When I fell back against the wall in my rental house, after gracefully tripping over my own shoe lace, I thought it seemed a bit hard. Expensive wallpaper with an intricate floral design gave no hint that anything was being disguised and I laughed to myself as I ran my hands over it looking for a hidden seam that would open up a secret door. For good measure, I rapped my knuckles against it.
The wall felt solid, a bit too substantial for drywall and studs. I have to admit, my curiosity was piqued. My left foot banged up against the base board and the board popped out sending out a puff of black sand across the carpeting. I’ve never been one to just walk away from an intriguing mystery, I did what only seemed logical. I reached down and pulled on the baseboard. It had been secured with heavy 16d sinker nails and the odds of one coming loose were not very good. I managed to slip a couple fingers around the loosened board and tugged. It moved only a fraction and I pulled harder. The sound of cracking and splintering filled the room and I suddenly found myself falling hard on my butt with a broken piece of baseboard in my hand, a single sinker nail still dangling out the backside. Laughing at myself and how ridiculous I must appear, I looked back to the wall and saw the wallpaper had torn and there was something behind it.
You would think the first thought in my head would be that of how to hide the damage so my new landlord would not freak out. At one time, I might have had that as a first thought, but the desire to know the mystery pushed that thought away and I crawled back over to the wall and carefully lifted the torn paper. Whatever was there, it was metal and old. It looked like wrought iron but not the fancy detailed stuff with whirls and loops. It appeared to be, rusty and impenetrable and ancient in appearance.
It was an odd thing to find in a townhouse that couldn’t be more than twenty years old. Logic at this point was still hanging in the balance and so I started pulling away more wallpaper, enjoying the sound of the tearing and marveling at how much it was hiding. Eventually I had to stand and kick away the piles of shredded flowery paper, my fingers stretched full trying to reach the last bits up near the ceiling. I stepped back and surveyed my handiwork. It was a door. A solid wrought iron door with a single looped handle on the right side. It was flush with the rest of the wall which meant it could only open by pushing in. I pushed. It was like pushing on the side of a freight-liner, not that I had ever done that, but it was what I imagined it would feel like. Hard, cold and unyielding. I lunged at it, hoping my excess 280 lbs would budge it. A dull pain exploded in my shoulder the moment I made contact and a slid to the floor clutching my arm and whimpering like a scolded puppy.
I leaned my back up against it and tilted my head so I could peer up at the smoothed rounded loop that served as a handle. I looked away and down at the nest of torn wallpaper I was sitting in and silently resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to explain myself and somehow come up with the money to fix the damages I had just caused. With a grunt, I reached up for the handle with the mindset of pulling myself to my feet. Instead of the desired effect, the handle pulled down and the door gave a screeching sound of metal upon metal as it opened up and a gust of stale dusty air whooshed past me. I scrambled to my feet, and poked my head inside, not really sure what to expect but my heart was thundering in my chest and tingles were running down my spine.
I did a quick spider scan around the door to ensure no sudden drop downs that would cause me to go into one of my infamous spider dances that were reminiscent of a spastic windmill, and I took my first step inside. Sunlight from my front windows splashed through the door and covered a table laden with thick dust and an empty flower vase in the center. I ventured further in, pulling out my smartphone and clicking on the flashlight application so that bright artificial light blanketed the room. It was disappointingly empty. I let out a pent up breath and turned back to the living room. The debris from the wallpaper was gone and sitting at the kitchen table was a small man dressed like a garden gnome, impatiently drumming his fingers, and glaring at me. “Why have you opened the Forbidden Passage?!”
I did the only thing I could think of. I laughed.
He did not.