As The Doorknob Turns
Lauren Rene Hotchkiss

It was a dark and stormy night, in manner not unlike this evening. I was driving home from my creative writing class in a pouring rain, when suddenly I heard a loud bang and the car began to swerve across the slick road, at last coming to a rest against the base of an ancient oak tree. Great! What a night for a flat tire.
I was miles from nowhere, or so I thought, but as I looked up toward the crest of a hill that towered above me, I saw the lights of a castle. Strange, I'd been down this road a thousand times and I'd never seen a castle before.
I began to walk up towards it, with the idea of asking if I could use their phone. As I knocked at the door, however, behind which I thought I had heard voices, all became silent. After a long pause, I began to hear heavy, shuffling footsteps slowly approaching. At last the door opened, revealing a manservant who, hearing my request, led me to a drawing room. Telling me to await "The Mahster.," he closed it behind me with a heavy thud.
While I waited, I took out my notebook and began to record some observations concerning my surroundings. Upon the floor lay a Persian carpet of intricate and mystical design. Before me stood two, towering armchairs carved into the likenesses of gargoyles, between them a huge fireplace in which burned massive logs. To my left were shelves of books on mysterious, arcane subjects, and upon the walls all about me hung, as hunting trophies, the heads of strange, unknown animals, seeming almost to leap again to life in the dim and uncertain light reflected by the flickering flames.
I had not long been at this occupation, when my attention was diverted by a sound behind me. As I watched in horror, the heavy glass knob of the door through which I had entered began to turn slowly. As each succeeding facet caught the light, I became aware of strange scenes revealed in its depths: Here, a dinosaur crying out piteously from a tar pit; here, a steam locomotive bearing down upon me; here, a native in full body paint about to attack me.
With a sharp click, the doorknob at last reached its full rotation, disengaging the spring latch from the doorjamb. With a sudden, violent motion, the door slammed back against the wall, and there, framed in the aperture, stood my creative writing teacher. She pointed a quivering talon at me and said, menacingly, "It's time to stop, Lauren, you're four-hundred-and-fifty words are up."

First published: July 1996