Dan awoke in a panic before calming down to examine his surroundings. He was in a cramped, empty room; the only noticeable features being two towering doors standing across from each other as if in some sort of stark standoff. Dan couldn’t remember how he had gotten there or why he had fallen asleep, but he had never woken in an area so strange.
“Hello? Anyone there?” he questioned. His friendly tone quickly became agitated, “OK, I don’t know who’s behind all this, but I am not a willing participant!” His voice was now noticeably angry, “Look man, this is bullshit! I’ll sue! Do you know who I am? I know a lot of people you do NOT want to meet and I’ll call them right now if I have to!” he reached for his pants, only to realize that his phone was not in his left pocket. He began frantically feeling and searching his various pockets but was unsuccessful. “OK… I’ve about had enough of this shit.” His voice hit the surrounding walls and died, as if he had never said anything at all.
The silence was deafening. Dan veered his attention back to the doors. The door on the left immediately drew his attention. Its gleaming white finish was almost too intense to stare at, its presence glistening and lighting up the surrounding wall space. Dan wasn’t exactly a door expert, but it had to be the most alluring design he could fathom, like it was designed to be perfect. Its angelic presence demanded attention.
The other door lacked the same appeal. This one was shorter than the white door, and it was old, battered, and dirty. The door seemed to fit unevenly into the wall, and he could see pitch-blackness through the resulting cracks. The door’s placid emptiness seemed to contaminate the surrounding area, and the light from the opposing door died as it reached its counterpart. Unlike the previous door, which was characterized by light, this door was clouded in darkness. Dan couldn’t bear to look any longer and he pulled his eyes away. This door, it seemed, was evil, somehow. Apart from its less-than-appealing design, something else, something he couldn’t explain, flooded through the dark cracks.
Dan moved toward the white door. As he closed the distance, the blinding light began to fade, and the details of the door became more apparent. Positioned in the center of the frame was a golden plaque. Etched into the gold was a large paragraph of unreadable text. As he moved closer, the text became clearer, as if it had changed from when he had first seen it. He squinted his eyes and read:
“This door is life. Beyond it, there is harmony and eternal happiness. The troubles you know now will lose significance. Those you miss and loved ones you have lost will no longer hold meaning to you. You will be in perfect happiness. There is no evil beyond this door, it is forbidden. It is impossible. This door is life.”
The words penetrated Dan’s very being. Filled with a sudden joy he could not understand (or care to understand, for that matter), he reached for the shining glass handle, but in a sudden trance of human curiosity he withheld his arm. There was still another door to check, another option.
Dan backed away from the white door. The more he stepped away, the brighter the door’s illumination became until the details and the plaque had disappeared and only a white, shining light remained, too bright to distinguish. He struggled to pull away his gaze before realizing that he had almost backed into the other door. He jumped back in panic and turned to face his foe.
Much like the other door, this one had more to it when Dan was closer. What was once covered in an eerie blackness was now clear. This door, like the one before it, featured a small paragraph in the center of the frame. This one neither shined nor changed. It was rotting in its place and crumbling under what seemed like millennia of decay. The knob seemed to melt towards the floor as if it pulled away. He struggled to read the fading text:
“This door is death. Beyond it, all the horrors and terrors that you could imagine live and thrive. Your troubles are magnified here, your fears apparent, and they are all that is real. You will search for happiness and never truly find it. Your pursuits will only lead into further lust. There is great evil beyond this door. This door is death.”
Dan’s heart sank at the final words. He backed away from the door until he stood evenly between the two choices: one beautiful, with promises of good and happiness; the other disgusting, with assurance of misery and hopelessness. An easy choice, Dan surmised.
He moved towards his decision, his eyes again adjusting and making out the details of the door as he moved closer. The glass handle was now in sight. The promises on the plaque seemed to already be coming true, as the horror he felt in the presence of the other began to fade the closer he got. Eager and curious beyond imagining, he again reached for the handle.
Whether by a twist of fate or a random chance, he was stopped. Not physically, but rather like his heart could not bring himself to do it in light of a new variable. Noises now emitted from the opposing door. It was the first sound he had heard other than his own voice since he had woken. The noise was indistinguishable at first, but became clearer as he listened. It was a woman, sobbing and screaming in horror and agony. Dan turned to look at the blackness. The sound seeped through the dark cracks. The cries escalated in both volume and emotion. The light from the white room now gleamed brighter in the corner of his peripheral vision, brighter than it ever had.
He was in the middle of two opposing forces: his pursuit of happiness, and his instinct for compassion. Whoever this woman was, she clearly needed help, and Dan wasn’t the type of man to ignore the cries of a woman in peril. The words on the plaques echoed in his mind, beating the sides and practically escaping through his ears. If he went to the left, he figured, he would no longer care for the woman, assuming the plaque was telling the truth. This wasn’t right, he decided, as Dan could not bring himself to justify blissful ignorance. The light from the left gleamed now even brighter, as if it yearned to change his mind. He pondered the idea of letting go and succumbing to the light, to be perfectly happy. Never before had Dan been so deeply conflicted.
At this point, the woman had stopped crying and was now screaming at the top of her lungs, it seemed. This time, no amount of happiness could pull him away. “DAN! WHY!? OH GOD… oh God. Dan…!” Dan immediately turned at the mention of his name. The truth is that he mentally never made a decision. If he had, he probably would have chosen the other door. Rather, his body, without thought and in fluid motion, darted towards the black door, his adrenaline fueling his plight. He ran from everything he could ever hope for towards the girl who knew his name. Racing against his own mind and the chance to reason himself out of it, he grabbed the melting doorknob, pulled the door with all the fury of his humanity and plunged into the blackness.
Dan awoke, coughing up blood and in intense pain. Burning wreckage and blood littered his resting place. He struggled to raise his head towards the love of his life, now sobbing in immense joy. “Wha… what happened?” Dan coughed through his broken ribs. A familiar voice responded, “We were in an accident... I thought I’d lost you!” Her sobbing resumed. Dan struggled to sit up but his ribs ached in resistance. He began questioning what the hell had just happened. The door’s ominous text still rang in his head:
“This door is death.”