God’s Own Padlock
We were kids when we opened that door. That’s probably where it all started. I was around 8, and my sister, Jean, was 10. It was just after Thanksgiving when an estranged relative, our grandmother’s sister, had died. I still cannot recall the name of the woman, but Jean and I still refer to her as “the dead one.” Our parents felt it necessary for us to attend the funeral, and family gathering afterwards at the dead one’s house. We ran around with our cousins, the way children do when reunited with relatives the same age, until the rain ruined our good times of hide and seek, and tackle football while wearing church clothes. As casserole dishes made their way to tables for a buffet style dinner, Jean and I set off to the bathroom to wash our hands. We walked down the hall of the three-bedroom ranch style house to find the main bathroom door locked. We made our way to the master bedroom in search of the home’s other restroom. The door to the room creaked open. The light shone through the mesh blinds in beams, and a chill swept over Jean and I when we realized this was where they found the body.
“Let’s just wash our hands and get out of here,” said Jean. “OK?”
I shook my head in agreement. We entered the room and almost reached at what we thought was the bathroom door when a voice startled us. “You can’t go in there.”
We let out a yelp and turned to the voice. It was a little girl somewhere in our age range, but not one we had ever been around before this day. Her hair was blonde, braided down both sides of her face, and her eyes were of the darkest brown they almost appeared black.
After we regained our senses a I asked, “Why not?”
“Ma Maw said to never open that door,” replied the girl. “Said it’s got the worst thing in the world in there. She said it’s so bad that God put a lock on that door so it can’t get out.”
“What could be so bad,” asked Jean.
“You shouldn’t ask, otherwise you might find out,” said the girl. Without missing a beat, as though it were on cue, a loud thud came from behind the door followed by the sounds of scratches. Jean and I jumped back as the sound of rabid growls came from the other side.
“Told you,” said the girl as she turned and walked slowly out the room. Before she was out of site she muttered, “Only God should open that door.”
I looked back at the door, noticed the cheap padlock clasped shut in the hasp. It was the same type of lock you find with a kids toys that take nothing more than a paperclip to open. The growling persisted as I reached out to look at the lock when we heard the door to the bathroom in the hall open.
“C’mon Teddy,” said Jean. We left the room, washed our hands in the sink of the hall bathroom, and fetched our plates to begin the grieving feast of donated food.
We ate, put our plates away and huddled up with the other cousins in a spare bedroom taking turns on the out of date board games available to us. The blond girl was there the whole time. I kept getting the feeling she was staring at me with her hollow eyes. She never once smiled, and only spoke to those who spoke to her. Even then, her responses were brief, consisting of only one or two words at most, which left the person talking to her in awkward silence.
The adults had finished their visiting, the dishes were washed, food packaged, and the fetching of coats began. And yes, I wanted to know what was behind that door. As our mother began to make the rounds of saying her goodbyes Jean and I returned to the door. I had managed to collect a hairpin from the abundant supply spread throughout the house for the sole purpose of popping that simple lock. Jean and I snuck back into the master bedroom whose eerie feeling only seemed more prevalent. I approached the door and the snarls started back. The lock was easy enough for me to open. Jean had a diary with a similar lock meant to keep prying eyes from opening the contents of her feelings on paper. I was a boy whose curiosity knew no bounds, especially if it annoyed my sister.
“We shouldn’t be in here,” said Jean.
“Hush,” I replied just as the key cylinder turned snapping the lock open. “It’s only a dog.”
“I’m not sure about this Teddy,” she said.
I removed the lock from the door hasp. The snarling sounded more vicious as the seconds ticked by. I turned the knob and pushed the door open not sure what was going to leap out. A manic laughing broke out behind us making Jean and I jump to the side of the door, but nothing came out. The snarls stopped just as soon as the door cracked open and a swish of sound exhaled through the doorway. The laughing came from the girl. She had come up behind us. As she laughed huge tears rolled down her face.
“I told you,” she said between breaths. “I told you not to open the door.”
“What?” I said. I turned my head and looked inside the mystery room only to find a walk in closet complete with old clothes, piles of shoes, and the smell of mothballs. “There’s nothing in there.”
“Not anymore,” said the girl. Her laugh had ceased and she stared at the two of us, tears glistening on her cheeks. “He’s yours now.”
“Teddy? Jean?” my mother said as she stepped into the room from the hallway. “Come on guys, it’s time for us to go.”
“OK,” Jean said. Her voice cracked and she cleared her throat trying to expel the fear in her voice.
“You guys shouldn’t be in here anyway,” Mom said. “Lets go home.”
“OK,” I said. Without thinking, I slipped the lock into my pocket.
I turned and followed my mother and sister out the room never taking my eyes off the little girl. The girl’s gaze followed me as I exited as though she were looking into my soul. Just before I was around the corner she whispered softly, but loud enough for me to hear, “He’s all yours now.”