FICTION October 31, 2014


Ellie tried this, and she later attempted to describe what she saw when she did. She said, “At first I just glanced around, trying to see what this was, if it was worth my time. Probably not, right? But I thought I’d give it a chance. So I picked a random spot and started reading.

“And it was this study, like the results of an investigation. Or like somebody’s science report.

“It had to do with this door that the message board was about. It seemed like every once in a while someone walked through the door, but not very often, but every time they did some guy, whoever wrote the website, was there to see it and watch if the door had any effects. Then he wrote about it for the website.

“None of the people were named anything. They all had numbers, and when I looked I saw there were a bunch of them. The site was long. And all the writing was cold, heartless.”

One man—Subject 7, the site called him—began gagging uncontrollably as soon as he’d crossed through Vonwürdig. Subject 19 lost all sensation in her right arm.

Subject 27’s eyebrow began twitching when she took her first and only step across Vonwürdig’s threshold. She pressed her palm against her eyebrow but could not stop the twitching.

The effects of Vonwürdig were often not apparent, at first. Subject 33 developed a brain tumor—starting, said the black website, when she stepped through the powerful door. It was a benign tumor, and was promptly removed.

Subject 45 grew very depressed over the several weeks that followed her exposure to Vonwürdig, to the point of attempting suicide. Subject 57 was severely, suddenly nauseous and sank to her knees under the doorframe, vomiting out of her mouth and nose, while the observer, who dutifully posted his impressions online, watched.


Some comment threads on the Vonwürdig message board tried to address fundamental questions, such as, “Is this thing even real?”

There were users who felt certain it was a “hoax,” with one of them, SkepticSkeptic66, writing, “There is no way this is real.” If it were, he said, authorities would have found and disarmed it, or taken it away for further study.

Another user, TheRealWaylonJennings, who was probably not the real Waylon Jennings, assured everyone there is no such thing as the door, for no such “supernatural thing” could “possibly exist.” Others countered by pointing out that the door, as described, was not supernatural. Just imagine, said one believer, how the first electromagnet must have seemed to those who had never seen such a thing. At one time, he said rightly, that was “everyone.”


Ellie had trouble sleeping on the night she discovered these things. Unused to insomnia, she had a glass of wine in her kitchen while she tried out improvised remedies for sleeplessness. Because the word Vonwürdig was so present in her mind, she tried getting it out by writing it twenty times on a sheet of notebook paper.

It didn’t work, but she slept eventually, and had another dream about Daniel—or, she said, it was the same dream “with some of the barriers gone.” It was “sharper” to her this time. Daniel’s speech was not in a strange language; it was in English, and she understood every word.

Daniel was talking about his work, it turned out. He spoke without interruption.

Daniel worked at Uniport as a copywriter. Because Uniport was a door manufacturer, he wrote about doors. All of his projects began with the arrival of a manila folder full of product information. But one day, years ago, he said, locking eyes with Ellie, a black folder appeared on his desk. He had never seen such a thing. He looked through its contents and found that they described an interior panel door, from Uniport’s Traditional Doors series. In this respect it was perfectly normal.

Every folder came with glossy, professional photos of the door model he was to write about. But the photos of this one looked, he said, “Like someone took them surreptitiously. They were taken too fast, I could tell, for they had blurred. Who would want to prevent a photo of a door from being taken, I couldn’t say. It was amateur work—that much was clear. But how did it end up in the folder?

“You could barely see the door in one photo!” he went on, his hand raised in disbelief. “It was in the bottom corner, lying on the floor, at one end of a hallway.” The door was not on hinges, he said. “And it was in a room where I would never want to be. A huge basement, all cement and cinderblocks. Dusty, filthy. Like where you’d keep bodies—more than one.” He laughed. Ellie ate silently as he laughed, trying to determine again how she had gotten out there.

Daniel kept talking about the door in the black folder. He said he knew he would have to give the door a name. All of Uniport’s Specialty Doors—of which this was one, no doubt—had unique names.

He named it Vonwürdig. He said its name proudly, as if it should mean something to Ellie. It didn’t, in the dream, but it would mean something to her when she woke up.

“Technical readouts on Vonwürdig were like nothing I’d ever seen,” he went on. “It was made of wood, and plastic resins, but other things were there, too, things I’d never heard of.” The materials had names he didn’t recognize, with many more letters than what he was used to, “lots of consonants.” He wrote the words down, to look them up later, but they didn’t appear in his dictionary at home, nor in the library’s foreign language guides. “This was before the Internet,” he said. “This was years ago.”

“The next thing I know,” said Ellie, “I’m back at my desk. I can feel Daniel walking off.” Daniel is so large, his stride so elephantine, that when he walks the ground shakes, announcing him. “Then I felt him walking back toward me again,” concluded Ellie. “But I couldn’t turn my head to see him.”


The black website was updated often, but much of what was added to it had nothing to do with test subjects. It had to do, instead, with its author, and although it never helped the message board users to discover his identity, the new content was often revealing, somehow. Users drew wild conclusions about him. Someone said once he must be a Neo-Nazi, “b/c no one else but a nazi could be so uncaring when all those people go through the door.”

One long thread is titled, “What is wrong with the author’s insides?” The author of the black site often posted updates on his insides, which he said were thick and liquid, “like motor oil.”

One morning, the author posted seven thousand words on the subject of a fly that was dying on his windowsill. He named it Karl. He caught Karl and “sliced” him, still alive, into as many pieces as he could before “chewing Karl up.”

Thousands of words on the Vonwürdig website were streams of gibberish that were made of English words but made no sense. Embedded in the morass were frantic claims that Vonwürdig had done “this” to the author, whatever “this” was.

Some message board users culled telling details about the author from his black website. Wherever he lived, he had a window, for he observed people from it. He had a gun, they knew, because he held it against parts of his body for hours at a time: his head, his hand, his shoulder, his chest.

No one seemed to doubt that this aspect of the site was real, that its author was deranged. Everyone on the comment threads agreed it would take too much dedication to make this material up and keep doing it for as many years as the site had been online.