The room did not fit in among the rest of the cellar that Petra and Andy had finished wandering through. They passed under broken door frames. Wooden archways that had pulled away from the stone and mortar that once held them in place. The stones that formed the walls were cold and wet. The floor was covered in a layer of dirt.
Petra and Andy had felt as though they were wandering through catacombs. When Andy ran his hand along the wall he fully expected to find the recesses where the dead bodies were interned. The basement felt like the kind of place where bodies would have been kept during the plague.
At one point, as they pushed their way through the soupy darkness, Petra said she smelled a dead animal.
Andy took a deep inhalation, as though he wasn’t already smelling all the odors that pervaded the dingy corridors and antichambers. He smelled something rotting. It smelled like ketchup and marshland at low tide. He gagged. Andy told Petra she shouldn’t have said that. He had been able to ignore the stench until she spoke it out loud.
They found themselves at an impasse at one point as they shuffled along a constricted passageway. A wall had crumbled under the force of time and neglect. Stones piled at the end of the cloister. Andy put his hands under Petra’s foot in order to lift her high on the obstruction and climb the rest of the way over.
“What the…?” Petra said once she dropped down off the other side of the crumbling wall.
“What is it?” Andy asked. “What do you see?”
He reached out with both hands, groped against the moist rocks until he found a place where his fingers could grip. He pulled himself up and kicked his feet into the loose mortar until he found purchase.
“Is everything okay?” Andy asked.
“It’s just weird.”
“I don’t know. There’s a doorway.”
“What do you mean, a doorway?”
“I don’t understand it either. It’s almost like were aren’t even in the same place.”
Andy scrambled up the pile of fallen stones. He bashed his knee in the process. He winced. But he didn’t let it stop him from getting over the obstacle. Once on the other side, he lost his balance and rolled off the mound. He landed on the dirty floor in the cloud of dust.
When he looked up, he realized what Petra was talking about. There was a red door not ten feet away from him. The red was made of velvet with buttons stamped into the plush material to hold it against the brass door behind. He had only seen this kind of door in one other place in his life. When he was a kid there was a single screen movie theater in the town where his father grew up. The theater was called The Strand. Somebody had bought the movie palace out a few years ago and turned it into a bank. But when he was a kid that was the only place his parents would take him and his sister to see a movie. After his parents bought the tickets and the popcorn and then had the man in the hat rip the ticket there were two doors that led to the screening room. Both doors had red velvet affixed over bronze just the same as this door. He had not seen anything like it since he was thirteen the last time his dad took him to the theater. It was his birthday. It had taken him a month to convince his dad to take him to see Big Trouble in Little China. That was the last movie he or his dad would watch at The Strand Theater.
“What is it?” Petra said.
“It looks like the door to a movie screening room.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know, but that’s what it looks like.”
“What is it doing here?”
“How should I know?”
“This place is so filthy and dusty. That material is spotless.”
Andy tentatively reached out to touch the fabric covering the door. It was soft against his fingers.
“This is very strange,” Andy said.
“How do you even know that’s what it is?”
“Do you want to go inside and see?”
“This place is starting to freak me out.” Petra turned around to look at the crumbling walls that they just moments ago struggled to get over. Then she turned back to the pristine door standing in the middle of the room. “They look like they are completely different places. Like both of them don’t look like they belong here together. I’m not crazy, right?”
“You’re not crazy, Petra. I don’t know how to explain it.”
“But you aren’t afraid of what might be on the other side of that door?”
“I’m terrified of what might be on the other side of that door,” Andy admitted. “But I still want to know…”