The Door: Or, Time is Where You Find it

SHORT STORY

Project Calm - - Contents - By Claire Stor­row

I had been trudg­ing from the West Heath and on to Hamp­stead Heath it­self when I saw it. It was an over­cast day, and al­though I had been op­ti­mistic that a walk in the fresh air would cheer me up, the gloom around Wild­wood Road was be­gin­ning to feel op­pres­sive. The door was small. It looked even smaller from where I stood on the pave­ment be­cause it was set in a wall up some rick­ety old wooden steps. White and blue paint peeled off its sur­face, but the un­usual por­tal stood out from the thick, dark green ivy that framed it. Be­fore I could think any fur­ther about what might lie be­yond it, the door knob started rat­tling and turn­ing as some­one strug­gled to open the door from the other side. It sud­denly burst open, and a mid­dle-aged man sham­bled through the arch­way. “Bloody ’ell! That ivy gets ev­ery­where, suf­fo­cates ev­ery­thing in its path!” He took off his flat cap and wiped his fore­head be­fore real­is­ing that I was there. “’Ello!” he said cheer­ily.

“Hi,” I an­swered, “I was just ad­mir­ing the door.”

“Ah, yes, funny lit­tle por­tal isn’t it?”

It was strange that he used the word “por­tal” be­cause that was the word that had come to my mind right be­fore he came through it. “I was won­der­ing what could be on the other side of such a door.”

“Well, come on through,” he ges­tured, “I was just sort­ing out some worm­holes.” “Worm­holes? You mean worm casts?” “Yes, that’s them, ruin the lawns, they do.” From the way he was talk­ing, I was ex­pect­ing a di­lap­i­dated, un­ruly waste­land, but what lay be­yond the door was breath­tak­ing. Ma­genta bougainvil­lea hung over the door on the in­side, mag­no­lia trees were in full bloom, red camel­lias at­tracted red ad­mi­ral but­ter­flies, pur­ple clema­tis ran up the in­te­rior walls. In the beds, hibis­cus f low­ers bobbed in the breeze while Stargazer lilies and pe­onies burst forth, jostling for at­ten­tion. The man looked at my face, “Gor­geous, ain’t it?”

“How do you…?” I couldn’t un­der­stand the va­ri­ety of flow­ers and all bloom­ing at the same time.

“Mr. Pow­drill,” he nod­ded his head, “he’s a

mas­ter of time and space, quite the ma­gi­cian.” “Mr Pow­drill? That’s an un­usual name.” “’ Tis, isn’t it. Comes from the old French, poutrel, mean­ing colt. He’s true to his name, frisky; a right trick­ster, he is. Came to Eng­land af­ter the Nor­man Con­quest, 1066.” “He came to Eng­land in 1066?” “The name love, the name came across the water in 1066.” He looked dis­tant for a mo­ment. “Any­way, his peo­ple set­tled in Der­byshire, the Peak District, near Ar­bor Low. Do you know Ar­bor Low?” “I’ve not heard of it, no.” “A stone henge, more im­por­tant than the Stone­henge in the grand scheme of things, but let peo­ple think what they want, ay? Keep ’em away from the real magic,” he smiled at me warmly like he was let­ting me in on a se­cret.

Around the gar­den was an el­e­vated per­gola. Climb­ing roses cov­ered ev­ery inch of trel­lis and filled the air with fra­grance. “Do you mind if we walk up there?” I asked. “Not at all, ma’am, do come up.” I fol­lowed him up the Escher-like stairs, bees hummed amongst the plant life. “It’s so warm here, it’s al­most Mediter­ranean,” I said, “not like out­side just now.”

“Yes, ’tis a pos­i­tive mi­cro- cli­mate here. The sun al­ways shines on the right­eous – and the un­godly too,” he winked.

This man had a strange way of speak­ing. I wasn’t quite sure what was hap­pen­ing, but I was en­joy­ing it too much to care. As we reached the top of the stairs, I was sure I would see a mag­nif­i­cent view of London but I only saw rolling green hills be­low.

“Where’s London?” I asked, start­ing to feel un­easy.

“I don’t know. Where is London?” he an­swered. He turned to me, “The fields are al­ways sleep­ing be­neath you know, no mat­ter how tall the build­ings. De­pends how you look at things.”

I was puz­zled. “This is quite ex­tra­or­di­nary,” I said, feel­ing like Alice down the rab­bit hole.

“It is,” he replied, “and we like to keep it that way. Too much or­di­nary… it’s not good for any­one.”

We strolled along the cov­ered walk­way, tiny irides­cent birds wove in and out be­tween the vines and pil­lars. They didn’t look indige­nous at all, but I was be­yond ask­ing ques­tions. We walked down the stairs, bring­ing us back to where we started. I could see the cres­cent moon op­po­site the sun which was now low in the sky. I could have sworn it was late morn­ing when I had come across the door.

“Well, I must be get­ting on with the gar­den­ing,” the man said, “there’s much to be done to keep it like this, you un­der­stand.” He took his se­ca­teurs from his belt and cut me a crim­son camel­lia. “Here y’are.” “Thank you,” I said, “And thank you for –” “It’s alright,” he nod­ded, “any time, any time.” I never walked back that way, and I know that if I did, I might not find the gar­den again. But the camel­lia cut­ting grew into a healthy bush. And it f low­ers all year long.

CLAIRE STOR­ROW

Claire is fas­ci­nated by the un­seen and the un­said, which she ex­plores in short fic­tion. When not writ­ing, you can find her play­ing ta­ble ten­nis, drink­ing cof­fee, bak­ing, or tak­ing long, un­planned walks.

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