For no particular reason, the door in the attic had been locked for as long as anyone could remember, nothing malicious was meant, simply no one had a key and no one cared enough to find out what was inside. The door was made of a simple brown wood that matched the paneling on either side of it along the east wall of the attic. Its single interesting feature was an old, iron wrought lock. But even simple nondescript doors can hold more fascination and power than one would expect.
While her parents and older siblings had more pressing things on their more mature minds, Sally’s imagination was still active enough to tackle the mystery of the door. Whenever she went up to the attic, it filled her thoughts, the never ceasing questions of what was behind it and why it always remained locked.
At age nine, Sally was the youngest member of her household. Her father, an incredibly wealthy and successful businessman, spent much of his time away taking care of said business or with one of his many young girlfriends. In what seemed a deliberate move to mock him, Sally’s mother spent a lot of time away from home too, preferring to be seen at art functions and charity events while being much more discreet about her numerous affairs. As a result of this parenting style, Sally and her two siblings grew up spending more time with their nanny then with either of their parents.
So Sally was left alone to the lonely existence of a rich child. Throughout her life, her closest friends were her imaginary ones, those secret friends created in the mind to make the night terrors go away. The other kids at her school thought she was weird, they did not understand her active thoughts, her fascination with everything and anything. Sally’s mind was never dormant, each waking and sleeping moment she was racing down pathways of thought, long winding roads that never ended, merely branched and looped sometimes to something already conceived, sometimes to a place so new and radically different that her only possible reaction was to laugh out loud. There were a few girls she could spend time with in school but she always felt on the fringes of their society. Never understanding, her sudden tangents or convoluted thought processes, they were kind but not completely welcoming. Sally was never invited to after-school or weekend activities with them, but they let her eat lunch with them and sometimes she joined in their games at recess.
Yet if she felt the loss of human companionship, she never complained. Sally was a bright happy child, polite and sweet, able to converse with adults well beyond her years in ways they always found charming and unique. With her bright eyes and her curly brown hair she looked the perfect little lady in well-cut expensive children’s clothes.
But always the door in the attic occupied her mind. She wondered what was behind it, why it was there to begin with. It did not make sense to her that there would be a door with nothing behind it for that would be contrary to the purpose of a door and Sally knew it was not logical to negate a purpose of an object.
Whenever she tried to ask about it, her mother or father or nanny would just shrug and say, “Oh that old door, who knows? Its not important.”
Whenever faced with that response, Sally would not stamp her foot or whine or sigh or complain, she would merely nod and continue on her way, yet her thoughts would reel from place to place, seeking numerous possibilities and answers to her perpetual question.
To an active mind, every door is a pathway to a new world. Each time one opens a door there is a sense of mystery, a slight tingle of apprehension. Will the same place be behind it? What secrets will I uncover if I open it? Those are the questions that have lead explorers and children to new, sometimes out of bounds, places. It is a question as central to humanity as another other, what else is out there? What is behind the door? And, of course, what is the final doorway? When the last stands of life are gone, what stands behind the final door? Heaven? Nirvana? Nothingness? The questions have plagued the human race for centuries, and Sally was a wonderful example of her kind. The door. Always, what could be behind that door?
She brought it up one night at dinner. It was a rare family occurrence, where everyone was there to eat together. As they finished the main course, the conversation turned to the attic.
I’m sure there are lots of valuables up their we don’t even know about.” Her mother was saying.
So we’ll hire someone to clean it out.” Her father responded. “Unless you want to.”
“If we hire someone, I’ll supervise, never know if someone might walk off with something good, or throw out something valuable through carelessness.”
A cell phone rang. Sally’s older sister, Meredith, moved her hand automatically to her pocket while she continued to pick at her food.
Meredith, what did I say?” Her mother said sharply. “No phones at the table.”
But mom its Jim.” Meredith complained.
I don’t care who it is. You can call him later.”
Another cell phone rang.
Sorry kids.” Her father said. “I have to take this.” He walked away from the table.
Dad answers his phone.” Meredith was sulking. Sally brother, Parker, laughed.
Dad’s call is business. He is doing what is necessary to keep you living the privileged life you lead.”
Eventually Sally’s mom turned to Parker. “Maybe you would like to help me clean out the attic.”
No.” Parker said contemptuously.
I’ll help.” Sally piped up. “Maybe we can find a key to that locked door.”
Why are you so obsessed with the door freak?” Parker sneered.
Don’t call your sister a freak Parker.” Mom said quickly.
But she is.”
“No I’m not.” Sally replied.
This is why I hate having dinner here.” Meredith slammed down her fork and dramatically left the table. Parker followed though they veered off in different directions when they hit the hall. Sally’s mother drained the last of her wine and also left.
Sally sat for a moment, then picked up her plate and put it in the kitchen sink. Then she went back and put the rest of the dishes in the sink. Their maid would be by in an hour to fully clean but Sally thought that she should help out at least a little bit.
Before settling down in her room with her favorite book for the night, Sally checked the door in the attic one last time. It was still locked but to her mind it looked beckoning, welcoming, there appeared to be light coming from it. A warm yellow that was barely noticeable yet welcoming. It seemed to want her to come inside the room it had. But she was stuck, unable to reach out into whatever strange and brave new world that door held.
The next day was much the same as before, Sally went to school and learned all things she was supposed to. During recess, she sat by herself with a book far beyond her reading level in her lap, having decided to forgo the more childish games of her peers. Happily wandering the shores of a far off world rather than engage in the social interactions the rest of her class seemed so preoccupied with. Devon, a bully in her grade, tried to bother her, but Sally’s teacher intervened in time. After school Sally quickly finished her small amount of homework and, as usual, was left to amuse herself until it was time for bed. To try and quench the curiosity, Sally went up to the attic.
The door stood there the same way it always had, staring at her, daring her to enter. She went up to it, hesitantly, as if afraid of scaring it off, and leaned against it, her hands pushing on its cool wooden surface.
What are you hiding?” She asked.
Almost at once she felt a cool breeze come from under the door, a breeze that was impossible. Sally’s mind leapt with excitement. Could the door be a pathway to a secret world? Her own hidden Narnia? For, she thought, a breeze meant outside. A door that leads to a secret room that was just a room would not have a breeze.
Please.” Sally whispered. “Please.”
She stood there for a long moment, her body pressed up against the door. Then, just as she was about to turn away, she felt something slide against her foot. Looking down, she saw a key. An old heavy key, the sort to fit an old heavy lock, such as the door had. She picked it up, her heart racing, and fit it into the lock. Just as she was about to turn it she heard her mother calling.
Sally come down here.”
Regretfully Sally turned away from the door and put the key in her pocket. Yet she vowed to be back that night, to finally discover what the door held.
The phone call her father had gotten the night before had called him to a business meeting on the other side of the country that day. Her mother was attending a dinner party that one of her multitude of friends was hosting and had called Sally down to say good night. Meredith was out with her boyfriend and Parker was locked in his room as usual. Sally ate her dinner quietly and quickly before heading back up to the attic.
She went up to the door. It felt warm, alive almost. Sally slid the key into the lock and turned it until she heard a click. Then, barely breathing due to the excitement, she pulled the door open. But much to her disappointment, there was no magic room, no hidden kingdom behind the door. Only a small bare room stood behind the door, a room with pealing wallpaper and musty close air. No furnishing, nothing but a waste of a small space with a strange sickly yellow light that seemed to emanate from the walls. Frustrated, Sally stepped into the room to see if she missed anything.
The door slammed shut behind her and as Sally turned, she realized what the room really was. Where there had been a door there was now only a blank wall. The door had disappeared, vanished. She yelled for her family and pounded on the wall and when that exhausted her, she felt around for cracks that might revel where the door had been. Unable to find those, she checked the other walls, but all in vain. The room had claimed her as it own. Still she tried, but every burst of energy tired her more until she sat in a corner, her arms wrapped around her legs, ready for the final wait.
It was the next morning when her family started to notice Sally’s disappearance. They checked the house and grounds, made inquires with the police and even contacted federal authorities. At first they believed it to be a kidnapping case and that a ransom would appear in time but, of course, none did. After a few years, they moved out of that house, too many painful memories, and moved on as best they could with their lives. And while on the last day they were there, Sally’s mother checked every room to make sure nothing was left, the only place she never thought to look was the locked door in the attic.