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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

The Great Wall
by Elad Nostaw

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Sitting there, his knees under him, he stared off blankly into the air. The orderly that was his daily routine came in, stuffed two pills in his mouth and poured a tiny bit of water down his throat. The reflex of the water going in made him swallow the pills. He had done this a thousand times in his three years at the sanitarium. The judge had ordered him there until they could figure out why he was the way he was. Outside he was a vegetable. Inside was totally different.

He stared off down the distant hall, the hall that led to his mind. It was eternal and on either side of it were two great walls. On each of the two great walls, sporadically spaced, were doors, thousands of doors. More doors than he had explanations for and all of the doors were closed. Behind him was his past. Looking that direction all the doors were opened; He had been there. Inside each room, something different was going on. Perhaps these were his memories all tidied up into nice neat rooms that he could access much like we do files on our computers. Behind him lies the happiness of a day gone by. The hall behind him was light. The hall before him was a dark sinister place full of foreboding. He dreaded going farther but with no escape from his mind he did.

As he opened the first door he saw his wife. She was there visiting him. He tried to reach out to her... "My love!" but he could not enter the door. There was no force blocking him. His feet just would not move laterally. His frustration grew as he tried again and again until he could bear no more.

He looked to the right and opened the closed door there. Inside was his wife yet again. She looked much older and showed her age prematurely. Once again he reached out to her... just to feel her touch would have meant so much to him. Yet, again he could not move to her. He tried harder and harder each time, yet no good. He could not move laterally.

And as he passed each door opening it became more traumatic than the one before. His mother occupied the next two doors, his children the consecutive ones after that. All his present and future memories were there, not locked away from him but inaccessible. He could walk to the walls but not enter the doors.

Soon his doors became torture. He wanted out of the hall so he ran and ran and ran but the hall never once relented. It went on forever and ever. Was he in hell? He opened one of the next doors and sure enough, hell lay before him. Shutting the door quickly, he began running back wards to where his dream had started. The door was still open but the room was dark and now there were no memories for him to behold. He screamed in anguish. Suddenly his inability to reach his wife seemed insignificant in comparison to his losing his memory of her. He collapsed crying. He cried for what seemed like days. Then... a thought came to him.

He looked up. There was no ceiling and the walls stopped merely a few feet above his head. He leaped, grabbing the top of the wall. He pulled himself up, perhaps there was hope he thought.

As his view crossed the top of the wall he saw something strange. He saw himself. And on two stands he saw an uncompleted door. In his hands he held a hammer and a saw. He looked down the outside of the walls and there were literally thousands of himselves, all building doors. He pulled himself over and smashed the first door. It felt good and that part of the wall outside became a little lighter. Then he looked before him. There were endless clones building doors all looking at him. One by one he smashed each one and as he did the clones followed smashing doors too. Before long that side of the wall was very bright and the light drowned out the doors. Suddenly there in the light was a pair of hands. He looked in the hands and there were two tiny white pills. He swatted the pills from the hands and looked up. The orderly looked astonished and his wife cried and cried. The doctors entered the room. They cut off his medication and it was days before he could speak after 3 years in isolation. But eventually his first words were, "I love you" to his wife and children.

After a few months the courts released him and he seems better. But sometimes at night he returns to the great hall. Confident now, he spends his slumber crossing the walls on the other side and smashing the doors that imprisoned his mind there. Doing that sets the rest of him free.

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