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Folding Doors

Nyki Blatchley is a British author, poet, and freelance copywriter who graduated from Keele University in English and Greek and now lives just outside London. At various stages of his life, he's worked in bookselling, residential care for adults with learning disabilities, and media monitoring, as well as the usual collection of stop-gap jobs, which have ranged from a brief stint with a well-known fast-food chain to being an artist's model.

He has had about forty stories published, mostly fantasy or horror, in various magazines, webzines, and anthologies, including Penumbra, Lore, Wily Writers, and The Thirteenth Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories. His novel At An Uncertain Hour was published by StoneGarden, and he's had novellas out from Musa Publishing and Fox & Raven, among others. He's currently working on various projects, from a fantasy trilogy called The Winter Legend to a series of stories for young children.

Nyki is an administrator for the online fantasy writers' group fantasy-writers.org and runs the live group East Herts Fantasy Writers. He has also had many poems published, and has performed poetry and music at various venues around London, including frequent appearances at the legendary coffee-house Bunjies, which in the 60s hosted artists such as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and David Bowie. He's also been known to sing in public, but only for as long as it takes to find a crooked stick to pull him off.

"Let me get this straight, young man," says Ms. Dawson, tapping one toe of her red Jimmy Choos in that numinously ominous way of hers. "You claim to have spent the research grant we gave you on constructing a phased portal into quasi-quantum meta-reality, whatever exactly that is. And it looks exactly like a patio door."
"Not just a patio door," I explain. I tend to gabble when I'm nervous. "A five-panel, triple-glazed bifold door with a traffic door to the right, and--"
"The design is immaterial," Ms. Dawson informs me, and I shut up. She's probably right.
She gazes around the messy room. I have a sudden twinge of panic, hoping I haven't left any porn visible on the computer, but she barely glances at the screen, which is just showing lots of stars rushing away at great speed. Her eyes finally return to the door.
"It's a patio door," she informs me. "Nothing more, nothing less. What's on the other side of it is your garden. I can see it from here."
I have to admit this tends to make my creation difficult to explain. I try.
"That's because we're looking through it from this side. If we were to open it and walk through, we'd be in a reality so unlike this one that... that, well, there aren't words to describe it."
"Really?" She adjusts her small, rectangular designer glasses--I'm sure she had the lenses ground specially to make her eyes look scarier--and glances at the door again, before returning her gaze to me. "And you know this because? How many trips have you made through it?"
"Well... none," I have to confess. "But all the math checks out. There's no way I'm wrong."
"I see." For a moment, I think she's said icy, which would fit her tone of voice. "So are you planning on giving a demonstration? Or am I supposed just to be bowled over by your equations and give you the extra money you want?"
That was the idea, but her expression suggests I'd better revise my plan.
"You mean, go through it now?"
"Why not?" Her foot's tapping again. "If it's everything you claim, that won't be a problem, will it?"
I try to think about this, through my mind's usual jumble. There definitely is a problem, but her presence makes it difficult to concentrate. I know I should really stick to my guns, but then for sure I won't get the follow-on grant. Come to think of it, doesn't that have something to do with the problem?
I need to answer her, before she gives up and leaves. "I suppose not," I say.
I unlock my creation. The traffic door bypasses the portal, because... well, I need a way into my garden, don't I? I pull the main panels apart, and I'm rather gratified to hear her gasp. There's nothing special to see through the doorway--it's just that nothing includes there being no garden.
"I can't see anything," she says. Her voice sounds a little hoarse.
"You wouldn't. According to my calculations, quasi-quantum meta-reality can't be perceived while you're still in this reality. We'd have to go through to see it."
Her throat works convulsively as she swallows, but she nods after a moment. "Very well, we'll do that."
I know it's really not a good idea, but I still can't put my finger on why, so I give up trying to remember and lead the way through. It takes one step, which feels like being pulled in about seventeen-point-three-four directions at the same time, and then we're on the other side.
My theory's right: there aren't words to describe quasi-quantum meta-reality. It's a little like being surrounded by dissociated pixels, a little like listening to colors that smell solid, and a little like being very, very stoned. Only with all that turned up to eleven.
After a while--or what passes for a while, since time flows sideways, or perhaps diagonally--Ms. Dawson says, in a viscous, grass-green voice, "All right, I believe you. Can we go back now?"
I look around, which takes more sideways time than it should, because there are far more directions than I'm used to, but there's no sign of the door. Of course. That's what I was trying to remember.
"Ah, what?"
"You know I was asking for a further grant? Well, I've just remembered what I needed it for."
The sound of her foot tapping was a mixture of salty and bitter.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 9th, 2015

Author Comments

Folding Doors originated from a peculiar conjunction of an online writing exercise and my freelance copywriting work. I do a weekly one-hour writing exercise with a group of writer friends, and that week, as the result of some chat just before we started, the topic set was: an unusual door.

As it happened, I'd just been writing a series of articles for a client about bifold doors, a subject about which I'd been totally ignorant before I began on the topic. With my head full of bifold doors, it was inevitable what form my unusual door would take, and I suspect the spirit of a certain Mr. Adams may have helped with the rest.

- Nyki Blatchley
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