SHORT STORY MONDAY
I wrote this story in 1994, but the house in which it takes place was something we had seen in the vicinity of Stillwater when we were looking for our first place. The story itself drew its inspiration from Borges, the master of magic realism. The story will continue in the weeks ahead.
The Nonsense Room
"Greg, I don't want you going in there tonight."
"I mean it. It's starting to -"
"It's making me different somehow?"
"I didn't say that."
"But you'd like to say that. The room is changing me and you don't like it, is that it?"
"I'm scared, Greg."
He put his arm over her shoulders. "There, there."
"It's just a room," he wanted to say, but he knew it was more than that. He had discovered a world, a strange world, and he was fascinated by it, wanted to understand what made it work.
"It's not just a room," she said.
"Did I say it was 'just a room'?" he replied, startled.
"You were thinking it."
As he turned away from her and stalked down the hall he had a thought, brief but vivid, that his relationship to this room would lead to a reckoning; but the thought slid away from him and escaped from his consciousness so that he was unable to retrieve it and could only hear in his mind the hollowness of the false comfort he offered while feigning paternalistic concern, saying, "There, there."
"Greg!" his wife cried as he twisted the handle to the Nonsense Room, but he disregarded her and went in. He was not interested in having his life constricted by his wife's fears and he was baffled by their intensity.
Eyes flaming, Leslie fell to the sofa and lit a cigarette.
For Greg and Leslie Moore, finding a home in Stillwater was more problematic than originally imagined, but at the last they discovered the Shatterly Place, an enormous hodgepodge of competing architectural motifs ambitiously stapled together with Victorian pretensions. Marketed as a handyman's special, the price was most appealing. Only later did they learn of the strange history of the house. "People get deranged in that house," the grocer told Leslie at Thanksgiving. "The place either finds 'em cracked or leaves 'em that way."
The Nonsense Room wasn't discovered until the following spring. They were rearranging the kitchen and decided to move an old refrigerator that had come with the house out of an alcove which they planned to turn into a pantry. Behind the refrigerator they discovered a door with a hasp, padlocked shut. The door, hinges, hasp and lock had all been painted mint green, a reminder that the fifties had passed this way. The ceiling of the alcove was dingy with cobwebs, and greasy. The floor, too, was rank with grunge. But Greg saw only the door.
"Where do you think it goes?" Greg said.