THE SECRET DOOR
Our marriage had been severely tested with the disappearance of our only son, Luke, two years earlier. He had been just three, a curious, almost preternaturally cheerful child who had been snatched from us while our backs were turned –just for the fraction of a second- while Christmas shopping. After two years with no ransom demands, and no sign of the boy, we had to assume the worst. Just last week we’d had a funeral for him, burying a collection of his favourite toys in the coffin, and finally saying goodbye.
The wooden floorboards in the hallway glowed in the weak winter sunlight. They were heavily varnished and felt cool and smooth under my bare feet, like walking on amber. I climbed the stairs, allowing my toes to curl in the thick pile of the carpet. At the top of the steps I paused, looking down the wide hallway, doors opening off it here and there. The bathroom, all blue and white tile, then the room that would be my office, our bedroom, Josh’s man-cave and….
I stopped, staring at a narrow door I had not seen before. We’d been to look at the house twice before finally deciding to purchase it, and I did not remember seeing this door either time. I frowned, racking my brain for any recollection of this door. Then I remembered the ornate wardrobe the previous owners had kept in the hallway. It must have been in front of this door.
Pulling on the doorknob, I was surprised to find the door locked, or possibly jammed closed. In my pocket were all the keys the real estate agent had passed on to us. I dug them out and tried them, none working. A bobby-pin from my hair had the lock sprung in seconds. I hesitated before opening the door, then went to the top of the stairs.
“Josh!” I called, certain he wouldn’t hear me over the rock music he was playing in the living room. He must’ve unearthed the stereo first. “Hey! Josh!”
“What?” Josh came into the hallway and looked up at me, his too-long dark hair falling about his face.
“Come and look at this,” I said. “There’s a mystery door up here.”
Josh climbed up a few steps until he was on the small triangular landing midway. “What do you mean?”
“There’s a door I never saw before,” I explained. “You know where they had that big antique armoire?”
“There’s a door there?” Josh’s long legs made short work of the remaining stairs and he was beside me in seconds, staring down the hall at the door. “Huh. Who would’ve thought?”
“It was locked,” I told him as we walked the length of the hall. “I sprung it, but I haven’t looked in there yet.”
“Ugh!” I groaned, stepping away from the open door. “That’s disgusting!”
“What the hell is up there?” Josh peered up the narrow staircase, but the light was too dim to see anything. “Hold on,” he whispered, although I’m not sure why. “I’m going to get a flashlight.”
“Sorry,” Josh muttered as he shone the beam of light up the staircase. “I couldn’t find it. Had to go through about twelve boxes. Why was a flashlight in a box marked ‘kitchen goods?”
“We keep it in the kitchen.” I shrugged and Josh about to say something more when a sound from above made us freeze.
“I’m going up!” I whispered, taking a deep breath and holding it before I plunged into the fetid air.
What do you think?