The hallway floor was made of smooth concrete beneath my feet leading up to two large wooden doors at the end of the hallway. The doors were sculpted with such detail that Catlin could not make out all the tiny designs from where she was standing. However, Catlin could see the flecks of gold paint, the swirls of green, and the tiny dots of flowers brought to life by a knife and a brush.
Catlin stepped forward and the click of my heel echoed throughout the hall. Small noises that reminded her of cats being unhappily awakened met her ears. However, the hall appeared to be empty. Yet, she waited until the echoes of displeasure had faded before she dared to step forward. As Catlin began to walk down the hallway, she noticed there were three small rooms on the right side of the hallway.
The first room Catlin passed had a glass door and so, as she walked by and looked inside, she saw a man. His hair was black and clean and he had large dark eyes that appeared to be one dark iris. He stood before the door surrounded by white walls on all sides. The man’s hands were pressed against the glass door as if he had been trying to open it, but had given up. He wore a black uniform that I did not recognize and angry, weary eyes.
Catlin looked away when their eyes met, but she could still feel his eyes rake over her as she passed. Yet despite her discomfort, she looked back at the man. He looked back calmly with those intense eyes as if he was trying to make me understand something. However, the moment passed and Catlin turned away and continued down the hallway. As she continued down the hallway, Catlin head a soft scratching on the door that she had not been able to hear before. It sounded like a nail had been mistaken for a paintbrush and was now being used by a blind artist to create a painting made entirely out of tiny spots on an unforgiving canvas.
The second room had a metal door with a large glass window at the top. Catlin edged closer and looked inside the window. She stopped walking. Inside Catlin saw a man in blue pajamas rolled up against the back wall surrounded on both sides with similar white walls. His thin knees were pressed into his chest as he lay on his side with his eyes closed. He had messy red hair growing from his head and his face that he had not bothered to groom. If Catlin could not see the distinctive rise and fall of his chest and the trembling in his knees she would have thought the man was dead.
Catlin didn’t know how long she stayed there looking at the man on the floor. He did not look up at her or even seem to see her looking back. After a moment, Catlin continued down the hallway towards that faint sound.
The third room also had a metal door, but the large window at the top had been closed from the outside.
“Screech… screech… screech…”
Catlin walked into this closed room and up to the large wooden doors at the end. At last, she could make out the finer details. Only now, Catlin realized what she thought had been flowers were actually stars systems and milky ways adorn with asteroid belts and planets that ate away at the blackness of space. Each person on each of the planets looked like ants, but on close inspection, Catlin realized that each person had been given a face and clothing with the most delicate brush strokes.
The sound ended completely and Catlin looked back at the last door. The silence that filled the air unnerved me. However, she turned back to the beautiful wooden doors and put her hand on the golden door handle. It looked like a tiny gold hand in her large fleshly fingers.
Catlin looked back at the metal door that was coated with rust. In the silence, she wondered what was inside and let go of the golden door handle. She walked over to the tiny metal window and grasped the rusty window’s handle and began to pull the door open.
The window’s iron curtain would not open. Catlin pulled and pulled on it, but rust and water had permanently fused it shut. She made a fist and tried to beat the window open, but the iron would not bend for me. With a frustrated breath, Catlin stepped away from the door and kicked it. The banging echoed throughout the hall away as she signed in defeat.
Catlin was not sure why she did it, perhaps she just hate losing. Yet, she grabbed the rusty metal door handle and turned it. The door opened slightly.
Catlin nearly jumped in surprise. Her hands wrapped around the door handle like a vice. She slowly opened the door a crack and then she heard it.
Soft breathing was coming from inside the small room. There was someone behind the rusty door. Catlin could smell a vile smell inside and she could hear the breathing quicken as the door creaked open.
Suddenly, Catlin froze. She looked down at her hand and saw her knuckles were white and trembling. She could not explain the fear that bubbled up inside of her, but suddenly, she could no longer bear to find out what was in the room. All she knew was that smell from inside the room was so very familiar and that it should not be here.
Catlin closed the door and leaned on it with her hand still on the doorknob. It was as if she was afraid that the one inside would force the door open and confront her. Tears raced down her eyes and I told herself that she was being silly. Catlin did not know the facts; her head was getting carried away with ideas that were too horrible to be true.
Catlin turned to face those lovely wooden doors and she reached out to touch the painted stars. As she walked forward, her palm met through wooden galaxies and she looked down at the golden door handle beneath it.
Her hand gripped the golden handle and Catlin smoothly turned it. The wooden door on the left opened without a sound and opened up for her like a flower blooming in the spring. She walked inside.
Return next week for the follow up story “In the Lobby”
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