Have you ever ended up in a place – a building – where you can immediately tell what sort of place you’re in; what the climate is like outside . . . Whether it’s hot and arid or cold and icy? The building and its insides appear to absorb the conditions of the place where it’s located. I’m in one of those right now. As soon as I stepped through the door I got the sense for it: the stark, concrete walls and floor; the stark, limited furniture; the harsh whiteness of the light; and the physical temperature of the place. Everything feels cold and uninviting, which leads me to infer I’m in a very cold place. I’m just going to take a stab in the dark here and guess we’re in . . . Antarctica.
Yeah, feels about right.
So let’s go find out.
It’s way too bright in here. Starting to feel like I’m in some sort of prison, but like in some weird hidden place that no one knows exists, and keeping you in constantly, blinding light is one of the forms of torture . . . Or I’m in an asylum. Hopefully not Arkham Asylum. I walk down a staircase into a dim hallway with lots of closed doors. I feel I’m in my element here. You know, with all the doors and the walking. Like I’ve done this . . . A lot of times before, so I’m calm . . . Cool and collected, emphasis on cool. Actually, I’m more cold and collected.
Where do these doors lead? To store rooms and closets and bedrooms? Or will one lead me to the edge of the universe, while another takes me to a pressurized village at the bottom of the Pacific ocean? And of course, none of them will be Ostium. None of them will take me back to Gibraltar. None of them will return me to Steve, Zhang . . . [Sadly] Or Monica.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned through all this . . . It’s that I can’t give up.
And that’s when I start to hearing a humming.
[MATTHEW HUMMING TUNE, MAYBE THE STATION BLUE THEME SONG?]
It’s coming from further down the hall. I keep walking and it gets louder. I don’t recognize the song at all. It’s kind of haunting, but . . . In a good way. Nice and minor. It’s calming in a way. Makes me feel . . . Less worried about the state I’m in. I guess. And then I’m at a set of double doors where it’s coming from. I reach for the handle to open the door, then stop.
No. That’s not right.
Instead, I knock three times, then step back and wait.
Seconds pass. I start to wonder if I need to knock again, and then there’s a clanking sound and the door opens. There’s a man standing there on crutches with a bandage covering his forehead, and he looks . . . Fucking terrified.
I can’t blame him.
JAKE: Hi. I’m . . . Sorry if I startled you. My name’s Jake Fisher. I . . . I have this ability. I can travel through doors . . . And through time and space. I never know where I’m going to end up. And looks like this time I ended up here, in this cold place. Where are we? The Antarctic or something?
MATTHEW: We’re in Antarctica.
JAKE: You’ve been here . . . A long time . . . by yourself. Haven’t you?
JAKE: So if I said I’m a sort of time traveler from a place called Ostium and I travel through time by going through different doors, and then I started being able to make my own doors, except the last time I did it, I . . . I lost concentration. Just for a second. I was exhausted. And now I’m . . . Lost in time and trying to find my way back to Ostium. Well, technically it’s the Ostium Network. But you’d be cool with that?
MATTHEW: That’s a lot to unpack.
JAKE [laughing]: Oh, yeah, I guess it is complex. Have you ever seen Back to the Future?
JAKE: Oh, well they’re these great movies about time travel. In Back to the Future 2-
MATTHEW: Do you want tea? I’m making tea.
JAKE: That would be great actually. I love tea. What kinds do you have?
MATTHEW: Black. So what’s the Ostium Network?
JAKE: Well . . . It’s the corporation that came up with this whole time-traveling scheme. It’s on the island of Gibraltar . . .
MATTHEW: A Corporation…
JAKE: Yeah. Apparently at some point in the future, it looks like it gets blown up, but really this guy who runs the Ostium Network . . . Er . . . Somehow made it disappear from the real world and reappear on another plane of existence.
MATTHEW: That’s a little hard to believe.
JAKE: Tell me about it.
MATTHEW: You hungry? I was about to start some dinner.
JAKE: That sounds great. I can’t actually remember the last time I ate anything, but you just mentioning food made me realize I’m starving.
MATTHEW: Good. It’s not going to fancy but hot food beats cold cereal.
JAKE: Sounds great.
MATTHEW: So you’ve been time traveling. Using doors. And you can’t get back to your home. How are you holding up with all that?
JAKE: You know, I haven’t really taken a second to stop and actually take stock of how I’m doing. Everything’s been so hectic. I guess . . . Stressed. Definitely stressed. And lost too. I mean . . . I may never get back to Ostium. This might be the rest of my life now: traveling through worlds looking for a way home.
MATTHEW: That sounds horrible.
JAKE: I’m doing what I did before. Collecting . . . Er, I don’t know exactly what you’d call them: trinkets? Talismans? Little things, objects, that I bring back with me. In Ostium there’s a map table showing where all the doors are. And that’s what we did before. Brought those trinkets back and put them on the map table. And then some crazy shit would usually happen.
[Matthew serves the food]
MATTHEW [Sitting down]: We?
JAKE: Yeah. Her name’s Monica. She was also traveling through the doors. Looking for her son. And she eventually found him. And we were all together. For the first time. It was going great. And then we had to deal with . . . Something that was causing these rifts. And we took care of that too. Monica and I. Kicked its ass basically. And that’s when I screwed up and lost them. Lost. Monica.
MATTHEW: She means a lot to you doesn’t she?
JAKE [chuckle]: Yeah. I’m still very much in love with her. Even though she did some . . . questionable things that she thought were helping me, and were helping her continue looking for her son. They weren’t the best choices she ever made, but she thought they were the right ones.
MATTHEW: Does she love you?
JAKE [breath]: I think so . . . Yeah, she does. At the end there before we had to deal with the big bad, we were okay. Things were right again. And then . . . [sad] I lost her.
MATTHEW: Maybe she’s looking for you, like she was looking for her son.
JAKE: Huh . . . I never thought of that. I don’t know. It’s possible.
MATTHEW: Maybe she’s doing what you’re doing: going through doors, trying to find you.
JAKE: That would be amazing and, honestly, totally like Monica. This food is great by the way.
MATTHEW: It’s not bad in the cold when you’re hungry and it’s your only option. Didn’t you say you could create your own doors?
JAKE: Yeah, I did. But that last time, when it got screwed up and I ended up somewhere I didn’t decide . . . I don’t really know what happened, but I can’t do it anymore. I remember how I did it, but when I try nothing happens. It’s like in the Subtle Knife . . .
MATTHEW [shock]: What! What did you say?
JAKE: The Subtle Knife. It’s a book by Philip Pullman.
MATTHEW [anger]: I know what the Subtle Knife is. It’s my favorite book. Why are you talking about it?
JAKE [confused at Matthew’s anger]: It’s . . . The knife. It can cut through reality. Take you to another dimension. And then the knife breaks and it doesn’t work anymore. I couldn’t help thinking it’s kind of similar to my situation.
MATTHEW: Oh… sorry, it’s just . . ..
JAKE: Your favorite book. It’s one of my favorites too. I love the whole trilogy. I can remember reading it for the first time and each book just blew my mind. As soon as I was done I just had to tell someone how great they are . . .
MATTHEW: Yeah. Someone very important shared those books with me.
JAKE: Who was it?
JAKE: She sounds like a special person. Sarah.
MATTHEW [breath]: She was one of kind.
MATTHEW: The tea should be ready.
JAKE: I didn’t mean to upset you.
MATTHEW: It’s fine.
[He gets up, puts something in the tea and sets it down in front of Jake]
MATTHEW: Here. Drink up.
JAKE: Thank you. I understand if you don’t want to talk about Sarah.
MATTHEW: It’s just… she’s far away. And there’s just not a lot I can do about that here.
JAKE: At the bottom of the world. As far away as possible from anyone else on the planet.
MATTHEW: Yes. Exactly.
JAKE: You can’t stay here forever.
MATTHEW: Recent events would disagree with you. Your tea is getting cold.
[Jake drinks some more then sets his cup down]
JAKE: Was it worth it?
MATTHEW: Was what worth it?
JAKE: If you never see Sarah again. Never get to reconnect. If you never have anyone else in your life like her. Are you okay with that after having the time that you did together?
MATTHEW: [to himself] I don’t know. Eventually the pain… do you want to see the first book she bought me? The Subtle Knife? I have it in my dorm.
JAKE: That’s sounds wonderful.
MATTHEW: I’ll be back in a minute. Finally getting the hang of these crutches. Finish your tea.
[JAKE:] I sat there and thought about Monica. Matthew’s tea wasn’t as good as hers, even if it was nice to have a hot drink in a place like this. Were we ever going to be together again? Was she ever going to make me tea again?
As I finished off the rest of the tea my reminiscing was interrupted by something at the bottom of my cup. It looked like a small tab of paper. Nothing like your typical tea bag.
I heard glass breaking out in the hallway.
It was probably nothing but I figured I should go check it out. The lights started to dim a little. When I walked out of the kitchen something was different. The hall was longer than I remember it being. And at the end of it stood Matthew, a crutch in one hand, a fire axe in the other.
MATTHEW: At first I thought you were with The Flower Company… somebody sent back to fuck with my head. Time travel? Lost with no way home?
But then you started talking about the book. Getting me to think about Sarah. Talking about Doors. Even your name, Jake. My grandparents had a dog named Jake. You’re not with the company. You’re not real. You crawled out of The Door.
JAKE: Matthew, put the axe, down, I am real, I’m not here to hurt you.
MATTHEW: I’ve heard that before. I won’t fall for it again.
[JAKE:]The hall continued to stretch. The axe in Matthew’s hand started to extend in an impossible way. The lights shot off rays that glowed and dimmed with the beating of my heart. Something was wrong with my head.
JAKE [Disbelief]: You drugged me.
MATTHEW: I wondered why she left those here. Now I understand.
JAKE: I’ll leave! Just let me leave and I won’t bother you again!
MATTHEW: Can’t risk it.
[JAKE:]He came at me. Even though he looked far away I knew my perception wasn’t accurate. I turned and ran; at least I tried to. My balance would swing me forward, then back. I would normally be able to outrun him without trouble, what with his broken leg and all, but the hallucinations were getting worse. The doors around me were shaking like hundreds of people were trapped behind them and trying to break out. The lights poured liquid radiance over the ground. I tried holding on to a wall, it melted in; breathed against my grip. The whole station was alive, trying to eat me.
I needed to get out of here. But I still needed an artifact.
I turned the corner and opened the first door I saw. It was a storage closet, and there on top of a cabinet was the exact thing I needed. A clay white rabbit. A grabbed it and fled back to the hall, only to trip on something. Matthew’s crutch.
I rolled over and saw him looming above me, only it wasn’t quite him, his mouth had taken over his entire face, it opened into an endless voice, his broken leg had white bird wings sprouting from it, the hall curved around him as he brought down the axe.
I barely rolled out of the way.
The next thing I knew I was running down the hall, or was it a tunnel? I could almost feel the grass sprouting from the ground, the ticking of a pocket watch. I clutched the white rabbit in my hand and thought of Alice in Wonderland. I saw a large rabbit hole to my left and I took it. Matthew’s voice came from every surface except for one, a Door at the end of the rabbit hole.
MATTHEW: [distorted] You won’t trick me again! You won’t lure me in! I’ll be waiting for you! You hear me!? I’LL BE WAITING!
The Door was reflective. Like a mirror. I used my ability to create an escape. Through the looking glass I went, leaving Antarctica and its prisoner forever.