Piles of bills were stuffed in the mailbox in front of Dale Levid’s home. He shuddered at the embarrassment of it. He knew that he should have opened them and at least tried to pay them, but, his savings had run out. But, bills were the last thing on his mind. He’d gone through the process of selling some of his more valuable possessions, but that money could only help him survive for so long. If he’d kept selling, eventually his home would be on the docket, and his house was something he was unwilling to let go of. It had been in his family for at least two generations and had been the pride of his family. It was an old-style gothic manor at its base but over the years Dale’s parents made some changes to “modernize” it. The thin and narrow windows remained, but the inside of the home had a contemporary feel that brought him joy upon entering the home.
Dale was arriving back home from yet another day of interviews. None of them had gone successfully, and he grappled with the possibility of doing the unthinkable and letting his family’s legacy go to waste. He walked past the threshold of the house and immediately felt a bit of relief, as he always did. He threw his keys on the counter, grabbed his laptop, settled on the sectional couch, once again started searching for another job. He knew it would be difficult to find another job after being fired, but he had skills and a fairly good reputation in the coding community.
` Dale continued staring listlessly at the computer screen, scrolling through the hundreds of job postings. Some didn’t pay enough, others were too far, and still more had a list of required qualifications that ensure that no one would ever hold those positions. He closed his browser and heard the faint sounds of footsteps behind him. He quickly turned around only to find himself staring in the gold plated mirror that hung on the wall. His heart was racing.
He wanted to tell himself it was an old house, that it would creak on occasion and surely, he had heard of this happening. But, the sounds stuck in his mind.
“Hello,” he called out. Silence followed. “Is there anyone in here?” He heard nothing but the sound of the wind whipping past the windows. “C’mon Dale get a grip,” he said.
Night descended and Dale realized that the bliss of sleep was calling him. He began to make his way upstairs, but he heard more footsteps in the house.
“Look! I know someone is here! Get out or I will call the police!” He got no response. The footsteps continued. Dale ran to the kitchen and grabbed the longest, sharpest knife he could find and searched for the source. The search led him to the basement door. He placed his ear to the door and heard the unmistakable creak of the old wooden steps below. He hadn’t been down to the basement in quite some time as it was just full of some old worthless family heirlooms. They hadn’t meant all that much to him, but his mother made him promise to keep them before she disappeared while he was in college.
Dale grabbed the brass handle of the basement door and pulled it open. Darkness greeted him. He ran his fingers around the brick wall just past the threshold of the door, searching for the switch. Finally, his hands found the smooth plastic switch amidst the roughness of the old brick and light shined throughout. “I’m armed!” he yelled. He slowly placed one foot in front of the other, descending the steps and brandishing the knife in front of him. Finally he reached the landing of the basement stairs and turned the corner. He looked around the basement and saw nothing at first, but the dusty concrete floor and the various trinkets his parents had left him.
He breathed a sigh of relief and crept further into the basement.
“Hi Dale,” an airy but commanding voice said behind him. Shocked, Dale fell to the floor, dropping the knife away from him. He rolled over to find himself staring at a woman, all dressed in white. She reminded him of a medieval queen on her wedding day, dressed in heavy, flowy extravagant garb, and carrying it effortlessly.
“Who the fuck are you and what are you doing here?”
“I came to bring you a gift,” the woman said.
She placed one hand in the other and slowly began to slide off a set of gold and black brass knuckles that adorned her hand.
“You have had such a hard time lately. I thought you could do with a bit of assistance. These have served me well over the years, and I’m sure they will serve you too.”
After she removed the brass knuckles she disappeared, and the brass knuckles hit the floor. Dale stood to his feet and looked around. He rubbed his eyes and made sure it wasn’t all just some creepy dream. Yet, the knuckles remained. He crept over and picked them up. Telling himself there was no way these would fit on his hand, the woman, after all was dainty and his hands were large. He decided to give a go anyway and as he slid the knuckles closer, he swore that the rings began to get larger and mold themselves to him. He placed them on his hands and heard a thunder-like sound. When he looked up from his hands he saw a door. A door that wasn’t there before. It was large, solid black and adorned with decorative metal pieces. Above it was a stylistic brass design of a lion’s head, and in the center was a large doorknocker in the shape of a lion’s paw.
“This can’t be happening,” he said aloud as if someone else were there to hear him. He lifted the doorknocker and let go, strangely, no sound erupted, but he heard the door began to swing open across the concrete floor. At first, he couldn’t see what lay beyond the threshold, but as he got closer, he felt a cold wind coming through it. He then saw the dreary blueness of the landscape that lay before him. He placed his head through and took notice of the large zeppelins, shooting at each other in the sky. He heard the screams of what had to be thousands, and saw building being torn down and rebuilt instantly.
Then, a deep otherworldly voice. “Untold riches can be yours. Just step inside. Stay there for a while and when you get back, all your problems will be over.” Dale knew he shouldn’t. He felt it in his bones that he shouldn’t go through, but he did. He stepped inside the freezing hellscape. Almost immediately, there were people swarming, trying to get him, drag him off further into this unknown land. He fought back using the very brass knuckles that got him into this mess and made his way back to the door. He pushed it open and closed it behind him.
His lip was bleeding, his hands scratched badly from when the people tried to take him. But something was different about the basement now. It seems it had been redone. He took the knuckles off and nothing changed, except that the door disappeared. He threw the brass knuckles to the ground ad ran upstairs. What he found was almost a completely different home. Updated to a new style, changed, and yet, the bones remained the same.
Then came the knock on the door. With some trepidation he went to open it. In front of him stood a man with a bottle of wine.
“Jesus, Dale what happened to you?” the man said.
“Um…who are you?”
“What do you mean who am I? It’s Sam from accounting? You invited the office over to your house for a dinner party? Everyone else will be here soon, you should get yourself cleaned up.”
“C’mon, Dale. Stop bullshitting. You know it was so cool of you as CEO to invite all your people over for a little R&R after closing that big deal; don’t try to back out now.”
The man pushed his way in and threw his jacket over a chair and sat down. Dale rushed to his computer and he wasn’t entirely sure, but he looked himself up. Before the results came back up, he saw the date. It was 2 years later than when he went through that door in the basement.
The first link was to a biography that went over his entire life. The disappearance of his mother, the death of his father not too long after, and his eventual rise to power. That rise to money and power started on the date he stepped through that door. “What the hell is happening.” He said. There was another knock at the door. He grit his teeth and walked over thinking to himself that this was his life now; big money and dinner parties. A life he hadn’t created. But since he didn’t do it, who had?