Welcome to the end of October. This is the "official" 30th prompt, but I added an extra one AND a prologue, so this marks the thirty-second day of daily flash fiction.
We'll end in the woods, at the door. Thanks for reading along with me.
It was the eighteenth day that that Billy came to see me. That I remember.
I remember everything since the first day. Or, I guess, the last one.
God, I hope it wasn't the last one.
He was never my favorite of Justin's friends, but he was the one who came to my front door on the eighteenth day. None of the others came near. And, I have to give credit, looked me in the eye, as hard as that must have been.
"Mary..." He trailed off. I swallowed my annoyance; back when I was twelve years old I'd never have called a friend's parent by her first name. Especially if that friend had been missing for eighteen days. "Mary... there's something I never told you. About ... about Justin."
I looked down at him. He was pale, his face drawn. Still, his eyes stayed on mine. "It's just... this is crazy, but the last place I saw him...it was at the mystery door." the last bit came rushed, almost in a single breath. Now it was my turn to stare.
"The mystery door? Where's that? And why the hell didn't you tell anyone?"
"It's in the woods. It sounds crazy, but... can I show you?"
I was still numb. You'd know the feeling if your son was gone for eighteen days, but I hope to god you never do.
I didn't get dressed, didn't even lock the door. Just closed it behind me and followed him, still in my housecoat.
We didn't speak as he lead me around the corner to the block. Through the small park, through the hole in the fence behind it, to the woods.
Justin wasn't supposed to play in the woods. Still I said nothing. After a time, he said, "I'm sorry it's so long. I wanted to wait 'til it was just you. You know, Justin was afraid of..." he trailed off again, his ears red. I knew. And, mad as I was, I understood.
I was afraid of him too.
The only sound was the crunch of dry leaves beneath our feet until we came to a clearing. I don't know what I expected when he said "mystery door", but nothing this literal: a simple wooden door with peeling white paint, standing alone in its frame with no visible support or purpose.
He looked up at me. "Justin ran ahead, and.. I heard the door slam. Then I didn't hear nothing. He was gone."
I approached the door. It was battered and weathered, not handing quite true in its frame. I thought along the side I could see some light, brighter than it should have been. As if the other side of it was a well-lit room and not, as we could see, simply more forest.
This is crazy, but I tried the doorknob, even though behind the door was clearly nothing. You do crazy things after eighteen days. The knob turned with some difficulty, but the door was stuck. I slammed on the wooden panels again and again with my hand, the drumbeat of flesh on wood echoing through the woods until I left bloody palmprints on the door. Still it didnt budge.
At some point I sat on the forest floor, leaned back against the door and wept. At some point Billy touched my shoulder, made what was meant as a comforting noise, and left.
At some point a raven landed atop the doorframe, bringing with it ill omens.
At some point we passed from the eighteenth day to the nineteenth, and beyond.
I'll wait. At some point this damn door will open.