If you're just opening The Door, you should read the earlier chapters, too.
Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII,
Part IX, and Part X, and Part XI are all Doors waiting to be opened.
It was chaos as best as Finn could tell. Even years later, after countless attempts at to recollect exactly what happened, the images and sounds swirled before him and merely collapsed into a moment of pure dread and hope.
Fish shone brilliantly, a green that consumed the room, fire lapping at the darkness upon her skin. The shadow that used Jack’s body—his limbs and muscles twitching as though pulled by some unknown mechanism of hooks and pulleys—recoiled at first and then lunged red against the backdrop.
Finn fell backward as Trish wailed, blood spurting out of her knuckles upward and down and onto the long wooden table before them. The house groaned. The colors whirled and clashed in the air. Out of the corner of his eyes, Finn saw teeth gleaming and gnashing, claws swiping, tails swooping. The room expanded and collapsed simultaneously. The darkness stretched outward and with it the walls began to shift until he could no longer see them in the distance. Finn felt like everything was within arm’s reach and forever away at the same time. He felt central to the noise, sucked in through its lack of material extension. The ceiling crumbled and shadows danced upon their broken form. Rain crashed down on every surface.
Jack spun around the room at lightning speeds, purple shadows enveloping them all. The air was heavy. It smelled of rose thorns and fire. Finn struggled to stand. Electricity nipped at his fingers and toes. He closed his eyes and cast pleading whispers into the air.
And then there it was, a bright light. Finn could sense the light before he saw it, the pink of his eyelids searing directly into his brain. The house howled. He could feel the floors beneath him heave and then break apart. He was falling and red scorched into his mind.
He heard her shout, he thought. Fish’s voice was not panicked and neither was it angry. It was serene, the calm of the water against the waves. It was far away.
The pressure changed. Finn’s ears popped. He opened his eyes to find himself in a hospital hallway, the white overhead lights like needles in his eyes. Fish held onto both his and Trish’s arms. Trish’s eyes were bloodshot and her lips were purple.
“She’s going into shock,” Fish said to Finn. Her dark hair shimmered green and purple and smoke rose off of her shoulders.
“Where are we--?”
“Where did you come from?” a voice echoed down the hallway. “You can’t just--” the voice stopped. A nurse strode up to them, her eyes growing wider with every advancing step.
“Please,” Fish said, “please, my friend needs help.” She held up Trish’s right hand, her middle and index finger missing, blood oozing over her dried knuckles.
“What… what happened?” the nurse stammered.
Fish stood and turned on her heels until she faced the nurse. Finn swore Fish was as tall as the room.
“Does it matter?” Fish asked. “Help her.” The sound of rustling leaves dripped in from the edges of space.
The nurse knelt beside Trish. “Honey, we need to get you to the ER. Can you stand?”
“Where is it?” Fish asked. The air grew warmer, drier.
“It’s down a few hallways,” the nurse did not bother to look up. “It’ll take a bit.”
Fish touched the nurse’s head and then nodded. “Sorry everyone, but this is going to hurt.”
The room sucked in and then flickered out. Finn doubled over in pain. Trish began to scream again. Fish rushed up to the ER counter and pointed at Trish. “Help her, now.”
Finn dragged himself up to a chair and closed his eyes, wondering how he had gotten here, to this moment, where nothing made sense. He had heard her say it, though, he was certain. Fish. Her voice. It was distant, creeping over the horizon like sunshine.
Fish did not leave Trish’s side while she was in the hospital. The staff didn’t seem to mind, nor did they question their abrupt appearance, Trish’s wounds, or the quiet glow of green light that followed Fish when the lights went dim.
Trish woke a few hours later, her hand stitched and bandaged, her bloodstream injected with nanos already working to repair the wall of flesh so crudely torn from her body. The room was sterile white and pink noise permeated the air.
“Where are we?” Trish croaked.
Fish rushed a glass of tepid water to her lips. “We’re in a hospital. You were bleeding pretty badly.”
Trish looked down at her hand. Flashes of a nightmare blasted into her vision. She twitched. “Jack,” she whispered and then looked up at Fish, her hair streaked with color. “You,” Trish trembled, “you saved us from him.”
Fish shook her head, “I had help.”
Teeth gleamed in the side of Trish’s vision. She shuddered. “What, what happened to Jack?”
“Jack’s dead,” Fish lied. “I didn’t want to do it but it was the only way to escape the house.” She saw him, the shadow wrenching and unfastening itself from his body. His eyes were wide and filled with fury. The dominion retreated back into the house and collapsed. Jack limped away through a hovering red door, glowering and clenching his teeth, beaten and exhausted.
“So,” Trish looked at Fish. “What do we do now?”
Fish sat down on the hospital bed next to Trish, her back turned away from her. “You rest and move on,” Fish’s voice trembled. “Forget this whole thing. Forget Jack. Forget me.”
Trish’s voice welled. “Forget you? Fish, what’re you going to do?”
Fish stood and turned to face Trish. She extended her hand, palm upward. Little green flames danced across her skin and then flitted away into nothingness.
For her entire life, Fish knew this rippling at the edges of the air. It hung in her dreams and the periphery of her senses. She never sought power. She sought answers. She knew direct contact by beings outside of our realm to be rare. Before today, she had never seen her devil, no, but she had felt it. The Twins could do nothing for her, preferring to examine summoning through rote memorization and random experimentation. Iris pushed for a more structured approach, through study and history. But Iris had turned bitter after years of her studies proved themselves fruitless, and she turned to less than savory methods of harnessing power. If only, if only Iris were here now, to understand what gift she had truly given Fish. She had given her a name, and with it she now wielded unforeseen power in a way she had never expected. It felt amazing.
It wasn’t enough. She needed answers. She needed to understand how she came to be in that trash heap, how she came to be entwined with this shimmering green beast with teeth.
A smile crept across Fish’s face. “I don’t know,” she said. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes. The air in the room fell away. Fish let the green light engulf her. Teeth shimmered. And then she was gone.
Jack stumbled out of the door. Lamps adorned every surface, multicolored shades and bulbs casting strange shadows on old furniture and ancient cloths. He shuffled up to the bar, his clothes tattered and worn, his face heavy with exhaustion. He hadn’t slept in years.
The bartender slithered up to him. “What’ll be, hum--” it stopped short. “Oh no, not you again. That little time paralysis bit you pulled last time took us forever to clean up. You’re eighty-sixed, buddy.”
Jack slammed his hands onto the wooden surface scared with ancient graffiti. “Listen, little snake,” Jack spit, “I’ve just had my brain wracked by a dominion for what feels like several millennia. I’m tired and I’m thirsty. Just give me a goddamn drink.”
The bartender recoiled a bit before recovering his composure. “A dominion, you say?” it asked.
Jack missed being able to read the subtle oscillations in the air. Its voice was flat and empty, just sounds riding the airwaves. Jack glared into its red eyes.
The bartender shakily dipped beneath the bar and hopped up with a glowing green bottle in its claws. “Another round of Angel’s Tears?”
Jack grabbed the bottle out of its hands, uncorked it, and took a giant swig off of the top. He closed his eyes and sighed. “You have anything stronger?”
“I’m afraid that’s the strongest drink I’ve got here fit for a mortal,” the bartender instinctively moved a few paces backward.
“And what am I?” Jack asked, taking another swig of Angel’s Tears. Wings and tails whispered in the perimeter of the room.
“Honestly, sir,” its multiple rows of teeth chattered. “I have no idea.”
Jack brushed the hair from out of his face. He smiled. “Good. Me either. Now give me the strongest goddamn drink you’ve got and make it a goddamn double.”
The bartender disappeared into a back room and returned with a dusty waterskin. The way it held it, Jack knew it was rare. Tongues and teeth flicked in the darkness. A glass was procured and placed in front of Jack. Shakily, the liquid poured dark and purple. The room rumbled.
“What is it?” Jack asked, attempting to peer through it.
“Summoner’s Blood, from the old times. Aren’t too many of them around anymore.”
Jack picked up the drink and slammed it into the back of his throat. It burst through his system and then faded. He twirled the empty shot glass in his fingers. “You know,” he said to the room, “you know how after that first time you have a really good cup of coffee you just can’t go back to the shit the machines make?” Jack stood and placed the glass on the bar.
The bartender slinked up and snatched it. “What’re you going to do?”
Jack grinned. “I am going to go get me that goddamn cup of coffee.” Across the room a purple door materialized. Jack waltzed up to it, turned the knob, swung it open, and hopped through.
by Dan Diehn