Chapter XX

Through the Door

“Thoughts and wishes flew through his head as he slowly turned the doorknob and stepped through the door.” Richard Tomerstein sighed as he closed the book he was reading.  He combed his fingers through his short, blonde hair as he set the book down on his desk, the golden embossed cover reflecting the title: Key to the Door.Like most books of its genre, Key to the Door was a thrilling and enthralling read; unfortunately, it had no ending.  Even stranger still, was the fact that this book didn’t have a sequel.  Or, at least a sequel that was readily available to the public.  Despite the enormously popular original, the sequel, Through the Door, only had two published copies.

Leaning back in his chair, Richard let his feet slide off the top of his desk and onto the floor.  He got out of his chair, did a quick stretch and yawned as he began to walk towards the nearest elevator.  It was late and almost no one was left in the New York Public Library as Richard made his way through the aisles of books.  As the head librarian, it was one of his responsibilities to lock up at the end of the night.  Arriving back at his desk on the main floor, Richard picked up his first edition copy of Key to the Door and sauntered towards his car.  As he got his keys out, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched.  A quick look over each shoulder assured him of his solitude as he got in and drove home.

At his apartment, the librarian breathed in deeply as he sipped his tea and proceeded to open his mail.  He was surprised to see a form letter from the United States Postal Service.  With piqued interest, he opened it and read:

To whom it may concern:

The United States Postal Service has recently had the worst disaster in its history.  As you may already know, a train carrying mail from Los Angeles to Philadelphia was derailed, causing most of the mail on board to be badly damaged.  As a courtesy measure, we have shipped the damaged mail to Philadelphia, where it shall remain for one month.  If any mail is not reclaimed by the end of September, it shall be discarded permanently.  Fortunately, there were a number of pieces of mail that were not as heavily damaged as the majority was, but are still undeliverable.  If you were expecting an important piece of mail soon, it could be in your best interest to drop by the Philadelphia post office (main branch).  We apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused you, and assure you that the proper steps are being taken to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

Sincerely,
Franklin B. Freepistle

Richard finished reading and let the letter fall to his lap.  Eight weeks earlier, he had been able to obtain one of the only known copies of Through the Door by winning the bidding for it on eBay.com.  Due to its rarity, the first edition book put him back a bit, monetarily speaking, but it was well worth it.  Each day, he checked the mail to see if it had come in.  This development with the Postal Service made Richard wonder if his book had been on that train.

It was still early in the evening when Richard called his co-worker.  “Hi Debra, it’s Richard.”
“Hi Rich, how are you doing?”
“I need you to cover for me tomorrow.”
“Cover for you?”  A tinge of disappointment framed the inquiry, “This is the third time this month you’ve asked me to cover for you.”
“Yeah, there’s something that I have to look for tomorrow, and it’s out of town.  I’d greatly appreciate it if you could do this for me.”
“Sure, I guess I can do that.”
“Thanks a ton. I owe you one, Deb.”
“Yes, yes you do.  In fact, a candle-lit dinner would meet the bill.”
Shocked and confused, Richard paused for a second and continued, “All right, I suppose I can manage that.  But I thought that light foods were out of style?”
“Huh?  I don’t follow.”
“You know, dinner by candle ‘light’?”
A forced laugh came from the receiver, “Ha ha, very funny, Richard.  I’ll see you in two days.”  With that dry remark, Debra hung up.

***

The alarm clock in his bedroom sounded and caused Richard to awake with a start.  Flinging the book on his lap onto the floor, he got up and ran into his bedroom to turn off the alarm.  He rarely got any sleep in his bedroom because he loved to stay up late, reading in his easy-chair.  Coming out of the bathroom with a toothbrush in his mouth, the librarian picked up his first edition of Threshold Horizon from the floor and put it on the end table next to his favorite chair.

Richard got into his car and tossed a bottle of water and a sandwich onto the passenger seat.  He buckled up and put in a CD of Bach’s Toccata & Fugue as he started off towards Philadelphia.  The trip took a little more than two hours, and after asking for some directions at a gas station, he arrived at the main branch of the Philadelphia post office.

It was unusually empty inside as Richard approached the lone teller. “Excuse me, but could you tell me where I might find the damaged mail from that train wreck?” The teller kept examining the magazine in front of him.  He flipped a page as he pointed, “Down the hall, second door on your right, then the third door on your left.” “Thanks,” Richard said as he turned and casually walked down the hallway.

Once again, Richard couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched, and not just by the security cameras on the ceiling.  The rhythmic sound of his shoes on the tile floor stopped as he found the second door on his right.  Opening the door, he found himself in a narrow hallway.  As the door slammed behind him, Richard had a flash of claustrophobia.  He shook it off and made his way down the hall to the third door on his left.  This door had a pane of smoked glass in it which read “DEAD MAIL.”  Due to the glass, it was obvious that there was no one in this room, because the lights were off.

Hesitantly turning the doorknob, Richard found that the door was unlocked.  He opened the door and went inside.  While he felt for a light switch, he shouted, “Hello?  Is anyone here?”  He found the switch and turned the lights on.  As the fluorescent bulbs flickered to life, the librarian could now see that he had his work cut out for him.  The room was filled with metal shelves about chest-high that were filled with open containers containing mail that could not be delivered.  Amongst the letters to Santa Claus, the unlabeled packages, the suspicious boxes and the damaged parcels was his book.

Luckily, the rows of shelves were ordered, so it just took a quick walk-through to find the rows that were designated for the train wreck.  The odds were on Richard’s side as he began to search through the bins.  His book was not a letter, which meant that it would be bigger than most of the mail, and much easier to spot.  Even so, it took looking through two and a half rows of burnt and torn mail to find his book.

Surprisingly, the book had been wrapped well and there was very little damage to it.  The majority of the damage was to the front of the package, where the return and mailing addresses were mostly scraped off.  Having found his treasure, Richard turned off the lights and left the postage graveyard.  Making his way back out of the post office was easy enough, but there were still very few people using it.

Getting back in his car, Richard began the two hour drive home to New York with his prize.  He decided to leave what was left of the packaging on the book until he arrived home, so as to prevent the temptation to read it while he drove.  Still, he couldn’t stop smiling as he drove down the highway, listening to the end of Beethoven’s 9th Sypmhony.

Back at his apartment, Richard tore into the packaging like a kid at Christmas.  Beneath the paper was a beautifully leather-bound book whose golden embossed title contrasted nicely with the red of the cover.  The librarian closed his eyes as he flipped through the book and inhaled deeply, taking in the intoxicating smell of ink on paper.  Settling into his easy-chair, he began to read Through the Door.  “On the other side of the door was an enormous room.  As the door closed behind him with a loud clang, the light that was flowing into the cavernous room was cut off.”  Unfortunately, Richard was exhausted and fell asleep after only reading the first few sentences.

Once again, the bedroom alarm clock jolted Richard out of his slumber.  Realizing that he had fallen asleep while reading his new acquisition, he swore lightly under his breath.  Picking up the book from the floor, he noticed that the back cover was starting to peel off.  It seems that this book has seen better days.  I’d better fix that before it gets any worse,” he thought as he placed it in his bag and headed off to work.

While at work, Richard sat with his feet up on his desk, concentrating intently on his book.  People who came to him for help would often have to repeat themselves two or three times in order to get any assistance.  It wasn’t until around lunch time that he actually took a break from reading it.  But it wasn’t the allure of a meal that pulled him out of his book; it was the sound of a familiar voice.
“So, did you have fun while you were out of town yesterday?”
Richard’s eyes slowly made their way up his legs to the woman standing at his raised feet.  “Well, it wasn’t necessarily fun, but I did find what I was looking for.”
“I sure hope that was the case, Richard.  I got to tell you, your job is harder than it looks!”
With a smirk and a twinkle in his green eyes, he replied, “Now Debra, it’s all about where you look, not how hard you look.”
“Yeah . . . right,” Debra said as she rolled her eyes.  “So, when are you going to pay your debt to me?”
“I’ve got reservations for tonight.  But I’ll go anyway.  Is 8:00 all right?”  The smile grew on Richard’s face yet again.
“That sounds great,” the red haired woman said, not catching the clever wordplay.  Leaning over the main desk, Debra tried to read the open book on Richard’s lap.  “What book is that?  It looks beautiful.”
Placing a bookmark on the open pages, he closed the book to reveal the gilded title.  Her eyes widened at the sight of the name.  “Through the Door!?  That’s the rarest book in existence!  How did you get it?”
“Let’s just say that I really found what I was looking for yesterday.”
“That’s amazing!  So, how is it?”

Richard pulled his feet off the desk so he could lean in close and whisper, “To tell you the truth, this book is really weird.  The first few pages have writing on them, but the rest of them are all blank.  I’ve been reading what’s here and I can’t seem to shake the sense of déjà vu.  It’s almost as if what’s written is describing something I’ve done before, except that I haven’t done what it describes.  It’s even set in another world, so I know I haven’t been there.”
Debra tousled his hair as she teased, “It’s just a book, silly.  Don’t take it so seriously.”
As she left, Richard leaned back in his chair and thought to himself, “That’s right.  It’s only a book; a book with a lot of blank pages.  His stomach gave a hungry growl as he decided to take a break and go find something to eat.

After lunch, the day continued to speed by as Richard finished reading what was written in Through the Door a few more times, trying to figure out why there were blank pages.  Once again, it was time to lock up and go home.  Unfortunately, the nagging feeling of déjà vu troubled him as he drove home under the light of the full moon.  Finally at his apartment, Richard began to unload his bag.  As he pulled out his book, the zipper caught on the already peeling back cover.  He didn’t realize that this had happened until it was too late and the back cover lay on his bag, separated from the book that originally bore it.

Inside his quiet apartment, Richard could distinctly hear a light metallic object fall to his hardwood floor.  He glanced nervously around the dim room, looking for any intruders who would have made the noise.  Satisfied with his investigation, he returned to the back cover of his book.  Rubbing it gingerly between his fingers, he let out a defeated sigh.  Picking up the book, he turned it over to investigate the resultant damage.

The sight of the raw back of his book puzzled him.  In the center of the back cover of Through the Door was a narrow, rectangular space that was cut out of the binding.  Richard wondered why there would be a hole there when it was sandwiched between the paper and leather of the back cover.  Emerging from behind a cloud, the full moon shone into the dimly lit room, causing something at his feet to catch his eye.  Bending down to pick it up, Richard saw that it was a key of some sort.  At least, it looked like a key, but unlike any he had seen before.  The key was too big to be a house key, too small to be a skeleton key, and it had a strange pattern for the teeth.

A curiosity such as this doesn’t just appear on your floor for no reason, and Richard was determined to find some answers.  Fortunately, the answers were still in his hand.  The librarian placed the key in the hole that was cut in the back of his book.  It was a perfect fit.  As the pieces of the puzzle clicked into place, Richard’s eyes grew wide with shock as he realized what this key went to.  This was the Key to the Door.  

In the book, Key to the Door, there existed a key that would open a very special door.  This door was said to lead to a world that even the most descriptive adjectives could not begin to explain.  The plot of Key to the Door revolved around a man who had found the key, and his resulting journey to find the door.  At the very end of the book, he found the door and stepped through it.  Unfortunately, that point was where it ended.  In the sequel, Through the Door, the few pages of text described a large and dark room in another world.

Richard wouldn’t be truly convinced that this was the Key to the Door until he used it, so he placed the key and book on the end table as he proceeded to get ready for his dinner arrangements.  At the restaurant, Richard in his suit and tie sat across from Debra in her stunning soft green dress, which worked well with her red hair.  Bathed in the glow of candles, Debra made numerous inquiries about his recently acquired book.  He tried his best to answer her questions without giving away too much of what he now knew.  Debra finished her dessert and said, “I’d love to borrow that book, if you wouldn’t mind lending it to me.”
“To tell you the truth, Deb, it’s kind of damaged right now.  I’d want to get it fixed up before I start lending it out.  And it is only a few pages long.”
“I respect that, Rich.  But I also want to read it for myself.  How about if I come over to your place to read it?  That way it won’t get damaged in transit.”
“I don’t know . . .“ he replied hesitantly.
With a sly grin, she said, “You know, Rich, you still never repaid me for the last time I covered for you.”
Richard could never resist that look.  “OK, fine.  In a couple of days you can come over and read it.”
“Why a couple of days?”
“I have another thing that I have to check up on, and I won’t be home.”
“Oh, all right.  I guess I can wait a few days,” her voice dripping with sarcasm.

The waiter approached the table and set the check down.  Richard glanced at it and knew that this book was costing him more and more each day.  “Now, wait a minute!  This wasn’t that expensive on the menu.”
“Yes, sir, but at this restaurant we charge based on luminosity of the atmosphere.  The brighter the setting, the less expensive the food costs, and vice versa.  The price on the menu is set for the main dining area.  Candle-lit dinners are darker; and thus, will cost more.”
Richard grumbled something as he put down a credit card and waited for the waiter to return with his receipt.

Back at home, he set about packing up some supplies for the weekend.  Along with some food, some water, weather gear, and a survival kit, Richard packed Key to the Door and Through the Door into a day pack.  The mystique that led to the popularity of Key to the Door was that the door that the key opened was in our world.  Luckily for Richard, the main character of the book did most of the work by locating the door.  Luck was definitely on his side because, as it so happens, the door is located on a sub basement level of the Empire State Building, a whopping 20 blocks from Richard’s apartment.  Lying down on his bed, he fell asleep thinking of the adventure that awaited him.

***

As usual, Richard’s alarm clock sounded, but this time he was ready for it.  Having awakened a few minutes before his alarm, he was able to quickly shut it off before it became too annoying.  He checked his gear one last time while eating a breakfast of oatmeal.  Satisfied that he was well prepared, he locked his apartment and began the trek to the Empire State Building.

A stunning 30 minutes later, Richard arrived at the immense skyscraper.  Sauntering around the lobby, he tried to look inconspicuous as he searched for a maintenance site, or a bathroom cleaning, or some sort of facility personnel that he could swipe a key card from.  Eventually, he found an abandoned tool box next to an elevator that had an “OUT OF SERVICE” sign hanging on it.  Taking the key card from the tool box, the librarian made his way to the stairs.

Arriving at the fourth sub basement door, he used his illegitimate key card to escape from the stairwell into the confines of another narrow hallway. He followed the hallway to its eventual dead end.  At least, it was a dead end for most people.  A concerned look came across Richard’s face as he saw that the door at the end of the hallway had no keyhole.

Quickly removing his pack, the librarian pulled out Key to the Door and skimmed through the book to make sure he was at the correct door.  “4th sub-basement, at the end of the hall; this should be it.  I knew it couldn’t be this easy.”  As Richard sat on the cold concrete floor, he let out a frustrated sigh and began to think about the situation.  A thought entered his mind, “If there’s no keyhole, then there’s probably no lock.”  Standing up, he moved towards the door and began to turn the doorknob.

Feeling no resistance, he continued to turn the doorknob and pull open the door.  Behind the door, the cinderblocks of the wall continued through the door frame, almost as if there were no door at all.  This meant that the door was no more than a façade on the wall.  Slamming the door closed again, Richard spun around and combed his fingers through his hair in a desperate means to regain control of his frustration.  Having focused on the door for about fifteen minutes, he let his mind and his eyes wander as he wondered if he was just on a wild goose chase.

Glancing back and forth down the narrow hallway, Richard contemplated giving up and going home.  At this point, he noticed that down either side of the hallway, the conduit lines ran along the ceiling.  There were no manual access panels in the walls, except for a box that was one foot left of the middle of the door at which Richard now stood.  This box had no conduit lines going into it, but it had some lines coming out of it.  On the side of the box was a slot in which a key could be used.

Richard had run out of ideas concerning the door, so he took the key that he found in Through the Door and slid it into the key slot on the box.  Turning the key, he could hear a latch inside the box release and the front of the box slowly rose to reveal an ordinary wall switch in the down position.  Conduit lines ran from the switch, through the box and into the wall.  The librarian looked up at the lights that ran the length of the hallway as he flipped the switch upward.  Nothing happened.  Flipping the switch back and forth a few more times, Richard determined that it didn’t do anything.

Leaning his back against the door, he sighed deeply as he sat back down on the cold floor.  The door against his back felt as cool as the floor on which he sat.  Richard began to relax as the warmth from the door increased, soothing his frustration.  It wasn’t until the door got too hot to stand that he knew that something was wrong.  He shot up from the floor and carefully put the back of his hand against the door.  For some reason, a temperature influx was causing the door to become hot.  Not being able to understand what was happening; Richard stood at the door and felt the warmth emanating from it.

Another thought popped into the librarian’s head as he slowly turned his head to look at the wall switch in the box.  When he first opened the box, the switch was down.  Now it was up.  All at once, the pieces fell into place as Richard realized what was happening.  His key was the Key to the Door, and the door in front of him was the portal to the other world.  The reason that the door was warm was due to the higher temperature of the world on the other side.

Richard gathered up his pack and stood in front of the door one last time.  Thoughts and wishes flew through his head as he slowly turned the doorknob and stepped through the door.  On the other side of the door was an enormous room.  As the door closed behind him with a loud clang, the light that was flowing into the cavernous room was cut off.  The sudden decrease in visibility caused the librarian to blink his eyes until, at last, his vision adjusted to the minimal light.

Looking around the room, Richard saw that the space seemed to resemble a cathedral from the Gothic era of architecture.  The expanse was softly lit by small windows in the clerestory, illuminating the vacancy of the stone room.  Very quickly, he realized that he was not alone.  A voice came from the far end of the room and echoed in the darkness, “You’re late, Mr. Tomerstein.”  Richard began to move towards the origin of the voice with caution.  As his steps rhythmically echoed in the room, he responded, “I didn’t realize that I had to be here.”  Approaching the other end of the vast room, he could just start to make out the shape of a man in a white trench coat.  The man had his back turned to Richard as the distance between them dwindled.

“Do I know you?” asked the confused librarian.  The mysterious man turned around at the librarian’s inquiry.  Underneath the white trench coat, the stranger wore a completely black ensemble and despite the fact that the room was poorly lit, he wore a pair of sunglasses.  “You may have heard of me.  I go by many different names, the main one being Captain Random.”  The name sounded somewhat familiar to Richard, but it didn’t reassure him.
“How did you get here?”
“The same way you did.”  From inside the trench coat, Captain Random pulled out the second copy of Through the Door.  “Although, I have been here much longer than you have.”
“All right; then, what is this place?”
“This is the fifth dimension.”

Richard seemed skeptical at this new development.  Captain Random turned his back to the librarian as he walked to the nearest wall and opened a large wooden door.  He gestured for Richard to come and take a look outside.  Shielding his eyes with his forearm, he stepped out of the dark room and into the brightness of the outdoors.  What he saw amazed him.  Outside this door was a huge complex that seemed to span off into infinity.  In the light of the deep blue sky, he could see that there were three terraced levels on which large wooden doors just like the one that he came out of were set at regular intervals.  The door that he was at was on the top level of a semi-circular end that connected the two parallel sides.  Just like the inside of the room, the entire scene had the feel of Gothic architecture.

Richard turned to Captain Random and said, “You said this was the fifth dimension?  Could you please explain this?” “I would love to.  You see; most people think that we normally live in four dimensions.  The truth is that we only live in three and a half.  In order for a dimension to be a full dimension, we need to be able to move forwards and backwards in it.  We cannot move backwards in time, so we therefore only live in three and a half dimensions.”
“That’s great, but that doesn’t answer my question.”
“All in due time, Mr. Tomerstein.  The trouble with living within the confines of four dimensions is that we aren’t using the other seven dimensions that are in existence.  Quite frankly, this is wasteful.  Four of these dimensions are linking dimensions and the last three are used to hold the fabric of the universe together.  The fifth dimension links the forward and backward of the first dimension.  Sixth dimension links second dimension.  Seventh links third and eighth links fourth.  Space is held together by the ninth dimension and time is held together by the tenth.  Finally, the eleventh dimension holds the linking dimensions together.”

With a confused look on his face, Richard asked, “So, what does this mean?”
“This means that we can use more than the three and a half dimensions that we currently use.  We can fully utilize time travel because the eighth dimension allows us to link forward time with backward time.  The same is true for the other dimensions.  Each of these doors that you see in front of you leads to a point in the first dimension.  On your left are points that are in the backwards direction and on your right are points that are in the forward direction.  The same setup exists in dimensions six through eight.”  Captain Random could sense that this well read librarian still wasn’t grasping the idea of the linking dimensions.  “Think of it this way:  the seventh dimension links the forward and backward aspects of the third dimension, which is height.  Therefore, the seventh dimension kind of acts like an elevator:  you enter the elevator at an initial height, and you leave the elevator at a height that is either greater or less than the initial height where you started.”

The immensity of this discovery finally hit Richard.  With his eyes wide, he realized that this was the greatest scientific marvel that man had ever seen.  “So this means that man can finally take advantage of time and space travel!  And we can . . .” The strange man held up his left index finger to cut Richard off.
“Actually, no.  The logistics of these four linking dimensions still hasn’t been figured out yet.  First off, these dimensions can only link with the help of doors, like the one you found in the Empire State Building.  There also exists the danger of linking to a point in time where the earth is unlivable, or to a point in space that happens to be occupied by molten lava.  Also, once you find a portal to a linking dimension, that portal cannot be used again by the same person.  Until we can find a way of knowing what is behind each door, it is better that humanity not be aware of the linking dimensions.”
“Wait a minute!  That means that I can’t go back the way I came, right?”  A look of horror came over Richard’s face as he realized that he’d never be able to see the people he had grown to know.  And the person he had grown to love.

Captain Random placed a reassuring hand on Richard’s shoulder as he said, “Luckily for you, I’ve been through enough of these doors and enough of these linking dimensions to know where some of them lead.  Also, you are in the fifth dimension, which means that you can only end up forward or backward in the first dimension.  Come on, I’ll guide you home.”  He started walking along the top terrace to a door that was six doors down on the right side as Richard followed.

Even though the door was six doors down, the doors were enormous and the temperature was unusually high, so Richard was out of breath and drenched with sweat by the time they reached their destination.  The two men opened the large wooden door to find yet another cavernous room.  At the other end of the room was a metal door not unlike the one Richard had come through to reach the fifth dimension.  Captain Random turned to Richard Tomerstein as he said his goodbye, “Just be thankful that you didn’t end up in the eighth dimension.  You might see me again, you might not.  Just know that wherever you end up is a result of your actions, and no linking dimension can provide the solution.  I’m going to stay here, providing guidance to those who seek it.”  With a hand on the doorknob, Captain Random opened the door.  His white trench coat began to glow in the light from the open door.

“Thank you for your explanation; it was a pleasure getting to meet you.”  Richard extended his hand and Captain Random accepted it in a parting handshake.  The librarian stepped through the door and found himself in the hallway across from his apartment.  Looking back at the open door, he saw Captain Random smile and close the door to the fifth dimension.  Just before the door closed, Richard heard the guide in the white trench coat say, “Tell Debra Tomerstein that I said hello.”  A loud clang followed as the door was shut and the portal was lost.

Back in his apartment, Richard tossed his pack on the floor as he collapsed on his bed.  He thought back and reflected on the events that recently transpired.  He sat up in bed as he opened up Through the Door again and flipped through it.  To his surprise, most of the blank pages were filled in with his adventure in the fifth dimension.  Landing on the last page, he read the last sentence; it was what Captain Random said just before the door closed.  A smile crossed his lips as he slowly shook his head and proceeded to get his phone.  “Hello, Miss Debra Bellbrook.  It’s Richard Tomerstein.  You wouldn’t happen to be interested in going out to dinner on Sunday?  There’s something that I’d like to question you about.”

Note: Just like Chapter XIII, this chapter was the result of a final for a humanities course I took in college. In fact, this was the same course (Creative Fiction Writing) that gave me Chapter VI. This was the chapter that I could explain a lot of the strangeness of the previous 19 chapters. Even though the writing style is still a little rough (as compared to the most recent Chapter XIII), I think the plot development is certainly there. At the time that I wrote this chapter, I had gotten the main character through the door, but I had no way to get him home. Luckily, I think the solution I arrived at was satisfactory. I also found that the story tended to have a mind of its own, as the minor character of Debra ended up hijacking the sub-plot, which was not my intention when I originally sat down to write the story.

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