A door, a door in the back of his closet. Jaz had not noticed it unto he was hanging up his clothes in the house he had just bought. The door was dark brown and matched the wall. He started inspecting it more closely and was surprised to notice a message written in cursive which said, “Do not open or go through this door.” Strange, he thought. That’s so strange. He backed out of his closet and sat down on his bed to think about this. What should he do? He decided to let it go for today.
He visited with several people asking questions about the house. No one wanted to talk to him. Finally, a grey-haired woman in the chip aisle of the Jif-Stop told him, “Oh, I saw it was for sale again. Don’t even think about that house. It’s got to be jinxed. Three people have gone missing from there just this past year. They have never been found. It’s like they just disappeared into thin air.”
After about three months, Jaz could not take the suspense any longer. The door was constantly in his mind. He kept thinking of what could possibly be behind it. He called his dad and told him he had decided he was going through the door tomorrow. They had been discussing the door ever since Jaz had found it. His dad told him to call as soon as he found out.
Early the next morning he went into the closet, opened the door, and walked through.
Jaz woke up later not knowing where he was. He didn’t even realize he had been asleep. Or had he? He didn’t know what had happened. Slowly things began coming back. Oh yeah, the door. What was it about a door? He couldn’t seem to remember. What was it about a door? Seems like it was green, or was it?
He looked around. He was sitting on the ground. There were houses around him. He got up to go to the closest one and fell back down. Goodness! What’s wrong with me? He sat for a few minutes and tried again. No luck, but finally after three more tries, he stood up on wobbly feet. He headed shakily to the closest house and knocked on the door. A man opened it on his second knock.
“Where am I?” Jaz asked. “I don’t know what’s happened to me. I can hardly move.”
“Sit down over there. I’ll go get the General.”
“Yeah. If someone showed up, he told me to get him. I’ll be right back.”
He left before Jaz could ask any more questions. My mind is about as slow as the rest of me. I’m really tired. I’d just like to lie down for a while. About that time the door opened. In came a tall, thin man. The first man was telling him about Jaz’s arrival when they were walking in.
The tall man approached Jaz and told him, “I’m the General. How are you feeling?”
He looked up at him, “I’m really tired. I just need to lie down for a while. I don’t know what’s going on. I just need to lie down,” he repeated.
The General looked at the other man, “Plasae, go ahead and put him in one of your extra rooms. How’s the guy that came in yesterday?”
“He’s still sleeping. Been up just twice, drank a lot of water, and a little of the broth.”
“Good, good. Keep up the good work. Take good care of this new recruit too; let him sleep as long as he will.”
In a few days, Jaz woke up wondering what was going on and where he was. He knew someone had been taking care of him, giving him water and broth, and helping him to the bathroom. When the guy came in again, he intended to find out some things. He got up and walked around for a few minutes. Then he sat in a chair in the corner of the room. He started going over the questions he wanted answered. There was no clock in the room, but he estimated that about 30 minutes had passed before someone came in.
“Well, good morning. Looks like you’re ready for breakfast. Come on into the kitchen. I’m cooking eggs and sausage.”
“Mmmm, it smells good in here,” Jaz said as he sat down in the closest chair.
“By the way, my name’s Plasae. Here, have some coffee. That’s the name given to me by the General.”
“Really? He gave you a new name? Why? And where are we? And how did I get here?”
“All I can tell you is that you’ve been chosen for a very specific program. The rest of your questions will have to be addressed to the General.”
“When will I see him again?”
“He plans to be here later today, specifically to see you. Remember meeting him when you first came?”
“No, not really. How long ago was that?”
“Four days ago.”
“Could you go get him right now, after we eat that is? I’d really like to talk to him as soon as possible."
“Maybe he’ll come while we’re eating. Let’s wait and see. Here’s a plate for you.”
“Thanks,” Jaz said as he started eating. He had not realized he was so hungry.
After they finished eating, Jaz asked Plasae to go after the General. He told Jaz to lie down for a bit, so he would be rested when the General came.
“Hey, man. I really need to get this all straightened out. None of this is making sense to me.”
“I’ll make you a deal. You go lie down, and I’ll go look for him.”
Jaz headed to his room listening for the front door to close. He must have drifted off to sleep, because later someone was banging on his door, and he hadn’t even heard anyone come back in the house.
“Come in, come in,” he said as the door was opening, and he was sitting up.
“You may not remember me, but I’m the General. Come on out and let’s talk.”
They sat down at the table, with Plasae hovering in the background. “I understand you have some questions. We’ll start with them.”
I want to know where I am and how I got here.”
“You are on Celem, which is a small planet between Earth and Mars.”
“Hold on, hold on. You mean I’m not on Earth?”
“Sounds like you heard me. What’s your next question?”
Jaz gave him an irate look and said, “How’d I get here?”
“You came through my zpamosin system.”
“Really, I’ve never heard of that. What is it?”
“What’s more important is, why, why are you here. That’s what I’m prepared to answer.”
“I don’t care about the why. I just want to get back home.”
“You’re not going back, not yet anyway. I’m keeping you here at least a month so you can see what this is all about. I think you will be pleased and happy to stay after that. I’m setting up a whole new world here with a new government and new laws. You’re being given the opportunity to be a part of this new government after you get a better understanding of what I’m doing. Now, I’ll leave you with Plasae here. He can take you around and show you more of this place. I’ll be back to talk to you again in a day or two. Of course, you’re free to wander around on your own too, but this is the only bed you have for the time being. Do your best to keep this place in sight, until you learn more about the layout of the land.” With that, he got up and walked out the door.
Jaz sat there feeling completely wretched, not knowing what to make of everything he had just been told. He held his head in his hands, with his elbows on the table, shaking his head for a good while. Finally, he glanced over at Plasae, who was still leaning against the wall. Maybe it would help to get out for a bit. “Okay, let’s go,” he told Plasae, who didn’t say a word. They walked out of the door and turned to the right. They walked by several houses that were made just like Plasae’s. “About how many people are here now?” he asked.
“There’s around fifty of us,” Plasae told him.
“Everyone gets here the same way?” he wanted to know next.
“Yes, yes, the same way.”
They walked up the road a ways until they reached the square. “This is where we get together when the General calls for an assembly.” Soon they turned around and headed back. Off in the distance, Jaz had seen a forest of trees. He supposed this is where the lumber for the houses was coming from. After they got back to the house, Plasae showed him an identifying mark on the house that they were sharing. Jaz was glad to know about it because he could see it would be easy to get lost with everything looking the same.
Two days later, the General came back and moved Jaz to a different house. He also sent him to the mill to help prepare lumber for more houses. Jaz kept his ears and eyes open, looking for information that would help him escape the planet. He saw people arrive at different times, but could not make out the system that brought them. He was so anxious to leave, but it didn’t look like he’d be able to escape by himself. One week went by, then two. He saw the General once during that time, but it was just in passing. After the third week, he started counting down the days. He knew where the General stayed now and had made plans to go for a showdown with him at the beginning of his fourth week.
When he knocked on the General’s door, he was surprised at the lavish living quarters that he saw. But he supposed the General had already been here a number of years.
“Well, well, Jaz, right? What can I do for you?”
“Sir, I’m ready to return to Earth. I understand what you are doing here and how you are setting up a better world, but I want to return home.” He was wondering if he should be crossing his fingers while telling these lies. But he didn’t want the General to see any disparity in his words or demeanor. He didn’t see how anything could be better than life on the earth, at least as he knew it.
“Jaz, Jaz, I really thought you would want to stay. Let me tell you what I have in mind for you when we get further along with this development.”
Jaz sat quietly, concentrating on everything the General was saying, at least to the best of his ability. He didn’t want to upset this man in any way, so when he asked Jaz what he thought, he answered, “It all sounds tempting. I’m wondering if I do go back home, could there be any way that I would be able to return?”
“No, no, that will not be possible. I don’t know if your system could take it, and I don’t really know how a return trip would affect you. I won’t hold you against your will. You wouldn’t be much help to us then. Think about everything you’d gain by staying here. Then come back at the end of this week, and we’ll talk again.”
“Certainly, I’ll see you on Saturday.” Jaz was pretty disappointed as he left, but not totally without hope.
Saturday finally came. Jaz couldn’t wait to see the General again. He had not given him a return time, but Jaz figured he’d be up by seven. Apparently the General saw him coming and opened the door before he even knocked. He motioned him in and pointed to a seat.
“What’d you decide?” he asked right off.
“I’ve decided to go back,” Jaz replied.
The General sat down and looked at Jaz. He didn’t move his eyes off of Jaz for the longest time. At least that’s the way it seemed to him. Is he trying to hypnotize me, he began to wonder? He quickly glanced away to avoid anything like that from happening.
Finally, the General asked him, “You sure about that? I don’t know how you might be affected by the trip.” He didn’t know that Jaz had been told that the General went back and forth all the time.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
“Okay, let me set the zpamosin for a return trip. Sit here for a few minutes and I’ll come back in a bit.”
“Okay, will I be returning to the same place you picked me up?”
“Give me that address again and I’ll be sure that I have it right. You know you won’t be able to tell anyone about this place. If you try, no one’s going to believe you. You’d possibly be considered to have some mental problems, so I just want to warn you about that.”’
Hmm, Jaz thought, he’s probably right. I’m not going to have any kind of evidence. No phone, can’t take any pictures. I should have found some kind of keepsake. He yelled to the general, “I need to go back to my room for a bit, I’ll be right back.”
The General came out then and said, “No, let’s get you loaded up and on your way. Follow me.”
Jaz was right behind him and climbed into the strange apparatus, which had looked almost invisible from the outside. Inside everything was white, and as the General closed the door, he told Jaz to sit down.
Later, although Jaz had no idea how much later, the door opened and he fell out against his closet door. He pushed it open and crawled to his bed.