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GREEN DOOR - Extract from a Science Fiction Story by Tony Harmsworth

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Addy and I were in a rut. Our evening promenade had become predictable, yet I wasn’t short of options.

Home was central in the village of Goodwick, so plenty of choices including the woodland, the beach and riverside, the park and disused railway line, or this route. It had become the regular outing, my favourite and plenty of trees, walls, lampposts and gateways to keep Addy’s interest.

We set out along the lane and hedgerows of the bridleway towards Alfern, then back through arable country to the housing estate, before this final turn homewards alongside the convent wall.

It was a good option during the winter. I liked the variety and it was sheltered from the cold easterly breeze which often spoiled the beach walk. The woodland option could be muddy if wet and the old railway embankment was lovely, but really exposed except on still days.

I was dressed warmly today, with a tweed jacket and pullover plus stout walking shoes. We passed the last farm entrance and four old terraced houses. The last of the houses butted on to the stone wall to some ancient convent and that meant it was only a quarter of a mile to home.

The wall stretched more than a hundred yards at ten or twelve feet tall. Addy loved the wall, continually pulling over to sniff the bottom, recognising she was near home and wanting to postpone the end of her walk.

Long in the past, the wall would have been clad with smooth mortar, but time had not been kind and, in places, it was now rather scabby, revealing the stone blocks from which it had been constructed. Ivy had also got its tendrils into the surface and was assisting the weather in its inevitable pursuit of the wall’s destruction. I guessed it must have stood there for at least a hundred and fifty years, maybe longer.

The ivy provided a picturesque, mottled, natural look. Set into the wall, the arch of the doorway showed the undisputed skill of an ancient stone mason and the door, neglected for decades, suffered from peeling green paint which exposed grey timber beneath. It was badly in need of a new coat of paint and some tender loving care. We’d continued about twenty feet past the door when I stopped dead in my tracks. Addy reached the furthest extent of her lead and jerked to a halt. The Jack Russell was surprised at my sudden stop and looked around with one of those expressions which questioned the stupidity of her master.

‘What door?’ I asked myself. There was no door in the wall!

I tugged on the lead and we returned to the section of wall where I’d seen the stone arch and ancient door. As expected, there was no door. Addy sat obediently while I stared at the scabby wall and its patchy ivy jacket. What had I seen?

Was it further back? I walked another twenty or thirty feet, but there was no ivy at that point and the door certainly was set into a section sporting the evergreen plant.

Crazy! Had I imagined it? I thought back. There never has been a door in this wall. I would have remembered it. I turned again towards home, walking more slowly. We both studied the wall, me looking for evidence of the door and Addy sniffing its base. We reached the ivy. I stopped and examined the wall more closely. The ivy didn’t cover it here completely, more a network of tendrils and leaves allowing the underlying sandstone to show through. Along the bottom of the wall there was grass trying to gain a foothold in cracks where the wall joined the path. There was certainly no door. No door at all. Not even a sign that there had ever been a door there.

‘Come on girl,’ I said, shrugged my shoulders and we both continued homewards, but I now kept one eye on the wall. How could I have had such a vision? There had never been a door in this wall. I would have seen it, yet the image of its peeling paintwork and ivy clad opening was so vivid. On its left side, there had been a black, round door handle and I seemed to recall a circular lock escutcheon. There were even marks in the paint where some long-since-gone sign was once attached at head height. I could visualise the rusty traces and holes I’d seen. What a strange aberration? The mind can truly play tricks. In fact, the door was clearly set into a stone arch. I had to look again.

To Addy’s great puzzlement, we returned to the ivy clad section. There was no door. The absence of a door could not be more obvious. There was no break in the stone wall. There was no arch to frame the door. There was no doorstep. There never had been a door. Nothing. How weird.

For a third time, we continued on our way, reaching the end of the wall where it turned at right angles with a narrow grass path beside it. I stopped. To the right of the path were the rear gardens of a dozen relatively new properties. Perhaps tomorrow Addy and I would take a stroll along it and see if we could circle the property.

I looked at my watch. Six fifty-five. Hazel would be almost home and I had food in the slow-cooker. I couldn’t complete the circuit now.

I gave a wee tug on the lead and we set off at a faster pace, turned left along the front of the new properties, took the next right into The Sisters, the road which led to our house. I wondered if its name was something to do with the convent. I realised my knowledge of this street and the mysterious walled property was extremely sparse, despite us having lived here for almost a decade. The new Abbess Road houses all had both front and rear gardens and there was a wide grass verge between the path and the road. Ancient beech and horse-chestnut trees stood every fifty feet in the verge. In another week, their colourful autumn coats would be at their best. Abbess Road, The Sisters – it all had to be related to the convent.

In The Sisters, the houses were quite ancient. All large cottages built around the beginning of the nineteenth century. They fronted directly onto the road with a matching set on the opposite side. Most were painted white with casement windows, but some had been given a colour wash. Ours was a pale yellow. Number one was almost lime green, across from us twelve was terracotta.

Addy and I stopped at the orange door, the seventh house on the left. Number fifteen – there was no thirteen in this street. Hazel’s Lexus stood outside. She was already home. I fiddled around for my keys and gained entry.

‘Hi, darling. It’s me.’

‘In the living room,’ she called.

I let Addy off the lead and she scooted along the polished wood floor and tried to turn sharp left into the lounge. I sniggered as her back legs slid beyond her owing to the speed of her racing turn. She always did that if Hazel was home, letting out an excited ‘found you’ bark.

I hung the lead on a hook on the old-fashioned settle and coat stand in the hall, slipped my tweed jacket onto a hanger and put my shoes on the rack. Now in some comfy slippers, I joined my wife in the lounge.

She was leaning forward petting Addy. I bent and kissed her on the cheek. ‘Have a good day?’

‘Yes. Interesting divorce case this afternoon which made up for a boring morning’s conveyancing.’

‘I’ve a chicken in the slow cooker. Be ready soon. Like some wine?’

‘Please. I looked at dinner. Smells lovely.’

The lounge was small on modern standards, about ten feet square with a very comfortable floral design sofa, a couple of upholstered wooden chairs in the same material and a large glass-topped coffee table. The window was a typical casement, about four feet wide and extending up to the ceiling. The paintwork had been stripped back and it was now polished pine. The wall opposite the door was home to an inglenook fireplace in which stood a wood-burning stove. It provided our central heating and hot water. We’d kept the walls white and the curtains were a rich burgundy, picking up the colour of some of the roses on the sofa. The polished wood floor was almost covered with a genuine Persian carpet in muted reds and clarets.

To the right of the window was an incongruously modern electronic corner. A jumble of cabling was hidden by our large curved-screen television and various devices to do with DVDs, satellite TV and hi-fi.

Behind the sofa we had a wide, almost ceiling height, pitch-pine sideboard dating from the late nineteenth century and in character with the period nature of this room.

Addy followed me through the hallway towards the rear of the house, passing the dining room and on into the kitchen.

A large size, it was the full width of the property, so some seventeen feet wide and perhaps fourteen feet long. It was the one room we had modernised. At the far side a door led out into a surprisingly long narrow garden. When these cottages were built everyone grew their own vegetables and probably kept poultry too.

I lifted the lid of the slow-cooker and checked the chicken. Almost ready.

I took through two glasses of a crisp Sancerre and the cutlery, finished preparing the dinner and we sat down to eat chicken, parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes and sugar snap peas from our lap-trays, while we watched a recorded episode of Happy Valley. Scary!

I wasn’t ready to raise the subject of my mysterious green door, because that was even more scary.

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