Suzanne Burke chose this interesting photo prompt for her Fiction in a Flash Challenge. Hop over, check out the entries, and join in here.
Where One Door Closes…
Hank straightened his tie and used the back of his pant legs to polish worn shoes, balancing like a flamingo in front of the dark wood door. Nervous perspiration coated his forehead and under arms covered in the only suit he owned– a heavy gray woolen affair he’d picked up for a steal when his father passed away two years ago.
It was because of the old man he was in this position. The letter from the lawyer was explicit; if he wanted to inherit (and Lord knows, he did) he had to show up to this interview and make a good impression, or the entire estate would go to his father’s favorite charity- cat rescue.
Fine. He could hop to his dad’s tune one last time; especially if it meant he’d have the last laugh. Five long years since he’d been banished from home. Five miserable, hungry, destitute years. When he got the money, the first thing he was going to do is eat the biggest steak he could buy. Hell, he might even buy a round for the house. That would get the old man’s knickers in a knot- wherever he was.
Filled with renewed determination, Hank lifted his hand to knock, vaguely surprised by the heat he could feel on the door. Number thirteen, Triskaidekaphobia. Trust his father to test his superstitious beliefs. Maybe this was all some sick game concocted by a mean-minded egomaniac determined to make his only son tow the line. It would be just like him.
Hank lowered his fist and began to turn away, his shoulders dejected, when the door swung open, revealing a black maw beyond.
“H… hello?” he called, his voice quivering though he tried to overcome his fear. “W… who’s there?”
The hinges creaked under the force of his hand, the shadows lengthening out to encompass his legs. Frightened, but curious, he pushed his way into the dark room. The air was stagnant and held the scent of incense- or was that kerosene? Either way, it made his head swim.
The door closed with a decisive snap, enshrouding him in the tomb-like atmosphere. A lamp flickered to life on a wide oak desk situated in the middle of the room. A man with benevolent features gestured for Hank to take a seat.
Left with little choice, he did as directed, perching on the edge of the hard chair. “Now what?” he demanded, angry at whatever sick game his father had arranged for him today.
The stranger raised a snow-white brow and pushed two sets of papers across the broad expanse of the desk. Next, he laid a gold pen within Hank’s reach. “Choose carefully,” he said, and sat back, fingers steepled under his chin.
Ready to walk out and forget the whole thing, Hank nevertheless picked up the first sheaf of papers and began to read. It was a journal of his life; an itemized list from birth to the day he left home- all the embarrassing tantrums, name-calling, stealing- it was all there.
Unable to keep reading, he set down the first set of papers and picked up the next. This one was also a journal, but more of a fantasy interpretation. It portrayed him as a sweet and generous child, smart, kind, well-liked. The opposite of how he’d been- truth beknown.
“Fine, I’ve read this crap. What do you want from me?” He threw the papers down and glared defiantly at the old man facing him.
The stranger shrugged. “It’s up to you. Choose the life you believe you’ve led, and sign. One will grant you eternal riches, and the other… won’t.”
Hank swore softly under his breath. Trust the old man to throw one last hurdle at him from the grave. Question was; which story would give him what he wanted?
Picking up the fine gold pen, he hesitated over one, then the other, before finally slashing his name across the page and shoving the whole works across the desk. “There, you have your signature. Where’s my money?”
The old man glanced at the papers and smiled, delight turning his dark eyes into flames. “If you’re sure that’s your answer, your quest begins on the other side of the door behind you.”
Hank rose and stared at the door he’d come through. What was this? There’d been nothing but a long dark hallway leading to this room. Certainly, no one waiting to bequeath him his money. Whipping around, he opened his mouth to complain, but the desk and old man had vanished!
The hairs rose on his nape, sending shivers scuttling down his back. He wished now he’d never heard from his dad’s lawyer. Never given in to the temptation of an easier life. Maybe, he’d give some of the money to help those like himself, guys down on their luck. Yeah, that’s what he would do.
Feeling better already, Hank strode across the room and swung the door open, only to fall back in shock. “Fa… father?” he whispered.
His dad held out his hands, his body backlit with flames. “Come, son, you’re one of us now.”
The choices we make in life are ones that will follow in death. So, choose wisely, my friend, that you will see Heaven instead of Hell.