It took a good few minutes of staring at the blank wall for Ben to realised that he must have dreamed the door. This was a plain red brick wall, probably Victorian, mortar crumbling in places, but with no sign of any door, or even any previous opening, now blocked up, at any point along its length. Yet the image of an old weathered door, marked with traces of blue paint, but most flaked off down to the bare wood, now silvered with age — that image was vivid in his mind. He remembered an old iron latch with a twisted ring for a handle. It should have been about here in the wall, just where he stood — except that it was not, and apparently never had been.
It was not common for him to confuse dreams and memories, and his dreams were not usually so detailed and realistic. The discovery that the door did not exist knocked him off balance for the rest of the day, but by the next morning he had forgotten it all.
A week later, about two in the morning, he woke suddenly from a dream. A moment before he had been standing in front of that door again. He’d reached out and scraped off one of the few remaining flakes of blue paint with his thumbnail, then reached down for the latch handle and twisted it up to open the door.
The act of opening the door woke him, and he could still feel the cold iron of the twisted ring in his right hand. The sensation faded, but he could not get back to sleep.
In the morning he took a detour on his way to work, but the door still did not exist.
This time he accepted the non-existence of the door completely. He dismissed the whole thing as just a stupid dream and thought no more about it. In the following weeks he walked past the wall quite often without even looking at it.
He was with a group of friends walking to the pub on Friday night, talking and laughing. Ben half noticed that they were walking past the notorious wall on the other side of the road, but he paid it no attention. Chaz said something stupid and funny, and Ben turned to answer, but behind Chaz, across the road, he saw the door. It was there in the wall, real and solid. Ben stopped walking and stared at it.
‘What?’ said Chaz.
‘That door. Have you ever seen it before?’
“That one.’ Ben pointed at the door, but it had gone. There was only a blank brick wall.
He had to suffer quite a bit of ridicule for five minutes, but the incident made him feel strange and he could not enjoy the drinking or the chat at all.
Leaving early, he walked back the same way, but on the wall side of the road. He dragged his fingertips along the brickwork, which was real enough. It was still fairly light and he thought he saw a familiar shape in the wall as he approached the halfway point.
There it was again. The door, looking as if it had always been there.
‘You bastard,’ he said, and stopped in front of it, daring it to disappear.
He reached out and scraped off a flake of blue paint with his thumbnail.
‘Am I dreaming?’ he wondered. ‘Was I dreaming earlier on? Does the door only exist in my dreams, or does it exist in reality and when I’m dreaming there is no door?’
That line of thought led nowhere he wanted to go. He reached out and took hold of the twisted iron handle, turned it, and the latch lifted.
‘I should wake up now,’ he thought.
He woke up. He was in the pub with his friends, his hand on a half-full pint of bitter. Everyone was laughing except him. Trying hard not to show how confused he was, he tried to join in the laughter, though he had no idea what was so funny.
‘Something wrong?’ asked Chaz.
‘No. No. Yes. I’m feeling a bit ill,’ said Ben. ‘I think I’ll have to go home.’
He thought of asking Chaz to come with him, but that seemed a bit weak. By the time he was walking the length of the wall, he regretted that decision.
Taking a deep breath he carried on walking, certain that there would be no door.
There was a door.
He really did try to walk past it, but he couldn’t. The only illumination now was a nearby street lamp. He reached out and flaked off a scrap of paint with his thumbnail. It might have been blue, it was hard to tell. He took hold of the cold iron ring and turned it, lifting the latch.
‘I should wake up now,’ he thought.