You Know You Want to Open It
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
The Impractical Door
I woke up one morning and didn’t have amnesia. I could remember everything that had ever happened to me, and I knew my name. It was Carl. I also did not awaken in a white hospital room, tethered to strange machines. Furthermore, I had not been cloned. My trusty sheepdog was still by my side, and had not, and I promise you will not, be murdered. He has never herded sheep, though, and for that I am sorry.
What did happen was a door appeared where before there had not been a door. I am an observant person and I had lived in my home for twelve years and there had never been a door in the wall of my bedroom. It looked like the other door, the one that led to the hall, so a less observant person could have passed it by for a couple of days or maybe weeks, but not me. I observed it.
You know several things about me but one thing you probably do not know is that I’m not a snoop. I am a naturally curious person, but only of those things that I seek out. My curiosity is active, not passive. I am not interested in other people’s secrets, for example. For this and other reasons people are often confused by me. The feeling is mutual.
What happened is that I did nothing about the door for a very long time. Why? It seemed completely irrelevant to anything about me. I own a little hotdog shop, open from 11am to midnight, and I can only afford two other employees. I don’t have hours of free time to be opening strange doors.
What could possibly await behind that opened door? The most likely answer is nothing. It probably opens up into a wall, or alternately, it simply opens into the hall. Maybe you will finally believe me when I say I have not completely inspected the other side of the door, so I have no idea if it even plausibly opens into the hallway. There would probably be visible hinges, now that I think about it.
The most unbelievable possibility is that the door is a passageway into another world. Maybe it’s a passage into a different time. I ask, what good would that do me? The chances of ending up in a den of dinosaurs is far greater than any more desirable spot. I like my hotdog shop! I like hotdogs! The door doesn’t bother me!
Then my sheepdog started barking at it. This happened regularly, three times a day, like he was suddenly angry with the door. Like he wanted to tear it apart. Gnaw it to pieces. Maybe he thought there was something behind the door. I am a reliable person, but my sheepdog, it’s true, will sometimes bark for no apparent reason.
However, he does not bark three times a day like clockwork for no apparent reason. At least until now. I’m beginning to think that there might be something more to that door than meets the eye.
So what the hay, it’s now taking up so much of my time thinking of perfectly logical reasons not to open the door that it’s probably reached the point where I should just open it. Dealing with the consequences of opening the door can’t possibly outweigh the bother of explaining myself. With my dog at my side, barking his freaking head off, I open the door.
I am bathed in light. I’m telling you this as if it’s happening right now, but I’ve already done this. I opened the door probably six months ago. Anyhow, I am bathed in light. It is a gorgeous, golden light that feels like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It is the first true moment of peace I have felt in all of my life. This light would never ask me why I didn’t want to open the door. It wouldn’t even occur to it!
The light communicated to me that this was heaven. If I went through this door, I could skip the pain of death and get right on with eternal life. I can’t explain it to you any better than that without you having been there, so I have to reiterate here, I’m a reliable person.
Your choice, the light says, and that was the end of the sentence. I know it means the ball’s in my court and if I don’t go through now, I’ll not have this opportunity again until death visits, and at that time, I am not guaranteed that this door will appear. Seems there are several different doors and they don’t lead to the same place.
Anyway, if you’re an observant reader, you might have already guessed that I said no. I did not walk through the door. I chose not to skip death. I felt completely understood by the light, and this is why I said no. If I walked through that door, I would never again surprise anyone. Everything that I do, think, or say, would be met with a calm, peaceful, loving smile and warm acceptance.
Who can live like that?
So now, because the door is still there, but cannot be opened, I tell people that my sheepdog built it. He did it after he was in the hospital, tethered to strange machines that performed a procedure on him he can’t remember. He has amnesia, but in reality, behind that door is his clone, and every day, three times a day, they meet, one on one side of the door and the other beyond, so that they might sing their rage to their lost selves as loudly as they possibly can.
About the Author
Chris Haven’s short prose appears or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, North American Review, Jellyfish Review, and Kenyon Review. He teaches writing at Grand Valley State University and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where all the doors seem practical.
“The Impractical Door” is published here by permission of the author, Chris Haven. Copyright © Chris Haven 2018. All rights reserved.