a few spiders that were hiding in the folds. The window looked out onto an overgrown garden where Smith could name almost all of the weeds and plants that grew there.
"Over here," Eric whispered. Turning, Smith could now see the room more clearly. In the middle of the room was a large canopy bed, still covered in embroidered sheets and curtains now covered in dust and full of holes. Eric stood next to the bed, his hand resting on a rectangular object. Taking a few steps closer, Smith suddenly jumped back. "Why is there a coffin in here?" he asked, his voice no louder than a whisper.
"Don't know," Eric replied, excitement in his voice. "But I bet you the body of the king who last owned this place is in it."
"Get away from there!"
"I just want to look."
"You can't just look! It's a coffin."
"You'll be disturbing the dead!"
"So?" Smith gave Eric a stern look. Eric sighed. "Fine." Stepping away from the coffin, the two boys stepped out of the room.
"You've seen your castle," Smith said, when the door closed behind them. "Can we go now?"
"We barely saw two rooms! You want to leave now?" A clattering on the stone floor at the end of the hall interrupted their argument. The two froze as a large figure stepped out of the adjacent hall. It had the body of a large man, but the head and legs of a bull. In his right hand, a sharp ax glinted off the little light that penetrated through the window.
"What the hell is that?" Eric said, panic in his voice.
Smith shushed him. "Be quiet," he whispered. "If you ever paid attention in class you'd know it's a Minotaur, and the last thing we want is for it to see us."
"A what!?" Eric's head snapped in Smith's direction. "I thought Minotaurs lived in labyrinths, not castles."
"Well, this one seems to. Now be quiet." The two held their breath as the Minotaur looked in their direction. It didn't seem to have good eyesight because although they could see it, it didn't notice them. Heart pounding, Smith thought, Please don't come this way, over and over again. Thankfully, the minotaur turned away and began walking in the opposite direction. Just a bit further and we'll be set. Unfortunately, Eric didn't have the same thought. With the Minotaur's eyes off him he began to slowly back away. Paying more attention to where the minotaur was going, he didn't notice the chunk of stone missing from one of the blocks in the floor. The back of his foot caught on the jagged edge of the stone, making him lose his balance and fall backward into a large metal urn filled with rusty spears. Toppling over, the urn and spears clattered on the stone floor, making enough noise to raise the dead person in the room next to them. The Minotaur stopped and Smith held his breath. Flinging around, he stared down the hall, now clearly able to see the shadows of the boys. Even though Smith couldn't see its features, he knew the Minotaur’s eyes were turning into angry slits. They heard a snort and its hooves as they scraped along the stone floor. The Minotaur charged. Frightened for their lives, Smith and Eric ran.
"Down the stairs!" Smith shouted. "We'll head out the way we came in!" The boys were halfway down the staircase when the Minotaur leapt over the railing on the second floor. With a crash he landed on the first floor still standing. Stone particles jumped off the floor from the impact. Smith and Eric stopped for a split second on the stairs.
"Looks like we'll have to go another way," Eric whispered. Rushing back up the staircase, the boys ran down the hallway they just came from.
"There has to be another way out!" Smith shouted, trying to stay calm. But they had no time to look for another way out. Each turn they made had to be a fast decision because with each step the Minotaur came closer. If only I could stop for a minute I could use my alchemy to put a wall between us, Smith thought. He glanced behind him and saw, to his dismay, if he stopped for even a second he would fall prey to the sharp edge of the Minotaur’s ax.
Suddenly, Eric grabbed Smith by the arm and pulled him into a room. Quickly and quietly he closed the door. The boys held their breath as they listened to the Minotaur charge by, not even realizing it was no longer chasing its prey. When the sound of the Minotaur's hooves could no longer be heard, Smith doubled over, breathing heavily.
"That was close," he said.
"I can't believe we got away," Eric chimed in. "All thanks to me." A smug look slipped its way onto Eric's face.
"Yea, well it's all thanks to you that we were put in that situation to begin with. What made you think it was a good idea to start backing away? The Minotaur wasn't even out of sight!"
The smirk faltered. "Sorry, I panicked!"
"I'll say, now we're lost in this castle with an angry Minotaur. How do you suppose we'll get out of here, huh? I knew I shouldn't have followed you in here. We should have just stayed outside." The two sat in silence for several minutes.
"I said I was sorry," Eric mumbled.
"Apologize when we're out of here." Heading over to the door, Smith opened it just enough to look up and down the hall. There was no sign of the Minotaur. "I think we can leave. Maybe if we retrace our steps we'll be able to find our way back to the Throne room. Let's go." Eric gave no response. "Did you hear me? I said let's-" Turning to face Eric, he saw him sitting on the floor staring wide eyed straight ahead of him, his mouth agape in horror. "What is it?" Following his eyes, Smith's racing heart suddenly stopped as if he had been struck dead. They were in a small room with no furnishings and only a tiny window that let in a small stream of light. In the middle of the room stood a large, black metallic door. It wasn't part of the room and didn't lead anywhere. Smith could walk all the way around it without being stopped if he wanted to. "Shit," he muttered. "What did we do to deserve this?" Thinking back, the early afternoon felt like an ordinary day. Now, staring at the strange symbols that were etched into the doors surface, he didn't even know if what he was seeing was reality or a dream. Smith recognized some of the symbols from his study of alchemy, where he learned the legend of this door. It was known as The Entrance to Death, because whoever walked through the door was never seen or heard from again. There were those who said it was the portal to a world of evil. Others said it only appeared to those who were meant to die, and that it called to those who showed great potential. Whichever story was true, Smith was taught if he ever came across this door to stay away. The problem was there was no telling where the door would show up. It was as if it had its own will, appearing and disappearing wherever and whenever it pleased. Even as he stood there, Smith felt a great pull on him, as if the door was drawing him forward. He stood his ground, refusing to move.
"Let's get out of here," Eric finally said, breaking the silence. As if he spoke the magic words, the door swung open. Darkness stared at the two boys, beckoning them forward. Smith could have sworn he heard his name being called from inside. Staring back at the Darkness, Smith tried to find the source of the voice. At one point he could have sworn he saw something move deep in the depths of the Darkness, trying to get away from any light that was creeping in.
"Where are you going?" he heard Eric say. Turning to look at him, he realized they were no longer standing side by side. Without realizing it, Smith had begun walking toward the door against his will. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stop or turn around. The Darkness grew closer. He closed his eyes. It's hypnotizing me, he thought frantically. I have to get it to stop. Placing his hands over his ears, he tried to block out any noise that wasn't the sound of his own voice. It didn't work. Cruel laughter, children crying, women screaming all filled his head at once. Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! he screamed in his head, but the evil voices just mocked him. He suddenly heard Eric's voice ringing in his ears.
Eyes flying open, he had one last glimpse of Eric, looking terrified, before the metal door slammed closed, enveloping him in complete darkness.
- - -
My name is Casey Murphy and I am currently studying English Writing at Kean University. Currently, I have two stories published in the 2010 edition of Prism, the Literary Journal of Centenary College. In my spare time I am the Public Relations/Management Assistant of fiction for Folded Word, an independent literary press.
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