International Writers Magazine: The Secret Door: From our archives
have come to the conclusion that nothing much really happened to
me between the ages of one and ten, except a few sticky years between
three and five when I ran away to the local sweetie shop and split
my head open in the same place twice. Neither has affected me greatly,
apart from the two scars that splice up my right eyebrow, and even
they arent that visible anymore.
I suppose thats
why I used to believe everything I imagined. I tell my mum this. She
asks me what I am talking about. I ask her if she remembers how I used
to drag all my little school friends upstairs before tea and hide in
the airing cupboard. She tuts as if remembering all the scrammed up
sheets and lost socks of years past. We werent hiding, I tell
her. Do you remember there was a board up against the wall at the back
behind the boiler? She doesnt remember, but there was, a plywood
board, two foot by two foot, just the same size I used to imagine Alices
rabbit hole would have been. My mum asks me what was so special about
this board that I had to drag my friends and their dirty hands across
her linen for. The fact was I had convinced myself utterly that it was
not just a board in the back of our airing cupboard it was in
fact a doorway.
I dont know whether I had mixed fact with some vivid dream or
other, but I was certain that if I pulled that board away from the side
of the wall, it would reveal an opening, big enough only for a child
of six to fit through. I knew where it would go as well. It would open
into a wood, the kind me and my parents used to walk around when I was
young, in my romper suit and baby reins, mostly in autumn when the leaves
were turning. I knew I had been there in green gloves and a red and
pink coat, and that I had sat on the split branches of a fallen tree,
that I had pushed through holly and fallen in mud and leaves, and not
once got wet or dirty.
wood held some sort of magic, I was sure of it, though I couldnt
really tell what sort. I was only certain that I had been there,
and that it had felt magic, that everything in it had been alive,
and sort of conscious in a way that real trees werent. So
convinced of this was I that I used to tell my friends about it,
in secret, but with real pride, and they listened as if it was the
most exciting thing they had ever heard.
I used to suggest
that we go and look for this doorway, and together we would push through
the flowery, musty smell of the laundry to the big green boiler at the
back of the cupboard, and by the small slant of light from the door
I would proudly present my piece of plywood, gateway to the unknown.
My poor trusting friend would fix their eyes on the board and watch
while I sat on my heels and tentatively pushed my little fingers under
I dont know what I really expected to happen when I pulled it
backwards towards me. Such a huge part of me wished that a jagged edged
hole would be revealed, and beyond it the autumnal colours of turning
trees, the watery gold sunlight of late afternoon and the smell of bonfires
and overnight rain. Every time I hoped for something, something supernatural
it was a need within me for something extraordinary rather than
a desire to impress a friend.
I would pull back the board inch by shadowy inch until, unmistakably,
the roughly painted white wall of the cupboard would appear. The friend
would emit an indignant noise, while I struggled to settle my rising
disappointment. It only works sometimes, I would tell them. You cant
make it be there all the time. This to placate myself as well as my
I dont think I ever stopped believing it was there. We moved house
a few years later. I like to think its still there. My mother
thinks Im disturbed.
Scott November 2008
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