The first hot day of the year waited for her when she opened her door to let Spud out. The tiny dachshund, round and long haired and mottled in colour—brown and black and white—toddled outside eagerly, at first, and then stopped and looked back at her with a mournful gaze.
“I feel ya,” Mejica sighed. Less than a minute of her door being open and sweat was already beading around her hairline. She waved her dog on to do his business and slid the glass door shut, turning to begin her morning routine. First, the coffee needed to be made. Going about the ritual of grinding beans, measuring water, and selecting a coffee mug was a mindless task—one of those blessed activities that allows a soul to examine a thought without interruption—and while she briefly noted and rolled her eyes at the air conditioning unit that was already running, she found her mind, understandably, drawn to the room.
The letter taped to the door was strange enough on first glance, but after four days of examination and rumination, the mystery of the colour-changing ink and the soft constant glow from the paper was paling in comparison to the strange words scrawled on the paper, not to mention the door itself.
The coffee maker began percolating, almost in rhythm with the words from the paper that she recited without truly thinking on it.
“Lost is now, and you are that
So open the door; let out the cat”
She’d looked on computers to no avail; interviewed the technicolor haired librarians down the street; spoke with local animal control officers, and even reduced herself to speaking to her next door neighbor. No amount of questioning or research illuminated any aspect of the mystery.
The gurgles and groans of the coffee maker pattered into silence, punctuated by the death rattle of the brewing process. Mug in hand, she walked over to the machine and pulled out the decanter, ready to pour the much needed brew. Her hand stilled, though, when the moaning welled up from down the hall.
A low, guttural, sob drenched moan rose and fell from within the room in the hallway, just at the edge of hearing—so low it was almost not real. It rose and fell, rose and fell, rose and fell again and again, each time lengthening out, lasting longer, before finally falling away into a horrid silence: the kind born of paranoia; a loud loud silence.
She had heard it before. Many times. Everyday since the letter appeared, many many times. It wasn’t new, but it still inspired caution. There was, however, something set to follow, a subsequent noise that was sure to freeze her blood.
And when the quiet following the moans seemed to never end, it came.
Her heart quickened when she heard the scraping at the door; slow, pathetic, deep, and terrifying. A sound small enough to be human, and therein lie the terror, for she lived alone in her home. There was no one else in the house. Or, there shouldn’t be.
Slowly, she set down the decanter and walked to the edge of her kitchen, to the portion where, if she leaned around the corner enough, she could see down the hall and set her eyes on the door. There was more moss on the bottom of the door, and three new toadstools had sprouted over night, curling upwards to the dark ceiling. The drippings—copper and rust coloured liquid burbling from beneath the door—were still slowly crawling up the doorway, filling the hallway with the stink of sweet decay. It was as if gravity had the opposite effect on that tacky viscus material; forcing it to rise rather than fall.
The scrapings stopped when she laid eyes on the door.
She stood still for a moment before chancing a foot around the edge of the wall, before taking a risk and attempting to edge closer to that nightmare door. But as her foot rounded the corner, the scratching on the other side of the door intensified, and banging rattled the door on the weary hinges. Mejica gasped and retracted her foot, her body shaking as she clung to the wall and stared at the door.
The thing behind the door stopped again, seeming to sense, in a way, that she’d retreated.
“Jiji?” whimpered the voice from behind the door.
Mejica turned completely from the corner and went to stand over her still empty mug.
“No, no, no,” she muttered; anger and confusion and thick choking fear crawling like tar up her throat. “Don’t do it. Don’t listen. Cause it’s… It’s not real.”
“Jiji?” the voice called out again, stronger, but still pitiful.
Grabbing the decanter in a tight grip, Mejica tried to pour coffee into her mug. Most of the steaming dark drink splashed onto the counter, singeing the fingers of her other hand, but she continued pouring, continued spilling until the mug was mostly full. She set the decanter down too hard and a spider silk crack rose from the bottom and blossomed outward over the face of the container.
“Shit.” Mejica didn’t touch her coffee. She wanted to want to drink it, to pretend to be normal, like today was a normal day, but the crying from the room down the hallway kept her from experiencing that.
“Jiji, please. What did I do?” the voice from the room called. There was more scratching and an angry scream that followed, and then more banging, but the fit of noise didn’t last long. When the voice called out again, it sounded tired; despondent and weak. “Jiji? Mejica, please. Please just… Please let me out. I’m hungry.”
“You’re not real!” Mejica slammed the counter with both hands and the coffee in her cup slopped over the edge. A gentle swirl of steam rose, dreamlike from the mess. “You’re not real, so just shut up!”
“Mejica! I’m real! You’re just not doing well, is all. You’re… You just need your medication, and then you’ll… You won’t be confused then, Mejica.”
“I’m not on medication,” Mejica countered. “And I don’t know who you are. I’m still trying to figure it all out.”
“Figure what out? I’m your sister! How can you forget that I’m your freaking sister?”
Mejica clamped her hands over her ears and shook her head. “No, no, no, no, that’s not true. I don’t have a sister. I grew up with only brothers.”
“Jiji, you know that’s not true. It was just me and you. We don’t have any brothers.”
“You may not, but I do!”
“You freaking- gah! Just open the fucking door, you crazy psycho bitch!” The handle rattled and the assault on the other side of the door sounded like a bomb was going off, like a tornado was chewing through the heavy wood of the door splinter by splinter. The noise all stopped a moment later, though, and Mejica could hear gasping breaths and faint moans.
Her hands were shaking, her whole body was shaking when she walked to the corner of the kitchen and peeked around to look at the door. She’d been sure that there would have been damage, that the door should be hanging on its hinges and that the whatever-it-was inside the room would be hunched over in the hallway. But when she looked, she only saw the door; secure and still in place. Several of the mushrooms had been knocked off, and a sheet of moss hung loose like a piece of damp wallpaper, but the door was still standing.
“Jiji… Please. Please let me… lemme out, jus… I can’t keep… I’m thirsty and I’m so so hungry… I… Please lemme out Jiji. Take your medicine.”
“I don’t take any medicine,” Mejica said, her voice low and as stern as she could manage without betraying the quivering of her body.
“You know you… do. You know you do, Mejica. Your Geo… your… the geo dome stuff… Your head meds. Jus take them again and you’ll see. Just take them again an you can lemme… lemme out and…” The voice faded then, back into silence.