This is a Flash Fiction piece written in response to one of Chuck Wendig’s prompts. This does have horror themes… I like horror.
The door opened every Sunday at 6:37 am, like a punctual and eccentric church. And on every Sunday morning, people assembled between the dumpster and the slime-encrusted brick on the other, waiting, watching the off-white, lopsided door.
It was Patricia’s first time at the door, and she half expected it to be a joke. She stomped her feet inside her soggy sneakers, still not dry from the rain the day before. Bea, her sponsor, stood next to her. Her hair was tucked into a green beanie and her nose was red with the cold. Patricia had never seen her even a little disquieted before: usually, confidence oozed out of Bea like jelly out of a sandwich. She was here because part of her wanted to be like Bea. Or be with Bea. She was never quite sure which.
The night before, Patricia had been drunk and complaining and wishing she wasn’t. “I just need someone to give me a chance and hire me,” she whined.
Bea scoffed into her cocktail. “You don’t need a chance,” she said. “You have plenty of chances. Your problem is that you worry too much about being nice and not enough about people taking you seriously.”
“Yeah: I don’t want to get arrested,” Patricia said over the rim of her glass. She didn’t know if she wanted to punch Bea or kiss her. “I wish I knew how you got your job.”
“Oh, I can show you that.” Bea has said. And then she had told Patricia about the door and the thing behind it, and how it had helped her get rid of her insecurities. Patricia had been eager to try it out
Patricia didn’t hear the door open, but when she looked away from Bea, it had swung wide. She expected a person to step through the door and invite them in. But that was impossible: there was no floor beyond the door frame.
A single pale hand reached up and grasped the bottom door frame. It was followed by a bald head, the skin so translucent Patricia swore she could see the skull beneath it. The creature had tiny, fly-black eyes and several large moles with thick hairs growing from them. It rested its chin on the door frame between its hands and opened its mouth wide, wider than a human jaw would have been able to, exposing a toothless pink abyss.
There was a slight shifting of fabric as people sorted themselves from the crowd. Three people made their way forward, two men and an old woman. Bea shoved Patricia’s back, forcing her forward, and she became the fourth sacrificer.
The first man approached the door and knelt. He pulled out a stack of envelopes. They looked like bills, perhaps hospital bills, though Patricia could not tell. One by one, he folded them and placed them inside the being’s mouth. Its throat worked in swallows, but its jaw never closed.
Patricia swallowed too, thinking of papercuts inside her throat.
He stood, turned, and left without looking back.
The old woman went next. Her knees gave out as she tried to kneel. Patricia expected her to produce a stack of bills like the man before her: what else could an old woman want to get rid of? Instead, she stuck her left hand into the creature’s mouth up to her wrist. The creature’s jaws snapped shut with a crunch. The old woman gasped and jerked back. Her arm came away clean, not bleeding. She pulled it back out of the door, and a thin trickle of blood began to fall. The woman staunched the flow with a rag and struggled to her feet and out of the alley, lighter of a sin known only to her.
Patricia didn’t think it could get any worse, but the next man produced a stack of photographs from his pocket. They were of a woman, smiling, and in some of them a child, perhaps four years old. He stuffed them into the creature’s mouth, jamming its throat.
Then it was Patricia’s turn. As the man stood and backed away, she stepped forward and knelt, too shocked by what she had just seen to think about what she was doing. The back of the thing’s throat was choked with photographs of smiling faces and the tips of bloody fingers. She pictured its body as a tick filled with things better left behind.
She took her anxiety journal out of her pocket. Here was three years of fears, worries, and doubts: three years of stressors and things she didn’t want to remember. She had started it thinking to show it to a therapist who had never materialized.
She set the little book on the creature’s tongue and withdrew her hand sharply, avoiding the snap of the jaws, though they didn’t close. She stood and stepped back, out of arm’s reach, and watched the thing swallow her notebook. It took three tries.
The crowd stayed put, waiting, but no one else stepped forward, until the church around the corner, the real one, began to chime at 7 AM, and the door swung closed, almost catching the creature’s fingers as it ducked out of the way.
The people walked to the street, and then began to babble. Patricia noticed that the man who had thrown away the photographs was getting chewed out by a woman who might have been his mother. The other two sacrificers had vanished.
“Well?” Bea said from beside her, “Feel less like a pushover?”
Patricia looked at her, and saw her for what she was, without the lens of desperation she’d been feeling for the last few months. She didn’t even like Bea, and she had thrown her humanity into that hole just like her. Because Bea had told her to do it. Still, even now, she couldn’t feel bad about it. She was just going to leave Bea in her own little world instead and move on.
“Yes,” she said, “I do.”