The House With No Door

A story best described as metaphorical surrealism.

Three antique, mysterious, and ornate houses stand at the side of an empty and desolate street. One of the houses is off in the distance. The sky above is forlorn, dark, and surreal — except towards the left, where angelic and white clouds suffuse a sense of the unreal to the sky.
“Stadsgezicht (Townscape)” by Carel Willink (1934)

She finally entered the house with no door, her breath bated and her feet echoing off the time gone by. The days of yore resonated within her gleaming eyes and she sneezed fourteen times because the scent of nostalgia was too much to bear.

The house was strange not only in the sense that it had no door but also in the sense that no one had ever entered it; for it is common sense that no one can enter a house with no door. When you think about it, it is almost complementary: how can any human being ever enter a house with no door? The thought was almost maddening and someone who had not seen the house — effused with a sense of the unreal and rife with the enigmatic mystery of the unknown — would definitely spit on the thought of someone entering the house. “These are all the depraved ravings of the men who have no fields to plough or no shop to tend to”: this is something that anyone who didn’t believe in God would say.

But everyone knew that there was something about the house that allowed entry to only some sort of people — this “something” would forever remain a frustrating mystery, a mystery that would make the clouds over the house rumble with a forlorn anger and the trees whisper in a language only the wind understood. This mystery of the criteria required for entering the house with no door is the reason why no one had ever entered it. That’s why the townsfolk had created far-fetched legends around the house in a half-hearted attempt to explain the light noises that came from the house: there was much talk of angry ghosts and numerous hearsay that elucidated the disturbances with the help of stories of sad spirits.

This filled the hearts of all who wished to enter the house with a fear that often deterred them from entering altogether. They wouldn’t even make any sort of attempt…for what if they actually succeeded? What lay on the other side? Often, the ambiguity of the uncharted acts as the most solid pull-back to the ones who dare to dream: it is not easy to jump off a ledge when you don’t know where gravity will take you. In much similar a manner, the ones who dared to hope to enter the house with no door were dissuaded from ever trying; no one knew what lay on the other side of the pale, off-white, and sedentary walls of the house for no one had ever peeked into the dust-covered, droopy-eyed, and curtained windows that might have offered some sort of insight into how the house was or what all (and who all) it housed.

It’s not like people had not thought about entering the house through the windows. They had — but this was such a blasphemous idea, one filled with so much disrespect for the architects of the house that they shuddered to even think of what would happen if God were to listen to their unholy thoughts. The hearts of the God-fearing townsfolk would quake, their teeth shatter and fingers tremble when they thought about what sort of judgement would be passed upon them if they were ever to touch the windows of the house with no door. The children cried and the pi-dogs barked, the women beat their breasts, and the earth shook with rage if someone came too close to the windows of the house. Thus the age-old question remained forever unanswered: how was one supposed to enter the house with no door?

When — through divine intervention and the grace of a God she had stopped believing in — she finally entered the house, her bones could sense the ghosts that roamed around in the house and hear their translucent feathers glide amidst the bug-infested furniture of this ancient monument that breathed air which was in itself an anachronism.

It is not as if absolutely no one had tried to enter the house with no door. There had been several noteworthy attempts by renowned and respected individuals of the town and even from out of the town — for the conundrum of the house with no door had not been limited to the boundaries of the town. It is perhaps of vital importance to note that every person who ever made an angelic attempt to enter the house with no door was someone removed from the ordinary; for one had to have certain dissociating characteristics about themselves if they hoped to enter the house with no door. For at its roots the house with no door was itself a momentous and uncanny existing that had blessed — some would say cursed — the town with an unnerving quality that gave it a charm of its own.

Among the people who had tried to enter the house, there were three who, common consensus would have it, came quite close. Their aura was that of someone so sensational as to push the common folk into an abyss of self-doubt and introspection; when you saw them and heard their stories, you would at once understand what it was about them that lent them an empyreal quality and raised them from the ordinary standards of the land.

The first one was the archer so dedicated to his art that he became the arrow. He believed in the unadulterated power of devotion and faith to one’s practice and thought that if one truly wants something, they will get it — they just needed to know where to ask. With his determined brow, strong will, and concrete philosophy, he embarked to enter the house that everyone talked about so much; holding the bow like a prayer, he drew back the arrow, aiming it right at the walls of the house — and as the vultures cawed up above, the archer let go of the bowstring like a drop of dew lets go of a leaf at the break of dawn: gently, but knowing full well that it needed to move on. His philosophy was that there must be at least one point in the house that would cave in and allow entry to a steadfast being who wished, with a pure and strong love, to view the wonders of the house with no door. With the help of his practice and indefatigable fidelity towards the house and the architects, the archer aimed to become the very arrow that would pierce that point in the walls of the house that would have mercy and allow entry. But as fate and the heavens would have it, the archer was denied any sort of entry: the arrow (or the archer, howsoever one may wish to address this particular entity) merely clashed against the wall with a dull and melancholy thud, crashing to the ground the moment it touched the walls of the house. All of the archer’s confidence, pride, and ego crumpled up within a matter of three seconds while the house with no door stood resolute and unwavering, having defeated the archer who became the arrow; and if you looked closely enough, you could even see a defiant smile of its incorrigible façade. The arrow was then blown away by the East winds that were coming from a sea none of the townsfolk had ever seen; the archer was never seen again.

The second was a bald woman with wrinkled skin dripping sweat from having stayed quiet too long. She was a mute who had lost her voice after she saw her son being murdered by a tree and a cloud; having stayed absolutely silent for twenty-seven summers, she had had plenty of time to introspect and think of the world around her. She voraciously consumed the knowledge that books offer the tender human mind and displayed an immense interest in the arts, for the person who has no one to talk to finds solace in conversing with nothing but paper. This had made her wise: when one looked at the mute woman, they could feel the knowledge and percipience exude from her very skin and their heads would automatically bow down with a sense of the utmost reverence. So wise was she that all her hair had been blown away by the winds, thanks to the extreme levels of thought that she had subjected her heart and mind to. When she had heard about the house with no door, she’d felt that she should visit it: if not for the reward of being the first person to get into the house, then just for the pleasure of being blessed by the venerable mystique of the fabulous edifice. Her limpid, hazel eyes and sagacious head approached the house…and suddenly, a thick mist of pain and memory surrounded the entire building — the woman picked up her frail hand and touched the walls of the house with a single tear in her right eye. A spectral current seemed to pass through her entire body and she heaved a deep sigh of sorrow before breaking down on the street in a fury of tears: she let go of all her desolate, suppressed emotions, the catharsis of a century shaking her very body. Then, she said five words, words that seemed to come from her very heart: “I loved him so much.” With that, the mist vanished and the mute got up, dusted her clothes, wiped her cheek, and headed back to her town. It is said that despite regaining her speech, she never uttered another syllable to anyone. She isolated herself to her despondent hut, buried herself amongst a sea of books and a flood of pages, but never spoke another word ever again. And that is how the mute who gained her speech — just to never speak again — was also refused entry into the house with no door.

The third was the eminent locksmith of the town who had lived so long that no one knew the exact figures of his immeasurable age. Some said that he was forty years of age while there were others who claimed, with startling surety, that he was at least one hundred and sixty-seven years old. Every time someone asked him for his exact age, the locksmith would say with a cautious smile that he was as old as the mountains; this he said as a light and humorous witticism, but some mistook it for the truth and went ahead with the assumption that the locksmith was immortal. Whatever his age, one thing was for sure: he was the best locksmith who had ever lived. His skill was unmatched and his knowledge of locksmithing was unsurmountable. There was no lock he couldn’t pick and no key he couldn’t make. The entire town’s locks were made by him and him only — for that is how much the townsfolk trusted the locksmith: they all relied on his virtuosity. When the locksmith announced one day that he would attempt to make a key for the house with no door, there was much chatter in the town. It was as if two overpowered entities would clash: the house with no door, which no one had ever entered, and the locksmith whose competency had never been questioned by any lock whatsoever. Everyone gathered to watch the locksmith stand near the front wall of the house with no door — it was almost as if the town had gathered to celebrate some sort of festival or large event. The locksmith, with his toolbox and protective gear, stood in front of the intransigent wall with tugged eyebrows and a countenance that expressed paramount concentration. He believed that even though the house had no door, it had to have a lock; it was this lock that the locksmith planned to break. For days, he stood by the wall, mumbling things to himself and at times, cursing at the wall and punching it till he had bloody knuckles. The initial crowd that had gathered all went and left; no one could stay and watch the locksmith stand there for more than two hours. Some said that the locksmith wouldn’t be able to break into the house, while the others — whose faith in the locksmith was unwavering — said that he would eventually succeed in this magnificent endeavour. But the locksmith was unaffected by the talk going around the town — he summoned the locksmithing Gods and prayed to them night and day in order to show him the path to the house with no door. But nothing seemed to be working; after thirteen weeks and five days, the locksmith started tugging at his hair and screaming like a lunatic: his patience had started running out. There was a defining madness in his eyes because of his failure, and with a nerve-wracking scream that made all the stray dogs in the town bark, he gave up trying to break into the house with no door and went into his working quarters with a sigh that resounded anger. After that, the very same day, the locksmith created the strongest lock ever made — one that he himself would not be able to pick or make a key for — and put it over the door of his quarters. No one ever saw him again. And that is how the house with no door denied entry to the locksmith who locked himself up forever.

She looked around and saw nothing but an unearthly haze all around the house. She slowly started understanding why the house had been built without a door and without any hope of entry; secretive, retentive, and eternally ambiguous. With lonely movements, she started walking around the house and understanding the anatomy of her existence. Apparitions of a time unknown flooded her soul as she started understanding more and more about the house with no door.

The question remained: how was one supposed to enter a house with no door? The townsfolk had started accepting that maybe, the house with no door was made in such a way because no one was supposed to enter it. But somewhere deep down, the people still believed that entry was possible. No one knew how; but there was this defining belief in their veins that if a house had been constructed, it was supposed to be entered into. The architects of the house must have had a faithful ideology: maybe they wanted to test the world that the people lived in and discern whether or not they possessed a certain quality. But again — what quality this was, remained shrouded in the most surreal mystery.

The elders of the town, their backs bent with the wisdom of ages and eyes squinted from having seen too much, had been repeatedly consulted regarding the mystery of the house with no door. Even though they hadn’t been around when the house had been constructed — even though their forefathers hadn’t been around when the house had been constructed — their experience and worldliness would be greater than that of the ordinary public.

One of the elders was convinced that the house with no door had been built as a prank. “I do not intend any sort of disrespect towards the architects,” said he, “but creating a house with no door borders the absurd. The architects are merely testing how long the townsfolk continue trying to enter the house before realising the futility of their attempts. Your efforts have an expiry date that the architects want to place numbers on; you are meant to give up… eventually, but surely. The Gods are laughing at your stupidity — take a break from all this hogwash and go do something useful. Don’t lose yourself in the attempt to enter something that has no door; learn from the mistakes of the archer and the others.”

“The dreamers of this world have always looked at the sky with rosaries in their hands,” argued another elder, “praying with all their hearts to let their dreams come true. If the optimist sees a house with no door, he attempts to build a door. I do not propose that we break down the wall of the house and build a door, no, for that would be a sin and I do not wish to spit on the efforts of the architects — but understand what I am trying to say. Hope is the strongest of human attributes, and when coupled with effort, it almost becomes something divine. When there is something that you fervently wish for, you search for infinite ways to get it — and when you don’t get it, you search for an infinite more. So I urge the dreamers not to give up; if you wish to enter the house, by all means, go ahead. Do not lose hope: for the peak of the mountain often laughs at our inanity, but it is our strong will that must find the courage in our breast to look at the peak and smile back.”

“Superficiality;” butted in another elder, “all this accounts for nothing. Haven’t hundreds already tried? And haven’t they all miserably failed? Why are you encouraging people down a road that leads to nothing but heartbreak and failure? What sort of sadism are you and the architects privy to, that you would support the townsfolk in a useless struggle against an incessantly torturous house? For that’s what dreams are: torture. They show the men visions of what they could be and what they could achieve; they are the tools with which men build mighty castles in the sky, in the process forgetting about the very ground which they stand upon. It is much better to not try, and live with the knowledge that you could have succeeded than to try, and fail like a depressed loser; our goal is not an ethereal happiness but a simple peace of mind. The house with no door gives you mere hopes of the first at the cost of the second.”

The debates oscillated between perseverance; — the possibility of success — and nihilism; — the sheer uselessness of any attempt made. Both sides made good points. It was a perpetual debate that sparked much controversy amongst the elders.

“I think the house needs company,” a wise woman spoke thus. “If you look at the house, it looks melancholic. Its windows look like the beady eyes of a drunkard who has lost his lover. A house is meant to be stayed in; just like the womb of a mother desires a child, the floor of a house desires the feet of an occupant. This is just what I think. We must not be selfish and merely look at what the house can offer us — stop, and think for once, about what you can offer the house.”

The townsfolk had opinions of their own.

“It is better to leave the house alone,” the barber said. “It is clearly haunted. You hear all sorts of noises coming from it. You won’t believe me — no one does — but late at night, when I was coming from a friend’s party and going back to my hut, I heard a woman whimpering in the house. It’s true, I swear upon my mother’s grave. And so I think that it is best to leave such a house to itself, lest we anger the spirits and perturb the existing peace of the town.”

“Let these men do what they want,” the widow was heard saying one winter night. “As long as they don’t break into my house, what do I care?”

“What bothers me is why someone would even create such a house. A house with no door; what were the architects thinking? Of course, I mean no disrespect — but why create such a house?”

“On sultry, spring afternoons, this strange, languid thought enters my mind: the house with no door is not a house at all. It’s obvious when you start thinking about it, but the realisation has a ground-breaking nostalgia on hot and humid days. This is just an opinion of my own, but I think that the house is an alien entity in this otherwise simple town. It’s a metaphor for our vain existence, a simile for our hollow souls. Not only is any attempt to enter the house whatsoever a complete waste, but even talking about it is just as fruitless. We will never know anything about the house.”

“No, no, no; you see, these people have it all wrong. What they should be thinking about is this: has the house been constructed without a door to prevent the outsiders from entering, or to prevent the dwellers from ever leaving?”

She slowly realised what the house with no door was: dreams and death. The realisation shook her soul with laughter and insanity started creeping over her skull. Time seemed to be trapped within its walls; she no longer knew what era she was in. All she knew was that here, she could finally be everything she had ever wished to be.

No one can deny that the house with no door is enigmatic. But at its heart, the puzzle is quite a simple one. Mundane, almost.

There is a gap between realisation and acceptance that widens according to the frailty of the heart: for the woman, it was not much. She looked at her hands and saw that they were translucent. With a thumping heart, she walked towards the coffee table and tried to touch it; her hands went right through. She was now just a shadow of her former self, a hallucination that reality had dreamt of. She was a wraith that the house with no door had consumed.

To be disturbingly honest, all this ineffectual talk about the house with no door sends me into a fit of laughter. It makes me think of how the townsfolk could miss out on something that is right in front of their eyes. It makes me think of how the talented archer, the wise mute, and the experienced locksmith could fail at such easy a task. It is all so simple; all so clear.

Her efforts to enter the house had been grandiloquent, and that’s why she had succeeded; to achieve the dream, it is only required that the soul of the dreamer be pure. She had no ego, nor any pride. Her heart let go of pain, at the same time allowing her to dwell in the past. And most important of all, she was patient. And thus, she was given everything that one could ever hope for: dreams and death. Now she carefully embarked to draw a line between the two; because for the human soul, the two often converge at varied intervals to blur the semantics of these two supernatural entities. She was a ghost; but what of it? Who said that there was no life in death? Who said that in death, she couldn’t be everything that she had ever wanted to be? With a smile on her face, she went about living her life in death; she had finally understood the secret to entering the house with no door.

Let me spell it out nonetheless. Even though I personally feel that the answer is an undemanding one, let me proceed to record it, just so that this “enigma” is finally resolved: you don’t need doors to enter houses — you need feet.

When asked how she had finally entered the house with no door, this would be her raging reply: “I simply walked in.”

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