Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Door at the Bottom of The Basement Stairs

When I was still quite young, we moved from a tiny oil boom town to a rented brick house in a nearby city. It was an old house in an aging neighborhood near the edge of town. What lingers in my mind to this day is the mystery of that old brick house. It is so vivid that it seems more like a memory than a dream. It seems as though this really happened and was not just the imagination of an impressionable boy.

The street was an old tree-lined street of a once wealthy community which had been abandoned to the likes of us as we immigrated to this place from the busted dreams of an oil boom town. Essentially, we were riff-raff.

Our street ran east and west. To the east, the downtown area was about five or six miles away, maybe further. To the west, the street curled toward the north and ran down hill, encompassing a vast vacant lot and coming to an end where it intersected with a street that ran north and south. On the corner was a secluded mansion hidden by trees, the last affluent occupant holed up as though making a last stand to retain the past that once was so splendid. The north/south street was the edge of the city. Beyond that street were ravines and rolling hills, unusual terrain for the flat plains of the caprock.

Our brick house was very old with a detached garage toward the backyard. Our neighbors to the west lived in an old stucco house with a detached double garage.

Our house had a basement, which was somewhat of an unusual feature. The stairs descended into blackness, and there were constant sounds coming from that darkness as though the house were alive. As you descended down the stairs you would enter the basement at the bottom of the stairs, but there was a mysterious, locked door on the right. My Dad warned me that I was to never open that door---no matter what.

Of course this command seemed something of a challenge. I was often left alone in the house as my parents worked and my sister was much older than I and was usually out with her friends or at some afterschool function. I would sneak to the bottom of the stairs and try to open the door. It would not budge, no matter what I tried, and I was afraid to force it. I could hear mysterious voices behind the door, but when I put my ear to the door, the voices disappeared into an eerie silence.

As I indicated earlier what happened later I recall like a memory although it seems impossible. One night when I was alone, with a fierce thunderstorm pouring torrents into the street, turning it into a raging stream, I crept down the stairs, perhaps to avoid the lightning and loud thunderclaps that punctuated the night sky.

As I approached the door at the bottom of the stairs I reached out and touched the doorknob and turned it---the door swung open almost magically. I went inside to discover another place, a world full of light and splendor. The sun shone on a bright landscape of rolling hills, elegant and stately Chinese Elms that towered toward the sky, and lush green meadows. Clouds billowed overhead like mansions in the sky. In the distance I could hear laughter and animated conversations.

I followed the sounds and soon came upon a clearing where women were laughing and playing croquet. There were also women sitting on blankets, drinking tea. Each was distinctively dressed, and their hair was impeccable. I was struck by their elegance and beauty. There were no men. I watched them for a while as they seemed to be having such fun, and then they noticed me.

"Oh look, it's that boy who has been spying on us!"

"Isn't he cute? Come here, young man."

I hesitated.

"Don't be afraid. We won't hurt you."

"Come here."

The lady speaking was very compelling, but also very comforting. She seemed to be older than the others and was framed in an aura that seemed to radiate outward, disappearing into space.

"We have no children here," she said. "Won't you be our little boy?"

I approached her and she swept me up in a tender embrace.

"I can't stay!"

"But it's perfect here! Don't you see? We have no men here. We need you. Everyone adores you!"

The other ladies crowded around me, murmuring agreement and assurances, reaching out to me, almost pleading.

"Here, have some tea!"

"What is this place?" I asked.

"It doesn't matter. It's no place really." The older lady smiled, and poued the tea and motioned for me to sit. We sat on a blanket, drinking our tea.

"What do you do here?" I tasted the tea. It was warm and sweet, and the smell was even more delicious than the taste.

"Oh we do a great many things." she volunteered. We play our games and have great fun---and we watch."

"You watch...?"

"We watch, and we often visit parallel worlds in order to make things right..."

"I don't understand..."

"Of course you don't, but that's all right." She smiled. "We exist at the timeless intersection of many worlds and overlapping dimensions. We are the Watchers, the Knowers, and the Doers."

I nodded as though I understood, and strangely, part of me did understand.

"You broke into this space. I don't know how you did it, but you are here now, and I don't believe we can let you go back."

"But I have to go..."

"You've changed everything!" she seemed mildly upset.

"Please..." the tea was making me very drowsy. "I've been gone too long."

"You haven't beem gone for more than an instant. Time doesn't exist here. We exist in the zero plane of time's waveform. As long as you stay here, you will never grow older, because there is no time... you will always be our little boy!"

The ladies began giggling and laughing, and I was growing more and more apprehensive.

They went back to playing croquet and to conversations I didn't understand... their voices growing more and more distant.

They seemed to think I was asleep, and in the confusion of the moment I slipped away, and ran as hard as I could, retracing my steps.

I panicked. I couldn't find the door!

I started yelling, "Dad! Dad!"

Suddenly Dad's hand seemed to come from nowhere, grabing me and pulling me up.

"What are you doing here in the basement in the dark? Hiding from the storm?" he scowled with a puzzled smile.

"But Dad...the door..."

I looked and the door was shut, impenetrable as ever.

"Never mind. Better get to bed!"

As I went up the stairs, I glanced back and saw him check the knob. The door was firmly shut and locked.

Upstairs the storm was beginning to subside. Faint flickers of distant lightning could be seen and thunder rolled across the sky in dwindling rumblings.

There are many memories of that world of watchers and knowers. These recollections have just started to return to my memory after being banished for all these years. I know there are those of you that will insist these were only dreams. But they are so vivid and seem to come not from the place where dreams reside but from the many and varied corridors of a remembered past.

1 comment:

thom de plume said...

I am haunted by your post on the world behind the door...

Since memory seems to be a pertinent issue of late, I have, in connection, been reviewing the work of Jorge Luis Borges and his peculiar narratives concerning temporal displacement and unexplainable doublings.

I am also struck by the question of whether the not the world you described was dreamt or actually experienced (what's the difference).

Regarding my own memories of the rally at the Chinese mission following the massacre at Tiananmen Square, I find myself wondering the same thing, i.e., whether or not I dreamed it, or if it actually happened.

In retrospect, the events of that day unfolded in such an inevitable fashion, it seemed as if they had already occured in some other...




to be continued...