Third Door on the Left is going to be a two parter. It will follow the normal pattern of the longer stories featured here. The link that Follows will take you to the final half of this story.
Third Door on the Left
Todd looked down the hall, the same sight at the top of the stairs every time he came home from work. Long hall, 4 doors, two on each side. But tonight it was different, a third door on the left. In his mind he knew it wasn’t right.
All the other times there were only two. But something, call it a feeling, his intuition, something supernatural, he just knew that the door was supposed to be there. Like the hall had been just a bit too long and the door fit perfectly in the space he saw it occupy. The door to his apartment was on the right, the second door. There wasn’t a third door just beyond it like the other side. The hall didn’t extend further out to accommodate the third door either. It was simply strange.
Had he been unobservant in the past and just not seen it? He walked the hall, down to the door. He skipped his own, his eyes focused on the door on the left. It looked exactly like the others, just a door into another apartment. But where did it come from? How did it get here? He went down stairs to check for a similar hallway. The middle floor of the building looked exactly the same as he remembered his floor looking, 4 doors 2 to a side. Maybe he was seeing things. He climbed the stairs again and willed his mind to not see the third door. It shouldn’t exist so he shouldn’t see it. But there it was, still at the end of the hall, the third door on the left.
To hell with it, he thought. He pulled out his keys and unlocked his own door. Inside his apartment he dropped his backpack on the chair near the door and pulled off his hoodie and laid it across the arm of the chair. He crossed the room into the kitchen and checked the fridge. Leftovers from the local Asian place and a couple beers, he popped the top of one and went back to the living room with the beer and a box of take out.
He sat back on his couch with the tv remote in hand, his finger hovered over the power button. He wanted to push it, needed to push it, but the effort to push it required more than he possessed right then. The third door on the left taunted him. The wall that held his TV ran parallel to the door. In his mind’s eye he could see it through the wall. And then he felt that was a bit weird too since it was further down the hall from where he sat.
Todd chalked it up to too long a day at work. It couldn’t possibly be there. He was seeing things surely. He turned on the television and lost himself in something mindless. He didn’t have to think about the world around him or mysterious doors in his hallway. The sitcom on the tube, like all the others before it, ran a plot of some guy chasing after some girl and shenanigans ensue and in the end they all laugh about it and how stupid they were again this week. The show lacked flavor beyond the surface just like the beer in his hand, now empty, and the Chinese food that he only ate half a box of.
During a commercial between shows he stood up and walked over to his door. The peephole only allowed him to see directly in front of his door, all the way across the hall to the door on the other side, but nothing to the sides of that small space. In this space he lived in a vacuum that wouldn’t allow him to expand his world beyond the space he occupied. That was the thing right. Stuff didn’t just magically materialize like that, did they?
He went down the hall to the bathroom and did his business. As he washed his hands he watched his reflection in the mirror. Everything was in the right place, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, all his teeth and their fillings. He hadn’t changed his view was the same.
His mind made up, he went to his front door again, opened it, and marched across the hall. Three knocks, a quick succession of his fist on the door, not to be rude but to ensure he was heard. The light changed in the peephole, he could tell someone was at the door.
The door chain slipped free, the deadbolt clicked open, and the door opened to reveal Shiana standing in a thick cloth robe in the doorway. Fuzzy house slippers on her feet, the terry cloth robe that went down past her knees and her hair up in curlers, she was ready for bed obviously and didn’t expect company. The look on her face, not quite anger but annoyance screamed at him. They hadn’t had the best of relationships in the past. Todd began to think that knocking on her door might have been a bad move.
“What?” she said, the tone of her voice, icy and clipped.
A pause hung in the air between them long enough for her agitation to take a great leap. She stepped back from the door and began to close it. “Wait,” Todd said. “I need to ask you something.”
“What do you want?”
He glanced down the hall toward the door, it hadn’t left the hall in all this time. “Did you see it?” he asked. He emphasized the word it, as if she would know immediately what it is he was talking about.
She didn’t shrug, didn’t acknowledge that he wasn’t insane she simply shut the door. She didn’t quite slam it but she made it a point that he knew she closed it in his face.
“Is that a no?” he asked. He stared blankly at her door for a few minutes before he glanced down the hall again. The third door on the left was still there. By all rights on the floors below, the door should be hovering over empty space, with no floor to support it or its portion of wall. Shiana would be no help it seemed. She didn’t come back to his repeated knocking.
After a heavy sigh, he convinced his feet to step one after the other down the hall toward the door. He held his breath as he stepped over the threshold, held in his mind, of where he thought the edge of the floor should be and the stairwell began, sure he would slip through ether and end up tumbling down the stairs. The ground held. Solid footing that felt the same as the rest of the hallway. He continued to the door, slow, plodding, a silly walk that gave him pause halfway to the door.
He sucked in his gut as he walked the rest of the way to the door at his normal pace. The door was no different than the rest of those in the hall. Well, the number on the door itself was different, not in delivery, the same block letters in black on a silver sticker. But this one had been labeled 5e. The third floor of the building was level e. He lived in 4e, the even side of the building.
For its placement it was in the correct place. But all the other floors in the entire complex only had 4 apartments on each floor. Where would this fifth one come from? He couldn’t hold back any longer. He knocked, three times just as he had done on Shiana’s door.
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