O, Death: Part XIII

by Matt P.

“Tell me you can tell me something about the goddamn doors?” Walter asked, looking over to Ryan specifically. In return Ryan scowled, and sighed.

“They’ve been in the city as long as I can remember, so since I was a kid,” Ryan explained. “I know they’re connected to…” he trailed off, sparing a glance to the two nurses who were standing there staring at the door, “Unusual things. You know as much as I do, almost—some of our friends know where most of them go, but I had no idea this one even existed.”

Paul blinked slowly, turning away from the door to join the conversation once again. “You mean there are more of these things in the city? And I’ve never noticed? I was born and raised here too!” He said the last part almost protestingly, offended there were stranger things going on in his hometown then he had even known.

“Border is a weird place,” Ryan offered with a shrug—Siobhan knew he didn’t like discussing the supernatural even with his family, let alone with almost complete strangers. Paolo continued to look at the door intently.

“It almost seems like…if I stare at it long enough I’ll see more,” the man muttered to himself. He reached out hesitantly, tracing a finger along the apparently worn wood. “Why doesn’t it have a handle?”

“What?” Antigone asked, her tone surprised. Paolo shot her a look and raised his eyebrows, as if to indicate the obviousness of his previous question.

“It’s a door. It’s designed to go somewhere…but it’s one way. So where’s it come from, since we’re already so far of the map we might find the compass rose.” Paolo punctuated his response by waving his hand through the spot where a door knob clearly should have been.

“There is one,” Antigone and Siobhan answered simultaneously; even their gesture toward the door was synchronized, to the point where Siobhan and apparently Antigone both saw a knob plain as day. Paul, Paolo, and Walter all turned to look at them intently. The two nurse’s expressions were a mixture of confused and afraid that Siobhan frequently elicited and Antigone desperately tried to avoid, while Walter’s was appraising.

“Ryan, is there a knob in that door?” He asked, in what was one of his more Army-like tones of voices. Apparently it worked fairly well on his friend and former subordinate, because Ryan answered promptly.

“No,” he said with a shake of his head. He looked at Antigone for a moment. “But they could open the one in the basement of the High School too, so the doors may be…specific,” he answered, pausing to very carefully choose a word. Siobhan didn’t think that specific was the first word he would have chosen.

“I didn’t open that one, Annie did—I just. Uh…moral support,” Siobhan answered, weakly at the end as she too chose her words with great specificity to avoid further freaking out the mundane nurses standing nearby. Paul turned to face them squarely, the confusion on his face having given way to annoyance and even anger at their deliberate obfuscations.

“I don’t know what the hell you’re hiding, but this is going on in my hospital again and I have to know,” Paul stated firmly, although there was a tone of desperation behind his words that made the subtext almost pleading. “Spooky doors, knobs that only they can see…to quote, there is some next level shit going on here and I want to know what it is. Or I can’t do anything to save these kids, and it will all happen again!” Tears shone unshod in his eyes as he finished, and he reached up to wipe at them as he stepped back from the door. “I can’t watch it happen again and do nothing.”

Walter looked at the man very seriously for a long moment, no sounds in the hallway besides the low humming of the lights or something electrical in one of the panels. Ryan watched Walter considering Paul, and sighed. “Walter…” Walter turned to his friend, raising an eyebrow in question. “Damn it, dude, you can’t just walk around blabbing this stuff all over the place. This is stuff that people have literally been killed because they knew. Not so much with…our current leadership,” he offered, gesturing to himself and vaguely Siobhan, Antigone, and even their father. “But other people, and previous administrations? Definitely more dangerous to know than not know.”

Paul strode forward angrily, getting right in to Ryan’s personal space. He was taller than Ryan, but there was a sturdiness and strength to the shorter man’s frame and a calm looseness to his shoulders that left Siobhan little doubt who would win if it got physical. “People have died, damn you!” Paul shouted angrily. “A whole school bus worth of children died here in the 80s, and now it’s starting again! How many people dying is worth your secrets?”

No one spoke for a long moment after that, nothing but the humming and the beating of hearts in the small hallway. Ryan returned Paul’s outraged look calmly, his dark eyes like smoked glass—reflecting everything and showing nothing in return. Eventually he shrugged, and looked over to Walter. “They’re not going to like it, but I guess it’s your call, boss. I’ll back you as much as I can, but the more people we tell the harder it is going to be to protect people.”

Walter shrugged. “They’re grown-ups, and we don’t have much of a choice.” He sighed, reaching up to rub the bridge of his nose. “Or have you forgotten that the kids upstairs aren’t that much younger than Antigone and Siobhan?” He asked, not looking over at his daughters. Siobhan saw the stress around his eyes, and knew that had been weighing on him. Paul waited in silence for whatever came next, having said his piece and gotten a bit of his calmness back. Ryan shrugged, looking back to the door.

“Ok, Paul…” Walter offered, clearly trying to come up with some way to ease them in to it, his voice echoing slightly in the hallway.

“Fairies are real and we killed their king last year!” Siobhan piped in helpfully over his shoulder.

“Why is the door humming?” Antigone, quiet until that moment, asked as the dam began to burst and everyone began to speak all at once.