On the Threshold

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This post was originally published through Patreon on June 13, 2018.

Jeremy stood beneath a torrent of rain, surrounded by the dark. He carried no umbrella, nor did he care that the rain had already soaked into his jacket, his pants, and his hair. Thick, fat drops pounded the street like thundering world-sized drums, but he just continued to stand there, open to the elements, staring at the glowing doorway before him and pondering what might lie beyond.

Despite the glow, the porch light was somehow gray, dim, while the world around it was too vibrant, too bright. This was why he’d come, why he stood before the doorway now without a care for the poor weather. Because for years, he’d known he didn’t belong; for years, he’d believed the world to be an illusion.

How had he come to this conclusion? It had been little things at first, things he didn’t notice all at once: buildings that were too tall, people who were too loud, stars that were too bright. Strange details that snagged his attention, encouraging him to examine the world more closely.

And when he did, it all fell apart. Nothing had changed, yet everything was wrong. Parks populated by thick, bulbous trees with tangled, snarling roots, and trunks that sprouted fuzzy leaves like hair. Broad palisades at the center of the city supported by towering marble columns. Vivid crystalline lakes and ponds that sparkled artificially beneath a too-bright sun. It was as if an amateur artist had loaded the world into Photoshop and cranked up the contrast. Everything was too large, too bright, every line and dimension exaggerated like a comic or a cartoon.

He used to hear depressed people say that the world felt too gray, too fake. But until the day his eyes were opened, he’d never thought the world could feel too real.

He had no concrete memory of how the world should be. He only knew that this was not his true home, that somehow, he had to find his way back to where he belonged.

And now, this doorway. It felt ordinary in all the ways the rest of his surroundings did not. Not too large, not too small; not too flashy, not too bright. Ordinary. It called to him, begged him to plumb its hidden secrets. Now that he was ready to open the door—now that he was ready to walk through it and beyond—he wondered what might exist on the other side.

A way back to where I belong. A way home.

Only he’d already been standing here for more than an hour, and still he had yet to open the door. Why? He was certain the answer to his questions lay beyond its narrow borders. Perhaps he was afraid. Afraid something was wrong in his head, that all his strange observations were nothing more than the final desperate cries of a failing mind. After all, it did sound crazy when he thought about it, this world that felt so different from how it was supposed to be even though he couldn’t remember how it was different or why. And what if he wasn’t crazy? What if he opened the door and stepped into someplace new? Would he know how to live in such a place, or would he be even more lost than he felt right now?

Jeremy shook his head. He had to go. He had to know the truth. He stepped forward, feet squelching in his rubber shoes, and placed his hand on the cool brass knob. This was it. He was going to open the door, was going to find out if he was crazy. All he had to do was turn the knob.

There was a brief pause, a moment suspended on the precipice of a life-altering decision. Then Jeremy turned away, too afraid to go further.

Tomorrow. I can do this tomorrow.

But he knew as soon as he turned back that this was a lie.

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2 thoughts on “On the Threshold”

  1. For some reason I really latched onto the part where it was mentioned that people who are dealing with depression say that the world is too grey and fake. I’ve experienced that firsthand and I always wondered if anyone else felt that way, too, or if that was just my experience. It’s not that this made me realize I may be depressed, I’ve already been diagnosed. But, even my doctor never mentioned that other people report this. And here I was, for years, going to doctors and saying this to them and while they didn’t seem surprised they also didn’t give any indication that it was something they’d heard before and I was just left feeling like I maybe wasn’t getting my point across. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who has this perception of the world.

    I really found the description of the way that Jeremy sees the world he’s in to be interesting, as well, the way you described the trees, for example, really hit me. You really drove home the weird wrongness of it with the description of the visuals in front of him.

    The door to a potential other world is also an interesting concept, a literal door like any other door but which leads to something much different than just a kitchen or a bedroom, or at least the potential for it. I think a lot of people can relate to Jeremy feeling like he’s in the wrong place, but also feeling too afraid to actually take the step forward that he needs to to find out if he can find a better place, one more suited to him, because of all of the unknown variables and all of the ways that you can talk yourself out of it. Especially that last one, “it can wait until tomorrow,” when all the while you know that you aren’t going to do anything differently tomorrow than you did today. Very universal, everyone’s felt that way at some point, everyone’s dealt with that in some way. And, yet, even so the stakes feel higher with Jeremy and I can’t help but feel bad for him that he won’t open up that door and see what’s on the other side even as I understand the motivation behind that.

    1. Thank you so much! I also suffer from depression (the past few years haven’t been as bad as when I was younger, but it’s always rearing its ugly head from time to time), and I’ve had the same perception. When you’re depressed, everything just seems dull and somehow less vibrant.

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