Doors in Parallel

Michaela Hayes


    Michaela was sitting in a chair eating crackers when the tube sucked her up and spat her back out. Before she got sucked up, before the tube even appeared, she heard a horrible sucking and slurping noise, like a person trying to eat a popsicle on a hot summer day before it melted. Then, it sprouted straight up out of the floor and began to suck the air from the room as if it were trying to vacuum the walls, but instead of dirt, it sucked up a teenage girl. If she had grown up the way that you or I had, she would have remarked on the similarities between the tube that sucked her up and the tube that Mario characters use to transport themselves, but she hadn’t– she had grown up sitting in a chair eating crackers. She had grown up, had been last year, had always been, had thought she always would be, sitting in a chair eating crackers. If someone needed to talk to her, they came and saw her in the chair. Sometimes they brought her crackers. She never questioned this process; it seemed most natural.
    The walls of her room had been purple. She liked purple, and she liked crackers. Now she was getting aggressively blasted in the face by some unpleasant thing she couldn’t see, which you and would think of as wind, but which Michaela thought of as “ah!!”
    She had just gotten comfortable in the tube when she was spat back out on the other side. The tube shot her up, up, up and then disappeared, so she fell in its wake. “Whaaaa!” Michaela yelled as she hit the ground. She’d never experienced physical pain before (though she’d heard of it), so the word “ouch” wasn’t in her functional vocabulary.
    The ground was wet, cold, and dark. Her pants soaked up the material nearly instantaneously and soon her bottom was also wet and cold.
    “My bottom is wet and cold,” she said aloud.
    “Get used to it!” said the man next to her. She jumped.
    “Hello,” she said.
    “Hey, kid. Saw that green tube that spit you out. Shit was crazy.”
    “Was it?” She had never considered such a thing before. The man rubbed his beard as he thought about her question.
    “Yes, I’d say so,” he answered. He was slumped against the same wall that Michaela herself was now leaning on, wrapped completely in a blue sleeping bag. “I like your blue body bag,” she said, gesturing to the sleeping bag.
    “Oh, this old thing?”
    “It does look kind of old,” she said.
    “Does it?” The man looked down at the sleeping bag and frowned. “I suppose it does. I just nabbed it last year.”
    “Nabbed it?”
    “I stole it out of some rich fuck’s garbage can. People throw away the most astounding things. That’s why the planet is dying,” he said. He looked pleased with himself then, as if he’d just said something profound, and his eyes crinkled at the sides. You and I know better. Michaela just looked pleased with herself then, too, because she felt as if something important was being discussed. Though, in her mind, she was really just trying to piece together the death of the planet as it correlated with blue body bags. Must be an other side of the tube thing, she decided.
    “So why are you here in this long street hallway?” Michaela asked. When people came to visit her in her chair, she became uncomfortable with any silence quickly, and she learned how to ask little questions to keep the noise in the room going.
    “The alley? Oh, nowhere else to sleep tonight. You know how it goes. I’ll swing by the Y tomorrow morning to shower and shave and stuff before work,” the man said, and he scratched at his beard again as he slumped further into the wall. “This alley has been home for a little while now, unfortunately. Where is your home?     You don’t have to tell me specifics, I don’t wanna be creepy or anything.”
    “I don’t know. It’s really just a chair. All I do all day is eat crackers,” she said. The man laughed.
    “Ain’t that the truth,” he said. Michaela laughed too, but she wasn’t sure why. She had a strange urge to please the man, and she liked that he was laughing. “Yes! Yes it is.”
    Then, there were a few moments of unbearable silence before the man said: “Hey, do you want to walk down to the diner? I have a couple bucks, I’ll buy you some food.”
    “Sure,” she said. Stranger danger wasn’t a thing in the purple room.
    So, the pair stood up and began walking in the direction of the diner. As they walked, Michaela took in her surroundings with bewilderment. Soon, they were out of the alley and into a street, and she was shocked by the hubbub. So many people in one place! So many strange structures! And what on earth were those tiny, squishy humans being carried around in women’s arms?! They were horrendous!
    A few times, Michaela had to stop lean against a lightpost. She felt she may vomit. The man always waited patiently for her, without asking questions.     Finally, they made it to the diner, a little thing shoved between two other little things with big glass windows on the sides and a brown painted door. When they reached the building, Michaela paused, before attempting to paw at the glass. How else was she supposed to get in?
    “Hey, stop it. You’re gonna smudge it up,” the man said as he turned the brass knob to the door and pulled it open. Michaela watched wide-eyed as she watched him open part of the wall.
    “You must be very strong,” she said.
    “Definitely,” he responded.
    The two sat at a booth, and the man began to order them both a cheeseburger. Michaela paused him though, and asked the waiter if the diner had any crackers. “Sure, oyster crackers, but you have to order the soup too,” he said.
    “Okay then I would like the oyster crackers and the zoop please,” Michaela said. After the waiter left, the man looked at her for a moment. She looked back. “Where are you from?” he asked.
    “A purple room,” she said.
    “Ah. Hmm. I see, the purple room. Yeah, I know someone from around there,” he said.
    “No. Have you ever been to Chicago before?” he asked.
    “No,” she said.
    “Have you ever been anywhere before?” he was leaning forward in his seat now. “I’ve been to the purple room.”
    “How do you know how to speak?”
    “People come and visit me. They bring me books. I don’t remember much about anything, but I remember that,” she said.
    “I see,” he responded. He looked pensive for a moment and then sat back in his seat. It was then excruciatingly silent until their meals came.
    As Michaela and the man were just about to get settled again in their spots against the wall, the sound of the tube rang out again, but this time, it seemed backwards. Perhaps like a person trying to construct a popsicle quickly on a hot summer day before it melted. Michaela jumped up from her spot and ran to the other wall, anticipating the tube’s appearance. It took a few moments, but then the noise became switched around once more and again the tube was sucking. It pulled at Michaela’s long hair and sweatshirt so vigorously that she had to employ all of her leg muscles just to stay standing. The man seemed curiously immune. When Michaela couldn’t resist any longer, she looked to her friend, who simply nodded at her, and gestured to the tube.
    “Tube is on the line. You might want to pick up, he seems impatient,” he said.
    “Okay,” she said, not understanding what a telephone is. Then she relaxed her body and allowed herself to be sucked in.
    After a similarly windy experience, she was spat out on the other side, back into the room with the chair and the crackers. Everything was just as she left it, except some of the crackers had been blown about in the ruckus. Michaela picked herself up from the floor, massaging her sore buttocks. Perhaps it was time to sit in her chair again and await a visitor.
    Then, an inconsistency in the purple wallpaper caught her eye: a long rectangular crease, with a brass knob on one side. Was that also a door? Had she just never noticed it before? It is easy to overlook something if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Without thinking about it much, but feeling drawn to it all the same, she walked to the door and turned the knob the way that she saw the man do it earlier. She pulled the door open, and a familiar sensation greeted her: wind. But this wind was gentle, caressing almost, and smelled sweetly. She walked forward into the new sweet wind.