Written by: Emma Jacobs
Prompt: She refuses to ever open that closet door again. Why? What lies behind it?
A swarm of darkness absorbed the sun’s light as the little girl raced across the burnt field. Barbed thorns brushed against her legs, tearing at her clothes as she ran. Endless, hungry cawing scarred her ears. Her tear-brimmed eyes had created a landscape of muddled browns, yellows, and oranges that blended together in a swirl of desperation and fear. All she had to do was find the house. The small house she had seen in her dream, the one that had kept her safe.
Her eyes frantically scanned the horizon for any structures that remained intact. Piles upon piles of charred rubble followed what used to be a lovely treeline; what now was a series of needles pointing out of the ground, dangerously sharp and longing to injure. The murder of crows screeched at the little girl, taunting her.
She hadn’t thought much of the darkness at first. Her mother and father had shielded her from it all her life, told her that it was only a stormcloud reeling in needed rain and sustenance for the people. Being the small, naive girl she was, she believed them. She wished she hadn’t.
Feet padding loudly against the ground, the girl wiped the tears from her eyes and squinted at the horizon. There, standing like a lopsided tooth underneath a spindly willow tree, was the house and its crooked porch stairs. With a burst of newfound energy the girl bounded toward the house, jumping up the stairs two at a time, all the while listening to the screams of the angry crows.
Knock, knock. She waited for a moment, trying to ignore the swarm of darkness that was inching closer and closer to her. Her fist banged against the door again, this time more forcefully. Hesitantly, the door creaked a welcome to her before starting to open. The girl burst through the half-open door and slammed it behind her.
She heaved in deep breaths as she heard the snapping of crows’ beaks from behind her. Slowly, disheartedly, the crows lost interest and started to fly away. The girl quietly moved from the door and began to observe her surroundings. She was in a hallway about as narrow as herself that went on for a few feet before ending at a bright blue door. The girl, now slightly calmer, proceeded toward the door.
Her hand found the doorknob, which was surprisingly cold despite the warmth of their surroundings, and twisted it. She hadn’t seen anyone there in the dream, so it wasn’t likely that there would be anyone there now. Opening the door, she gasped. The room was brightly lit and slightly chilly; there was a singular table sitting at the center of the room with three chairs surrounding it and a kitchen bursting with cookbooks, comforting smells, and various splotches of what looked to be powdered sugar. Two identical women dressed in silk stood at the stovetop stirring a large pot.
“You’ve come just in time for supper, Marie,” one of the women said, smiling at the young girl who stood in the doorframe staring ahead blankly.
“Yes, we’ve just made soup. Please, sit,” the other added with a smile just as bright as her sister’s.
Marie looked at them hesitantly before sitting down at the table and leaning back in the chair. She must have been running for an hour or two, at least. Her body was finally accepting its exhaustion.
“Who are you?” Marie asked them abruptly. They gave her no response.
After a few minutes of silence, both women turned from their pot and served the steaming liquid into three green clay bowls. One bowl was placed delicately in front of Marie. The other two were placed in front of the women’s seats. “Drink up. You’ll be needing your strength,” one woman nodded toward the soup bowl. Marie couldn’t refuse. She eagerly sipped at the soup in front of her, relishing its decadent taste.
The soup was gone in an instant. Now bright eyed and refreshed, the young girl’s eyes darted around the room. They landed on a door in the corner of the room, what looked to be a closet door. “Excuse me, but what’s in there?” Marie asked, pointing to the door.
“Oh, dear,” the other woman whispered. “You mustn’t open that door. It is dangerous, what lurks beyond it.”
“Oh, yes, you mustn’t,” her twin agreed.
But in that moment, Marie couldn’t help herself. Before either woman could stop her, the young girl had darted up from her chair and opened the closet door.
Marie smiled, walking toward the dark green and black being that stood, nothing more than a ragged shadow, in front of her. The women stared at her in disbelief, but the young girl did not run. She didn’t feel afraid. Not in the slightest. The creature held out one ragged hand toward the girl, and Marie took it gently. A sudden burst of warmth shot through her. Before her eyes flashed a series of images that would stay with her forever.
The first was one of herself sitting on her father’s shoulders in the park.
The second was of her mother and father holding hands by an empty baby’s crib, smiling at each other and crying all the same.
The last was the picture of a little girl lying on the floor of a charred house.
Marie let go of the entity’s hand carefully. “Thank you for showing me that,” she replied as if in silent conversation with the darkness. “Tell them I miss them, okay?”
Then she closed the closet. She never opened it again. She never had to.