“Gaps” Dark, Speculative Fiction by Ethan Maiden

For the longest time I have contemplated the reality we find ourselves in.

A peculiar notion of course, that’s how my mind works, watching and observing this world as it continues to move forward at rapid pacing.

Throughout days and nights, I find myself glaring up at the stars, dumfounded by the infinite abyss that we shall never be able to fully explore or even begin to comprehend, it’s both exciting and the terrifying in equal measure.

My mother always said: ‘Katherine, you’re so caught up in tomorrow that you’re not living today.’

I guess mother was right. I’d never married or had any kids of my own. Instead I’d ploughed myself into an existence of solitude. I’d never have to be hurt by a doomed relationship, never have to worry about anyone else; I’d not have to live by anyone else’s timetable.

I was free to do what I wanted.

‘But one day all that we will recall are those memories we hang onto for dear life.’

Another one of mother’s thoughtful lines, only this one was near the end of her time. The illness consuming her mind had now become too powerful to fight, a monster of monumental evil that cannot be seen. Its purpose was to destroy a once gleeful soul.

Heartbreakingly, mother died not remembering my name or face.

As I sat there watching the last intakes of breath pass from her withered mouth, I understood that none of the hurtful things she said or did towards the end was her fault, it was just a disease that prayed on the old; prayed on the weak. 

It is to that understanding that brings me to the age-old conundrum – what happens when we leave this consciousness, and what lies beyond?

It’s this question that is ingrained in our primitive nature. We search for answers in this amazing existence of ours. Unfortunately we shall never know the answer until our time is up. 

And then to the point of processing reality and those things that fall outside what we perceive as normal.

And the reasoning behind me debating such reality is because of what happened on the Monday of last week.

As any other day, I’d woken to the familiar sight of the sun peeking through my half-drawn curtains. As the smell of the sea ventured its salty fragrance through the house, I showered and got ready for another day at the office. 

Per normal routine, I made coffee and put on the morning national news. I’d tuned in mid-story as a shaking camera followed the pretty reporter, who scurried down the tight city alley-side street. 

The reporter was approaching a large group of people in the distance, gathering and yelling as they would seeing a celebrity. 

Attempting to keep her composure as she spoke, the reporter said: ‘At dawn this morning, the report came in about the strange find here in the city.’ 

Barging her way through the spectators, the reporter continued as the camera rocked and blurred around the scene. 

‘The crowds have been gathering as soon as this was discovered.’

I was anticipating some fantastic wall art or perhaps a bucket of treasure.

Finally, the reporter reached it.

It was a single door stood in the middle of the alleyway. 

Why was a door so newsworthy?

Well …

The simple door stood perfectly upright in the middle of the street with nothing else on either side. There were no hinges or frame I could make out, nothing to hold it up. 

A freestanding door perfectly out of place.

‘Here it is, the door to nowhere.’

The reporter and cameraman moved behind the door and as she said – it went nowhere, to the back of the door was just the continuous murky and dank street.

The bystanders of the large crowd stood filming the door on their mobile phones in tandem.

‘As we can see, there is nothing supporting the door. It can’t be moved by physical force and ….’

The reporter pulled on the silver handle, which didn’t move.

‘It’s locked.’

The reporter moved away from the door, focussing on the large crowd of people that

appeared to be growing by the second.

‘The crowds of people have been gathering all morning to try and open the door. We’ve had axes and sledgehammers trying their luck, but nothing has made a dint or scratch.’ 

Shaking my head, I turned the TV off. I must have tuned in to some prank show by mistake.

When I arrived at work, my boss – Mark, was pacing the office floor. Sitting at the desk I asked Lisa: ‘What’s with him?’

Lisa leaned forward, ‘didn’t you see the news this morning?’

‘I saw some prank about a door.’

‘You mean doors?’ Lisa said emphasising on the s. ‘They’ve appeared all over the world, Kat. All of them locked, not supported by anything and in the most random of places.’

Scrunching my mouth, I asked: ‘What do you mean, all over the world?’

‘They’re everywhere … even here.’

‘Here?’

Lisa nodded, ‘at the beach.’

Laughing I held my hand on my forehead, ‘the beach?’

Again, Lisa nodded.

‘Mark wants to go down there, to take a look.’

‘It’s a door,’ I whispered. ‘Nothing special, just a door.’

With that, Mark came over to our desk. His mop of brown hair was beaded with sweat and to be honest, he looked like shit.

‘So, works cancelled today girls. I’m going down to the beach to see what’s going on with these doors.’

‘Are you serious?’ I asked.

He was.

‘Listen, I’ll give you a full day’s pay for the inconvenience, under one condition.’

‘What’s that?’ Lisa asked.

‘You come to the beach with me.’

‘Sold,’ Lisa said without hesitation.

  As feelings go, the only thing I could recall is trepidation, there was an underlying reluctance to go. 

‘I’m not interested,’ I said.

Lisa rolled her eyes, ‘oh c’mon, Kat. Isn’t there something inside you that isn’t just a little curious?’

For all my sins, everyone knew that I would be curious, and Inquisitiveness can be quite the bitch when you’re a person like me.

It still didn’t stop me from being fearful and I kept telling myself that there would be a rational explanation behind this prank.

As we arrived at the beach, it was to no surprise that the whole town there. The entire coastal community had congregated on the sands and under the view of the ocean to look at the door.

And there it was, stood in what I would say the direct centre of the beach with the tide sweeping past, curling back and forth around the bottom of the wood before retreating with haste.

Everyone was here, the shopkeepers, the police and emergency services, the old, the young. Everyone.

We made our way to the commotion. And laying eyes on the door made my legs weak. How was it stood so perfectly? Who put it there? And if these doors have appeared all over the world then … what was their purpose?

As I watched everyone open-mouthed and shocked regarding this new phenomenon, a sound came hurtling from behind.

A cry of sorts.

It was a woman moving through the crowd.

‘Please, let me through … it’s mine … it’s my door. Please, let me through.’

It was Mrs Harkness from the town. She was small, frail with grey hair and wrinkled skin. I’d known her for a while as she always could be found amongst the shops on a daily basis talking scandal and gossip.

The police officers parted the crowd to allow Mrs Harkness to come to the front.

‘What did you say, ma’am?’ the officer asked.

Reaching the front, Mrs Harkness said: ‘That door, it’s mine!’

‘What do you mean, it’s yours?’

The crowd quietened as Mrs Harkness softly said: ‘It’s … it’s identical to my home. The white colour, the silver handle … it’s exactly the same.’

The police officer scratched his head and sighed. ‘I think you’re mistaken; this is just some prank-,’

‘I’m telling you it’s mine!’

‘Well, it doesn’t matter anyway ma’am, as you can see …’ The officer walked over and tried pulling down on the handle. ‘It’s locked.’

‘Let me try,’ Mrs Harkness said.

The officer along with some of the crowd sniggered and laughed.

‘Be my guest,’ the officer said standing aside.

I watched the frail old woman move to the door. She placed her shaking hand on the handle, pulled down with minimal effort and to everyone’s amazement, it opened.

Now, as I retrace what was beyond the door in my mind, I must admit that at the time I thought that I must have been dreaming.  

Perhaps I was partaking in one long lucid trip of the subconscious, in a world where everything is vivid and feels so real, but it couldn’t be.

You see, me along with everyone else expected to see the sea behind the door in all its waving and crashing beauty. 

Instead, what we saw was just a black canvas. 

The police officer rushed to investigate the abyss and Mrs Harkness stood mesmerised. 

Everyone in the crowd had been stunned to silence, questioning what their eyes and brains were attempting to compute.

It was a Salvador Dali picturesque view. A simple door in the middle of a beach, leading to literal nothing.

Mrs Harkness stepped forward. 

‘Ma’am, what are you doing?’ the officer said. ‘If you think I’m letting you go in there, then you’re mistaken.’

‘I’m not scared,’ Mrs Harkness said. ‘Look, he’s waiting for me,’ she pointed.

The officer walked to the door, looked in, frowned and attempted to close it. It didn’t move. He tried again and again without success, even asking others to help with the same result. 

Standing in front of the door, the officer took a deep breath and moved his palm to reach inside. 

His hand flattened against the solid wall of blackness, unable to progress or protrude.

‘See, nothing more than a dead end,’ the officer said. ‘A trick, made by some imbecile.’

Mrs Harkness moved side by side to the officer. The old woman reached in, but this time her hand pierced the blackness and went straight through.

‘Impossible!’ the police officer said. He ran round the back of the door and saw no hand protruding, nothing but a blank white canvass. ‘This can’t be … it can’t be!’

As the crowd and I gasped in shock, Mrs Harkness stepped fully into the void, vanishing instantly. The door swung shut without assistance. 

A few of the spectators from the front of the group joined the police officer yanking on the door, which again wouldn’t budge.

Mrs Harkness was gone.

Safe to say I didn’t get any sleep that night. Anyone who saw that old lady walk into a black nothingness would have to be induced with copious amounts of narcotics to forget. 

As I laid in bed listening to the faint sound of traffic and wildlife, I asked myself one question.

How does anything go back to the way it was now?

As the sun rose the following day, I tried my best to stick to routine. Everything but the news, as I didn’t want to see any of that today.

Heading to the office, the streets were silent, no soul in sight; it didn’t take a genius to figure out where everyone was.

When I arrived at the office, I found the building locked. It was never locked. Mark had worked six, sometimes seven days a week to keep his business surviving.

As I knocked on the door, my phone chimed in the back pocket of my trousers. Taking it out I saw a message from Lisa – Come Beach.

Rolling my eyes, I set off.

As per yesterday, the entire town was stood before the door. Only I had to second glance noticing the change of colour. It was now painted red with a different looking silver handle. There was a silver letter box and small square window at the top.

For a moment I stood motionless trying to fathom how all this was happening.

‘Kat!’ Lisa cried from the beach. 

I walked over and said: ‘What’s happening?’

‘It … it has changed this morning. You see the news? It’s happening everywhere. The doors … they’ve all changed. And it gets weirder. Someone from every town and village stepped in those doors yesterday, disappearing into thin air, just like Mrs Harkness.’

‘Jesus Christ, what’s happening?’

Lisa pointed to a middle-aged man and woman, standing next to the door.

‘See that couple? Apparently, they say this is their door, they’ve tried the handle but it won’t open. Which means their talking bullshit.’

Suddenly the door opened on its own and out stepped Mrs Harkness. Well I thought it was Mrs Harkness. She wore the same clothes, had the same hair and walked with that same frail tenacity. Only her face … it was different.

I was used to seeing the old woman with the sort of look that maybe she had a chip on her shoulder, a bee in her bonnet, that kind of look.

But out she came with the broadest smile and distant look in her eyes.

The same police officer who watched her enter came and took her warmly by the shoulders.

‘Are you all right? Where have you been?’ he asked. ‘What’s in there?’

‘I’ve seen the gaps,’ she said ecstatically. ‘He showed them me and now I can see all the gaps.’

‘What does that mean?’ the officer asked.

Without noticing, the middle-aged couple walked through their door and it closed behind them.

Mrs Harkness, totally oblivious to anyone else skipped off down the beach laughing uncontrollably

‘Kat … what the hell is going on?’ Lisa asked.

The same routine happened the following day. I met with Lisa at the beach and the door had changed again, now it was black with copper handle. A family of four waited outside the door. The mum and dad stood hand in hand with the toddler children waiting patiently as though in some queue for a rollercoaster. 

When the door opened, the young middle-aged couple exited with the same brimming smiles as Mrs Harkness.

Again, without any logical answer they strolled up the beach distant and laughing.

As the young family entered with the door closing firmly, there was a piercing scream to my right. My neck jolted round to see three or four people running toward the sea. Floating face down was a body … Mrs Harkness’ body.

The townsfolk dragged her out and laid her on the sand. Her face was blue as ice, her body limp like that of a dead fish.

It became apparent that this was no coincidence. Around the globe, the first people to enter the doors had all been found dead. Some had leapt from buildings, others stepping in front of traffic. Stories emerged of people taking a gunshot to the head, some had washed a bottle of pills down with liquor.

In every case they had committed suicide one way or another.

For the remainder of the day, the town searched for the young couple without success. I even joined in the search, helping check their house and work. The family members called their mobiles, which were now turned off. They’d disappeared.

Then the next day, the family of four stepped out of the door as another entered. The door now white again with huge crack down its right-hand side. 

And then, in came the lifeless floating bodies of the middle-aged couple, washing up on the beach face down.

The crowd stopped the young family from leaving the beach. 

‘You’re not going anywhere!’ the officer said. ‘We’re going to keep you safe.’

I don’t think in all my days on this earth have I been more freaked out than seeing those two young children with huge otherworldly grins spread across their faces.

‘We’re going to keep you safe,’ the police officer reiterated. ‘Don’t let them leave!’

‘We see the gaps,’ the father said. ‘Those beautiful gaps.’

It was agreed that the police would keep the family company at their house, making sure they were never left out of sight. Suffice to say that everyone in town had become quite concerned for their own safety, because who knew when their door would be waiting in the morning. 

I decided to stay home the following day. Last thing I needed was going back to the beach to see someone else enter the black void. 

Retracing the mundane life I used to have, I actually craved it back, the inquisitiveness in me had drained away.

When the phone rang, I knew instantly it was Lisa. 

‘Kat, you’re not at the beach?’

‘No, I decided to stay home.’

Lisa was stumbling with her breathing, stammering as she tried to release her words.

‘T … the family … they washed up this morning,’ Lisa said.

‘Oh Christ,’ I said holding my head.

The smiles of those two boys, a haunting vision I’d struggle to shake.

‘But the police were watching them, how did all four of them leave without being seen?’ I asked.

Lisa sighed: ‘I … I don’t know. The same thing is happening everywhere, the same cycle over and over again. Kat, there’s something else …’

I sat up sensing the tone, ‘Lisa, what is it?’

‘The door … today it’s Mark’s,’ Lisa said.

‘He went in?’ I asked, fearing the worst.

‘With Charlotte,’ Lisa confirmed.

I didn’t know what to do but hang up and head down to Lisa. When I arrived, she was sat on the stone situated at the entrance to the sand. The crowds had dwindled to maybe a dozen or so, people either losing interest or scared witless over this otherworldly event. I surmised it was the latter.

Sitting next to Lisa, I looked at the door in the distance, which indeed was Mark’s, painted in a grey colour with diamond shaped window. 

‘We’ll stay with him when he gets back,’ I said.

Lisa huffed, ‘it won’t make a difference, Kat. We’re all going to suffer the same fate, when our door arrives, it’s our time to depart.’

‘Don’t talk like that!’ I said. ‘We make our own decisions, and no one has to walk through that door.’

Lisa glanced up at me with those big deep brown eyes of hers and said: ‘But aren’t you curious what’s in there?’

‘No,’ I lied. ‘I tell you what, let’s go for a drink.’

‘But I wanna stay.’

Standing, I reached out my hand, which Lisa gracefully took, and I heaved her up.

The bar on the beachfront was quiet. We sat sipping our cocktails as Lisa couldn’t help but keep looking out the window at the door.

‘Is this how we’re supposed to act during something like this?’ Lisa said. ‘Sitting here drinking, waiting for our turn?’

Something like this?’ I questioned. ‘When has this ever happened? Is there a manual on how were supposed to act? Lisa, I said that none of us have to go in that door, we’re masters of our own destiny,’ I said with a sly smile.

‘And like I asked, are you not curious?’

I sipped the mojito through the straw and scrunched my lips deep in thought. ‘A little,’ I finally said. ‘But I’m more curious about what happens if someone doesn’t go in.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean that if someone restrains and chooses not to enter then I don’t know, it might break the cycle.’

Lisa pondered.

‘So, I have no idea what we’re supposed to do in this situation,’ I said raising the glass.

And then came the bright morning, along with an alcohol induced headache. 

I’d agreed to meet Lisa at the beach for when Mark and his wife came out the door. Lisa was waiting at the gate which led to the beach steps. 

‘Why haven’t you been answering your phone?’ she asked, shaking.

‘Because I was meeting you here, what’s wrong?’

‘Nothing … nothing, let’s get out of here,’ Lisa said, grabbing my arm.

I yelped, ‘hey, what’s wrong with you?’

From above Lisa’s head, I glanced to the sands and saw what had freaked her out. The door. It was composite, black with silver handle. The window above was a small square with silver trimming.

It wasn’t just any door.

It was my door.

Yanking free from Lisa’s grasp I headed down to the beach. Lisa followed in pursuit and calling for me to stop. The crowd on the beach was now less than double figures, most of which were made up of the police.

‘Is this your door maam?’ the officer asked exhausted.

I nodded.

I’d be lying if I wasn’t scared. But I was also determined to end this cycle.

The officer scratched his head and said: ‘Now, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I can’t watch anymore good people go in there and end up like that.’ The officer pointed to the sea where the bodies were floating. ‘You see, if you go in there, that’s where you’re gonna end up, face down in the water.’

‘I understand. But I have no intention of going in there.’

The door suddenly creaked open and out walked Mark and Charlotte, both with those wide grins on their faces. 

‘Mark … Mark,’ I said. ‘Are you all right?’ 

His eyes looked distantly out to the sea. ‘We’re great, we’ve seen the gaps. They showed us them and now we get to see them over and over again.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘Look,’ Mark whispered.

In the door, the blackness had gone, replaced with something I found much more homely. It was my mother smiling, stood before our old family home. Her face was warm, young and vibrant, the face I remembered before she passed away. 

Of course, I knew that this vision could not be real, it was something the door had manifested, somehow breaking into my subconscious memories.

But the fear washed away.

‘Are you coming, Katherine?’

Only mother called me Katherine.

As I stepped forward, I heard distant voices and cries, somehow blocked out by the silent drawing of mother’s face. My feet moved forward with overpowering acquiesce as I felt some hands grab hold of my shoulders and body. Even they couldn’t restrain me as I burst through them like old rusty shackles.

Entering through the door I heard it slam shut behind. When I looked it had vanished all together and I was stood in the sunshine outside our old home.

‘Katherine, I asked if you are coming?’ mother shouted.

Just as I was about to reply, I saw a little girl no older than ten-years-old run past my legs and into the gate. It was me, all those years ago when life had been nothing but picking flowers and chasing butterflies. Memories that were locked in a safe, deep within a mature mind now. 

I followed the path down to my old front door and pushed it open.

Suddenly everything switched to black as though a light had been turned off. Bright flickers and flashes like having a full body X-ray hit my eyes. There were quick flashes of images, I saw myself as a baby, a child, a teenager … I felt like I was being scanned. 

Then came the bright light of the house.

Inside, the walls were infested with mould. The wallpaper was fraying, dust particles danced in the sunlight and echoes bounced from the interior. 

The house was derelict, abandoned like a discarded piece of scrap. 

‘Mum?’ I called out.

I walked through the murk of the kitchen and into the old living room where I saw Mother sat in her old armchair. She looked asleep, just as frail as she did when she had died, her young vibrant energy evaporated, being replaced by nothing but an empty shell. Her clothes were woollen to keep the cold from her skin, her lips tired and crusty. 

In front, the TV was static. 

‘Hello, Katherine,’ mother suddenly spoke.

I jolted, ‘mum?’

‘You came.’

‘What is this place?’ I asked.

Mother never moved, keeping her face on the TV as though intrigued by some intense drama series.

‘The gaps,’ she said

‘The gaps?’

‘A place where you can remember all those memories you have lost, Katherine. I lost them, but now I can relive them … look.’

The television tuned in to an old family holiday. My father was building sandcastles with me patting along as a baby, mother was sunbathing next to us. I could smell the sea, the fish and chip stalls and the candyfloss. 

The television again changed as though flicking through channels and it was now my first day at school. Mother had dressed me in my uniform and was holding my face with a warm palm, pride bursting from her face.

I felt it, the warm feel of her touch.

Mother picked up the remote from her armchair and switched off the television.

‘Is there more?’ I asked, a tear dripping down my cheek.

‘There’s everything,’ mother replied. ‘Every single moment of your life … the gaps of memory. But now, you have to go back.’

I shook my head, ‘but I just got here.’

I thought I saw a faint smile across mother’s mouth. 

‘My dear Katherine; my sweet Katherine, you’re still trying to analyse everything. Time isn’t what you think it is. You’ll go back with these memories … all the memories, these gaps … they’ll make you happy, you’ll be able to run these in your mind at will … the good times.’

‘And the bad times?’ I asked, thinking about mother on her deathbed not knowing my name anymore, the way her warmth had turned to cold cruelty, the stranger I’d come to care for. ‘What about all the bad times?’ 

Mother never answered.

‘Why did those doors appear?’ I asked.

‘Our lives are endless corridors, sweet Katherine, doors to our endless memories. Relive those moments, be happy and smile.’

‘What about the bad times, mum?’

The front door opened behind me. I saw the beach, saw Lisa waiting in the distance.

‘Mum, what about the bad times?! Will I see them? will it make me-’

Kill yourself?

The old family home started to collapse on itself like paper being folded. 

Mum was folded away with the rest of it as I stepped back, retreating from the shadows.

Everything was turning black behind me as I walked back onto the beach.

Euphoria suddenly hit me. Mum was telling the truth, I could somehow instantly playback those sweet family moments in my head. It was like rewinding a favourite show to the best bits. 

I could remember everything.

I could see the gaps at will.

‘Kat … Kat!’ Lisa shouted. ‘Kat, are you all right?’

For once in a long time I did feel all right, in fact I felt great as I sat with dad on the beach building that sandcastle.

What about the bad times?

I’ll push them away, no need to focus on the bad, just think about the happy times. 

‘I can see the gaps,’ I said to Lisa. 

I think she started to cry, but I didn’t care, I was reliving the best times of my life, they were flashing before my eyes.

I can see the gaps and to be honest, I can’t stop smiling.


Ethan Maiden works for a utilities company in South Yorkshire. Currently he is editing his first novel that he hopes to be completed this year. The works of Stephen King and H.P Lovecraft are influences behind his fiction.


2 thoughts on ““Gaps” Dark, Speculative Fiction by Ethan Maiden

  1. I really enjoyed reading it, it makes you into yourself, I was quite emotional at one point, but I really enjoyed read it it and look forward to the book.

    Like

  2. All I can say is wow, what a amazing read which kept me savoring every paragraph. A truly talented man. Calnt wait for the book. Well written an extremely gripping

    Like

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