Published on 2012/06/10

The Door to Forever

Tim Tobin

Doors. They open, they close. They swing and they slide. They are French, Dutch, garage, storm and screen. They are wood, aluminum, and brass. They are hinged and they are bifold. Doors are on buildings, houses, apartments, warehouses, and palaces. Doors keep people, animals and pets in and out. In M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, wooden doors even kept aliens out. There is a classified report that the Apollo astronauts saw a door on the Moon. Silly, right? To paraphrase Poe, Doors, Doors, Doors.

The ubiquitous door is rarely thought of as sinister. But I know of a door that is feared, respected, and avoided. I have seen this door in the desert, in the jungle, in the mountains and even on the ocean. The door looks like any bedroom door and seems pretty benign. Except that it floats alone in the middle of nowhere. There is no frame around it; it is just a door.

My job is to find the door and count the number of times it opens and closes. There are two hard parts to my job. The first one is finding the door since it is constantly on the move. Secondly, it is extremely hard to decide if the door has opened or closed. Watching this door is tedious work.

Sometimes I have to wait weeks or even months to get a report of a door just, well, just standing there, somewhere. Then I am off by plane, train, ship, car, horse or camel to get to the door before it moves. And then I count. My boss is very explicit in his orders to me. Count the number of times the door opens and closes.

I never see anything pass through the door when it opens or closes. And my boss doesn’t seem interested in what is using the door, just in the fact that the door is being used. So, my time is spent waiting, traveling and counting and then the cycle starts again. I have tried to catch the door as it moves, but, alas, I have never seen it move.

Sometimes I have to put up with kibitzers while I wait for the door to open and close. People wonder why I am staring at a door apparently suspended in midair. My orders are to chase these folks away as best I can. My boss tells me the door is dangerous. Honestly, I find that hard to believe but I do as I am told.

So far I have spent almost forty years chasing the door. My boss recruited me directly out of college. My major was mathematics but I have never even had to add one and one on this job. Wait, travel, count; yes. Mathematics; no. Oh sure, at first I thought the job offer was ludicrous. The reasons for the attention given the door were vague. But I got to travel and I was paid. “Well” would be an overstatement but the travel has been worth it.

There has been no time for a wife or family. On the few occasions I met someone, I ruined the relationship by taking extended, unexplained trips. To watch a door. Open and close. My only friend is the boss who hired me. Yes, he is still there and looks not a day older than when I first met him.

Me? I have started to get grey hair and pee at night more often than when I was a young man. I wonder what will happen when I retire. Will the boss replace me? I don’t know if I replaced anyone. I was merely told to catch the next plane to Africa. The door was floating in the Sahara when I arrived by camel.

Many, many times I have speculated on the function of the door. Was it indeed sinister? Were spirits passing unseen through the door? Was the door the terminus of a wormhole that aliens used to visit earth? Does it open to another dimension in space and time? Or maybe I was tripping on a drug and hallucinating.

Or was it all a dream? TV shows like Dallas and Newhart tried that. Bobby Ewing woke up taking a shower and Bob Newhart woke up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette. I always liked her better than Mary Fran so I was happy he was just dreaming of Vermont. But I have digressed from the story of the door.

You might also ask if I ever went through the door. I did try that once when the door was on a cliff in the Alps. The weather was bitter cold and spectators were smarter than me and stayed indoors. The door had been in place for days and had only opened and closed a couple of times. (Maybe that’s how the abominable snowman gets to the mountains? Oh, stop that!) I was bored, cold and ready for the door to move on so I could go home. With all that time to think, my imagination was working overtime. What was the door for, anyway?

So I decided to try to open it. I started by pacing around the door. It was shut tight. How did I know that? Experience I guess. I think I mentioned that a floating door without a frame does present some challenges. Anyway, I saw the doorknob. Had that always been there? Must have. I reached for it and turned. Well, the knob turned all right but the door did not move. It just floated. I looked closer to see if there was a lock on the door. Nope. But it would not open, or close for that matter. I kept trying but the door would not budge. Eventually I just resumed watching it.

Chasing a door that bounces around the world is getting harder. So I have decided to ask the boss about retiring. I am old enough and I am tired enough. My life style has been Spartan so I have money in the bank. I am also intensely curious if he will tell who I have worked for all these years. And will he tell me the purpose of the door?

So, after an exhausting trek home from Tibet, I go to see the boss. He works in a nondescript office building pretty much unchanged over the decades. His office has a desk, chair, telephone and a guest chair. No windows, no doors except for the entrance.

He greets me warmly and, of course, closes his office door. He agrees that it’s time for me to retire and congratulates me for so many years of faithful service. He asks me what I will do to fill my retirement hours. We both laugh when I tell him anything but travel.

What will he do now that I am retired, I ask. Without hesitation he tells me he will see what today looks like.

“Today is a beautiful day,” I say.

“I’m so happy to hear that,” he replies.

His listens politely and carefully to my questions. Who do we work for? What is the door really? Why does it move apparently haphazardly around the earth? Why is it important to know how often it opens and closes?

He gets up and starts to pace around his small office. Clearly he is thinking over my questions.

“You’ve never been told because it is too wonderful to accept,” he begins.

Sensing that my questions will finally be answered, I pay close attention. Finally he decides and looks at me.

“The door is the passage to Forever,” he says.

I am stunned. Clearly a door that floats has some paranormal meaning, but Forever?

“Heaven?” I ask cautiously.

“Hmm,” is his reply, “No, not really. Forever is, well, forever.”

He went on to tell me he had encouraged the idea of a sinister door to keep the curious away but there is nothing sinister on the other side, just Forever. He saw me struggling with the concept.

“You simply have to accept the idea. Faith,” he tells me.

It is my turn to pace around the room bursting with questions about Forever.

“Why,” I ask him, “are the number of opens and closes different and why does the door move?”

Again, he looks into my eyes, and into my heart.

“A paradox of Forever; Forever moves in both directions.”

Finally I ask who he works for.

“Everyone has a boss,” he tells me.

His demeanor says that I will learn no more.

I gather my courage and my curiosity.

“May I see what’s on the other side of the door?”

More hesitation on his part. Just then his phone rang. The sound startled both of us. He looked at the phone as if it had never rung before. Cautiously he picked up the receiver. He did not say Hello, just listened for a few moments. He hung up and spoke solemnly.

“Yes, you may see Forever.”

He led me to a door at the back of his office. Where had that come from? I have been in this office many times and I am certain it had not been there before. He turned the knob and held the door for me. I stepped into a small office with a desk, two chairs and a telephone.

The boss looked around his small office knowing his job was done. Forever was in safe hands. He turned the knob of his office door and for the first time, the door to Today opened.

Mr. Tobin holds a degree in mathematics from LaSalle University. He retired five years ago from L-3 Communications after more than forty years as a project manager and software engineer. His speculative stories appear in Separate Worlds Magazine, The Moustache Factor and Micro Horror. His western stories and poetry appear on the Rope and Wire web site.