In the basement, there is a door.
It’s a simple wooden door, made of pine or maybe oak. The pattern of the wood runs backwards, from bottom to top, and there’s a little handle with a crystal knob. The door creaks, pushes forward against the doorframe and leans back, straining on its hinges. There is a gap of about an inch at the bottom of the door.
Battles rage behind the door in the basement. The rousing shouts of soldiers push against the door, flattening the pine or oak into its frame. Thousands of bodies sheathed in armor clank against each other, pressed in like prisoners. The sounds of their swords slip under the inch of open space between the door and the floor.
I press my ear to the door and listen for details—the names of the armies, the cause, the winner, the loser, but all of that is lost. All soldiers sound the same; death and victory and loss all sound the same behind the simple wooden door.
The ocean always exists behind the door. The ocean sways with the tide, pushing in and out, and the door sighs slowly like this is its favorite part. Salt water and sand seep through the inch-wide crack at the bottom of the door. I press my ear to the door because the sea sounds are soothing, except when the tide rumbles.
When the sea turns harsh, I think I can hear the distant cries of men caught on boats as small and pointless as paper hats in the vast, angry sea. Or maybe those are just the cries of the army.
Hurricanes rage behind the door. They build up in the sea and travel straight to the space behind the door, whirling and howling there. Debris bangs into the door, rain slips through the inch-long crack at the bottom and the wind sucks and spits at the door in turn. The eye passes through and the door stills, but it shakes on its hinges like it knows the war’s not over. Then the storm starts again, spitting and sucking, whirling and howling.
I fortify the door in these times, tuck towels into the inch-wide slat and stack heavy things against the simple wood so the door doesn’t suddenly blow free and unleash the hurricane.
At dawn, Eden is behind the door. Birds call into foggy mornings and rivers trickle over stones, sometimes splashing through the inch-long gap under the door. It’s always early, when it’s Eden behind the door, and the sounds are soothing in a different way than the tide. These are the sounds of the Earth at its most natural, before billions of people erected billions of monuments to themselves.
Sometimes I think I can hear the hiss of the Snake; the soft snapping sound of an apple plucked from a tree branch, and I shout No, Eve, don’t do it, you’ll be blamed and your sisters and daughters will be blamed for all the bad in the world, but then I hear the sound of teeth breaking through fruit skin and I know it’s too late.
Eden never lasts very long; just in the morning.
At night it’s Pandora’s box, the screams of sins freshly unleashed upon the world. Fear infests the space behind the door, and it makes a sound like beetles scuttling over dry sand. Greed and hate slip past their four-cornered prison and breathe behind the door, wheezing shallow breaths that bring nightmares to life. Demons shake the door on its hinges and a few slip through the inch-long crack at the bottom of the door, free to spread fear and greed and hate.
Sometimes I cling to the edges of my bed sheets and wait for the night to pass, and sometimes I lean my shoulder into the door and hold back the flood. A few times, during the very worst nights, I can hear the army fighting against the sins.
In the morning, it’s Eden again. The birds and the rivers and Eve and the apple.
In the afternoon, my mother goes down to the basement. She lays her hand on the crystal doorknob that connects to the simple wooden door made of pine or maybe oak. She turns the knob and opens the door. She steps through the door and does the washing.
In the afternoon, the space behind the door is a laundry room.