George wandered back to his cubicle yet again, his mind a-flutter with thoughts and speculations and ruminations. Something was gnawing at him, something that wouldn't quite come to the fore. He knew that if he kept trying to force it, it would just keep slipping away. So, he tried to relax and let his thoughts flow.
It was not an easy thing to do.
In an effort to at least bring some order to the proceedings, he created a new Word document in his personal folder and starting typing in all the things he knew about the door.
First off, for some reason, he was the only one who could see it, or at least see it continuously. He could get other people to see it, but they would forget all about it in a very short time. He had first established that with Sharon, but he had later discovered that Bill, Fiona, Warren, and Dan had also lost their memories of the door.
He knew there was some kind of room behind the door, as none of the rooms surrounding it seemed to extend into the space immediately around it. Not a big room, but a room nonetheless.
He knew somebody was using the room, or at least someone wanted him to think they were using the room. The piece of string he had placed on the narrow part of the doorknob was gone the next time he checked. It was unlikely that it had fallen off on its own, as he had moistened it before placing it there, so someone had either removed it or inadvertently dislodged it.
There was also the fact that the door looked odd. It was almost like he had to unfocus his eyes to see it clearly. And that was something he was not good at doing.
Then there was the comment that Bill had just made. "Write a book about it." It was a completely offhand comment, but it had struck George oddly. For some reason, it seemed important. And George was beginning to get a sense of why.
George was indeed a writer. Which meant he was often engaged in using his imagination. And the practice of writing tended to exercise that imagination. Perhaps George was uniquely positioned to see things like this door. That was not to say that he was the only one on the floor possessed of imagination. But he used his imagination in a certain way, and perhaps that allowed him to look at things differently.
Then a cold thought ran down his spine. Perhaps he had crossed that thin line and was now imagining things that weren't there. Perhaps his imagination was taking him beyond the realm of sanity. Perhaps he was losing touch with reality.
He shook his head. He couldn't allow himself to go there. Besides, if he really were going mad, he wouldn't be doubting his own sanity; he'd be even more sure of it than ever.
He'd had a feeling, down deep, underneath his stomach, ever since hearing Bill's comment. The feeling was becoming a hunch, and George was slowing realizing that he knew what he had to do. He wanted to rush right back to the water cooler and take action, but he knew he should wait. He'd gotten enough odd looks from his coworkers over the past few days to last him well into his dotage. He could do without raising any more eyebrows.
Difficult as it was, he waited until after five o'clock, when most of his coworkers had already left for the day. He made a good show of putting away his things and packing up his briefcase, but he moved slowly, and as people passed his cubicle, saying "goodnight," he waved at them and responded in kind.
He put on his jacket and stepped out of the cubicle, ostensibly heading for the elevator, but in reality checking the area to see if anyone was still around. Only a couple of people remained, and they were moving in the same direction as he.
Pretending he had forgotten something, George snapped in fingers in feigned annoyance and headed back to his desk. Once there, he removed his jacket again and sat down. He thought he'd wait a few more minutes and then try his next experiment.
He only saw one more person as he headed for the water cooler. "Working late, George?" came a voice from an office as he passed.
"Yeah, just gotta finish up one thing before I go," he replied, not even slowing his pace.
He arrived at the water cooler, heart racing. He knew he was on to something. He could feel it.
He stood facing the door, trying to keep his breathing even.
"You've caused me a lot of sleepless nights," he said to it. "And a lot of strange looks from my coworkers. I'm putting all that to an end right now."
The door, for its part, seemed unmoved.
Taking a deep breath, George stepped into the middle of the corridor, stopping halfway between the water cooler and door, and steeled himself.
Slowly, he relaxed his body and tried to look through the door.
He'd never been good at those "Magic Eye" puzzles, but he knew how they worked. Don't look at the page; look past it. Let the eyes unfocus until they focussed differently.
And suddenly, there it was.
It was the same door, but it looked... different. It looked... more real. More pronounced. Like it had suddenly acquired a depth it hadn't possessed before that moment.
The doorframe seemed to jut out further from the wall. The knob seemed to stick out further from the door. The colors were deeper and richer.
George smiled. He knew he was almost there.
Without even really thinking about it, he stepped up to the door and reached up to the top of the doorframe. It protruded from the wall at least a couple of inches. It was almost like a little shelf. His fingers touched a small metal object.
Had it always been there, George wondered, or had it just appeared now, because he needed it to be there?
He examined the key for a moment. It looked utterly ordinary. It even had the Schlage brand name embossed across it. Nice touch, George thought. He knew it was no ordinary key, though. It had a sheen about it that went beyond simple newness. It had energy. Perhaps even life.
He inserted the key into the keyhole in the doorknob. It turned easily. He heard a click as the latch retracted. He gently pushed on the door, opening it ever so slightly.
A white glow shone through the crack.
George carefully removed the key from the knob and put it in his pocket. He was sure he was going to need it again. With another deep breath, he pushed the door open the rest of the way and stepped across the threshold.
I must be crazy, he thought.
He couldn't see a thing. He was surrounded by stark, pure, glowing whiteness. It felt like a room, somehow, like there were walls in there somewhere, but he couldn't see them. There was nothing to see.
He turned around to look behind him. He could still see the doorway, and the corridor beyond it. He relaxed a bit, knowing he could still go back.
Perhaps he should stop now, go back to his desk, make some notes about all this, and figure out how to proceed. He still had the key, and he knew how to see the door clearly now.
He took a step towards the doorway. As he did so, the door swung shut.
The place where the doorway had been was now just part of the surrounding whiteness. There was no knob, no doorframe, not even a line indicating an edge. Nothing.
George swallowed hard.
So much for using the key again.