By John Gruner (West Chester, PA)
Most times you walk through a doorway. Sometimes you run through. Once in a great while – you get sucked in. That’s how I ended up as a Doork.
My mind kept going back to science class, and the feeling of someone punching me in the stomach from the inside out would return. That afternoon, our teacher was explaining how dinosaurs are related to chickens. My hand suddenly jumped up and I asked “So did dinosaurs go ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ when they woke up in the morning?” Some of my classmates giggled, some snorted, and others just shook their heads and rolled their eyes. But I had my eye on Julie Ann at the desk to my left. She had smiled at me for the first time that day and it made my skin tingle. Now I hoped she would see me as way cool. I saw her doodle a note to Bryan next to her, but what I made out – “DORK!” – made my skin crawl and my heart sink.
Later, walking home, I avoided the usual way along the street where I might run into some of my schoolmates. The path through the arboretum seemed far more inviting. Shadows seemed to hide wild animals, maybe even dinosaurs and cave men, and soon I was leading an expedition into a mysterious lost jungle when a movement from above caught my eye. A giant maple leaf was gliding down a thin slip-stream of sunlight, and as I was thinking it could perhaps be a pterodactyl, my feet suddenly slid out from under me and I launched into free-fall. I bounced off a sloping embankment and rolled over a couple times before coming to rest. A bit dazed, I looked around and saw a few feet away an old wooden structure in the side of the hill covered with vines and leaves. It seemed to be some sort of tunnel entrance. Was I still shaking a bit from the fall, or shivering from the chill air – or was the ground vibrating like a heavy truck going by?
There was a strange attraction to this odd façade. Approaching it I noticed a dull, moss-colored knob shaped like a big mushroom sticking out the left side of what appeared to be a door. When I was within a couple feet, the knob began to rotate slowly, stopping abruptly along with my heart! The door began to creak open allowing me to see a soft glow through the crack. While trying to gaze in, the hair on my neck began to tingle like the time I was under a giant oak when it got hit by lightning. My legs needed no encouragement to get me out of there, and they quickly carried me to a large oak trunk lying on the ground about 20 feet away, and I dove behind it. Peering out carefully, I could see the door open tentatively again. Gritty, gnarly sounds came from behind it, like rocks tumbling together underwater. The sky dimmed for a moment as a dark cloud passed over, and the door opened wide revealing a strange fuzzy light. Several swirling dust-devil spirals of leaves seemed to come out from the light, and moved away from me along the ground. The door closed, and then the leaves below seemed to fly up, flutter around briefly, and cover it.
The forest was deathly quiet now. Still, I found myself creeping irresistibly toward the door. Before I could think better of it, the knob was in my hand, and I turned it gently. The door opened easily, like something was helping from the other side. Again that glow emanated from the opening, and when I could see in, it looked like some kind of tunnel, but the sides were sort of blurry yet glowing iridescent, with soft colors that kept wavering around. And this was really weird – the tunnel seemed to go on and on but didn’t have any end! It was like looking into one of those geyser pools at Yellowstone National Park. I couldn’t help reaching my hand into it, and it seemed like it was going through a liquid, with ripples radiating to the sides. Then something grabbed my hand, and before I could even take a breath, a blast of warm swirling air and leaves surrounded me like a cocoon and carried me inside.
I can remember hearing the sound of that door closing behind me, but not a lot before that. Things are much different now. When I go out into the forest, I don’t leave any footprints. People pass by without seeing me, though they might feel a cool presence on their neck. To some it is pleasant, while others turn their heads and shudder. I can feel their reaction, and sense the feelings that come with good times and pleasant memories, or something unpleasant to be pushed away and hidden in some dark and forgotten cranny. I don’t go to school anymore; none of that learning is any use to me now. It’s like I used to know things from the outside looking in, but now, instead, I know from the inside looking out.
If you find the door to my new home, don’t go in unless you are ready to leave your old life behind you. Otherwise just knock, stand back, and wait. My new friends – we don’t really have names you can pronounce, but you can call us the Doorks if you like – may just come out in a bit – and we just might show you a few things you never expected to see, or feel, or even imagine in the forest. But if it’s sunrise, and you hear “cock-a-doodle-doo” – run like crazy!