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 3: Insanity’s Grasp
The remains of the door in his living room were nearly gone. Once he dropped the ax back at his neighbors, he could start blocking this day from his memory. Doug prepared to toss the final pine scented garbage bag into the dumpster when red and blue light flashed across the alley.
“Drop the ax, kid,” commanded an officer.
“I was just returning it.” Doug looked behind him.
A cruiser idled in the mouth of the backstreet. One cop stood on either side of the vehicle. The words Arkham Police Department were spelled out in midnight gloss across the open doors’ snow-white paint. The cop on the driver’s side had one hand hovering over his pistol and one going for the bulb mounted by the rearview mirror. His counterpart leaned against the vehicle.
“That may be, but we’d like you to drop it all the same,” said the tilting officer.
Light blinded Doug, and he raised his hand to block it out. He heard both officers react as their shoes clacked off the asphalt. His vision remained severely impaired by the luminosity.
“Easy Rookie. You’re blinding the man,” said the same officer. “And put your gun away for god’s sake.”
“But look at the bag,” said the other officer. “It’s leaking blood, and it’s on the weapon.”
Looking down, Doug saw the crimson substance that oozed out of the threshold dripping from a hole in the stretched plastic.
“Just sap,” lied Doug.
“Listen, sir, you need to cooperate and drop the damn ax before we discuss anything else,” said the first officer who’d spoken.
He complied, and the tool clanged against the ground when he dropped it. The main light beam elevated from his face to cascade across the alley above. The driver-side officer who’d negated the blinding bulb raised his pistol to aim at Doug.
The leaning officer straightened his stance. “Now, why don’t you try explaining this all to us, nice and slowly.”
Two hours later, Doug sat in a small windowless room. He focused on the small table in front of him. There was a brown stain he couldn’t stop staring at. The shape reminded him of a door.
Footsteps approached from down the hall, and the door into the interrogation room creaked open. Officer Hodges re-entered the room with a small, well-dressed man behind him. They made a truly odd couple as Hodges’s white dress shirt was crinkled and stained by his lunch, while a pistol hung in a holster under his armpit, and the other man looked like he’d ironed his entire suit before dawning it.
“Mr. Williams, this is Doctor Bierce. He’s going to be handling your stay tonight,” said Officer Hodges. “And your neighbor decided not to press charges since the ax was undamaged, so they’ll be no further involvement from us.” Officer Hodges went to the door before turning back for a moment. “I hope you get the help you need here.” He left.
Doctor Bierce shut the door and approached with his hand out in greeting. “How are you feeling tonight?”
“Honestly, I’m a bit pissed at my friend Josh for calling the cops on me.” Doug slouched forward in his chair. “But maybe it’s for the best that he did. I mean, what the hell did I tell the cops when they found me? That I’d found a door to another dimension in my living room and a monster tried to eat me?” Doug chuckled quietly before starting to truly laugh.
Doctor Bierce sat across from him. “Laughter is good Mr. Williams. Laughter is healing.”
Doug kept laughing. He started pounding the table enthusiastically. His sides started to hurt, and tears started to flood his eyes. His jovial mood sank into sadness as he began to sob. Doug didn’t know why.
“What you truly need is a good night of sleep.” Doctor Bierce removed a two pack of pills from his upper jacket pocket. “Follow me to the nurse’s station, and we’ll get you some water to wash those down with. Then we have a nice bed waiting for you upstairs.”
Doug wiped away the tears and followed the doctor out of the room into the hallway. “Did they ever figure out what the red stuff on the wood was?”
“Conclusively determined not to be blood, but I did not hear exactly what it was,” said Doctor Bierce. “Here you are. Nurse Barnes will handle things from here. We’ll talk in the morning.”
Nurse Barnes looked younger than Doug. In another situation, he might’ve even tried to strike up a conversation with her. Her fiery red hair was pulled back in a ponytail.
She slid a paper cup of water toward him and grabbed a clipboard. “Best drink up before I take you to your room.”
Doug cracked open the plastic and downed the pills followed by the liquid. Nurse Barnes gestured for him to follow, and she led him to a nearby staircase. They proceeded to the second floor where the sound of a low moan started.
“What’s that?” asked Doug.
“A Deep One,” said Nurse Barnes.
“What? What’s that?” asked Doug.
“Really, Mr. Williams. You need your rest.” Nurse Barnes stopped in front of an open door with her arm held out toward it.
Doug hesitated. “You won’t be locking me in, right?”
Nurse Barnes smiled, her ruby lipstick and hair shined in the overhead light. “We don’t do that here.”
He entered the room. It was bare. The walls and floors were padded, and a solitary bed and toilet stood opposite each other with a barred window between. Doug noticed a huge brown stain on his blanket. It instantly reminded him of the one on the table downstairs. He turned to tell Nurse Barnes he needed a replacement just as she shut the door. The click of the lock echoed in the hall outside.
“Wait,” said Doug, rushing to the door. “You said you wouldn’t lock me in.”
He peered through a small barred opening in the door. Nurse Barnes ignored his protestation and walked away from him, returning the way she came. Doug pushed on the door, but it was firmly shut against him. He rammed it with his shoulder and instantly regretted the action as pain shot down his side. Looking into the hall, he spotted a cell across from his. The patient inside started at him.
“You’re not from our reality,” said the patient. “You’ve crossed a threshold. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to the dark side of the world.”