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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Drama · #2317649
Benjamin learns that some doors are better left unopened

         Pricked with curiosity, Benjamin's face was squashed between the narrow wooden balustrades as he watched his father in silence. There was the familiar click of the key fitting into the lock and the tiny squeak it would give as if in protest. Father would then double-check to make sure it was indeed shut as he gave the bronze handle a final twist. The key soon disappeared into his father’s pocket, and that would be the end of the nearly daily ritual.

         Benjamin could never make it on time to see when his father walked in or out of the room. He almost always arrived when the door was being locked, so he had absolutely no idea what was behind the ordinary-looking wooden portal. It had no distinct features and its location was right next to the laundry room anyway. It did not lead to the basement because that had a different door entirely, and Benjamin could go down there, since his father gave him permission to keep him company while he tinkered with his woodworking hobby.

         He loved spending time with his dad in the basement, and had gotten good enough at being able to carve out miniature figurines.

         “He’s a natural,” his father had bragged to his wife as he ruffled Benjamin’s head with a proud smile.

         Being praised always made him feel good.

         Yet, the mystery remained. What was behind that door? The door that was inescapable to miss especially when one came out of the basement. It was right across from it, as if taunting Benjamin to peer through it. Sometimes, he wished he had super vision like Superman, maybe if he squinted hard enough, he could figure out what was really behind it.

         One day, he finally dared to ask.

         “What’s behind that door, Dad? It’s always locked. Is it a storage room?”

         The whirring sound of the drill came to a halting stop, and for a heart stopping second, Benjamin wondered if he had upset his father. Instead, a sad – almost pained smile – appeared briefly on his father’s face before a gloved hand reached out to pat his head tenderly.

         “You could say that, son,” was the cryptic reply. “Now get me that can of oil over there, eh? Let’s try to finish this quickly before Mom gets home.”

         Benjamin tried to hide his disappointment at the response received. Another storage room? He knew they had the attic where most of their ‘junk’, as Mom called it, was kept. So, why did they need another storage space? And why was this one such a secret?

         “Mom? What’s in that room across the basement? Why is it always locked?” he asked gingerly as he was tucked into bed later that night.

         Expecting another non-answer to his query, he was confused to see the same reaction on his mother’s features. “What door across from the basement, honey? You mean the laundry room?”

         Benjamin shook his head with a bemused frown. “The door right next to it, Mom. The one that Dad locks all the time.”

         His mother smiled and shook her head. “All right, sweetheart. Let’s just pretend there is a door there, hmm? Now, it’s night-night time. Get some sleep.”

         She left with a kiss on his forehead and turned off the lights, but Benjamin was far from feeling sleepy. He tried to understand why his parents were acting so weird about the whole thing. How could his mother not notice an extra door on their hallway, and why had Dad called it another storage room? Were they not telling him the truth?

         “Guess, we have to go investigate this, Captain Dooley,” he whispered to his favorite toy action-figure.

         Clutching his companion to his chest, he slipped out of bed as quietly as possible and opened his door.

         The landing was quiet as expected, and a quick glance at the large clock on the wall showed it was almost midnight. The door to his parents’ bedroom was closed, but as he took a tentative step forward, he heard the familiar squeak of a key being turned within a door.

         Excitement, yet fear, surged through him. He peered through the balustrades and could see the sharp ray of light illuminating the darkened foyer.

         The locked door was open!

         On tiptoes, he walked quickly down the stairs, not stopping until he found himself standing before a room his active imagination had always thought was a pathway to –

         “Da…Dad?” he squeaked out breathlessly as Captain Dooley slipped from his hand and to the floor in a loud clatter.

         His father spun around quickly, a comical look of surprise, yet dismay on his features. He was sitting on a stool, akin to the one in the basement. He was working on something, but unlike the familiar array of woodwork tools, these particular tools looked more advanced, more sophisticated and with a lot of flashing computers and equipment that dazzled Benjamin’s saucer-sized eyes.

         What was even more mystifying was what his father was cradling on his lap.

         Why was his father fixing another Benjamin with a screwdriver?

         “Oh, son. My dear precious son,” his father croaked as tears suddenly leaked from his eyes.

         Benjamin did not understand, even as his father fell before him, pulled him into his arms and sobbed hard against his shoulders.

         Why was his father so sad?

         Benjamin stared over his heaving back; studying his twin and two other nude versions of him, sitting in what looked like metallic tubs filled with crushed ice. There were a couple of framed photographs on the walls of the room, many of them with his parents or alone – smiling…happy…until his gaze fell upon a newspaper clipping – dated five years ago - which simply declared the haunting truth of it all:

Six-year-old boy killed in roadside accident by drunk driver.

Word Count: 968

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