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  • Writer's picturePiper

Peek into The Door to January

Updated: Oct 2, 2020


by Gillian French

The house was a sad thing in the daylight. It sat on a hilltop, a sagging pile of weathered clapboards and crumbling brick, the gutters stuffed with the refuse of many seasons. It had been grand once, a two-and-a-half-story Colonial built facing the harbor; a huge, swaybacked barn sat on the property in its own private ruin. 

Natalie and her cousin Teddy left their bikes at the base of the hill and blazed a trail through the brambles to reach the house. Teddy darted off on his own without a word to her and, within minutes, had completely disappeared. 

“Watch out for old wells,” she called after him.

Natalie reached the front door and stopped to catch her breath. Waist-high weeds shot up around the granite step, and will-o’-the-wisps were everywhere, cottony gray heads waiting for one stiff breeze to scatter them apart. She stared at the tarnished gleam of the knob. How many times had she opened this door in her dreams? Approximately one million and three. So why resist it now? Simple. She was chicken. 

“Come on, Teddy, where are you?” She waited, hands on her hips, and then called out over the fields, “Last one inside is a rotten corpse!”

With a scraping sound, the door opened inward. Teddy’s elfin face appeared in the gap, fringed by shaggy blond hair, a smudge of dust on one lens of his horn-rimmed glasses. 

“You were saying?”

“How’d you get inside?”

“Easy. The back door’s open.” He studied her. “Scared?” 

“Crapping bricks.” Natalie took a deep breath. “Let’s do it.”

As she stepped into the foyer, Natalie’s pulse quickened. The stained walls; the bowed center staircase; the dim and dusty corridor to the rear of the house—she knew it all. Had never set foot inside, and yet, she knew it. 

“This is it. This is where I go in my dream.” She smacked his shoulder. “I told you.”

“Come on, most old houses around here probably look like this. Ye Olde Maine Shack.” He lifted a long peel of yellowed wallpaper with the toe of his shoe. “Is it this disgusting in your dream? Because I smell mice. And, like . . . dead things.”

This is the house, Teddy. Fixed up and nice, but this is the hallway. It’s freaky, admit it.” 

Her gaze drifted to the ceiling. In the dream, a frosted glass globe hung there; now, a hole gaped where the fixture had once been.