Ralph Whitewashes His Nightmare

Red Door

The door from Ralph’s nightmares pulsated blood-red. But in the fading light of a fall evening, it was just a door at the far end of an empty cellar that reeked of mold and fuel oil.

The door called to Ralph the last time he stayed in this house an eight-year-old. Urged him out of bed, down the cellar stairs and through piles of boxes and old furniture. A voice like an old woman speaking underwater asked him to open the door.

Ralph shook his head. His therapist, Dr. Kincaid, thought this recurring nightmare was his young mind trying to process trauma. Real trauma, not a monster with tentacles that wrap themselves around little boys and keep them on the brink of suffocation, while probing their brain with a leathery proboscis.

But Dr. Kincaid never explained why his nightmares were so vivid, so consistent. Replaying the worst night of his life, over and over again.

And now he stood ten feet away from the red door. As an adult, he searched for the property online every week for unusual occurrences. Last month it showed up as a rental. Ralph booked the listing at once, took a few days off from work and flew to London. Imagined or not, he needed to come back to this cellar and face his worst fear.

And the door was here. Part of his memory was true. But the door wasn’t speaking.

“Nothing to say now, eh? Maybe you only speak to defenseless little boys,” said Ralph. Hopefully he sounded confident; his stomach wanted to empty over the dirt floor.

This was ridiculous. This stupid door had haunted him for twenty years. And it needed to end. Destroying it would end the nightmares. The years of lifting weights in his parents’ garage and practicing Brazilian Ju Jitsu gave him everything he needed to punch through the wood door and rip it apart. He wasn’t a scared little kid anymore.

But the thought of touching the door with his bare hands made Ralph shiver. Maybe he could use something, like a bat or crowbar. The cellar was empty except for a small metal cabinet next to the stairs. Inside was a set of small paint cans and a crusted brush. One can read Bright White. Perfect. Ralph popped the top, swirled the paint and positioned himself in front of the door. The paint was chunky, but this wasn’t for the aesthetics. Just cover the door, show his dominance over whatever had happened to him, and maybe he could sleep soundly for the first time in twenty years.

With a glob of paint, Ralph held out his arm in front of the door, closed his eyes, and swiped the brush. He cracked one eye; a white swath over the faded red. A white streak dripped down the door. But no voices. Ralph exhaled… this was going to work. Paint this thing and move on with life.

The last bit of day faded from the small cellar window. The flashlight on his phone would provide more light… but his eyes must have adjusted as the red brightened in the dark. Ralph confidently applied more paint to the top part of the door. Was the wood damp? The paint wasn’t taking well.

Ralph leaned in to look closer at the grain and rested his hand on the small metal handle, attached at the perfect height for an eight-year-old. The taste of leather and paint filled Ralph’s open mouth as the frigid tentacle dragged him back into the nightmare that had waited so patiently.

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