A new Short Story - House of Four Doors

2022-03-02

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The five of them, Justin, John, Ray, Mike, and Graeme, were hiking in the woods. The day started out beautiful and perfect for a hike. A few puffy white cumulus clouds floated in the crystal blue sky, and the scent of wildflowers filled the air. Crickets chirped and butterflies fluttered, bluebirds soared overhead, and grasshoppers hopped and skipped away from the trail. As they walked through the sparse woods, trees of browns and greens; flowers of yellows, reds, and pinks; their conversation went like this:

"These woods are beautiful, don't you think?"

"Yeah, quite amazing, if you really think about them, about everything that surrounds us."

"Can you hear it?"

"Hear what? I hear the crickets and the birds. I love the music they make."

"Touch the grass."

"It's soft, smooth on one side, fuzzy on the other. I can almost hear it."

"Yes, that's it, the singing of the grass, of the leaves above."

"I hear it! Wow, it's beautiful!"

"What's that smell? That scent?"

"I don't know, but it's quite nice."

"You know? I think...yes, I think it's the grass and the leaves. The scent of the sound."

"Wow! That's great! The scent of the sound, I like that."

"Look at that oak tree; it must be hundreds of years old. Can you imagine the strength in that oak?"

"Touch it."

"Incredible! I can feel its life."

"What would it be like to be one of those squirrels? Life in and from this oak."

"It's amazing, when you think about it, how these flowers, so fragile as they are, are strong enough to grow through something so hard as man-made concrete. The way they know to grow upwards and shoot for the sun when they have no idea where it is."

"Yes, and what would it be like to be a nightingale, to fly up there in the blue, viewing those humans below. The ones that do nothing more than destroy the very thing that allows them to survive."

"To be able to fly like a bird to the sun and not burn a wing, just fly by it, gaze at its wonders, then return to this blue and green globe, and live and wonder at the life we've been given.

"Hey, bluebird! Hey, nightingale! What is that song you sing? If only you could tell me. What a thing that would be."

The small group of adventurers came to a meadow where the grass invited them to lay and relax. The breeze was gentle, the sunshine warm, the grass soft.

"Can you hear it?"

"Yes."

"Yeah, it's wonderful."

"Nature, and the One who gave it to us, sure knows how to take care of us."

"The song of the grass. It's almost too much for my mind to bear."

"Sometimes, I wish it were possible for someone to take my place in this crazy world. You know, kind of take my seat, and let me go find a better, less crazy place."

"Yeah, it's like everything we learned in school all made sense in school, but in the real world, it just doesn't. You know? Two plus two equals four, but not anymore. What happened?"

"I finished school at the top of my class, but then when I entered the real world, where was I? Not at the top, that's for sure. We go from the top to the bottom in an instant."

"The world spins around and around so fast. It's as if my head is spinning, but it's not. Everything I thought I knew, well, turns out it was all wrong. The world isn't what we were taught it is."

"Look at the clouds. Are they moving? Or is it the world that's moving? Are they changing? Or is it the world around us that's changing?"

"What are we looking for?"

"A life that makes sense?"

"The perfect song."

"That would be a miracle."

"A chord. The one chord, the one that takes the entire disharmony and makes harmony."

"Does such a chord exist?"

"It wasn't in the trees of the woods."

"Nor in the flowers, or the birds."

"And walking out here into this meadow, I don't hear it here in the song of this grass."

"Here we are, still in this grass, yet speeding through the universe. Thinking. You know, thinking is the best way to travel."

They lay in the grass of the meadow, pondering, thinking, about the wonders of life. One stood up. He stared and thought. He listened and smelled the air. "As beautiful as it is, no, it's not here."

They all stood up from the blanket of grass below them, and stared into the distance ? the meadow, the woods, and the hills. Then, they started walking again.

The meadow was large, very large. Before long, they were no longer sure of the direction they were going. They turned and looked behind them.

"Where's the woods?"

"They should be behind us; we've only been going straight across the meadow."

"They're not there."

They walked onwards. All of a sudden, something changed, but what was it?

"The sky."

"Something's changed, I can feel it."

"So can I, do you hear that?"

"The sound of change in the air."

They walked on, and soon came to another woodland.

"This isn't the same woods."

"No, these are different trees, and different flowers."

"Look at the birds, what kind of birds are those?"

"Fantastical birds, that's what they are."

"The color blue is like the sky. It's beautiful."

"Those flowers look like clouds. Look how they appear to gently float across the ground below the trees."

"I think they are floating."

"Hey, look! Over there, a trail! Did you see it before? I didn't."

"No, I hadn't seen it."

"Neither did I."

"Well, there it is, in front of us, for us to take."

"Where do you suppose it will lead us?"

"I guess we're going to find out before long."

They walked to the head of the trail, which took them into the woods, to where they had no idea. Occasionally streaks of sunlight shone through the leaves overhead, lighting the trail.

"This trail appears to be quite old."

"Yes, I noticed that, also. A long lost, or forgotten, trail, just for us."

"Mother Earth is leading us to something. To something important. Something that will give us what we're looking for."

Eventually the intrepid explorers saw something ahead of them.

"Hey, what's up there?"

"I think it's a house."

"Yes, it is!"

"How strange, a house out here in these unusual woods. But, what a magical place it would be to live."

"I could do it."

"Knock on the door."

When he knocked on the door, the door slowly swung open. They peered into the small house: the first room they saw had a couch and two armchairs, an end table, and a coffee table. They saw nobody in the room.

"Hello!" called out one of them.

"Anyone home?" another asked.

There was no response to either question.

"Should we go in?"

"Seems nobody's here, and it also appears that nobody lives here."

"Hmm, yeah, no books, no magazines, no TV, nothing."

"Let's go in."

They went into the lonely room, stood in the middle, and looked around. It was light enough to see everything there was to see, which wasn't much. The little bit of furniture and nothing else. Except four doors.

"Four doors."

"Interesting."

"Why no kitchen? I'm hungry."

"And no bathroom."

"Maybe one of the doors leads into the kitchen, and another into the bathroom, and another into a bedroom."

"And the fourth?"

"I think it is the one hiding what we are looking for."

"But, which one is the fourth?"

"I don't know about you guys, but I think that one just leads to another bedroom."

"Do we dare?"

They looked at the four doors, all closed, all with the exact same knobs, same styling of paneling, same color.

"Well, here goes nothing..."

He reached for the knob, first, he gave it a quiet touch of one finger, half expecting a shock of some kind. Nothing happened. He turned the knob and the door swung open, silently, slowly, smoothly.

The men entered the room. One turned and looked at the backside of the door, checking to make sure there was a knob on the other side. There was. The door slowly, smoothly, silently, closed behind them.

"Hey, someone's over there, look!"

They walked over to the stranger.

"Look at what he's wearing! That's really strange."

"What kind of clothes are those, sir?"

"Where's the theater at?"

The stranger started to sing:

"Since I see, every day, love,
joy and pleasure end,
and the clergy doesn't help me,
I don't know where to turn, aside from comforting myself
as does, when it knows of its death,
the swan, who laments and cries
and forcefully emits sounds
when it's time for its life to end
and it doesn't have hope anymore."

"Hey, my good friend, what song is this you sing?"

The stranger stopped singing and said, "It is named, 'Car vei finir a tot dia'."

"What kind of music is that?"

"It is the music of Cercamon and Guilhalmi. Do you not know them?"

"No, sir, I haven't heard of them."

"He is a great musician, and is now fighting to defend our King Louis VII of France."

"He is doing this now, you say?"

"Yes." The stranger continued his song:

"Mentor, may god help me,
you certainly say fitting things;
still, let it not bother you
that the clergy doesn't do you any good;
for a favorable time comes, I believe,
in which you'll have an associate such
as will give you a steed
or an income worth even more to you,
for the count of Poitiers is coming."

The five men stayed and listened to the troubadour as he continued for six verses. Then they turned and returned to the door back to the house they came from.

"Wow, that was strange."

"Yeah, a troubadour? From the time of the French king Louis VII?"

"Was he for real?"

"Well, I don't know, but it was interesting, but it didn't give us any information about what we are looking for."

The five sat in the chairs and on the couch for a while to ponder the strange man and his unusual song.

"You know, the melody of that singer, it was nothing like anything I've ever heard."

"Yes, and the words he sang, I don't understand them, it was just a conversation between one man offering another riches if he is patient."

"Yeah, that's what I heard, too, but the second man is not patient, so will never get the promised riches. Or something like that."

"You know, now that I've been thinking about it, about that man and his song, and the fact that he mentioned it was the time of King Louis VII of France. That was in the 13th century, I think. That was the time of the troubadours and the medieval period."

"Interesting. I wonder what the other doors have hiding behind them?"

"Well, what do you think?" Another turned and looked at the other three doors.

"They're all the same on this side."

Another stood up; walked to the next door closest to the one they had opened, and reached for the knob. The others all joined him, and he turned the knob.

The door slowly opened into a room, large and light, and in the far corner was a group of people. The five walked towards the group in the corner and as they got closer saw they were holding instruments ? violins, violas, cellos, basses, and others. Then a man standing at the front of the group turned towards the five, waved to them to sit in the five chairs that were empty and waiting for their arrival. The man at the front of the group raised his arms, paused, then drop his hands smoothly and the group started to play. The music started with a few slow pulses of sound, beautiful chords, full of life. Then the violins came in and brought the entire group into a dance-like rhythm. The five tapped their toes, looked at each other, smiled and nodded, and enjoyed the music, the richness of the lower strings under the high strings, the counterparts juxtaposed against each other. The music was happy; it was engaging, and delightful to listen to.

When the group finished, the leader paused with his head facing down, in thought it seemed. He soaked in the remaining reverberations, then turned to the five, all leaning forward having given their full attention to the mesmerizing music.

"What was that piece?"

"That was beautiful."

"Did you write that piece? That's a work of art if there ever was one."

"My friends, I am Arcangelo Corelli."

"Well, Mr. Corelli, that was absolutely fantastic music. You have a truly wonderful group of musicians."

"The piece we just shared with you is called Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8, and we performed movements 4, 5, and 6."

"I've heard of you before, Mr. Corelli. You live in Italy, I believe in the 1600s."

"Yes that is correct, my friend."

"Hey, isn't that the one we call the Christmas Concerto?"

"Well now, that is most interesting," said Mr. Corelli.

"Why is that?"

Mr. Corelli held up his written score and showed the five an inscription he had written at the top corner of the page, which said, "Fatto per la notte di Natale."

One of the five said, "'Made for the night of Christmas'."

"Yes, my friend, very good. So, you know some of my language."

"Yes, some."

"Will you play us anything more?"

"I believe we have time for one shorter piece. This comes from Trio Sonata, it is Opus 2 No. 11, from the 2nd Movement."

When the group finished the music the five stood and clapped, walked up to the group, and shook the hands of each musician. Then they went back to the door they had entered through, and were back in the house of four doors.

The five again took seats and discussed what they had heard and experienced.

"But, after all of that, I feel like we are still missing something."

"Yes, I do, too. We'll have to go through the next door."

One of the five stood, and then the others stood alongside him. They all paused and gazed at the door. The third door, it looked the same as the previous two doors, and the same as the final door to its left. What would they find behind that door?

"What do you think? More music?"

"I think so, but what kind? The first door was the old medieval music."

"The second door was early classical."

"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go." He reached forward, grabbed the knob, and turned it. This time he had to give the door a little push to open it. It had the slightest squeak from the lowest hinge. The squeak shook the five out of their thoughts, and they all stopped and looked at the offending hinge.

"What is the meaning of that, do you suppose?" asked one.

"Hmm," said another. They gave it another look and then entered the room. It was another large room, but this one had a slightly declining floor, with seats in the center of the room. The walls were irregular, the ceiling as well. Down and in front was a stage with a shell-like structure at the back. On the state were many chairs and music stands, but no people.

"This is interesting," said one.

Then a man walked out from the side of the stage, stopped in the middle of the stage, and looked at the five.

"Welcome," he said.

The five all waved to the man standing alone on the stage.

"You, my friends, are about to experience my own Piano Concerto No. 1 in B? minor, Op. 23. I hope you enjoy it." The man turned around, his back to the five, and all of a sudden, the chairs were filled with musicians.

"Hey, where'd they come from?"

"I didn't see anyone come onto the stage, did you?"

"No, that was so strange, like magic."

"It must have been some kind of illusion to trick us, some kind of magician's trick."

The horns and trumpets started playing powerful notes that brought the piano in and the five watched the hands of the pianist skim over the keys, so light and graceful, the sounds from the piano bouncing from wall to wall, yet not reverberating. The second movement started with soft music from the clarinets, oboes, and flutes. The five gave their full attention to the musicians on the stage. Two of the five had closed their eyes, two were leaning forward with elbows on knees, intently watching, the fifth, his eyes darted from musician to musician as he absorbed every note from every instrument. The sound swelled and ebbed, and swelled and ebbed again. The orchestra wasn't particularly large, just two of each - oboes, flutes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, trombones, and four horns. There was a timpani player and the pianist. Finally behind them was a string section. The final part of the piece started powerfully, with the full orchestra, fast and beautiful. The piano came in, hands flying across the whites and blacks. The music had the five entranced right from the first notes until the end.

At the end of the piece, the maestro turned to the five, the musicians on stage disappeared, and he said, "Thank you for coming today, I hope you have enjoyed my music, it looks like you have."

"Sir," said one of the five, "You told us the name of your piece, but you did not say your name."

"I am Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky." As soon as he finished saying his name, he turned and walked to the side of the stage and disappeared.

The five sat there for several minutes without saying anything.

One slowly stood, looked at the stage, turned, and walked to the door. Then each of the others followed one by one. In the house of four doors, they sat and said nothing. The music had left them speechless; the name of the maestro was forever burned into their minds.

Several minutes later, one said, "We have yet to find what we're looking for. There's one more door."

"What happens if it isn't there?"

"We go back to where we came from."

One walked to the front door of the house and looked outside at the meadow they had been laying in. He said, "Look out there, it's not just a meadow, it's a garden, a universe, all to itself, within itself. I hear it, you heard it, we heard it, but not all can hear it. We felt the vibrations coming from Mother Earth, those vibrations moved up through us and into the world as light. Then we heard the sounds of the sun. Others can't hear them even when they're all around, surrounding them, in the sounds of the rays of life being shared with us from above. We must find it, the one chord, the chord of life, the harmony of life."

He stood at the door surrounded by his mates, all peering out the doorway at the meadow, green and yellow and red, bluebirds, nightingales, butterflies ? a million butterflies, their wings together powering the earth, pushing it through the vast emptiness. But is it empty?

The five turned back towards the room with the four doors, identical in every way, and looked at the last door. There they saw something that hadn't been there before, a plaque that read, "Enter in all ye who seek to find within."

"What does it mean?"

"Where did it come from?"

"It's the last door; it's beckoning us to enter."

One reached for the knob, his hand wrapped around the smooth metal object. Another hand was placed on top of his. The others all placed hands on shoulders making a chain, connected not just by friendship, but by the very air around them, the air that they shared. They could feel it, the vibrations all around them, the electricity coursing through them.

"What is happening to me?"

"I believe I hear the sound of the sea calling to me."

"Is that the bluebird speaking to me?"

"A bell is about to ring somewhere, to wake up the voices in the sky."

"Bluebird flying high, if you could talk to me, what news would you bring?"

They stood still, quiet, exhilarated. The last door! They all thought together.

The knob turned in their hands.

The door cracked open. A sweet scent flowed through the crack to the noses of the five. They inhaled, more and more, the intoxicating aroma. They smiled.

"Is it a dream?"

"I'm feeling high as a kite."

"Faster than the speed of light."

They pushed the door, gently, and it opened into the outside. A world, their world, the meadow, their meadow. The bluebirds, the nightingales, the butterflies, all flying overhead.

They walked into the outside, stopped, looked around, and wondered, perhaps the answers here.

"It's the same as where we were."

"Is it?"

"Listen and you'll hear the music of the light."

"Yes, and listen to the wings of the butterflies."

"And the sound from the grass."

"I hear it now, the perfect harmony."

"It's life in harmony, it's as it should be."

"The light has opened our hearts and shown us what perfect harmony is."

"What we knew before, it was just two notes of the chord. Here we hear all the notes and the chord is perfect."

"What is the chord called?"

"Does it need to be called anything?"

The five stood, watched nothing but the world around them, listened to the light, felt the very substance of the world around them. Complete. They felt complete.

They walked back into the house of four doors, through the little bit of furniture, and out the front door. They walked through the meadow, said farewell to the bluebirds and nightingales, the butterflies and crickets. The rain, very light, freshened the air around them, cooled them, reminded them that life is complete, whole, and perfect, if only we could perceive.

"Look at the clouds roll past our heads."

"Now I know why the sky cries."

"Every day the earth turns around, and there it is, the sound for those who can perceive, it is with us every day. We can hear it, but can they? Can they hear what it says?"

"Om."