Other Doors Open

the beauty of the Dark alley

a new world outside the back door

Have you ever really looked at an aged building? Not thinking of it as it once was when it was new, but as it is now, in this moment? Coming from a small town in SC, when I think of downtown I don’t think of tall buildings and crowds of people. I think of a couple of blocks of old storefronts, some with the bricks patched and windows sealed up and painted over. Many have flaking tattoos of hand-painted signs that have worn down until they’re only just legible.

In most towns, an effort has been made to spruce up the overall look of Main Street: a fresh coat of paint, the windows clean, a few items of furniture or historical objects displayed in unrented storefronts, just to keep them from looking so empty. But have you ever gone around the back sides of the buildings, taken a stroll down a side street for no other reason than to see what’s there? I find beauty there in the peeling paint on grayed wood, the chipped bricks with moss in the mortar.  I even like the occasional spraypaint tag decoration, a young thing among the old.

Sometimes when exploring old buildings, I come across a door. It can be any kind of door; doesn’t have to be fancy solid oak with iron hinges like something medieval, nor something out of plywood that hangs whopperjawed in a hastily constructed frame, bound and chained with padlocks. There’s a look and feel to the setting around the door as well as the door itself. I get the feeling, when I look at it, that behind that door is another world.

It might take some special magic to get the door open. Or maybe at any ol’ time it just goes to some abandoned basement, but on a full moon night if you turn your back to the door and close your eyes as you reach behind you to open it, humming a song that makes you think of elves whispering in the woods, well, who knows where the door might open up to. I even found one once that had a glass window in it, and I looked through onto a stairwell with ceramic tiles that were broken in places, everything covered in enough dust to make it look like an old faded color photograph. This was at Winthrop University, and I wondered that with all their renovation and upkeep, how did they not fix up this one little space? Or was it that this space couldn’t be reached by any other portal, that the hidden stairwell might lead to some parallel universe?

How does this relate to the Higher Dark philosophy? I’m glad you asked. I find it hard to describe how I know something has Darkness. It’s because it’s not a logical, rational thing: it’s almost entirely intuitive. I’m definitely on the thinking, not feeling, side of a Myers-Briggs chart, but my mind usually knows to trust feelings from my Core. Especially when it comes to things that obviously cannot be rationalized, things that are spiritual and emotional, like Love or God. But how can I use words (a mostly rational medium) to describe to other people a feeling so uncommon and strange and yet pleasing, exciting and comforting?

So these doors are an example. If you see one of these doors, rusting metal with a knob that seems off-center somehow, or just a little shorter and wider than what looks natural, or hanging open, half off the hinges, in such a way that invites you into the shadows beyond; pay attention to how it makes you feel. You feel a hum in your chest, or like your soul has shifted to just a little to the side of your body, or some strangeness like that; and you think “If all things were one; if I had nothing to leave behind; if someone stepped out of that door and held out their hand to me, I would walk through into that different world, doubt and danger be damned!” That, my dears, is what Darkness feels like.

I am a writer/illustrator of various types of speculative fiction but mostly modern fantasy. I have loved magic, and the people and creatures who live with it and use it, all my life, and writing and drawing these people in modern environments makes it all the more real to me. I also like to add an element of Darkness and horror, as well as science fiction, for “flavor”. I am fascinated with everything from unicorns and dragons to vampires and demons.

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2 comments on “Other Doors Open
  1. Thanks for your philosophy of Higher Darkness. You’ve got your Mom’s shrewd and crazy wisdom and more besides. You’d appreciate Jeff Byles’ book “Rubble” about the meaning of demolition in the modern age. He’s funny and astute.

    Take care, Martin Fowler

    • RachelHWhite says:

      I looked at the site for the book: while I “appreciate” that someone took the time to write such a book, I don’t think I could read it. It would break my heart to be aware of that much destruction, even if it is for renewal and progress. There used to be an empty old dorm at Winthrop right behind the on-campus apartments I lived in my senior year. It was the coolest place, where you could stand in the middle of the deserted courtyard and hear your own echoes. Sadly, I didn’t think to get any pictures of it, and now it’s gone (for a much-needed parking lot, I admit).

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