short stories · Writing Samples

Hidden Doors

I picked up a book and dusted it off. It smelled just like an old book should. I took it to the counter, swiped my membership card and heard a satisfying beep. There used to be someone who’d stamp books with the date it needed to be returned, but it’s all done electronically now. I don’t mind the new system, it suits me and it suits this place. Nobody who frequents libraries would object to having an element of human interaction removed from their visit. We come here to read, not talk.

I put the book in my rucksack and zipped it up.

It was raining when I stepped outside- not heavy rain, but the kind of light drizzle that you have to squint through to stop it from going in your eyes. The kind of drizzle you can’t really feel on your skin, but that gets your clothes wet inexplicably quickly. A van in the car park reversed towards me. I backed away and took cover in a small alley that ran between the side of the library and a high stone wall.

A gust of wind came from nowhere. A cat was startled from her position on the wall, leapt down and darted past. I turned to watch her run down the alley behind me to cower beside the library bins and saw I door I’d never seen before.

It looked like it had seen better days- it was grubby and weather beaten, and the paint was flaking off in several places. Above the door there was a panel of glass with faded gold lettering that spelled, ‘Come, sit down, every mother’s son, and rehearse your parts’.

Was this a part of the library? I’d walked past this place so many times. How had I missed this place? What was this mysterious door tucked away behind a library, hidden from sight by a few pungent bins? Where did it lead? And why was it slightly open?

I made my way over to it and pushed on the wood. It didn’t budge. I pushed harder and  there was an almighty creak as it scraped against the floor. It opened wide enough for me to slip through.

I found myself standing in a once- grand foyer.  My footsteps echoed in such a vast space and I wondered why on earth this place was a secret.There was a white marble statue of a woman reading a book sitting in the middle of a chipped mosaic floor. Behind her rose a staircase that reached a small landing. I started climbing them, cautiously at first and then a little quicker until I reached that little landing. I chose the stairs on the right, but it didn’t matter- they both lead to the same place. Another landing, but this time there were a set of double doors in front me.

I hesitated. Surely this would be the point where my luck ran out. Nobody would leave these unlocked too. I pushed. They sprang open with no resistance.

Music filled my ears and I was hit by the smell of freshly made biscuits. Rows of worn and threadbare seats filled with people that looked too vibrant for their surroundings looked out over a stage where performers were beginning to take their places. An usher took my arm. “You’re just in time,” he said and smiled like he had been waiting for me.

He lead me to the only remaining empty seat in the Upper Circle and handed me a red and white striped paper bag filled with biscuits. They were light and sweet and still warm.

The lights dimmed and a performance began on stage unlike any other I have ever seen. For a moment I forgot where I was.

Actors became characters who then became my friends. They sang songs that brought me to tears and a lullaby that relaxed me more than a good night’s sleep ever could. There was fire and thunderstorm on stage that was so realistic I jumped with every crash of thunder. Things moved and people flew with no visible wires attached. A man turned in to a flock of doves before my eyes and a woman vanished from the middle of the stage to appear in one of the boxes seconds later. They battled daemons with flames and flew like angels. The applause when they took their final bow was deafening.

And then the curtain came down and the lights went up and I was alone. The stage was empty, the seats were threadbare and falling apart and my lonesome applause echoed in an empty space.

I ran from the theatre, back down the stairs and in to the Foyer. ‘Our revels now are ended’, the words glinted at me in gold from the back of the door. I pushed it open and stepped outside.

Back in the car park, drenched in sunlight.

And the door was gone.

Via Daily Prompt: Hidden

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