Penny Moon

Windows and Doors

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11 min read
Digital art of a silhouette of a person looking away at dusk. Their arms are up as if in dancing. The photo is from the hips up. Beautiful colors of blues, indigo, pink and orange.

Samantha stared out the window, her fists clenched, tears running down her hot, red, still-tingling face. It was a sunny and clear day. She could see people passing by pleasantly, but none had looked up except for one. The first time she scrambled to the window, dazed and stunned, she looked out and saw a tall and incredibly kind man looking back at her from the street below. His eyes, his face—like the embodiment of love. She wanted to run to him, to feel safe. He stood, looking back at her, a comfortable connection. Then, a passerby walked through the mirage, and he vanished like dust in the wind. She longed to see him again but never did. He had made her feel loved and seen at a crucial juncture in her life, so she refused to believe he was not real.

She wondered if she screamed out, would they hear her? Her fists loosened as she dropped her head. "No one would hear me," she stammered, "because I am nobody." Her face tightened as she began to weep. "Stop it," she said sharply to herself. "Toughen up; you've got to be tougher than this." But it was no good; she couldn't stop. Cupping her mouth to muffle the sound, she sank to her knees beside her bed. But her gasps were distinct and loud. She feared being heard. Grabbing her blanket, she buried her face deep and wept. When tears were exhausted, and the world was an even shade of washed-out shock, she wiped her face and looked at her closed bedroom door. The handle was round and gold. If only she knew then how that handle would haunt her for the rest of her life.

Getting up, she composed herself, straightened her back, and attempted to look unaffected. She was small for her age and, in this moment, felt it. She wore one sock, a pair of white panties with hearts on them put on roughly backwards and crooked, and a simple white pajama shirt with a stain on the front. She walked to the door and opened it. The hall was empty. She relaxed and quickly dashed into the adjacent bathroom, closing and locking the door. She stepped on the small stool, turned on the tap—cold water—and soaked a facecloth. Looking at herself in the mirror, she felt a tightness in her throat, fuzzy brown hair that felt unpretty. She looked away quickly. Grabbing the cloth, she held it to her face and whispered her practiced and yet never ineffective mantra, "You're okay, you're okay, it's gonna be okay." Wringing out the cloth and laying it beside the sink, she stroked her arms, hugging herself, and repeated, "You're okay, you're okay, it's gonna be okay."

She cleared her throat and calmly drained the sink. She stood as tall as she could, opened the door, and found the hall still empty. Relief washed over her as she darted back to her room, closed the door silently, and then went to her closet. In the back corner, she had made a space behind her shoes, hidden by longer garments. Quietly, she climbed back there, her heart racing. Waiting for her was her small stuffed platypus. She hugged it tightly, whispering to it, wondering if she would ever see a real platypus. In her mind, she imagined that it was crying. "Shhh, shhh, don't cry. Look at me, I'm already almost six, and one day we are going to see the world together. We just have to be brave and strong."

She heard her door open. She fell quiet and still. She heard someone moving around her room. She closed her eyes, hugging her stuffed animal close. They left, and she sighed. She pulled a soft garment from one of the hangers above her and used it as a blanket. Behind some of the shoes was a small glass bowl with a pair of scissors in it. She took the scissors and cut a single lock of hair, adding it to the pile in the bowl—a lock for each time she had to hide here. Pushing the bowl away, she curled up tight, lying on her side, and fell asleep. There, on the baseboard beside her head, in tiny writing, she had written her name. She did not know why she did these things, but she knew it was important to show that something had been lost in these moments, and she hoped, no matter what, to be remembered or perhaps at least thought of.

Samantha sat up in bed, screaming, sweating; the image of that gold doorknob floating around the room burned into her visual cortex. She breathed deeply, frustrated by the rude awakening, and lay back down in the dark room. Reaching for her phone, she checked the time: 3:00 am. "Damn it, I'll never get back to sleep now!" She felt her room shake like an earthquake. She looked around unalarmed, crammed her phone under her pillow, rolled onto her stomach, and sighed, almost immediately falling back asleep. She was lucky most nights; once the knob came knocking, her mind was unwilling to return to rest. She had grown up as a woman of strong character, with a skilled ability to sense others' feelings but with a keenly suspicious nature and a bit of a wandering heart, which made her strength of will all the more important. She often had to deny her suspicions of others and, even more often, cage her ridiculously romantic heart. She often wondered why a deficit of received empathy made one more empathetic.

Her first boyfriend had been a good, incredibly fun, and kind man, but his past was much like hers. He had hit her on two occasions, caught up in a fit of anger. She really loved him, and he loved her, so they remained the closest of friends, but she simply could not trust him romantically after that. However, the relationship had given her valuable insight into the rose-colored glasses she tended to wear at the beginning of potentially romantic relationships. She could not trust her heart; it was stuck, hiding in the closet, desperate to be thought of.

The only other man she ever loved was a smart, strong, and quiet man, very much like herself, deep in spirit. However, she could clearly see that their relationship would be a disaster. Her heart often tried to negotiate with her will, conjuring fantasies and all the pros it could muster. But her will was iron, and she was aware that at the end of the day, it would end and end badly. And if it lasted, they would likely rob each other of their joie de vivre rather than add to it.

Her heart was looking for anyone to love it, but her soul was waiting for some embodiment of the childhood illusion of love.

Reaching for her phone, she pulled it from under her pillow. It was 7 am. She rubbed her eyes and sat up. The room swayed from side to side aggressively. She grabbed the ladder to the top bunk above her and stood, guessing accurately that the weather on deck was poor. She dressed in her rain gear. Falling while trying to put on her boots, she laughed, "So much for sea legs." Opening her cabin door, she saw that the hallway of their cargo ship was filled with water. She steadied herself as fear took hold. The hallway lights flickered. She rushed down the narrow passage and up the stairs. She heard no voices and saw no crewmen. On ships of this size, with its average complement of 18, it was common to not encounter another soul for days. But in moments like this, you expect something, at least an alarm or a message on the comms. Reaching the deck, she grabbed the railing, seeing the ship's nose in the air on its way over the edge of a watery precipice. Her feet lifted off the ground. She hung from the railing, feet dangling, looking down at a 1000-foot drop into the seething, cold, black water. She held tightly, letting out an angry scream as she mustered the strength to maintain her grip. The ship was dropping vertically down the side of a mid-ocean hurricane-induced tidal wave. With a mighty crash, the boat plunged nose-first deep into the ocean. She hugged the railing closely. The ship sank for two minutes, then, with increasing momentum, rushed back to the surface, exploding into the fight of its life.

Her mind raced as she rushed, in a moment of relative calm, up the stairs, into the ship, and up the stairs again, slammed from side to side until she reached the wheelhouse. Looking out through the glass windows, she saw that there was no one left on board; the bridge was abandoned. She looked down at the deck. It was bare. Most of the cargo was lost, and the crew or the water had taken the escape boats; in either case, they were the ocean's now. She was alone. Understanding the situation, she sank to her knees. "You're okay, you're okay, it's gonna be okay," she repeated to herself. A massive wave hit the ship sideways, and she was thrown along with it. Scrambling to her feet, she rushed to the communications equipment and sent a distress signal, a mayday. The radio crackled with static, but there was no response. The antenna had been ripped from the roof of the wheelhouse. She sat back in the captain's chair, her thoughts drifting to her name hidden in all those homes. She hoped people saw it, wondering whatever happened to that stuffed platypus. But most of all, she thought of the love she never gave a chance for fear of failure. What a ridiculous notion! Her heart was so maddened and weeping within her, unable to understand why she wouldn't listen to it and live when she had the time. Calmly, she stood, straightening her back, looking tall and strong. She made her way, being tossed like a rag doll, to the commissary. Food and utensils were scattered everywhere. A pair of meat shears slid across the floor, hitting her boot. She picked them up and, grasping all her hair in her left hand, sawed it off. The old shears made a chewing sound as they struggled through her thick hair.

Bam! The ship was hit again, and she was thrown into the wall, knocking her out.

In her dream, she tried to get to that gold doorknob to open the door, doom awaited if she stayed in the room, but she couldn't move, couldn't run, couldn't scream, straining with all her might.

Choking and sputtering, she woke up, her face half submerged in water, a deep cut on her leg from the scissors. "Damn that doorknob, damn that room!" She felt no pain from the cut and paid it no heed, though it was bleeding badly, coloring her yellow rain gear with red. She stood up, using the walls of the narrow corridors to steady her ascent back to the bridge. Once there, she found the flare gun and, stepping outside the wheelhouse, let off two flares. They exploded like the sun against the dark sky, lingering, unwilling to fall, burning a terrifying brilliant red. Coated in the glow of the flares, the black and white waves around her dove and plunged, pummeling like two men with murderous intent.

In the distance, a massive build-up of oceanic strength gathered its way toward her. She rushed inside the bridge, closed, and sealed the door. One last locked door, but this is one she wished to stay behind. She placed her hand on the door; it was cold to the touch. Drowsy, she touched her chest with her other hand; her heartbeat was slow. She closed her eyes for a moment, thinking, "It must be the blood loss." The hand on her chest felt something in her pocket; it was her small pocket knife. With adrenaline pumping again, she grabbed it and carved her name into the white-painted metal door: "Samantha Lee Clearwater." Again she hoped that one day someone would find her name; again, she hoped to be remembered. She dropped the knife to the ground, and it slid away as the ship tilted, and she turned to face the bridge. If she were to die at sea, she would at least have a good view.

Sitting back in the captain's chair, she looked around the grand windows. All the glass she'd looked through, desperate to be one with what lay beyond. But now, this glass sustained her life here, and she knew it would fail. But for this moment, she was grateful for one more closed window, one more locked door. Beyond the bridge, the violet storm wailed, begging to get its hands on her.

She felt calm, a familiar pale shade of shock reducing her inner fears to a mild hum, perhaps due to blood loss. Gripping the arms of the chair tightly, she was jolted from side to side as all the might piled upon the ship the waves could muster. Suddenly, it was still and quiet. The ship stopped its violent quaking, sinking deep below the waves, so staidly that everything felt still. Outside her window, it was so, so dark.

She stared into the void; she saw him. Like a ray of sun through the watery deep, he was here—tall and strong, standing, smiling at her. She sat, eyes wide and streaming with tears; her memories did not do him justice. He was the most beautiful person she'd ever seen and was waiting for her.

The lights from the ship flickered and went out. It was black. All she could hear was her breath and the sound of water squealing through the seams in the windows and door. But there he was, magnificent and kind in his eyes, standing outside in the water as if on solid ground.

She limped to the buckling glass, laid her hands on it, looking at him in disbelief. She had to go to him; her heart and will were one; she must go, knowing he saw and loved her. "I love yo..." she was cut short as the window caved in, the sea swallowing the open void. But in the dark and calm of the infinite black abyss, she floated. No more doors, no more windows, no more. She and her heart were quiet.

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Penny Moon is a writer and artist from Vancouver, British Columbia. Penny is passionate about creative expression through writing and art. She has written a collection of fiction and poetry and recently published a book of poems and continuous line drawings called "Dust and Moon" on Amazon.