“I see something back here! Help me with this,” Willis said, grunting at the effort of trying to lift a large stone.
Nate lent his strength and together the boys managed to roll the stone aside.
“What do you make of that?” Willis breathed.
“Hold on,” Nate said, backing away.
Willis was already reaching for the tiny door handle.
“Do you suppose it opens?” he asked.
Nate’s fading footfalls were his answer.
“Chicken!” Willis yelled. He tried the door.
When Nate returned a few minutes later with Sam and Rebecca, Willis wasn’t around. Sam folded her arms, unimpressed.
“My dollhouse is much more convincing,” she sniffed.
Rebecca poked her nose closer to the little door.
“I don’t know,” she said, “I think you guys did a good job. There’s even a little figurine down there.”
“We didn’t make this,” Nate said. “That’s my point. Willis and I found it this way, behind that boulder. When Willis comes back he’ll tell you.”
The two girls eyed the large stone with skepticism.
“You were not able to move that by yourselves,” Sam said.
“I get it,” Rebecca said. Her nose was nearly up against the door. “Very funny. You can tell Willis to come out now.”
“Get what?” asked Sam.
“They’re trying to convince us that they discovered this little door and that somehow Willis lives there now. The little doll looks just like him. Come on.”
Nate stood trembling after the girls left. He waited for them to be well out of sight before he dropped to his belly and approached the small door.
“Willis?” he asked.
A figurine that looked exactly like his best friend stood near the little door.
“Willis, what’d you do?” Nate groaned, scooping the figurine gently into the palm of his hand.
He heard his mother calling him in for dinner and looked around for options. He nearly tucked Willis into his shirt pocket, but his tiny friend felt so fragile, he thought better of it. He ran straight to his room, ignoring his mother’s questions, and placed Willis on his nightstand before coming down for dinner. That night in his bed, Nate couldn’t sleep. Every time his eyes drooped, he swore he saw his friend’s little figurine move.
Somehow he did finally manage to drift off, because he dreamed that Willis was sitting beside him, staring at him. Except, it wasn’t really Willis. Or it was, but something was off with him. Something unsettling. When Nate awoke, the figurine was sitting with its little legs dangling over the edge of the nightstand. With a shudder, Nate moved it to a shelf and faced so it was looking out the window.
“Honey,” his mother said when Nate came down for breakfast, “when did you last see Willis? His mother called, and he didn’t come home last night.”
Nate studied his shoes, wondering what to say.
“We were playing just before dinner,” he admitted. “I went to get Sam and Rebecca, and when we got back, Willis had already left.”
His mother went to the phone to call Willis’ mother and Nate took the opportunity to dash out. He ran straight to the tiny door and hesitated. There were two figurines now beside the door. He crept closer. One was Willis, and the other was Rebecca. Nate ran back to his house, past his mother who was saying something, to his room. The figurine was no longer on the shelf.
“Nathaniel, what is going on?” his mother demanded from the doorway.
Nate was panting, more from adrenaline than exertion. “I… don’t know,” he said. “I’ve gotta go,” he added, dashing past his bewildered mother and again out the door.
“Is Rebecca home?” he asked when Rebecca’s sister Trudy answered the door.
Trudy’s eyes went wide and she glanced at a spot that he couldn’t see. “No,” she said quietly.
“Did something… happen?” Nate asked.
Trudy studied him for a long moment before nodding her head.
“Did she turn into a… uh…”
Trudy nodded again, her eyes wide with fear.
“I had terrible dreams,” she whispered. “Rebecca’s not coming back. Not the same as she was.”
“I need to talk to Sam,” Nate muttered.
Trudy shook her head. “Sam said she knew where Rebecca went. The real Rebecca. She said she was going after her.”
“Where?” Nate asked, but he already knew.
He ran to the tiny door, and fell to his knees when he saw that he was already too late.
“Why’d you do it, Sam?” he groaned.
He sat with the little figurines of his friends for a while, trying to think of a believable story. All he could think of, though, was how to stop this from happening to anyone else.
“I’m really sorry,” he said at last to the figurines, and with all of his might, he managed to roll the stone back into place.
The light from the sun was suddenly blocked out. Nate looked up and frowned. An enormous boulder towered over him, hemming him into the small grotto. He turned. Nearby, Willis, Rebecca and Sam stood motionless, staring at him. They were as big as him again and breathing, though still somehow doll-like. Behind them was a door. A life-sized door.
Nate swallowed down a lump of fear as his eyes focused on the door. Slowly, ever so slowly, the knob turned.
Written by W. C. McClure www.wcmcclure.com. The characters and events in this story are a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons living or dead are purely coincidental. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. Comments are welcome at http://www.farsideofdreams.com. And if you want to show your support, tell your friends about this short story blog – and pick up one of W. C. McClure ‘ s books. Thanks!