The Cabinet Door
Short Story | Sci-Fi/Horror | ~3900 words
We didn’t think much of it. It was there when we moved in.
We did notice. I mean, how couldn’t we notice? A cabinet door? On the ceiling? Honestly, we thought it was funny when we did the initial walkthrough.
No. Obviously we don’t think it’s funny anymore.
Well you have to understand, we had no reason to think much about it. The house had been on the market for years. We knew the owners had died. We figured whoever was in charge of the estate was just using what they had on hand. My husband’s a roofer, and he felt pretty confident they’d had a leak and wanted to cover the stain or a hole from where they cut out rotted wood, you know, something like that.
I assume it’s just the only thing they had lying around. It didn’t have a handle or anything. Just a little rectangle door up there at the top of the stairs, painted so it matched the ceiling.
Well hindsight’s 20/20 isn’t it?
Right. I’m not deflecting responsibility, though. Or that’s not my aim. I’m just saying, you know, we had no reason to think that.
There wasn’t any kind of declaration when we were doing the housing paperwork, no. We didn’t even know there was an attic. I mean, you figure there’s maybe a crawl space up there stuffed with insulation, but that’s it.
No, no noises.
Yes, seriously. We never had any idea. Well, until we did.
What do you think it was like? First we thought we were losing our minds. Then we were terrified, just like everyone else.
Little stuff. Things not being in their places. And they’d be found in really weird spots. Not “oh, I put the knife in the fridge with the butter, silly me!” but more like “why is our toaster in the guest room upstairs?”
I have no idea.
Well you know as much as I do. Maybe they thought it had parts they could use. Or they were studying what to them might have seemed like primitive technology. Maybe they just wanted to fuck with us.
I mean, that’s not the first place our minds went, no. I honestly thought it was just my husband messing with me at first. In fact, I started hiding things in strange places to get back at him.
Like I hid his paintball gun under the covers on his side of the bed.
He thought it was hilarious.
I thought it was annoying he wouldn’t admit that he was also moving things around the house.
When all the food was gone.
Yes, all of it.
We thought we had been robbed. I know that sounds crazy—who robs a place and only takes food? But this was during the first big outbreak of COVID-19. We figured someone really needed it.
No, there was no evidence of a forced entry or anything, but I still think a hungry person breaking in was a more reasonable guess than what was really going on, don’t you?
I mean, yeah, it all adds up given what we know now, but if I had come on your show back then and said I suspected exactly what ended up happening, you’d have laughed me out of the room.
I don’t know why they picked our place. I kind of guessed it was because the house was empty for so long. From their perspective, we invaded their space, you know?
I’ve been asked that about the previous owners before, but there’s really no way to know.
I don’t see how. My husband and I didn’t experience anything like that. Not even close. I guess there’s a chance that if the same things were happening to them, it could have exacerbated some problems they were having, but I don’t think we can put all the blame on that.
There’s no evidence of that.
Well, ok, true. You’re right that the police didn’t take me seriously, and I guess there’s a chance that means they also could have misconstrued what happened between them. I’ve thought about all this before, but it seems like a waste of time. There’s simply no way to know.
Yeah, I mean, we just bought more food and went on with our lives. We did file a police report, but obviously nothing came of it.
Ok, so that came a few months later in the winter. Back when we had those big snowstorms one right after the other. We have a flat roof just like most of the houses here, and there was just so much snow up there. When it finally started to melt, we could hear dripping.
Yeah, he is. And a good one too. He fixed the roof when we moved in. It was basically the first thing he did. But dripping is dripping, so he figured there was some issue. He couldn’t see anything on the roof, so he got the idea to see what was behind the cabinet door. Maybe he could stick his head up into the crawl space and see where the drips were happening.
I’ll never forget it. We have a stepladder, but it was tucked away in the shed, so he grabbed a chair from the dining room table and carried it up the stairs instead. I was nervous because the door in the ceiling was basically right at the top of the stairs, and I didn’t want him to lose his footing and fall down the staircase.
I was just standing there telling him to be careful. Not much I could do. It was a one-man job.
Well, what first stood out is that there were no screws in the cabinet door. We figured they were there, just painted over, but there was nothing. My husband was like, “you’ve got to be kidding me that they just glued this thing up here.”
He handed me the screwdriver and ran his fingers all around it, trying to see if there were any weak points. At some point, he pulled and it just … came open.
Yeah, like it was hinged. Even though it didn’t have a handle or anything, it was pretty clear it was a hatch of some sort.
No, no handle on either side, but still, it was clearly meant to be opened and closed.
Well, he looked at me and then just shrugged and raised up on his toes to look over the edge and into the ceiling.
Yes, that’s when they got him.
I couldn’t see anything going on up in there. I thought he was pulling himself up, which seemed like a really bad idea, so I ran over to him and touched his leg, trying to get his attention, to ask him to come back down, but that’s when I realized that he was moving too fast.
Yeah, he was—it was like he was being sucked up in there. No way he could climb in that quickly. He started kicking his legs and I grabbed on, trying to hold him, to pull him back down.
No, I didn’t hear a scream, but he was clearly in distress.
It occurred to me after that they could have been covering his mouth. I don’t know.
He was suddenly gone. I stared into the hole, unsure of what to do, and that’s when I saw the little hand.
Like, shriveled and greenish brown.
It reached down for the door and pulled it back closed.
I don’t know. It’s like its palm was sticky or something. It just put its hand flat on the back of the door and pulled it shut.
I tried for hours. I cried. I called his name until my throat was raw. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it back open. I didn’t hear him shout back. Nothing.
Yes. I tried the screwdriver and even went downstairs and got a knife and tried to pry it open, thinking the thinner edge might do it.
I mean, eventually. But it took a while.
Think about it. “Yes, operator? My husband got sucked up into a hole in our ceiling.” It was a hard call to make.
I mean, the police came and went. They didn’t help.
They didn’t think what I said happened really happened.
They couldn’t get it open either. They didn’t try that hard. I think they only tried at all to calm me down. They said he’d be home soon, then that it was probably just a bad dream. They asked if I was on any medications and if I was getting enough sleep. They tried to get me to go with them, probably to commit me. I refused until they eventually they left.
I made a pallet on the floor in the hallway so I could see the door.
No, I didn’t see anything.
I only left to eat and use the bathroom.
Yes. It is hard for me to talk about.
Well, I went to sleep that night, the third or fourth night, and didn’t sleep well. I hadn’t been sleeping much in general. Anyway, I guess I did eventually drift off because when I woke there were the bones.
No, just, like a pile. It’s not like on TV. Bones don’t hold together in the shape of a skeleton without the ligaments and stuff.
Mmhmm. Totally clean.
Well I freaked out, obviously. Called the police again.
I’d say it was a mistake, but what else could I have possibly done in that situation?
Yeah, my mom paid bail. I’d been calling her off and on throughout the whole ordeal.
It hurt a lot, you know? For anyone to think I’d do that.
I stayed with Mom until they finally let me back home. Everything was a mess after the investigation.
I was mad, of course. No one was taking me seriously. All these people had been all over my house. I felt violated. And I had obviously not expected to get arrested and have to deal with all that. It was just terrible. I was tired. I was alone. I felt lost. I missed my husband.
No, not in the hall after that. The guest room.
I couldn’t get myself to sleep alone in our bed.
My mom filled the fridge and cabinets for me. She checked in every day.
I stayed away from it for a while. I tried to ignore it when I had to walk by, but I just pictured that clawed little hand reaching down and grabbing me by the hair every time I passed underneath. And I kept waking up in the night after nightmares of it reaching down and pressing its palm flat against me and just pulling me to the ceiling, sticking to me like it did the door and lifting me up and away, you know? I’d wake up screaming, trying to shake the image of mouths full of tiny brown teeth skinning me to the bone.
I don’t know. It felt like a failure for me to leave. Like I was abandoning my husband somehow.
Yes, obviously I understood he was gone, but given the circumstances, surely you can see how it’d be hard to accept that. To let go.
If I’m being honest, you’re probably right. That was some of it too. It was always at the back of my mind that the police could be right, that I was losing it. I knew what I saw. I knew it. But at the same time… I mean, it’s hard to believe. I can admit that.
You know, it was those dumb Paranormal movies. You know the ones that had the trailers where you could see a sleeping couple or whatever on their webcam, and then there’s something in the room with them? I had the idea to do the same thing. I had my laptop watch me while I slept. It made me feel oddly comforted. I started sleeping better. Like, at least I couldn’t disappear without a trace. At least if what happened to my husband happened to me, someone would see it.
No, nothing interesting ever ended up on the bedroom videos.
When the food went missing again.
Yeah, that’s when I knew for sure it was all real. I stopped doubting myself.
Mmhmm. That’s when I got the idea.
Pointing it at the cabinet door wasn’t hard. I kept the laptop part in my room and just ran the webcam cord out under the bedroom door and pointed it up at the ceiling in the hall. I fell asleep every night watching the little hatch relayed to me on video, waiting for it to move.
It felt good. Like I’d laid a trap, you know? Just a hunter waiting for the prey to fall in.
I wasn’t eating much, no. I got pretty obsessed. My mom was getting worried, but I wouldn’t let her come over. I’d call her every day to help calm her down, convince her I was ok, but it was always quick. I couldn’t stand the idea that I might miss something. I just wanted to wait for the trap to be sprung, you know? I couldn’t think of anything else. Everything would be ok, I thought, if I just caught something on camera. I’d be sane, my husband would be avenged, you know? I could leave. Everything would work out if I could just get a video. That’s how it felt.
Well, yeah, obviously I regret it now.
I knew as much as anyone else. How could I have ever, ever guessed they could transport via images like that?
Yes, the comparison has been made.
Look, Ringu or whatever is an old movie, and it’s fake. I’ve never even seen it, or the remake for that matter, but from what I understand, it’s not even the same premise as what’s gone on here. Seeing these… things, it doesn’t curse you. Not in the traditional sense. Not like what happened in that movie. The only parallel is that video plays a role. It’s not the same.
Yes, ok, but again, before we knew what we know now, how could you have expected me to guess that?
No, I don’t mean to raise my voice. I apologize, but I do think it’s asinine to imply that I could have had any understanding of what was going to happen before it did.
Ok, well, I guess at first I was just excited. The hatch opened. It had to be three or so in the morning. I was watching, worried a bit I was hallucinating, honestly, because I’d wanted it to happen so badly for so long, and I was finally seeing it.
The rest of the room was dark.
Yeah, just the laptop screen.
Mmhmm. The hatch swung open, that same corpse-like hand stuck to it. My heart honestly jumped in my throat. Then I saw it as it kept its hand on the hatch and just lowered itself down slowly out of the hole. Its arm basically stretched until its feet were on the ground and then retracted back into the socket. It was disgusting.
And then it was in the room with me.
Well, yes, a different one, as we all understand now, but at the time, I was disoriented. I thought it had teleported somehow instead of multiplied.
I screamed and ran out of the room.
Yeah, when I went out into the hall and the other one was still out there, that’s the first time it became clear to me that there was more than one.
They kind of screamed too, but it was this awful, guttural thing.
One bit me, yeah. That’s the part of my leg I had to have amputated.
Some sort of poison, right? I think they have an antidote now, don’t they? But at the time, I mean, I would have to guess that I was the first.
That’s the name of it, yeah. I thought so.
I kicked it and ran downstairs.
Grabbed a knife out of the block and called the police again.
They treated me like I was the problem. In their defense, I was pretty frantic, and I didn't want to put the knife down. I still thought those things could just teleport anywhere and one was going to jump on me any minute.
Right. They tried the hatch again, and nothing. I told them to saw into the roof for all I cared, but that I needed them to get in there. I was beyond on-edge at that point. I was screaming, hysterical. They just assumed I was off my medication or on something recreational. They were going to take me in, probably straight to the psyche ward, but I was scared they were going to arrest me again, and I freaked out. Finally, we compromised and they let me call my mom to come over and they’d let me stay home if I was under her care.
Yes, I did show them the bite. They just gave me this look, like I bit myself or something, which, come on.
To be fair, I was screaming at them while I tried to explain. I’m not sure if I was even getting full words out at that point. But they didn’t even try to take it seriously, and I think that’s when I gave up on help from the police.
No. By that point, I just didn’t trust them to do anything about it. The thought of somehow gathering myself and calmly saying “ok, I know you think I’m insane and have hurt myself and am losing my mind over here, but why don’t we just sit down and watch something on my laptop together” seemed ridiculous if not completely impossible at the time.
I just tried to fake it. I started acting like everything was fine and they were totally right and that I was overreacting and probably just had a bad dream or something. I was still pretty freaked out, trembling, couldn’t catch my breath, but I told them I just needed to get more sleep, that I something I ate disagreed with me, any benign thing I could think of to get them out of there. At that point, it felt clear that they weren’t the lifeline I needed.
Yeah, as soon as Mom got there and they explained the situation, they left.
Well then I had to deal with her, tell her I wasn’t sleeping well and whatever else so she’d let me out of her sight for even a second.
She slept in the master bedroom and I went back to the guest room.
She tried, but I told her I needed space. That I was ok and just wanted to stretch out and sleep.
No, I didn’t even watch it again. I just uploaded it.
On one hand, I don’t think I was ready to watch it. I was so frazzled, traumatized, even. My leg was really starting to hurt. I hadn’t slept. I wasn’t being taken seriously. And I was scared.
Well, yeah, and to add to that, hours were wasted dealing with the police and everything else. I felt like too much time had passed and I just needed to get it out there, you know?
I mean everywhere. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter…
Well at first I was excited. And I couldn’t believe how quickly it started spreading.
Yeah, I think what I wrote about my husband, my arrest, the sleepless nights, I think that helped bring in the initial views.
I was amazed.
No, of course not. There’s no way I could have understood that yet.
Initially, I completely misunderstood the situation. I thought that other people had these little monsters or whatever living with them too, and like me, anyone who talked about it wasn't taken seriously, you know? But then my video getting out there was the thing that made people open up and see it was true.
I was … I mean, it sounds terrible now, but at the time, I was proud. I thought I was helping.
Yes, yes, obviously I understand that now, and I feel horrible.
Again, we keep coming back to the same thing: there was no way I could have known back then.
What did it for me, what made me finally put two and two together, was when I saw that prank reaction video thing.
Yeah, the guy is filming his girlfriend watching my video, trying to get her reaction when she freaks out.
I mean, yeah, it just crawled out right through her screen. I don’t think anyone could have guessed that that’s how they multiply. I didn’t even know they could multiply.
Well, I watched it come out of her screen, and I honestly thought it was some CGI trick or something. But the way it moved, the way it attacked. It was exactly the same. Then I realized it was happening everywhere. There were forum posts, Tik Toks of people pleading, asking for a way to get rid of them, Go Fund Mes set up for moving fees when people didn’t feel safe in their homes anymore. Once I started looking for them, suddenly I could see they were everywhere.
Not every single time someone watched, but plenty.
Well it doesn’t feel great, no. I obviously wish I hadn’t shared my video. I wish I had just listened to the cops and my mom and moved out and never looked back.
Well, I’d go back in time and just never let him open that damn door.
Ok, ok, other than that, I guess if I had to pick one thing—and if it can’t be somehow defeating these assholes and sending them back to space or another dimension or wherever they came from—then I guess I’d say I hope one day we can go back to having screens again.
Yeah, don’t you miss that? Remember when you could watch stuff on the TV or the computer without having to worry that one of those little burnt, moldy looking, murderous little gremlins might walk through the background and find a way to replicate himself in your living room? I mean, during that first COVID outbreak, that’s basically all we did—all we could do. Until these things started wreaking havoc, anyway.
Right. People are so scared now. And who could blame them? I understand why all the bans and regulations had to happen, but as much as we complained about them when they were around, I miss screens. I think a lot of people do.
Yeah, I mean, there are kids today who have never seen a smart phone or watched a movie. I’m thankful podcasts were already a big thing when all this started. At least that’s something common we can all still enjoy.
Yeah, right? I’m sure your listeners are glad for that too.
Mhhmm. Thanks for having me.
Oh, well, ok. To end I guess I’d just like to say what I’ve said a thousand times already: I’m sorry. I had no idea, and I wish I could take it all back. I wish we’d never bought that house. I wish we’d never opened that damn cabinet door and looked inside. But we did. But just please, please understand, there’s really no way I could have known.