“I swear to fucking God, some shit is going on over there,” Andrew said. He paced, a cloud of anxiety swirling around him.
“Dude, you’re paranoid. He’s probably just a creepy old man,” Travis said. “If you want to go talk to him, walk over there.”
Andrew waved him off. “No way.” He had convinced himself that his new neighbor was spying on him.
“If you don’t get over this, I’m out of here,” Travis said.
“You’re right,” Andrew said, dropping his shoulder. “I’ll just tell him to fuck off.”
Andrew walked towards the front door, Travis trailed behind him, and yanked it open. Travis struggled to keep up with Andrew’s stride across the yard.
“Do you even have a plan? Are you just going to walk up to him and yell in his face?” Travis said. His breathing increased as he struggled to keep up with his friend. Andrew didn’t respond, instead, he picked up a jog heading down the street.
Once they reached the house, Andrew banged on the door.
“Hey,” Andy said, trying to get the man’s attention, “It’s Andrew, from down the street. I need to talk to you.”
He paused. There was no answer.
“Dude, I don’t even think he’s here,” Travis said after glancing around. “There’s no car. Maybe he’s out.”
“No. He’s here. I haven’t seen him leave at all today,” Andrew said.
“You’ve been stalking him?” Travis said, his eyes widend. “So, you’ve been doing the same thing you accused him of doing.”
“No. I meant I haven't noticed,” Andrew said. After knocking failed again, he tried the doorknob.
It twisted with ease and opened up. Andrew withdrew his hand back. They each took a step back. The door had opened a crack, only allowing them to glimpse inside.
What surprised them was that there nothing inside. No wall, no room, no floor, just pitch black.
“Hello?” Andrew said. He looked at Travis, who mirrored the bewildered and slightly nervous look. No answer.
“Let’s head back,” Travis said, walking away.
“No, I’m not putting up with this any longer,” Andrew said. He shoved the door open and stormed inside.
The blackness enveloped him.
“Travis?” Andrew said, trying to look around. Silence remained. Andrew looked around and saw nothing. The door was gone.
“Travis? What the fuck? Where’d you go?” Andrew said. “Hello?”
Andrew’s heart rate and breathing picked up. He turned around, attempting to orient himself. He walked forward as if there was somewhere he could go. Panic soon drove him to pick up a sprint.
Fear overwhelmed Andrew. He lost track of his feet, which caused him to trip.
His jaw collided into whatever was making up the surface beneath him. He laid there for a second, trying to recover. The fear and pain nearly forced tears out of his eyes.
After a few deep breaths, Andrew looked up to a new scene. The ground beneath him was dry and cracked. The burst of light burned Andrews eyes.
The heat began to push Andrew to the ground, as if someone had thrown a transparent gravity blanket on him. His lips were quickly becoming dry and cracked, and a forming layer of sweat created a layer of humidity around him. He grimaced at the smell of his own sweat rolling down his face. Dust blew through the air, and as he inhaled, it scraped his nostrils. All around him the light forced him to squint or walk blindly.
Andrew attempted to stand, but his body felt heavy and weighed down by exhaustion and heat.
Once standing, the bottom of his shoes melted. The ground burned his soles has if he walked on hot coals. Andrew fought to walk forward. The door he came through was gone.
There was nowhere else for him to go.
The heat and exhaustion corruption his sense of time. Andrew dragged himself on for what could have been minutes or hours. He could feel his body getting weaker with each step.
All hoped had been drained from him, much like any remaining energy. His motivation dissipated. His legs gave out and crumbled beneath him.
Time passed and Andrew let himself lay there, nearly unconscious.
I didn’t do this to you for you to give up
A voice hissed through the dry air. Andrew jumped. He didn’t recognize it. He pulled his head up and pushed himself up. The air had changed. His body seemed lighter. The sweat subsided, and the light no longer burned his eyes.
Another door stood in front of him.
It was standing there, just as the previous one had, but this time it was open, and there was a living room on the other side. Through the doorway, Andrew could see a recliner with an older man sitting there reading something in his lap. He recognized him. It was his neighbor.
Andrew tapped on the door before walking through. The panic had diminished at this point and Andrew only wanted to go home and leave this man alone.
“I hope you’ve learned to leave your elders alone, my boy. I’d hate to put you through that again,” the man said for Andrew to hear, never looking up from his lap. He stood in the doorway, not responding to the man. It took a few moments for him to build up the courage to talk.
“What… What was that?” Andrew said.
“It was your lesson,” the man said, finally looking up from his reading. “I know you’ve made your assumptions about me. Not all of them were true, but some possibly quite accurate, perhaps.”
The man raised an eyebrow and motioned for Andrew to take a seat on the couch across from him.
“No, I want to go home,” Andrew said, taking a step into the living room. He took a glance behind him and the door he had just walked through was gone.
“Well,” the man said, “I guess you’ve been through enough.”
“What was that?” Andrew asked again. “Who are you?”
“That doesn’t concern you. You need to worry about sticking your nose in other people’s business.”
“I’m sorry,” Andrew said. It sounded more like a question dipped in fear.
“The door is that way. Your friend might be wondering where you are.”
Andrew followed the direction the man was pointing. He saw the front door of the house, slightly ajar. Outside, he could see himself standing there, about to storm into the building.
“No, I’m not putting up with this any longer,” the Andrew from outside the door said before storming into the house and fading away.
“Andrew?” Travis said.
Andrew stepped out the front door.
“I don’t want to mess with this house again,” Andrew said, before walking away.
Travis questioned him, but Andrew remained silent.