The door, alongside the lunatic who had been screaming to be let out on the other side, had disappeared almost as soon as it had inexplicably come into existence. Cautiously, Joanne stood from the steps on which she had been fighting to keep the door shut, and stared at the wall in a mixture of relief and shock, wiping the tear streaks from her face. After a minute, she went from studying the wall with her eyes to doing so with her fingers, attempting to find any sign that there had in fact been a door there. She felt the wall for several minutes, breathing heavily, hunting for a crack or ridge against the drywall, growing more desperate to find what she had been screaming didn’t exist moments before. She pressed her head against the various steps to find a crack where the floor met the wall, screamed and slammed the wall with fists, but the wall didn’t move at all, and it became clear to her that even if at one time the space in front of her had had a door, this was no longer the case.
She stood before the wall in disbelief. After a moment, she ran down the stairs and burst into her garage, threw open a drawer and began throwing out cases of nails, old wires, until she found a hammer. She gripped it tightly in one hand as she made her way back to the wall, and began smashing her hammer against the wall. Chunks of drywall exploded into pieces with every contact, littering the steps around Joanne, until the drywall was gone, and the hammer torn past the fiberglass, splintered boards of wood, and pounded against a wall of brick, over and over, causing the joints in her hands and fingers to ache painfully, until finally the brick gave way to the blackness of night outside the house. Fearfully, Joanne peered through the wall- the night’s warm air reached her face, and the window revealed the vaguely streetlight illuminated asphalt, lined with grass, palm trees, surrounding houses, most with their lights off, according to their windows, and darkness.
“Thanks so much for helping me move in, Mom,” Joanne exhaled as she set down a cardboard box labelled ‘kitchen’ on top of the stove.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help you, dear,” began Joanne’s mother serenely as she set down a slightly smaller box labelled ‘books’ on top of the dining room table, “and for this chance to spend the day with my lovely granddaughter, Isabella.”
At this mention, a small girl, of around three years of age, jumped out beaming from behind a pile of boxes with several crayons in hand and casually trotted over to Joanne and her mother.
Joanne was thirty-four now, and she looked almost as her mother had about thirty years ago, while Joanne’s daughter looked as Joanne had thirty-one years ago. Joanne’s hair was brown, her mother’s held a dusty combination of grey and brown and Isabella, bright blonde, but other than that, looking at the three of them would’ve been like looking at the same person in three different stages of their life. The same blue eyes, their noses each had a slight angularity to it, even the same facial bone structure, though it also seemed that the older the individual, the more elongated her face became, with Isabella having a notably rounder face in comparison with both Joanne and Joanne’s mother.
Isabella took her mother’s hand while gleaming up at her grandmother, and absentmindedly noted, “Mommy, I’m hungry. Can we get ice cream?”
Joanne looked uncertainly at her mother, who shrugged playfully and then said, “we could lock up the truck for a while and go out to eat and then come back to finish unloading once we’ve eaten. Maybe?”
Isabella swivelled to face Joanne, and began pleading for her to say okay (“Please Mommy, please please please-“), which she did with little desire to oppose.
“Well, look at you,” said Joanne’s mother, praising Joanne as the waitress walked away, “Eating healthy, buying a new house. Publishing your book- finally. Raising this lovely little girl.” Isabella turned to smile proudly at her grandma, who lovingly brushed Isabella’s hair behind her ear and smiled in return.
Joanne didn’t like to admit that her mom had been right about attempting to push Joanne taking all these certain paths, but at the same time, it really did feel amazing to be living the life she was today. Looking back at herself four years ago, living off fast food, with some hidden piece of forgotten food always rotting somewhere in the old house, living off blog posts, without enough money to advertise her writing or the courage to find a publisher, and most crucially without Isabella, who made her life worth living, it was hard for Joanne to even think about the idea of her mom being wrong about it all.
“Thank you Mom,” Joanne said while staring at the spinning the ice cubes in her water glass, which she was twirling around with her straw.
After a moment of silence, Joanne’s mother reached her hand out on the table.
“I’m proud of you, Joanne. You’ve built this all for yourself, and I’m so proud of you.”
After another moment of silence, Joanne looked up from her glass and smiled earnestly at her mother.
“Thank you Mom. Really. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Oh- I’m sure you could have, and I’m sure you did. I don’t know what convinced you, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. Something that has always made you so true to yourself is that the only way someone can convince you is if you decide that what they want is something you want to too.”
“That’s not true!”
“Oh yes it is- I know you heard all my suggestions, but I also know that you have your own reasons for doing all that I begged you to do for so.”
“That’s not true,” Joanne murmered, staring at her glass again.
“Oh please! We both know it is. All I ask is that you explain what you told yourself, please. Please Honey, I’m so curious!”
Isabella squirmed energetically in her chair, and after another pause between Joanne and her mother, Isabella pulled on her mother’s sleeve.
“How much longer do you think they’ll take?”
Joanne looked over towards the kitchen as the waitress returned, with three salads, one remarkably smaller than the rest.
When they returned to the new house, the sky was dark orange, taking on various shades of purple. Joanne went Joanne began to open the moving truck once again while her mother and Isabella went to open the garage door from inside. Joanne got the truck open and stood waiting for them to open the garage door, but a few minutes passed and the garage was still shut. ‘She probably got distracted talking to Isabella, I’ll give them a few more minutes,” thought Joanne, climbing into the seat of truck, closing the door, and pulling out her phone.
She went into her email, hoping to find something new regarding her book, but after scrolling through a few piles of spam, she closed her phone again, and slipped it back in her pocket. She sighed and looked out the window, to see if the garage door was open yet. ‘What’s taking them so long?’ she thought, before sighing again, throwing her head backward against the seat and closing her eyes.
The vibrating of her phone woke her up. She opened her eyes and blinked a few times, looking at her surroundings, before reaching for her phone. It had turned to night. She opened her phone, expecting it to be her mother, but instead found ‘Unknown Caller,’ glaring back at her. A small pang of anxiety burst through her system, but she hastily brushed it aside and rejected the call, and slipped the phone back in her pocket as she climbed out of the car.
She made her way through the darkness and to the door of her new house- the nearest streetlight was a considerable distance away making the ground below her difficult to discern. There was no light inside the house either. Joanne turned the door handle and pushed it open, encountering another heavier layer of darkness.
“Hello?” she called out into the darkness.
“Mom?” No response.
“Isabella? Anybody?” Joanne made her way to the light switch groped the wall in the darkness for a few seconds before finding it. She flicked it up, without a reaction, and then up and down a few more times, but the lights remained off.
“Look- I swear- there was a woman on the other side of this wall trying to get in, and she was screaming at the top of her lungs, and she wanted to hurt me, I swear to God,” Joanne wept through clenched teeth.
She stood beside a man, both of them in front of the hole she had just made on the side of the wall.
“I swear to God,” she repeated.
The man, who was wearing a white t-shirt and pajama bottoms, put a fist against his mouth and looked worriedly at Joanne, and then at the hole in the wall. Silently, he made his way to the wall and peered through the hole for a couple of seconds before stepping back to his previous position and then turning back to Joanne.
“Joanne. If what you’re saying actually happened, she would have had to scale halfway up the house and stay there while- if what you’re saying is true- fighting with you, and the structure of this wall, to break into your house through the wall of a house instead of the door?”
“See that’s the thing! There was a door right here, where this piece of wall is- it happened, I swear- look at these messages I got-”
Joanne pulled out her phone and shoved it in front of him, showing him the text messages she had received earlier, commanding her to open the door that had been on the wall minutes before.
“Look- I got those right before she started trying to get in, and then she called me and started screaming at me to open the door-”
“Joanne-” interrupted the man.
“And then the door was there and she started opening it and screaming and I was trying so hard to keep it closed and-”
“Joanne,” he interrupted again, gripping both of hands. The number that sent the texts- it’s your number. Look- Joanne Middleton.”
“I know it says that, but I didn’t send them, I swear. I swear.”
The man stared at her silently, and she stared back.
“I swear. I swear.”
Joanne pulled out her phone and turned on the screen to illuminate the path ahead of her, but before she turned it away from her, she realized she had missed several calls while she slept- various calls from an unknown caller, and various from her mother.
At this, she unlocked her phone and called her mother.
The phone rang for a few seconds, without a reply, and then went to voicemail, so Joanne hung up and rang again. After a couple of seconds, Joanne’s mother picked up.
“Hi Joanne! Sorry for disappearing, I called you a few times but you didn’t answer, and then we found you asleep, so I took Isabella to get some groceries while you slept. I left you a note.”
“No, don’t worry about it Mom, you didn’t do anything wrong. Thanks for getting groceries. Is Isabella okay?”
“Oh yes, she’s dancing down the aisles. By the way, I wanted to tell you, the garage door isn’t working for some reason.”
“Yeah. The power is out.” Joanne begin to move deliberately through the kitchen, toward the living room.
“Oh that’s a shame! On the first day here, too! Do you want me to call somebody to-”
Her mother’s voice cut off suddenly, and Joanne barely had to look at the phone’s screen to know it had turned off. She slipped her phone back into her pocket, and slowly made her way into the living room, and to opposite end of the living room, before turning to face the staircase, which loomed ahead of her like a seething monster.
She began attempting to convince herself to turn around, and that there was nothing to fear as there was nothing there, and what had happened before had all been the imaginings of a severely stressed mind. A woman began screaming horribly from the darkness of the staircase.
“OPEN THE DOOR! PLEASE, OPEN THE DOOR! OPEN THE DAMN DOOR! OPEN IT, PLEASE!”
Her screams became angrier and more terrifying with every second that the door did not open, and Joanne froze further and further in fear. Joanne melted onto her knees and stared upwards as the outline of doorframe appeared on the wall of the staircase, light spitting out through the cracks, when she was sure she had no memory of a door being there. A terrible, pungent, smell crawled to Joanne, causing her to instinctively cover her mouth.
After a few more moments, a doorknob appeared, and the screaming stopped. The knob began turning slowly at first, and then turned the rest of the way quickly, before whoever was on the other side pushed the door open with a crack. A hand pushed the door open, which looked as if it belonged to an older woman, and she continued to make her way into the house. Her clothes were seemed clean, but heavily torn and worn. The woman’s face was covered by the darkness, but the light from behind her illuminated her crooked shape and graying brown hair.
Joanne shut her eyes firmly and tensed every muscle her body, and kneeled frozen in terror as the woman stepped softly down the steps, and toward Joanne.
“Open your eyes,” she said calmly.
Joanne didn’t respond.
“Open your eyes Joanne.” Her voice seemed inexplicably familiar and soft, but simultaneously filled with an underlying note of anger.
Shaking in fear, Joanne slowly opened her eyes, and found the frame of the woman standing directly in front of her. The woman offered her hand to Joanne.
“Take my hand.”
“Take it,” she said again, extending her hand further.
Joanne pushed the woman backward, and stood from her knees, and began to run for the door, but there was somebody else- a man- standing in the doorway.
“Help! Someone broke in and they want to hurt me!”
“Where?” he responded calmly.
Joanne turned to point toward the kitchen, where the woman was stirring in the shadows, but something hit her head from behind, hard, and sent her to the ground.
The frame of the woman emerged into view and the man, draped in shadows, stepped over Joanne and walked over to the woman. Then Joanne’s vision went dark.
To be continued…
Just FYI, no, Joanne ISN’T a random piece of writing I emitted in an attempt to post. As random as a door appearing inside your house with someone terrifying on the other side seems, there’s actually something I planned going on. So, I’ll leave you waiting to know Joanne’s fate in Joanne Pt. 3. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it 🙂