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At the Sheltering Doors

The doors, they always scrambled for the doors first.

By Kevin RollyPublished 22 days ago Updated 21 days ago 6 min read
Top Story - May 2024
"Night Terror" - Image by author

The doors, they always scrambled for the doors first.

When they arrive and always by night it was a race to desperately bar the creatures entry to the house in the slow crawl of numb feet that the dream would impose upon him. He never seemed fast enough and the creatures uninhibited by the same constraints always made the doors first. The houses in his dream-scapes vary night to night - Some are mansions, others shacks and some are distorted contortions of his childhood home which burned down when he was ten. But the doors are always the same – frail, loose hinged and never could be fully shut. The creatures too vary – twisted and corrupted forms of animals and people familiar to him: family dogs preternaturally swollen to twice their size with rotting coats of mange and slicked damp with dark liquids of decay. The people too were bloated vestiges of ones vaguely familiar to him but whose names escape him. Their eyes gorged wide with dark blood which streaked their mottled faces in crusted trails like lost rivers which hung from their chins swinging in ropy columns beneath paling yellowed teeth. To let them break through would mean death. This he knew with grave certainty. At the door was desperation and panic as their stench emanated forth, sickly and pungent like vomit and mold and ending in a gruesome exhalation like cancer, the stench sticky and clinging invading his nostrils and lungs never to be expunged. Then in the sudden waking he never knew if he repelled them or not.

He bolted upright on his mattress, the sheets in a sweaty tangle of chaos. In the liminal space of waking he could still smell their stench and shadows like black flames swam in his periphery. It was 5:32am and this had been going on for five nights. He hadn’t bathed in a week and was still in the same clothes. To his left were two plastic jugs of darkening urine for he didn’t have the ambition to simply walk down the hall to the bathroom. To his right among lost clothes rested a small Tupperware container with strong comforting latches. His father's ashes. It had been a year. The rest he left for his mother, a half country away.

The brutal anxiety of it all. It’s acute onset. He had always been a hero in his dreams. Dreams of flying over sparkling cities and crystal clear waters in which he swam and drank with friends, heralded as the center of the celebrations. Loved, safe and admired. He ceased to have these dreams for a very long time. Not since the day he watched his father on the hospice bed slowly drain of everything he was. It was not like the movies where the dying have folded hands and a beatific glow as if sleeping in the borderlands of peace and meeting their ancestors. No, impending death is a face frozen in a silent gaping howl, the sliver whites of eyes rolled back in heads after you place the last drops of Moraphine under their tongue because the night nurse says they are terrified of dying and it would come by morning.

His father and he fought before then end, the heartbreaking expressions of dementia to which he didn’t know how to navigate. His father’s words in that time were hateful as his words were in return. How dare his father yell at him when he had quit his job to take care of him? A job that was quickly filled in his absence. Didn’t his father understand the sacrifice he was making? Then all his words slowly ceased. The post-verbal stage of ones about to leave leaving only a sons apologies at death beds hoping his father would hear. He was told that the dying could hear, but could they comprehend? He would never know for no reactions came, not even the squeezing back of hands he heard often came in the final days.

The guilt. A year on and the bloody guilt which invaded his thoughts. Him pissing now in bottles, no job and the winnowing of himself in an eroding defeat of his own making. Creatures pursuing him in the night.

“I’m worried about you,” his mother said over the phone.

“I’m worried about me too.” He never burdened her with his dreams. She already had enough concerns for him as it was. She knew of that last fight with his father. She had heard it across the house and was angry with him for a long time. Saying that his father couldn’t help it because his mind was slipping and he didn’t need to be so cruel. She was right but he couldn’t bear to hear it again but he called her anyways.

“Your father loved you, Jacob. Even after that night. He knew he had a son who was proud of him and I know you told him that before the end. I know he heard you. I even heard you for God’s sakes.”

“I’m not sure, Mom. I tried. I did. He didn’t even squeeze my hand. That’s all I would have needed to know, that he heard, y’know? That he didn’t hate me.”

“Jacob...listen to me. Do you think one fight would erase the life you had together? Get over yourself. You don’t have that kind of power. Your father wasn’t stupid. He heard you. Take a breath, you overthink everything. And start applying for jobs, you’re driving me crazy.”

That wasn’t what he expected but he knew she was probably right. His ruminations and yes, his over thinking like pressing on a sore tooth just to feel the pain. He had done this his entire life. All of this was self imposed in some defeatist narrative he kept brooding over.

But he was still terrified of the night. The bed of war he lay down in with crippling anxiety in anticipation of the creatures return. And return they did but strangely hung in the distance now, silhouettes like pagan trees howling a nothingness into the indifferent wind. The dreams of normal people, at least as he imagined them, returned. Again there were crystal waters in great pools, gatherings of friends in festive mansions drinking cocktails and even the cliché anxiety dreams where he was in class without pants. But even those he looked at with humor, a slow redemption of his nights.

Then on night one more creature arrived.

He was in castle high in the mountains, barren of any furniture or decoration and shockingly cold. It came through the door with ease, a vampire looking creature with an egg shaped head and hands folded across its chest, palms together and fingers pointing upwards. It sailed across the floor towards him as if carried by and unfelt wind and upon finding him, cocked his head unnaturally to the side, placed his angled fingers against his chest. A deathly numbing cold emanated from its hands through Jacob’s body in a fatal energetic flow arresting his breathing and Jacob knew he soon would be dead. The creatures would finally have won.

Then suddenly in a burst of defiance he ripped the vampire’s heart from its chest as the shocked creature wide-eyed crumbled into ash, its remains swirled upwards in a coil of gray and was sucked back out the door.

And Jacob slept like a baby.

It was a Tuesday and Jacob was up with his morning coffee and cigarette, having dumped the jugs of urine the day before and placing his father’s ashes on a shelf. He gave them a warm touch. “Hey, Dad.” The phone rang in the afternoon. It was an old friend from high school in town for a conference and asked if he could come by. It had been twenty years. Of course he could come by. The knock came at the door in the late evening and Jacob flung the door wide. My how we’ve aged Jacob thought but still so familiar. His friend bore a six-pack of beer and chuckled. “Good to see you, Jacob. It’s been awhile.” He entered, the door shutting behind him and the night was filled with the laughter of ones bonded by memory. It was a good night.


About the Creator

Kevin Rolly

Artist working in Los Angeles who creates images from photos, oil paint and gunpowder.

He is writing a novel about the suicide of his brother.


FB: https://www.facebook.com/Kevissimo/

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (10)

  • Novel Allen17 days ago

    Terror was real, guilt is a rotten master, sucking your soul dry. One must be the captain of that ship and let overthinking die a harsh death. Put it all behind you and forge ahead no matter what, great work. Congrats.

  • Fantastic writing.

  • Congrats on your great job!

  • shanmuga priya21 days ago

    Congratulations 🎉.

  • Carol Townend21 days ago

    I love horror like this. Well done on top-story, and I can't wait to read more horror from you.

  • Margaret Brennan21 days ago

    Congratulations on TS. This is amazing and so detailed. GREAT writing.

  • JBaz21 days ago

    Well written, dialogue and story line. This topic hits home with me and you did a wonderful job. Congratulations

  • angela hepworth21 days ago

    Hard-hitting and powerful work, Kevin. Amazing piece.

  • D.K. Shepard21 days ago

    The opening lines a detail about the weak hinged doors set the stage so well! Compelling dreamscape, character, and conflict!

  • Cathy holmes21 days ago

    This is great, Kevin. As someone familiar with dealing with a dementia patient, and not always reacting in the best way, this really hits home. Congrats on the TS.

Kevin RollyWritten by Kevin Rolly

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