As the Semisonic song goes, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. So what lies on the other side of this mysterious door, this door that declares itself "The End"? See if you can come up with a story based on this whimsical photograph.
This photo comes from Sarah Greaves, who creates all manner of embroidered graffiti, via Ian Brooks. So what happens when your characters are told that they've reached "the end"? Will they step through the door, and if so, will we find out what's on the other side?
Post your short fiction piece in the comments. I'll be adding the stories to this post unless you specifically request that I don't.
In my story, "The End" is not completely unexpected, but my characters aren't quite sure they're ready for it:
The LEDs winked out one by one as the Hive Queen of Zaeda-Morra collapsed, blowing one final toxic breath across their skin. Samile exhaled as she lowered her Swarm Gun, clutching her abdomen as the muzzle clinked against the floor. Respawning too quickly and too often did a number on the stomach lining, and she had spent one hundred and twenty nine lives battling the Hive Queen. She was almost grateful that they were out of health bars. She wouldn't have been able to resist eating them any more than she could have kept them down.
"You gonna blow?" Caswell asked. Blood steamed from a darkened eye socket, and Samile was pretty sure he'd lost the eye entirely. No matter. He'd get it back in the next spawn.
Samile shook her head. "No point in waiting, is there? Let's head for the next save point and get ourselves killed."
He shrugged. "If it's all the same, I'd rather find a medical bay." He pointed to the missing eye. "I can do without this for a while."
Samile heaved the gun over her shoulder. "I just hope they have showers on the next level."
"And a toothbrush," Caswell added, scratching at his teeth. "After fifty-three hours of play, you'd think I'd figure out how to stop swallowing nanobugs."
The door to the next level whooshed open, and a woman's voice crackled overhead. During the early months of play, the voice had been clear, announcing dubious axioms: "If you watch each other's backs, no one is looking forward." "A grenade in the hand is worth two (or was it too?) hasty decisions." "A shot in time saves nine lives." But the quality of the audio had degraded until it became little more than a series of sputters and gasps. Samile liked to think that the woman was dying, that her voices had been bleeding out of her all this time and now she was finally nearly dead.
Samile and Caswell stopped and crouched as soon as they stepped through the door, ready to take on whatever fresh horde of robotic creatures was waiting to pounce upon them. But there was nothing, no movement. When her eyes adjusted to the light, she nearly dropped her gun. They were standing in an apartment. Not ship's quarters, not lodgings in a faux-medieval village, not a screened-in room littered with tatami mats. This was a real person's apartment, with the bed unmade and clothes balled up on the floor and sunlight streaming in through the windows. Samile ran her hand over a series of sketches pinned to the walls, listening to the rustle of paper as she scraped against the edges. "I've never seen an environment like this," she said. "Have you?"
Caswell had found a laptop humming beneath a pile of papers. He gingerly pried it open, then shot his hand away. "Computer's hot," he said.
Samile paused at one of the drawings. It was of a man who was almost Caswell but not quite Caswell. The man in the drawing had a stronger chin and a more defiant look. It was like someone was drawing him from memory, or hadn't quite decided what he looked like. Or maybe, Samile realized in a quiet part of her mind, he used to look like that, all those months ago. Maybe the months of battles and respawns had dulled his looks. The paper next to it fluttered in a breeze, and Samile clamped it still. It was a woman dressed in that old neuro-elvish armor Samile used to wear. She peered at the drawing. It had never occurred to her before that she didn't know quite what she looked like. Was this supposed to be her? She turned to ask Caswell, but in the next instant, all speech dropped from her lips.
Caswell, as if responding to her stunned silence, turned too and saw it. The door. It wasn't a door built into a wall. It was leaning against the exposed brick, propped up, as if someone had constructed the door and then forgotten to build everything behind it. The edges were lit from an unseen sources, and the door was embroidered in red thread with two words: The End. A giant needle was stuck through the text like a sword.
Samile began to shiver. Her throat was still raw with vomit from those dozens of respawns. There were bits of nanobugs splattered across her skin and armor. She suddenly realized that she wanted to cry.
Caswell was the first of them to speak. "The End," he murmured. He pulled off a glove and let his fingers dance to the end of the words. "Could it be?" he asked. "Just right here?" He looked back at Samile, frowning at the quiver of her lip and the tears beginning to flood her eyes. "You're not afraid, are you? This is what we've wanted, what we went through all that play for."
Samile glanced back in the direction they'd come from. There was no door there any more, no gateway back to the dead Hive Queen. "It's not the end I'm worried about. There's a beginning behind that door."
She felt Caswell's hand encircle hers. His grasp was almost painful. "Come on," he said, and she could hear the grin in his voice. "What's the worst it could be? Office jobs? Credit card debt? Soul-crushing ennui? You can't fight all your problems with a gun forever."
He led her to the door and placed his hand on the knob. "Wait!" Still holding his other hand, Samile walked up to the door, stood up on her tip-toes, and tugged the giant needle free. "You never know what we're going to need out there," she said as he turned the knob.
ShirtBloke's story goes metafictional:
"Well look at that - a door with The End written on it."
"So open it then."
"You're the protagonist.
It says so on your tee-shirt."
"I don't know.
What do you think's behind it?"
"I'm pretty sure it's a room full of lollipops and liquorice. "
"Have you looked at your tee-shirt recently?"
"Wait a minute.
This door's not real.
It's just painted onto the brickwork."
"Are you saying that the writing on the wall is just a False Ending?"
I think it might mean that there's a sequel.
Maybe even a trilogy."
"Luke, I am your father."
"That's really not helpful."
In Mel Chow's story, "The End" is difficult to resist:
Johnny Hee looks up.
The entire apartment is shrouded in darkness, except for a window on the tenth floor. A warm, orange glow streams from it. He always had a liking for orange lights. So cozy, so inviting.
"N..not t-that way.."
The window grilles are wide open.
Johnny Hee stops spacing out. He had been heading off to meet the girlfriend when this happened. Something about the urgency in her voice over the phone had..unsettled him. He looks at the man.
"Sir, the ambulance is.."
He trails off. No point in continuing. The man before him now lies motionless, blood pooling around what remained of the back of his head. One hand still clutches tightly at a measure of cord. Frayed, as though torn from somewhere. Thick, bright crimson.
At least he had the good sense to tell others jumping out of a tenth floor window is not the way, Johnny thinks.
In any case, he has to hurry along.
An hour after the ambulance leaves, Johnny Hee sits in a busy pub in the middle of the city, nursing drink after drink. Laughter. From beside him. Johnny turns to look. Yet another pretty, young couple, madly in love, not being able to keep their hands off each other.
Johnny Hee smirks, gives them the finger, and goes back to his glass of Black Pig. Why do people have it so easy, he wonders. Why do they find love easily, why do they stay in love so easily, why do they not end up chronically single like him, coming to the same pub every Saturday night, alone-
-a burp, and Johnny feels the beer pour from his throat into his mouth. One beer too many. Get to the toilet.
The toilet is small, cramped, a tiny cubicle with a stark flouroscent light. Johnny kneels before the toilet bowl, and throws up.
It is quiet outside.
Johnny Hee groans, and stumbles to his feet. His head is spinning. The cubicle is lit a warm orange. He always had a liking for orange lights. So cozy, so inviting.
He turns to leave, and sees the door.
bspeers1000's characters find the door difficult to open:
"Yes?" I asked. I had already begun the agonising task of working the tension wrench against the stubby edge of the knob. I say agonising because as usual, I'd brought a too-short tension wrench, and the nails on my thumb and forefinger wore against what was left of my reddened fingertips.
"Why, and you'll forgive me for asking this, as because I usually do trust your methods,"
"Yes, yes." I blurted it, not trying to sound annoyed and failing.
"Why are you ardently working on unlocking that particular door?"
"That door, Brian." Blets rubbed his forehead nervously. I think it was nervously anyway. I refused to look his way, but rubbing things nervously was exactly the sort of thing Blets was liable to do.
"Ah." It wasn't much of an answer, I admit. I strained for a moment, trying simultaneously to come up with a better answer and not cut through my own fingers. I really need to start carrying nail scissors. Don't say anything about the file, that's a tool, and I refuse to use it on anything that grows out of my body.
"Well, it's here isn't it."
Blets didn't say anything for a moment. His heavy footsteps carried him away from the enormous black archway and then back. Pacing. More typical Blets material.
"Well, it does have the massive phrase 'the end' written on it doesn't it."
"Well." Blets seemed to be at a loss. "Good then."
More pacing. I paused, only for a moment. The door was much more difficult than I'd imagined, and given that we were standing just beyond the Laboratory Of Which Sprang the Universe (don't blame me, that's not my chosen wording—note the telltale capital letters), I'd been expecting something pretty difficult. Now that the pin was in, each of the dozen or so pins managed to feel heavier than the pistons of a multi-horse motor, and fiddlier, smaller than seemed logistically possible. It was a hassle. And at this stage, anyway, Blets wasn't helping.
"Blets, you know I don't have a critical word about your er... girth issue."
"But the impact of your weight on this uneven linoleum has a noticeable effect on my good lockpicking arm."
"Don't do that 'pathetic sigh' thing either. I am not being critical. It's just physics. Also, your breathing is very loud."
"Don't be sorry Blets. What does one do when one is feeling sorry?"
"Stop the behaviour?"
Blets managed to stop his incessant pacing. I could tell though that all was not well with him. He'd moved on to shuffling. Well. It was as good as he was liable to get.
"Only, it does seem a bit risky, doesn't it Brian," Blets said at last, "Us opening a door marked 'The End' at the origin of the Universe. It seems that if the people who made everything—g"
"Right. Beings. Er... the inception of beings. Pre-particles of imperceptible intent, yes?"
"If they lock a door and mark it in large letters with the phrase 'The End' it does seem to be a jolly important argument for letting it be. I mean, if you think so. I mean, isn't it?"
"Blets," I said, softly. I could feel the last pin against my pick. It wouldn't budge. "Do you—rrrggh—do you know why we were selected for this particular job?"
"Because we're cheap?"
"Because you have your own car."
"Not really the key, given how they sent us here." I held back a shiver. Just saying 'They' made me feel wrong. Like my mother walked in to catch me with my MILF porn. Or like I bit into a leathery pickle.
"Because we're the only Professional Juggler slash private detective team in Titlups End?"
"Blets, do you really still think 'They' were from Titlups End?"
"No," Blets admitted. "I think they likely were from out of Gloucestershire entirely."
"A good guess."
"Well," Blets said, "Then I don't know."
"Because we don't ask questions."
There was a long pause. The last pin was taking even longer than I'd anticipated. I began to understand how my dentist felt. Back in year eight.
"I'll just practice shall I then?"
I held in a grimace. If anything was noisier than Blets footfalls it was the sound of his beanbags striking the ground with rhythmic regularity. I also knew it was the only thing that would calm him down. "Sure."
I heard the slap slap slap of balls striking palm. I know, but that's what they're called. I couldn't do much about that. It was a weird mission, that I had to grant. But, when you're in debt to the debt cancelling agency and there's no hot water or electricity or monthy subscription to MILFSMONTHY (dot com), you don't have much choice but to accept the offer of the nearest towering mass of black plasma with the voice of Christian Bale in the Batman movies. Figuratively speaking.
"What do you think 'They' meant then about that whole 'the beginning is not a time but a place business. With the particles and all."
"Well," I said, straining, "Rrr... It's obvious isn't it."
"Yes. Ah! That's got it! Something about the universe not having time before it started to exist and all. The er... paradoxical necessity of... er..." I pulled on the door-handle. It began to turn.
"That's what 'They said, Brian, yeah. But I mean, what does any of that actua—"
He stopped talking. The slapping stopped. In fact, a kind of deathly silence began to envelope the gap between us. I turned.
He'd stopped. The balls froze in mid-flight.
I had no way of knowing it then, of course, but everything had stopped. The hands of watches that weren't digital or on iPads, the digital bits on iPads, the non-digital bits, the reverberation of particles of air against the underside of a bell, the blood cells along the jaw of a wounded seagull, the smell of apricots, all of it, suddenly, had stopped. All except me, of course.
"That's not good," I said. Or thought I said. In fact, nothing came out of my mouth. I too was still.
Somewhere, deep beyond the reach of time, and at the same time very close at hand, a very distant sound like my own voice added one phrase.
Pârja's story features a person who must go through the door and the person who shepherds everyone else across the threshold:
"So this is it then?" he asked in a timid voice, almost classifiable as a whisper.
"Yes. This is the end of the line for you."
"So I just open the door, and then?"
"Well, you step through it, naturally."
He was about to ask what would happen after that, but for some reason he knew he wouldn't get an answer.
"I s'pose there's no use in trying to avoid it, huh? What if I win a game of chess or something?"
"You know I would win in the end", the hooded figure chuckled, "I always do."
"I know, I know. But I just don't understand this situation. One minute I'm happily eating a steak, the next I'm in front of this stupid door. I don't deserve this, I'm only 53 for crying out loud!"
"You know, that's what they all say. "Oh, I'm too young, too pretty, too powerful, too rich, too special", but in the end they all go through the same door as everyone else. Now, I don't mean to rush you, I'm sure you're a wonderful guy and all, but I have a 10.30 car crash to attend. So, um, chop chop."
"What if I don't want to?"
"What if you what? Dumb question."
"I'm serious though, what if I don't go through the door?"
"Stop messing around, I'm a busy man. Just get in there... God..."
YES WHAT IS IT.
"No, go away God, I just cursed"
Jakey Phillips' story finds us newly arrived in the afterlife:
The after-life wasn't what John Walters expected it to be. Him and including everyone in creation, past, present, and future, forever and ever that had, has, or will have been alive. It was a lot like before-life, the one you are alive in. The only difference was it was just a long hallway, with hundreds and hundreds of doors, more than the eye can see. The walls had wallpaper with an eloquent black floral pattern, with a deep blood red background. Lanterns hung over head, in intervals of 10 feet of distance between them. The light was very dim, but well enough to see everything. John thought he was the only un-living being there.
But John wasn't alone. He felt it in the air. He then realized there was no air, and he was not even breathing. Then, it sank in.
"Great. Just, fucking, great." John said with a sarcastic tone.
"You went off and you got your ass killed John. Now you are in hell, with Satan his- goddamn-self, breathing down your neck! But fuck me running, at least now you don't have to worry about, I don't know, BREATHING!"
Suddenly, a voice spoke to John. It had a very soft, British accent, and spoke as if whoever was talking has just waked up.
"You are not in Hell, John Eugene Walters: Born on Monday June 12th, 1967, at 11:44P.M... Died on Saturday August the 14th, 2012 at 3:00 P.M. Passed unto the realm of the dead 5 minutes later. You are in, what I like to call, The Receiving Room."
"Who said that? How did I… Wait… 5 minutes later? It takes 5 minutes to get from earth to here? Is there not an express elevator or something? That's, kinda strange, don't you think?"
A shadowy figure began to appear. Slowly fading into view. Shadows became cloth. Cloth became a robe, black as night. Hands reach out from the sleeves, but no flesh. White bone. Where John imagined eyes to be was glowing blue orbs that reminded him of fire on a candle wick, but much dimmer. The only thing of a face that was visible was the teeth and jaw of a grinning skeleton.
"Its not like you had to walk here!" the cloaked figure said. "You are not even conscious! It's Poof! You're dead, and you wake up here! So what if it's 5 minutes later.
"Why does the afterlife need to worry about time?"
"Because it just does. You know, out of the billons and billons of souls who passed through here, I've heard a lot of questions. Where am I? Who are you? Is this Heaven? Am I in Hell? Where's Jesus? Can I meet God? Why didn't I get born again into a cow? Never, why did it take 5 minutes to get here, and why does the afterlife keep time?"
"It is a good question."
"I don't know why! Ok, I don't have all day for this. I am Death. The Reaper of souls! I am your escort to your final destination. I am…"
"OK, so there is a heaven or hell?" John said cutting death off.
"Would you let me finish? Good grief you are impatient! It's not like you are going anywhere." Death said while crossing his arms. He began tapping his boney foot on the hard floor below him, annoyed at John.
"As I was saying: I am the one who shows you your life as it has been, from birth to death, and what will happen to the loved ones you left behind."
"Well, my life wasn't the greatest. I mean it wasn't bad; I just didn't do anything I dreamed for. It was very boring. Meaningless job. No wife, no kids. Only people important in my life was my Mom and Dad. I think they will be fine."
"They will be… Come on. Time to look at your life."
John began to follow Death. He started to feel a tingle in his belly. Reminded him of a stomach growl.
"You will feel a strange feeling in your stomach. It's where your soul feels a connection to an event, and wants to show you."
"My soul is in my stomach?"
"It was in your stomach. You are your soul. Think of it like your brain. You have conscious and a subconscious. The feeling in your stomach is the subconscious part talking to you. And since you don't have a body blocking everything, you can feel your sub-soul better. Go to the door when it feels the strongest and open it. You will see."
Death pointed his boney finger to a door, 6 feet down on the left. John gave him a look for conformation, knowing that was the door his sub soul wanted him to see. John walked to it slowly, stomach grumbling louder. It didn't hurt, just felt weird. It stopped when he touch the door knob. He turned it slowly, and opened the door. In an instant, he was somewhere else.
A hospital room. He saw a doctor with 2 nurses at a hospital bed, wearing full hospital scrubs with a surgical mask and hat on. Another man was standing in the room with a camera taking pictures. He was in the same surgical gear as the doctor. John saw death next to him, walk next to the hospital bed, and sit down in a recliner next to the bed. John couldn't hear anyone talking in the room, but Death. All he heard was a faint whooshing noise all around.
"What the fuck is happening?" John said sounding startled at the chaos before him. Doctors and nurse operating at a fevered pitch.
"A woman was giving birth. Today is someone's birth day. Yours John. It's on Monday June 12th, 1967, at 11:34 P.M."
"Why can't I hear them? And what's sound?"
"You can't hear them you are still inside your mother. The sound you hear is you mother womb. The whooshing sound is blood flowing through her body as her heart is beating. That is all you have heard for 8 months 3 weeks, 2 days, and 12 hours. Why do you think mother tell their children shhh… to calm them down? Think about it?" Death said while taping his temple."
"Why are they panicking? My dad looks calm, but I can tell from the doctor and nurses something's wrong."
"You are dying. Well, you are dead now, but you almost died when you were born. See your umbilical cord got wrapped around your neck. You have only ten minutes before you are dead, and the doctor is trying to save you. Your mother knows something wrong. Not because someone told her, but she can tell too. Just like you. You can see it in their eyes and body movements. She isn't panicking because she doesn't want your dad to worry. He doesn't know because he is so overcome with joy, its blissful. And she doesn't want to ruin the moment."
"I... I didn't know."
"Yep. Complicated childbirth. I guess they didn't want to scar you and make you have mommy daddy issues or something."
"You know… Fuck you." John told Death in a sarcastic tone matching Death's.
"Hey, this is going to hurt for a minute."
"What is…?" John couldn't finish the syllable.
Sound rushed into his ears. The sound was deafening as it was painful. Reminded him of rush hour traffic in the city, with a jet engine next to him, at a Pantera concert. He hit the floor in a fetal position, and let out a cry in unison with his new born self.
"AHHHHHHFUUUUUCK! Jesus Christ! What the fuck?!?!"
"Happy Birthday!" Death said enunciating each word.
The pain subsided. John could hear normally again. He heard the doctors and nurses. He heard his mom and dad crying together. And he heard himself crying.
"Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Walter. 10lbs 7 ounces." The doctor said.
"You were cute." Death said. "Alright, back on the bus."
A single tear rolled down John's cheek. Death snapped his boney fingers, and instantly they were back in the hallway.
"Don't cry man, you look like a pussy." Death told join.
"Just kidding, man! Jesus that never gets old. You should have seen Genghis Khan. He was crying a river. When I told him that, he about shit a brick!" Death said laughingly. "Alright let's go."
Death and John walked down the seemingly endless hallway, stopping every once in a while to go in a door. Some moments were happy. Some were sad. Birthdays, and puppies. Fights and funerals. First kiss. First dance. First blowjob. Then the rooms become more and more less.
John could see the end of the hallway coming up. It seemed like they walked for hours and hours.
"How long did that take?"
"Hmmm… 11 ½ hours."
"45 years and only 11 ½ hours of good stuff?"
"No. You have 11 hours, 35 minutes of good stuff."
Death pointed at a door at the end of the hall. Surprisingly it had "The End" written on it in big red letters. LED lights circle the frame.
"Kinda modern, don't you think?"
"Hey I'm not in the budget department, you know? Well? Go in."
John touched the door, and was somewhere else. On a side walk, walking down. Death was gone too.
"Hmm. That was weird." John said amusingly.
He began to wonder if it was real or not. He looked at his phone. August 14th, 2012. 2:55 P.M.
He looked around at the street signs. It was all familiar to him. He turned to the cross walk, and it come to him.
"I remember. Damn I remember now!"
The cross walk signed turned from a green to an orange. Then to red. He noticed. But the young girl across didn't. Teenage girl, around 16. Maybe 17. Her headphones blaring at full volume. Texting on her phone at the same time. She thought she was the hottest thing on earth, but she didn't notice the sign. She began to cross on red. And the car coming didn't notice her either.
John thought to himself, maybe not this time! Maybe it'll be different. Maybe she won't get hit after all? Why do I have to die for some dumb kid?
Death appeared behind the girl. He pulled his hood down, and began to remove his rood. As the robe slide down his left arm, a scythe appears. Around his neck was a necklace with an hourglass attached to it. His whole body was a white, dry skeleton. His eyes turned from a blue glow, to red. It reminded John of all the old images of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, except no horse. He raised his right hand and pointed at the girl, and raised the scythe over his head
"No you bastard!" John said, rushing towards the girl. The car coming closer, and closer to her.
John pushed the girl as hard as he could. She went flying back and hit the pavement. John didn't feel the cab.
"What the fuck old…" the girl stopped.
John was lying down. Bleeding from his mouth. He gasped for air. And gasped. Gasped. Dead. The girl stood in awe as John died. The driver rushed out to check on John. He pointed at the girl and said something. But John couldn't hear him. He was standing beside Death. People gathered around his body, checking for life, but no sound. No whooshing. Just silence.
"I can't hear them because I'm dead now, and you can't hear once you are dead, right?"
Death pointed to his nose. "Seems like you were wrong about the whole, 'Boring life' crap you told me. Pretty self less if you ask me. And the Big Boss upstairs."
"So now what? Another door?"
"Not exactly." Death said. A pair of wing rose from nowhere on Death's back. They weren't black as John thought they should have been. They were covered in feathers, and were a bright white. Not a dead, dry bone white. They were peaceful. "Your express elevator. Going up."
Death held his hand out for John. John reached forward, grabed his hand, and held his hand tightly.
"How is it there?"
"Eh, it's ok. It's Heaven and all. But even assholes can get into heaven."
"Will it take 5 minutes?" John said with a smirk.
"Depends on how heavy you are…asshole."
petz79 imagines the insidious technology that would create such a door:
It had found him. It was over now.
For days he had been watching the news on TV to get the hourly forecasts. Then the broadcasts suddenly stopped and minutes later the lights went out in his appartment. He didn't dare to open the door to check if his neighbors had the same problem. To check if his neighbors were even still alive.
He had sealed every possible entrance to his dwelling with wet towels. Every edge of every window and the main door was covered. The emergency broadcasts had advised the population to do so. Except for one window. He wasn't stupid. After the first news, he had searched for a homemade air filtration system on the Internet before the lights went out and built it into the window frame. At least he got fresh air. Water was still running, but he already had filled every bottle and bucket he could find. Just to be safe. Food was going to be a problem in a few days.
He started to write down everything he had gathered from the few broadcasts he had received. Apparently the people in charge hadn't been sure either what exactly was happening. It all had to do with clouds of nanobots getting loose. They called it grey goo. He had found horror scenarios on the Net about this grey goo, but they didn't really seem to match the couple sightings the anchorman was quoting. No one really knew what was going on, except that everyone was losing contact with each other.
In the first few hours, the authorities had convinced the public that it wasn't a terrorist strike or an enemy attack, but rather the work of some juvenile idiot reprogramming the nanobots. He sure thought it would be funny. He must have been one of the first victims. Whatever happened to that guy? What did the grey goo do to him? And what was the grey goo going to do when it was going to enter the appartment? It would only be a matter of time.
Still sunken in his thoughts, he saw a small glow forming on his appartment door. A smell of twine hung in the air. He didn't even know that scent existed. He could recognize small dust particles being drawn towards the door and getting reassembled on an atomic level. The surface of the entire door seemed to shine as bright as the moon. A bright glow consisting of millions and billions of small atomic fissions and fusions, radiating through the entire room.
Lying in his last thoughts, he could now see the work of the nanobots. Having converted every dust particle in the room and little bit of the door itself, a new form of art had formed on the door. The words "The End" were clearly visible in brilliant red yarn and a big grey needle went through them as if it tried to knit a new meaning into these final words. As if to create something new from the end of something old. His eyes closed for one last time.
MrMcDudeMan's protagonist makes a study of his own final moments:
"Huh," I said to myself, just before remembering that I promised I'd try to stop talking to myself. "I thought it'd be cooler, more dramatic, inspirational or something..." Sheila was always going on about that, and I agreed with her, it probably did make me look stupid, babbling on like that. Then again, now probably wasn't the best time to be making changes in my habit, considering my situation.
I was surprised, to say the least, at my ability to take the time to be surprised. In fact, I noticed that I was suddenly noticing the details of everything, like time had stopped still...
Maybe it had though.
Now, there was a thought. Time is now standing still.
So that's what happens when you're in an oddly well-lit basement of the 5th World Corporation, with the arm of their just-uncovered human-hybrid weapon behind you pulling out of your heart.
There's no chorus, no angelic fanfare for giving your best friend and your mutually coveted girl a 50/50 chance at reaching the elevator before getting killed... Time just kind of stops, and you have an endless length in which to appreciate the industrial-white paint chipping off the bottom of the wall and sides of the doorway you and your friends broke in from.
My degree in investigative journalism had left me intellectually unappreciative of the scope of the enormity of the reality of nonlinear time and a post-mortal consciousness.
I felt oddly light, even though I knew that the moment my body was let go, it would slump down to a bloody crumple on the ground, but that no longer concerned me, because there was a much more important issue;
The door to my father's old apartment studio was next to the closet, just standing upright, a few inches from the wall. I don't know how long it had been there, perhaps this whole time.
It was an old, stained, wooden thing, with a random steel bar glued to it horizontally near the top, and stage lights weaved in and out of it around the sides, with a good deal of extra light trailing around the bottom of the door because that cheap bastard thought it better to use it all than waste some of it cutting out the extra length.
For some reason, it now had, just like in his old-timey movies, in bright red words, The End. It was painted on in the kind of clumsy, blotchy way that just reeked of the old man. The smells of varnish and grease and old leather seeped through the other side of it, for the first time in many long years.
I reached out and found the door unlocked.
And Chris Lites gets right to the point:
"This is not an exit."
For Not_too_Xavi, that door could be any door, at any point in your life. But sometimes, you're the only one who can't see that it's the end of something, and the beginning of something else:
Everyone could see it but Sonny.
Afa, Paul, and Liam had watched as Sonny got ready for the night. His three mates sat in various states of dress as Sonny buzzed around their apartment. As the afternoon had drifted into dusk, Sonny's apprehension grew and the other guys laughed.
"Hook," Paul called to him. "Don't fuck up your sideburns." Sonny peered back at him from the mirror, holding the clippers perilously close to his face. "At least, no more than you already have."
Fear washed over Sonny's face. He stopped for a moment and nervously peered at his sideburns. When he was satisfied he hadn't fucked 'em up too badly, Sonny exhaled and continued shaving.
"You're a dick, Paul." Sonny had always liked that about Afa, the way he spoke up.
"S'a joke man. I can't help it Hook's nervous," Paul tossed back. "'Sides, our boy'll be fine. Hook always comes through, even if he is clumsy as shit. Was it your sister who had the pick of the squad and chose this thick-headed ass? Or, wait, even better, wasn't it the whole damn island who went head over heels for him?"
Afa laughed, Liam shook his head, and Sonny called back, "That's low, Paul."
"'Cause Afa knew it was his aunt," Sonny smiled. "He didn't know it was his sister too."
The guys roared in laughter. Time tripped on and Sonny disappeared into a shower. When he stepped out into the shared living room, Sonny was naked and cracking jokes. After tricking Liam into looking directly into a fart, Sonny wrapped the towel back around his waist, nonchalantly flipped his wet hair, and stepped into the kitchen. Liam was already there, digging in the refrigerator.
"Heads up," Sonny said, patting the hunched over Liam in the ribs. The other roommate scooted in, but there was nowhere for him to go. "Ye canna be serious," Liam winced. "S'my bad side innit?"
"My bad," Sonny offered. Having slid past, and managing to keep the towel secure, Sonny pulled a shot glass down from the shelf and a bottle of bourbon from the cabinet over the range. He poured a jigger and slung it back with his eyes closed. Sonny cleared his throat and made to pour another.
"S'at bad yeh?" Liam asked, having found whatever he was looking for in their sparse fridge.
"Yeah," Sonny snorted after taking the next one.
"Hook," Liam whispered, quickly grabbing the shot glass. "It canna be that bad. 'Sides, ye don't wanner thinkin ye're a lush do ye?" As much as Sonny liked Afa's penchant for standing up for him, sometimes he hated the way Liam's truth was tinged with an Irish brogue. It was as if Sonny could discount what Liam was saying if Liam had had anything other than the accent he possessed, which to Sonny just made everything seem more true.
"No, you're right," Sonny acquiesced. "It'd be bad."
Liam nodded and Sonny stepped away to his room, shutting the door and dressing. A few minutes later, Sonny stepped into the living room, ready to go out. His eyes were anxious and bright.
"Nah, man," Afa said, "she hasn't called yet." Sonny smiled a half smile and slid into the kitchen again. He grabbed a beer and joined his buddies in front of the TV. Everybody was quiet as they watched the flashing screen. A bright blonde with no real accent to place her, maybe from the midlands Liam guessed, narrated the highlights of their match earlier that day. The TV showed Afa sprinting and then tackling a Queensland Red at full speed. It showed Liam taking a nasty shot in his side, making Sonny feel bad for patting it earlier. Paul, shifty and quick, was featured in most of the highlights. For almost a second, Sonny could be seen hustling from the scrum and then out to his spot. They stayed silent, for the most part, entranced by the highlights.
"What're we gonna do Hook?" Paul asked softly.
"Hmm?" Sonny replied.
"What're we gonna do when you take off with this chick? What happens if it's fireworks and shit?"
Sonny thought for a moment. "Dunno," he concluded. "I hadn' thought that far ahead yet."
"Don't," Afa offered.
Sonny's heart jumped at the knock on the door. Paul was up before him though and got to it first. When she stepped into their shared apartment, Sonny was worried she would look around , appraising their bachelor life, and decide that this date was a bad idea. When she didn't, and kept her eyes on him, Sonny's nervousness disappeared.
"Well," Paul crowed. "She's not as awful as we thought she would be."
"Your're a dick," Afa reprised.
"Not near as awful as yer ma," she slyly snapped back. "Ready?"
"Absolutely," Sonny smiled.
Everyone else saw it but Sonny as the couple walked out the door. Their life as bachelors with the gentle, hulking, closet comic nerd rugby player was over. To them, seeing the glowing outline of cursive red told them everything Sonny himself didn't even know yet.
djtjj / Sam Wagner's characters come across the door, but not a doorway:
"I've got to tell ye Pike, this is about the oddest pick we've ever been to."
Two men - employed in the business of purchasing long since used belongings and reselling them - stand in the entrance to a warehouse unit, once owned by an avid collector who six months ago spent the remainder of his "bills" money at a Black Jack table in Milwaukee.
Rows of stacked rectangular cardboard boxes line the floor.
"What do you think's in them?"
"Well Pike, Jaime said that this guy used to collect antiques back in the day, I guess that he may've been a bit more specific though. Guess they might be paintings."
The two men look over to a representative of the bank now legal owner of these cardboard containers.
"Can we open them?"
A shake of the head left and right.
"Well then I don't really know what where doing here..."
"Guess we'll just look around... I'll take port and you go starboard?"
"I hate you sometimes."
"Fine, 'I take this part', 'you take this part', laymen enough for you?"
"I don't this that's how you're suppose' to use that word."
The men split, each to his own sector.
Cleanly organized, both men quickly realize that although the unit's previous owner was a sloppy gambler, when it came to warehouses, he never let anything out of place or even out of its package.
By this point usually both men would already be making deals, bundling items, and leaving with potential threefold profits, neither was quite prepared for a situation such as this.
"What if I cut you a deal?"
"And what would that be?" The Bank rep has a distinct greco-american accent.
"We take one of these boxes, and we pay you fifty bucks for it."
"Look, we haven't been able to unload any of these for six months now; you would've had me at ten."
The men leave, prize in hand, both realize whatever the package contents they better be damn good to warrant the 120 mile journey.
"It's a door." an old one at that lay bare on the exterior wall of both men's antique shop "Klaus's". Neither of them is or even knows a Klaus.
"What's that it's got written on the back?"
"Let me just flip it over".
In velvet red letters.
Framed in battery powered LED lights.
crtalley imagines what happens in the game when you run out of levels:
Well he had done it. He won his war. Saved his princess, sort of speak.
He had fought through the nuclear war and live in its aftermath and had taken his revenge.
He sat in his chair and thought about how it seemed so mechanical, the fighting, the (re)building, almost rehearsed by Gods to be beautiful and hard, yet forgiving, in battles ammo left from some long fallen solider.
Now he just sat in his chair. Watching the lightly irradiated desert out his window, with or without him.
The room's walls were still white washed and window opened, nothing really changed.
He looked to his left and new what to find.
A door that had never been.
On it, was written "The End"
He suddenly felt free, and as if prying eyes had lifted, eyes he had become so used to.
"Simulation Games don't end"
In Invisible Monster's story, the door is a less uncomfortable thing than the people inside:
It's an awful responsibility, I said, I'm not sure that I'm up to it.
He looked me over with those holes where eyes should be and shook his head. No, he said, I think you're up for it. Just close the lights and shut the door on your way out.
Close the lights? I said, without thinking. It was a stupid thing to say. A lot of old world types talk that way, slavic immigrants mostly. There's no one older world than him, and his temperment was very slavic. He had a face like that too. It reminded me of all those youtube videos I'd seen of Krokodil addicts. So before he could answer, I added that I thought maybe there should be some fanfare, so as to change the topic.
Fanfare? he asked. He thought the idea was stupid. He said You didn't notice all the fireworks at the beginning, nobody did, so why should we have them at the end.
I thought he was being unfair, so I said that we did notice. I mean, not all at once, I said, but we saw the signs of its passing. A lot of physicists care a lot about that, I said.
But then he said that there won't be any more physicists, will there, and that sort of ruined the sentiment. Look, he said, just make sure that when this world's all over you turn out the lights and close the door before the next one starts up. He said that we can't be having sloppiness at an important time like this.
But that opened up the bigger question, so I asked: Who's We?
And that seemed to make him really cross. I don't know if bone can glare, and that voice of his didn't really do shouting, after I asked things kind of took a turn for the worse. Who's We? he asked, rhetorically, in that way you ask things when you mean to imply that the person who asked first is stupid.
I didn't really care though, because I figured that things were pretty much over with anyway. So I asked again: Who's We? and clarified, in case he really didn't understand, that I meant to ask if We included me and him, or just him and God and the angels, or all the people every where.
He gave me this look, and I think that if bone could wrinkle the way skin does, he'd look totally exasperated. Give it a few centures and I think the look would wear through. So he just said, look, forget it. Obviously you aren't suited for the position. Then he pressed a button on his desk phone, and said something to his secretary about getting out the CVs, and when she brought them in, she unplugged the christmas lights that decorated the door.
And that's how I saved the universe for about a week.
Faz.Alam reveals that The End, while inevitable, can be delayed:
My breathing was shallow. With every breath, the pain flared. Battered ribs flexed against a struggling diaphragm. I would call the pain unendurable, if I had any other choice but to endure it. The noise of the battle continued without me. A once great fighter, now sunk into the mud covered in my own blood, regarded at best as an inconvenient obstacle to the enemy. Something that their boots may trip over as they march forth over the world, and all I could think of was how inevitable it all was. There numbers were too great, and our resolve was too weak. Even if I could get up and rejoin the fight, what would be the point ?
But through the pain, I realised something. I didn't have to endure this. My trembling hand reached into my belt, and pulled out my knife. I paused, contemplating what I was about to do.
Then I heard the voice. A voice like the wind rushing through cobwebs, to quiet for me to comprehend its words.
Shaking, I looked up from the knife in my hand, to the figure standing over me.
It stood, in a cloak of living shadow, it's eyes were the pin points of stars illuminating nebulae .
The battle around me had become cloaked in mist. The other warriors moved in slow motion, their cries eerily silent. I felt the pain begin to wash away from me.
Speaking in short bursts, I spoke.
"I'd ask who you are" I paused catching my breath "But it seems pretty clear"
The figure offered a hand that looked like polished glass, holding within it the night sky. I took it, and the last of the pain washed away. I stood up, legs no longer shaking, and looked up into the figure's face.
The mist was thickening around us. I could barely tell that the battle was still going on.
" " It said, louder this time. The voice had a deep rumbling echo to it that I felt more than I heard. Yet I still couldn't make out what it was saying.
"I don't understand."
" " it replied, pointing ahead.
I turned to see where, and I saw that we were no longer on the battlefield at all. It was a long narrow corridor.
"Where am I ?Is this heaven? or is it hell ?"
The being continued to point.
I walked down the corridor, my hands brushing against the whitewashed walls. It all felt very real.
I turned to my companion once more.
"Is this some sort of a test ?"
We continued to walk through the corridor. The only noise came from the creak of the floorboards. The silence was maddening, and before I knew it my thoughts began to fall out of my mouth.
"Did anything I do matter in the end ?"
" " replied my companion.
" All of that fighting. All of that killing. I would gladly go to hell if I knew that I at least made a difference. I should have listened to my master "
"?" said my companion, and I could almost detect a question within it.
"My master, he was a great warrior once, too good in fact. He won all of his battles. Died in bed surrounded by grandchildren. I used to think that it was dishonourable. A great warrior such as he should have died on the battlefield. But dying on the battlefield is overrated. His way was better."
"He once told me that good doesn't always win. Power always wins, and the good can only win when it has power. I only realise now what he meant"
"In times such as these, it isn't good that has power. It's viciousness, betrayal and lies, these are the ways people become powerful. Fighting against it and hoping to win just because you're right.... it isn't enough. I thought it was , but it isn't."
The figure stopped and shook it's head. It was the first real response I had gotten out of it.
"You disagree ? Well what do you know !" I shouted
The figure turned to me. Looking at it's face, I saw to toiling clouds of infinity. It's eyes were stars that had shone over eons. I realised that I was but a speck of dust compared to this being. It knew far more than I could ever conceive
The figure pointed, and I saw that the corridor itself was coming to an end. I could make out a door with light's around it.
"What do you mean? Does good always win?"
The being appeared to sigh, the breath sounding like waves breaking against a thousand rocky shores.
As we edged closer, I could make out the lettering on the door. Despite it apparently being written in yarn, the words sent a strange chill down my spine.
"So this is it " I said, as we paused in front of it. The words simply read two words.
I looked to the door, and looked to the being.
"You first " I said, gesturing to it.
The being turned it's head slowly from side to side.
"So only I can go through ?"
And then, for the first time, the creature said it's first intelligible words to me.
"Choose Your End" it said.
"Choose ? There's only one door here. What's on the other side? Is it heaven, or is it hell ?"
The being pointed at the door, this time making a point of tracing the lettering out with its finger.
"I see, so it's just the end. What kind of a choice is that ?"
I reached down and touched the door handle.
"It probably doesn't matter." I said turning the handle slowly " It's an ending. A finale to my story. I hope it's a good one"
But then, something occurred to me. I let go of the door handle.
"Before I go, I have to know. What did you mean ?"
I grabbed the being's arm before it pointed to the letters again. Veils of shadow snaked around my hand, but I didn't care
"I mean about my master. What did his words mean ?"
The being paused in surprise
" Good only wins when it has power. Those were his words. And don't pretend you can't speak"
The being considered this for a moment. Then it asked a question.
"What gives power to good people?"
I thought about this for a second, and only a second. The answer felt like it had always been on the tip of my tongue, and I was only now realising it
"People do" I responded " People give ideas power because they believe in them. That's what he meant. As long as people still believe in doing good does it have power. As long as people still believe in fighting for what is right, good has power. And good only loses power when people give up on it..."
I paused , realising the situation that had got me here.
"People who will lay down on the battlefield, in the face of the inevitable and let the jackboots of tyranny march over them, because it hurts too much to fight. People like me. It's no wonder evil wins when people like me are always on the front lines"
Maybe this is it. That realisation alone made me realise on thing. No matter what lay beyond the door, it would be hell. Because I knew that I hadn't fulfilled the promise of my life. That would haunt me for eternity.
And then I realised the beings first words to me.
"You said that I should choose my fate, and showed me only one door, as if that's the only choice, but it isn't is it ?"
The being nodded.
I looked back along the corridor for the first time, and saw at the other end the battle still ongoing.
"I guess you know what choice I'm going to make."
I let go of the beings arm, and the shadows fell away from my hand.
I started off towards the battle, and turned to the being.
"I don't mean to be rude, but do you enjoy being enigmatic ?"
The being paused, and then it's head nodded emphatically.
"Just what I thought"
And then I ran. Faster than I've ever run before. I felt the waves of pain returning to me. The noise of battle became louder.
"This is it" I thought " The first day of the rest of my life"
omarsakr points out that whether the door is The End depends on which way you're going through it:
The door shivered and trembled.
On it, the words 'The End' were written in red ribbon. Lightbulbs lit it all up, a headdress of electricity. It was a declaration and a celebration all at once.
The door handle twisted. For a minute, the lights flickered and buzzed.
Finally, the door opened out, and a distinguished elderly gentlemen stepped out. His shoes gleamed blue-black and his fedora was tilted just so, above his pinstripe suit. He shut the door behind him, looked back and snorted at the sign.
'Clever,' Mr. Blue said. 'But we all know it's just the beginning.'
For Drabbler, the door signals the end of a perfect movie moment:
Finally recognizing that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, Mark raced through the rain to scoop Samantha up into his arms, and...
* * *
As Mark carried her over the Honeymoon Suite's threshold, Sam pulled the door closed, revealing the words "The End" embroidered across it.
* * *
"Why," Mark's best bud Finn asked, "would you put something ominous like that on their door?"
Sam's sister Beth shrugged. "Because it's the end of that story. Don't you ever watch romantic comedies?"
"Let me think. No," said Finn. "And what about their married life together?"
"That's what sequels are for."
twinsides_'s door comes with a dialogue:
It came out of nowhere. A door with red writing on it that stated the obvious - "The End". The way it is written is bittersweet, all fancy like the end of a black and white movie.
"So, you going to go through it or not?"
"What's on the otherside?"
"That's not for me to know. That's for you to find out."
The person I am conversing with appeared not long after the door had. He never gave me a name, just appeared on my couch and ask me the question.
"What if I don't want to go through?"
"That's fair. Some people are too scared of what they may find on the otherside."
"I'm not scared… just unsure."
I stared at the door. There are flashing lights all around it beckoning me to open it and I'll admit, I am very tempted.
"So what's stopping you?"
"I'm just unsure."
"Well, would you rather stay here?"
That question struck me deeply. Here. Home. Not just home but our home. For the last three years this was our place, the first place either of us had to call our own. I turned to the person sitting on my couch. For the first time I actually took a look, the door had my attention the rest of the time.
"What's your story?"
"This isn't about me. It's about you and what you want."
"I think you know the answer to that."
I did know the answer. There was nothing left to do in this place. I acheived all I could and now it was time to go to another world and start over. Then again, I could always stay in this one and do it all over again. Would I make all the same choices? Are there even other choices to make or is this all been decided already.
"If it was decided, don't you think you would have made the decision already?"
"Huh? How did you know what I am thinking?"
"Or are you thinking at all?"
"Relax, I'm just messing with your head. You were being all meta and so I decided to run with it."
"How did you know what I was thinking?"
"It's not important. What's important is whether or not you are going through that door."
"Why is it so important?"
"You've reached the finish line."
"How do I know this really is the end?"
"I think you know. You may not except it yet but you know."
My head was beginning to hurt thanks to all the thinking, all the questions that kept forming. I thought about just running through that doorway to end the pain gradually developing in my mind. Then again, what if that door isn't real and I just run into a wall like an idiot.
"Neither of us are getting any younger here. Are you going or not?"
"To where ever that door leads to for the forty-fifth time. I need an answer."
He was getting impatient and honestly, so was I. Do I stay or do I go? Do I stay or … do I go? Before I had another thought I felt my legs moving forward slowly, as though I weren't controlling them. My hand reached for the door knob and I turned it. The door opened inward leaking a bright light. As I walked through I heard the man singing a familar song.
"Every new beginning… comes from some other beginning's end."