A user on the message board, who called himself HansGandalf, attempted to identify the author of the black site, not by name but with something like a character sketch, based on the black site’s details. “I think the door’s in an office,” he wrote, “and he’s in that office & every month he takes someone through believe me I work in an office & we have temps in & out all the time I bet he’s using them as test subjects & they don’t even know I bet he’s a tall guy & wears a nice suit every day for appearance’s sake but really he’s a nut with a door that fucks you up.”
He continued, in his comma-free fashion, “I bet he’s got jetblack hair & sits by that door to make sure no one gets through it without him knowing & I bet it’s not the door that causes memory loss I bet he’s giving them pills for that shit.
“There’s only so much,” he added, “a door can do.”
Ellie had another lunch with Daniel. “I remember the drive to work that morning,” she said. “And I remember the first hour there. I was emailing back and forth with a builder in Sacramento, something about Hingecrest door hinges. One of the women in the office was helping me out.
“Then out of nowhere I’m in the atrium again. I’m supposed to eat the spaghetti that’s in front of me, but I don’t. I don’t think it’s the food I brought with me.
“Daniel is there again, talking again, looking at me with the saddest eyes, like he’s apologizing, but it’s too soft for me to hear.
“I don’t remember getting back to my desk, but when I’m there he’s near me, stomping away, the floor shaking.”
Ellie couldn’t possibly forget how she spent that afternoon. She had the worst headache of her life. “Several times,” she said, “I felt Daniel’s feet stomp across the floor through my head on the table. There were tears coming out of my eyes. I had to go home early. I spent all weekend in bed.” She looked very worried. When she began this story, it sounded like she was describing another dream. But she hadn’t said it was a dream, and from the way she was talking it didn’t sound like one.
Ellie began missing work, leaving early or not going in at all. This was largely because of the headaches that were overtaking her on many afternoons. She went to a doctor, but he offered no diagnosis, only a prescription.
Ellie began researching “suicide headaches” online—migraines so awful their sufferers were known to kill themselves to stop the pain—but her headaches were not migraines, of that the doctor had been certain.
Ellie did some research on suicide.
The women Ellie worked with asked her, each in turn, why she was missing as many days as she was. She said her mother had died. When she continued missing work, she said her sister had died. This became a joke between them when she wasn’t around—which wasn’t so often that she lost her job. When she wasn’t working, and when she wasn’t blind from the pain, she was scouring the huge black site and message board.
One user from the message board stood out among the rest. His username was “моллюски”— Russian for “mollusk,” said an online translator.
There were hundreds of posts on the message board by моллюски. In an early one, he insisted that the black site was fake, “mere H. P. Lovecraft fanfiction.” No one was willing to accept this. Angry purists said there were no such doors in Lovecraft.
A woman in Tulsa asked, in one thread, whether the door should be destroyed. “Is it better to keep this thing up + study it,” she asked, “or would it be best to tear it down + save more of those poor people from suffering?” моллюски’s response was swift and adamant: “The door will not be removed or destroyed,” he wrote. “It will not come down.” It must have sounded to her and the others like a nonsequitur, like a joke post, but not to Ellie.
After a month of worsening headaches, Ellie quit working at Uniport. She began to wonder whether something about the office was causing her headaches and the memory loss she was only just growing aware of. It seemed as if Ellie’s capacity to make sense of things had been suspended for an indefinite period of time, a period that was coming to an end.
It was, she said, “Like I was tranquilized and am just now stirring out of it, like it’s not until now that I can start putting things together. I’m waking up from a dream again, but this time the dream is the last month of my life.”
Meanwhile, she continued having memory dreams, though she still couldn’t put them together. They were images, mostly, of Daniel and the drone of his voice she could hardly make out.
A new test subject was added to the black site: Subject 61. Within minutes, a comment thread about her appeared on the message board.
The black site said that Subject 61 was twenty-seven years old. Effects of the door on her included “nausea, disorientation, memory loss, severe pain.” She had, said the site, been through Vonwürdig twelve times. A number of users on the comment thread expressed their concern for this person, writing, “That’s fucked up,” “Must be tough,” and, “Noone should ever have to go through something like this, really noone.”
No one, other than the black site’s author, had stepped through Vonwürdig more than twice. Repeated exposures were assumed to be hazardous—hence the worry expressed on the message board. The black site offered no identifying characteristics for Subject 61, but from the list of effects Ellie recognized herself at once.
Ellie kept a diary, rather faithfully. It didn’t emerge until she was admitted, at the end of this long episode, but when it did turn up it was enlightening.
After she saw herself described on the black site, she wrote,
Spent two days in bed watching a full bottle of pills and a full bottle of vodka on my nightstand. Wanted to empty them. Had no strength.
I piece things together as they come back, things that seem remembered from a lifetime away. I am not supposed to remember them.
I think what Daniel told me in the atrium was true, about the black folder. I think it was a mistake that Uniport sent him that. I think the door itself was supposed to be put up in Daniel’s office, not the folder sent to him.
And then later the door was put up after all. Daniel found it and went to work, leading one body then another through it to see what would happen.
He must prey on temps and people like me, people who aren’t going to work there long, people who aren’t like Daniel, doomed to be there forever as soon as they walk through the door.
But who is in the brown suit?