The Red Door

I saw it again.

A wooden door painted red. The color was so deep in some spots and fading in others, as if the door and its frame were stained with blood. Scratches and chips fractured its surface, indicating its frequent use. A light hung over the door, coming from an indiscernible source. Everything else in the world was pitch black–the walls, the ceiling, the ground. Everything.

It was just me and the door.

My name is Zhanna, and I was twenty-three when it began. I just went to sleep one night, and instead of the horrific apocalyptic nightmares I usually had, I saw this red door. I had never seen a door like it in my life, nor could I recall it in any prior dreams. I had spent my childhood involved with the paranormal, so I was accustomed to freaky dreams and odd encounters. Dream journaling and interpretation was just another facet of my day-to-day.

Now, I know what you’re going to ask: Zhanna, what’s behind the door? If you’re aware it’s a dream as it’s happening, then surely you can make whatever you want happen, right?

In theory, yes–but only if that’s what I wanted.

I hated that door. I didn’t like that I saw it in my dreams, and I certainly despised the fact that, of the few dreams I woke up remembering, that one was becoming the new norm.

I don’t want to see it. I just want to sleep.

For the past several days, I had the same recurring dream. In it, I stood a little over two meters from the red door, and in each dream I took a step closer. The last thing I wanted was to go near it–to see whatever the door had to show me. I wanted none of it, but I didn’t know why.

Why does it make me feel this way? I asked myself when I woke up last. It’s just a door.

As much as I denied it, I knew the reason why I wanted the door shut. You hear people describe vivid dreams and being able to hear, smell, even taste all kinds of things–but not me. My senses are limited to sight and intuition; I’m able to extend my sight to an aerial view, and there have even been times where I have watched myself sleep. I can also sense when things are happening in other places, even when there is no hint of this in the dream as it has played out in my mind. Occasionally I’ll hear things, but those dreams are very rare.

In the dark room with the red door, I could see its same, disconcerting sanguine-dyed appearance and hear the deafening silence all around me. I felt the magnetism of whatever was behind the door pull me a step closer in every dream–and my mind would kick me out of REM, halting my progress for the time being. Am I supposed to see what’s behind there? What could there possibly be to see?

I didn’t bother noting these dreams down in my journal. In retrospect, I should have.

When I went to bed last night, my night time delusions started out pleasant, almost silly. I was in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, just me and the Oompa-Loompas. We were standing right by the chocolate river, and the ferry came to pick me up. I recall sitting in the ferry for a short spell before we were about to go through the dark tunnel. You know, the creepy, psychedelic trip Roald Dahl put us all through as children. I wasn’t about to have any of that, so I hopped out of the boat and onto a small patch of candy-land connected to an Oompa-Loompa entrance by a set of stairs built into the wall. Some Oompa-Loompas met me by the stairs, and beside those same stairs was a human-sized door.

A red door.

I turned back to the boat, which was still there–but getting back onboard meant I would have to traverse through the dark tunnel and see those horrific images. I had a lifelong fear of bugs and insects, so that option was out. I considered jumping into the chocolate river when I realized that the Oompa-Loompas were singing and dancing. They moved as if they were skipping or frolicking in place, and their song was less a fun melody and more a cult-like chant:

“Try to remember, try to remember, try to remember…”

I shook my head and backed away. Remember? Remember… What? Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. I don’t want to remember. I just want to sleep.

Their dancing grew erratic as they chanted louder. Their words echoed in my ears as well as flashed across my psyche in big bold Times New Roman font and all caps. TRY TO RE-MEM-BER. TRY TO RE-MEM-BER. TRY TO RE-MEM-BER.

Stop it, stop it, stop it! I wanted to scream. I wanted to cover my ears, run until I found a corner, shut my eyes and shout above all the noise. But there was no reprieve, and I made not a peep. I just stood there, staring at a red door in a candy factory out of a children’s novel, surrounded by dancing men with orange faces and green hair. It was about that time–right then, on the verge of a breakdown–that I realized something.

I had not stepped forward, but the door was gradually advancing on me.

My head was shaking. I wanted to cry, to call for help, to kick the door. I wanted to hijack the ferry and reverse out of this damned nightmare. There was no escape, no visible end in sight.

There was just an open door.

It swallowed me whole.

I’m not even entirely sure what I saw. It was all so hard to describe. The images were like fragments, flashing in and out of existence.

The past?

The blood. The bruises. The laughter. The rage.


I was crying.

Blood. Bruises. Laughter. Rage.

I was pushing, fighting.

I was so young.

“I don’t want to see it. I just want to sleep.”

How could eleven words have such a lasting effect on me?

Flashes of light.

Flashes of steel.

Flashes of skin.

Flashes of pain–

The door slammed shut.

I’ve seen its contents, and I will never be the same.

Photo by Viktor Mogilat on Unsplash

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