The Threshold is a ten-part Weird Fiction story told in 1,000-word bites, give or take a few words. In the tale, Doug, a millennial everyman, finds himself exploring increasingly horrifying worlds trying to return home.
The Threshold is a ten-part Weird Fiction story told in 1,000-word bites, give or take a few words. In the tale, Doug, a millennial everyman, finds himself exploring increasingly horrifying worlds trying to return home. Visit The Threshold’s Installments Page for a list of all installments in this New Pulp Tale.
Part 10: The End?
The dimension dodging duo dived over the threshold, leaving Carcosa behind. Doug and Ward landed in a heap on the sidewalk outside Doug’s apartment. Whatever rip in time and space led them to that spot was no longer visible.
“We made it,” Doug said.
Ward dusted herself off and got to her feet. “But, where are we?”
“This looks like my place, but so did your world.” Doug stood up and surveyed the area.
His apartment was a ground floor in a three-story building with tenants above and across from him. The street was a well-manicured block with small homes of different shapes and sizes stretching in either direction. It was wholly unremarkable, which is what made the appearance of approaching military vehicles entirely remarkable.
Doug looked for a direction to flee, but he saw military camouflage in every direction. His muscles were all drained from their hasty exit from the King in Yellow’s lair. He couldn’t help wondering who’d won the titanic clash between the Living Void and the Un-nameable. Doug hoped the Living Void had gotten his just desserts.
Ward grabbed his hand tightly, and they shared a look of resignation. Their friendship was new, but it was bonded in the fierce trials they’d faced. Now, whatever would be would be. At least they wouldn’t be food for an interdimensional entity, Doug thought.
An olive-green jeep slammed on its breaks, and soldiers popped out with weapons raised toward Doug and Ward. “On the ground, now.”
They did as they were bid. More soldiers piled out of the arriving trucks and vans. They looked ready for war.
One of the troops walked forward with what looked like a Gameboy. “Anomaly is clear, Ma’am.”
A white-haired woman in the starred uniform of a general walked forward. “Thank God. If Hastur had made it through, we wouldn’t have stood a chance.” Her cold blue eyes fell to Doug and Ward. “Tranquilize these two until we come to a consensus on what to do with them.”
Doug popped up to argue, but a dart pierced his neck before he managed a single word. The world blackened. His body fell back to the pavement.
When his eyes opened, Doug found, to his horror, that he’d been re-confined to a cell. Thoughts of the Living Void coming for him flashed through his head. Thoughts of his sister being killed followed. His heartbeat increased, and he took a deep breath to try and calm his nerves.
This cell was much nicer than the last one he’d been put inside. Everything was newly cleaned, and his sheets felt soft and fresh. Outside, he could see a green field stretching to a busy road. Civilization was within reach. His cell door opened with a clang.
“Mr. Dixon. Follow me, please.” A soldier led him down the hall to a small room, where the general sat awaiting him.
The general gestured for Doug to join her at the room’s lone table. “Come in. This won’t take long.”
Doug did as he was instructed. His body felt like it was on autopilot. He assessed his odds of escape if he bolted, but he was confident that he wouldn’t make it off this floor.
“You’ve been through a lot, and we’d like to get you back to your normal reality as soon as possible. We’re terribly sorry this happened to you. Our scientists should’ve identified the gate before it appeared in your apartment. It’s a miracle you made it back here. Now, all you need to do is sign this paper, and you go back to living life.” The general pushed a document forward. “It’s a fairly standard non-disclosure agreement. You don’t go telling the world that portals to other dimensions can occasionally pop up out of the blue, and we won’t keep you imprisoned for the rest of your life. And we’re providing you with a new apartment, and a small donation to make sure you reacclimate to life here.”
“Don’t you even want to ask me what I experienced?”
“We’ve got all we needed from Ward. She’s an extremely useful find for us.”
“Where is she?”
“I won’t sign unless I see her first.”
“Fair is fair. Maybe you’ll change your mind in a month or so.” The general gestured to the soldier behind Doug, and he was grasped and pulled backward.
The idea of being tossed back in a cell broke him, and tears flooded out of his eyes. “Wait, I’ll sign. Just don’t put me back. Please.”
Doug was released, and he signed the document. Shame replaced his fear of being locked away. He was sure he’d made the wrong decision.
Doug hesitated every day before he crossed the threshold into his apartment. He’s terrified of finding a free-standing doorway in his living room. He’s more terrified of entering his front door and being transported into a dimension of slimy horrors. It had been six months since he signed the paper, but Doug still hadn’t recovered from his ordeal. He took a deep breath, and he entered his home.
Inside he found nothing out of place. Doug headed to his computer and started his nightly ritual. He searched the internet for any sign of Ward. Doug visited tabloid news sites, crackpot YouTubers, and every other corner of the internet he could find discussing the topic of inter-dimensional doorways. As usual, he came up with nothing substantial. He logged off, readied for bed, and laid there, unable to drift off to sleep.
He found it hard to get rest because he had nightmares. He dreamed of Carcosa. The Living Void called to him from that bizarre city’s highest towers. He asked if Doug would be his tasty treat.
Doug turned his mind to a different subject to avoid thinking about what he would see when he slept. He focused on his recent happy moments. He’d reunited with his sister, Ellen. Although she wasn’t the same sister he bonded with so thoroughly in another dimension, Doug found that they hadn’t grown as far apart as he’d believed in his own reality. They went to lunch every week, and he fought the urge to tell her all about his experiences. The thought that telling her the truth might put her in danger kept him restrained. Doug wasn’t so blind as to miss his nearly constant government tail, but he’s thankful to have avoided a cell. Even now, he’s certain that if he got up and looked out the window, he’d see a black car idling on his block.
Doug left that frustrating subject and thought about his best friend, Josh. They’d recently restarted their podcast. Doug’s mysterious disappearance managed to generate some new listeners, and they just ran a contest to see who could come up with the best explanation for his having vanished for a week. None of the submissions came close to the truth.
With his good thought reserves drained, Doug found himself thinking about Ward again. As a woman from another dimension, he knew the government could do whatever it wanted with her and suffer no punishment. He contemplated the razor blade under his sink, but he knew his suicide wouldn’t atone for signing the paper. It would just relieve him of his responsibility to her. Doug held onto a slim hope that Ward would manage to escape and make contact on her own. Until then, he planned to keep looking for any sign of her on the internet. He knew he didn’t just owe Ward; he owed his sister from the other dimension for having led her girlfriend here.
Outside, the wind picked up in intensity as Doug fell away from consciousness.
In his dream, Doug wandered a zigzagging street through Carcosa. The sky had turned a bright red, and it looked like flames spread over the horizon. A spire crumbled to ruins next to him, and he watched a dome cave in to block his path. A night sky in human shape, the Living Void, emerged out of the rubble.
Doug tried to flee, but the ground turned to liquid, and he sunk to his waist.
The Living Void approached. “Tasty, tasty treat. I survived my encounter, and I’ll soon find my way to you and your friend. Don’t think you’ve escaped me. You’ll still be my aphrodisiac. You, and everyone in your world.”