This story appeared in Untrue Stories, Volume One by Pantoum Press in 2012. When I wrote it in 2011 for a writing prompt challenge from Splinter4All.com – “Who is at the door?” It did not win, but I remember thinking I would like to develop this into a longer story or even a novel. So far, it has not happened.
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by Mitch Lavender
The rapping at the closet door started just after midnight, as it always did. Who – no, not who – what could it be, inside the closet?
Erika had been repeating the steps of jumping out of bed, grabbing a crayon from the nightstand and running to the door to redraw the strange symbols around the door’s frame before they faded completely. Quietly running back to the bed and pulling the covers up to her eyes, she watched the door with fear. She did this every seven minutes, and each time, she was careful not to disturb the intricate design she had laid out so carefully on the wooden floor. It was made of lines of carefully poured, pure white sand, and she knew that stepping on it or severing one of the lines might unseal the lock.
Rap, rap, rap.
Not like someone beating on the door and not even a full, adult knock. It was just the whisper of a knock, barely audible but still there, then a pause of maybe twenty seconds, then coming again. Patient. Determined. Firm.
The magical cryptograms on the floor and door frame were the only thing that kept – whatever – from entering her room.
Six minutes more passed of this, and she needed to decide on a new color of crayon to use next. The Aquamarine worked well, but now was just a nub. She could use Salmon or Bittersweet Orange, but she was afraid. She had never used colors in the red spectrum to lock the door, and they might not be effective.
Pulling a light blue one from the box of 64 colors, she read the name written on the side: Blizzard Blue – it was close to Aquamarine but lighter and lighter colors seemed to work best. The Robin Egg Blue was great, sealing the door over eleven minutes at a time, but she had used it up the other night. Sky Blue was another good one, almost nine minutes for it. It might have lasted longer, but Erika was afraid to test it. When the seals started to fade, she couldn’t let them disappear completely or the lock would fail. The lock on the floor was a last defense, and she would have to stand in the center of it to be protected.
Seven minutes by her clock, and she got out of bed and tip-toed over the sand pattern on the floor and began retracing the symbols on the door frame again. It was 6:53 AM, according to her clock, and sunrise was just minutes away. Then, she could sleep.
Mommy and Daddy had been taken up, but she was left. Now, the demons prowled the night hours and it wasn’t safe after dark. She guarded the only entrance to this hemisphere, but she didn’t know that. She only knew she was keeping something bad from getting out, and in the daytime, there was nothing to worry about. She could open her closet and even play in it if she wanted.
She had already decided she would use Violet that night and see how that works. After the sun was up and she slept, she played with Barbies and went out to swing. She collected the manna that fell from the sky and while it was bland, she could dip it in honey or just pour sugar on it and it tasted better. When the sun started to set, she took her bath and dressed for bed, Violet crayon clutched tightly in her hand.
Erika’s father had read the bible to her before he was taken up. She knew the story of Job and how God allowed him to be tested by the Devil so that Job may demonstrate his faith. He also read to her of Lot and his family in Sodom and Gomorra. If only one faithful person was present, the destitute cities might be spared.
At only nine years old, she didn’t know how she knew to make the lock or that she was the Guardian of Mankind. She did not know this was her test. Wherever she moved, whatever room she was in; that was where the portal would be, and she must guard it or all would be lost. This was her test and tribulation; this was her cross to bear. She didn’t understand, but she had yet to curse God, so the rapping at the door would continue again tonight.