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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)

TITLE: Life 101
By dub W
04/11/11


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He pushed against the rusted steel door, trying to stop the weight of an object without purpose other than to close. His feet slid in an accumulation of small pebbles. It wasn’t so much that he cared about the door closing; he simply did not want it to be a problem for others. After all, getting it open in the first place was a bit of a miracle. The door, to anyone’s recent knowledge, had never been opened; it was a bit of antiquity, an object of the past, a forgotten gateway, perhaps just a forgotten door. He saw no lock. Its tilt and weight made it an unopenable block.

But, he did it.

------

He had been tending a garden when he first considered the door. The garden was a two-meter square patch to grow his own food; but, even the seeds had to be bartered. The garden bordered the door.

A year earlier he first contemplated opening the door.

“Why you wanna do that?” His friend seemed amazed that he would consider such a bogus attempt.

“I suppose,” he stammered. “It’s simply because I want to be on the other side.”

“That’s silly.” Not long on explanation the friend continued to be amazed.

“It can be done.” He raised his hoe deftly, and then lowered it, looking over his shoulder to see if anyone noticed. “Besides, I am tired of being here.”

His friend sniffed. “We all are.”

“I’ve heard others talk. They are all pessimists.”

“Boredom breeds pessimism. Pessimism leads to complacency. Which eventually kills will. There’s little group creative thinking.” The hoe handle bounced on the ground.

“Creative thought is discouraged.”

He angrily dug in the dirt with the hoe. “By whom?”

“The ones who put us here.”

“And, who is that?” He dug harder.

“I don’t remember.”

“I give up.” He waved his friend away.

Everyday his routine was repeated without variation. Everyday he reexamined the door.
One day he picked up a small rock and put it in a crack in the door casing. It stuck, largely due to accumulated rust acting as a support. “Hmmm.”

The next day he took his hoe and pounded on the rock, the rust cracked, but the rock passed through. The next day he poked another rock through, and continued the process for several weeks, picking up the rocks at his feet. Eventually, he found a larger rock and tried it but it did not pass through, just wedged. He pushed on the rock and the door creaked. “Oh.” So, he leaned on the rock. The door creaked again. “Oh.”

Eventually, he had his friend help him push on the rock. The door creaked and opened the width of a shilling; at least it seemed to open. Exhausted, they sat on the ground. His friend patted his knee. “I hope this is worth the trouble.”

He looked over his shoulder and examined their efforts. “Progress. Let’s try again, get another rock.”

Their second attempt was just as formidable, however, the door showed a depth, and the friend slipped a small rock in the opening. “There, it’s open.”

“Not enough. But, we will attempt this again tomorrow.”

The morning sun rose with the two friends wedging rocks in the slit of the door opening. Each rock opened the door further. “You know,” his friend said. “Others are watching, this will cause an outbreak of pretenders.”

“I doubt it. They see the work, that scares them.”

Again, they put rocks in the opening. Finally, he was able to put a hand through. A few more rocks and his shoulder. “I’ve got it,” he said.

“I’ve got a good rock.” His friend was rolling a rounded bolder toward the opening.

“Good, let’s wedge it in.” Together they hoisted the rock into place, and then he stepped over the rock and through the opening, but his foot slipped on the accumulation of stones and he almost fell dragging one foot behind him and dislodging the round stone. “Aaarg.”

“Don’t let the door close.” His friend was franticly pulling on the door.

Finally, his foot slid and his knees buckled. The door slammed shut. He squinted at his surroundings.

There were more patches of garden, just like the ones he left. He shaded his eyes. Across the field he could see his friend standing by the door.


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This article has been read 325 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/16/11
A nice new way to think of the grasser always being greener on the other side. You had me filled with suspense and I too wanted to know what was on the other side.
Laury Hubrich 04/16/11
This really showed perseverance and determination by the man. I'm not quite sure about the ending, though. Did the door shut both the friends out? I think you ended it that way on purpose so we weren't sure. And you're right - no way would that outbreak start since it was so much work to it! :)
Carol Penhorwood 04/18/11
Maybe more of a "breakout" rather than "outbreak"? But I feel stupid because I did not get the ending...I think I'm missing something. Loved the suspense waiting to see what was on the other side of the door
Cris Cramer04/18/11
Oh, wow. Existential indeed! I like your concept and the twist at the end, that the protagonist fights his way past this impossible door to discover himself back where he started, in the same fields, on the same "side" of the door.

I had some trouble visualizing what is happening at various points; I think you are trying to be deliberately spare of detail, but maybe have erred on the side of not quite enough detail. At the beginning, I didn't know how to picture the scene -- at first when you speak of a tiny garden plot beside a door, I thought perhaps the whole tiny garden was walled in by itself, but when the friend appears it seems not, and it's only at the end you make clear that there are wider fields. In the first paragraph, I'm not sure which man is pushing (or pulling? not sure about that either) on the door, or whether they're trying to keep it open or to close it. And so on. To some degree, I think the story works if a lot of the setting is suggestive rather than concrete, but there still needs to be enough concreteness for the reader to orient themselves and follow what's going on -- I kept having to pause and readjust my mental image in order to understand what was happening.

I really like your twist on the topic (an "outbreak" that doesn't go anywhere), and could spend a long time pondering all of the questions this story suggests ... bravo for taking such an out-of-the-box approach, and thanks for writing a story that's making me think :)
Gwen Plauche04/21/11
You are a great writer! I like the undertones in that there is more to the story. The one place I got confused was in the line of conversation "creative thought is discouraged"..right in there I'm not sure who is saying what. I look forward to reading more from you. Thank you for sharing!