The Doormakers Will Make No Doors


I live in a building with hundreds of other families, maybe thousands. We live here, eat here, sleep here. Our kids learn here. The adults work here. And once, maybe a few times a week, people enter into our building and they take our people away from us. They rob them in the dark. They steal them from us forever. Many times they take our children, sometimes they take the adults.

This building has no doors.

We tell the keepers of this building, the Doormakers, “We have no doors. That’s why they can get in and take our people. We don’t have doors at the front of the building. Our homes inside the building have no doors. Our rooms inside our homes have no doors. They can just walk in. They can just take us whenever they want.”

And the Doormakers tell us, “I’m so sorry.” They clasp their hands together, and they wring them together like they’re squeezing water from a sponge. The look shared on their faces is one of pain. “You are in our thoughts,” they say, sympathetically. “You are in our prayers. It’s the Shadow People,” they say. “From out there. From beyond the Building.”

“So you’ll make us doors?” we ask. “You’ll put them on for us?”

“Doors won’t help,” the Doormakers say, regrettably. “The Shadow People will just open them and walk right in anyway.”

“I have a solution to that,” you tell them. “Locks. We lock the doors.”

“But then all doorways will be impassable,” the Doormakers say. “You’re talking about closing off all the doorways, forever. We can’t do that.”

“No, what we can do is give everyone keys. Keys to those who should be able to use the doors. We’ll all have keys to the building. And those who live in their homes will have keys to their homes. And those who live in the rooms of our homes can have keys to those rooms.”

“Keys are very costly,” the Doormakers say.

“So are our lives,” we answer.

“You’re trying to restrict all freedom of movement,” the Doormakers say.

“What? No, no, no, we’re just trying to stay safe.”

Here, the Doormakers pull out The Document. We all signed the Document in order to live here, and the Doormaker points to a part of The Document that has long been underlined, underlined so many times the pen has nearly worn through the paper. (No other of the Document’s precepts have been underlined in such a way, and the Doormakers don’t seem to remember what the rest of The Document even says.) “Look here,” the Doormakers say.

They point to the precept which reads:

The well-regulated hallways will represent the right of the Building’s people to have unrestricted freedom-of-movement.

“See?” the Doormakers say. “We cannot restrict movement.”

“But that’s not precisely what the precept says,” you explain. “It suggests that first, this is about the hallways, not our homes or the front of the building, but it also notes that the hallways are well-regulated. The hallways have no doors, no cameras, no regulation at all. Anyone can walk down them and enter our houses, our bedrooms, our most private places. That’s how they’re taking us.” Whoever they are, we think but do not say.

“That is the cost of freedom,” they say.

“But this isn’t freedom, this is the opposite of freedom.”

Being taken is not freedom, we point out.

“Why do you hate freedom?” the Doormakers say. They tut-tut us, and hurry back to the stairway, to head to their penthouses which we have never seen. We feel uncertain of what to do. We don’t want to restrict all freedom, do we? This seems like common sense, but now we’re left wondering — are the Doormakers right?

At night, more of our children are taken from us.

We announce it over the intercoms, to the whole building. Every day or three, a tally of those who were taken from us. We’ve grown resistant to it. The most we do is listen to hear if the names are names we know; if not, maybe we don’t listen so hard. In part because it’s too sad to think about for too long. In part because it’s just becoming noise. The background sound of the tragedies of the universe, unstoppable and implacable, we tell ourselves. Like old age. Like entropy.

But sometimes we get mad again.

We get mad when we know the names, when we know who were taken.

We try to talk to the Doormakers about it, telling them, “At least do something. Put some boxes in front of the door. Or half-doors. Even an alarm so we can hear when people are coming through. Or cameras, to see who is taking us.”

They say they know who is taking us. The Shadow People. And they mumble at us about how sad they are for us, and how we are in their hearts, and then they hurry back to their penthouses.

One of us looks up the history of The Building, and they find documents from The Architects who built it — the Architects didn’t intend for the Building to have no doors, it turns out. They wanted doors. It’s why they created the Doormakers to govern the building. They didn’t want people from inside or outside the building to be able to enter our homes! They wanted the hallways to be clear, yes, but that’s it — just the hallways. Our homes are our homes. We send a missive up to the Doormakers — they’ve stopped meeting with us — to tell them what we found. We receive a message over the intercom as a result thanking us for our due diligence, our time, our thoughtfulness, and that’s all they say.

“Does that mean they’ll do something?” we ask one another.

“Maybe,” we tell one another. “Maybe they’ll make us doors.”

But weeks go by. We lose dozens again. Some point out, “Really, as a percentage, it’s not that we’re losing that many. Do we really need doors?” But they say it with a kind of listlessness, like they’ve given up, given in. Someone else says, “Acceptable losses, really, for our freedom,” but no one seems to believe that. We want our doors.

So we decide to make them ourselves.

Our floor, and the people of other floors, take it into their own hands to put together doors. We’ve never made doors before, and it’s not our purview, but we manage to cobble together crude gates and hatches with rough hinges and uneven knobs. Someone on our floor is even good with metal, so he makes for us locks and keys for our homes. And that night we hear knobs rattling. Our doors shudder against their frames. But none come in. And that night, none go missing.

In the morning, the Doormakers appear.

They have hammers. They strike the knobs off our doors. They pry the hinges off the wall. “No restricting freedom of movement,” they say firmly, hammers in hand. Then they head back upstairs in an incredulous huff.

We look at our handiwork, smashed. We wonder what will come.

That night, more of us are taken again. Nineteen children.

The night after that, a respite, and same with the two nights hence, but then it begins again in earnest, three children, then four women, then some of those who work in the offices of the Building — they are taken, pulled from their desks and hiding places through the open doorways, and then they’re gone from us forever. Maybe to join the shadows, we don’t even know.

The intercom announces the lost and the taken.

Sometimes we’re not even sure if it’s announcing everyone or not.

Then more on our floor have been taken. We know them. We know their names. When they come on over the intercom, we weep.

“We have to do something. We have to make the Doormakers listen.”

So, we decide to go against protocol. Together we march to the stairs and up, up, up we go, to the penthouse. To the Doormakers. But there, we find the most curious thing:

A door.

They have a door.

And it’s locked.

“This must be a mistake,” one of us says. “That’s not possible.”

“Hypocrisy,” another says.

“Maybe they need the door to protect themselves.”

“From who? The Shadow People?”

But we fear the real answer: it’s to protect them from us. (Some of us wonder aloud: who are the Shadow People? Are they even real? Are they even a threat?) So we work very hard to take down the door. We use our bare hands. We use tools from our kitchens. We chip away at the mortar and brick, we pull away hinges with our now-bloodied fingers.

The door falls.

The penthouse is revealed. A beautiful world. Gold and silver. Polished wood. And doors everywhere. Doors to every room. Some locked, some not. We hear voices behind one, and this time we offer no finesse — we simply slam ourselves up against it again and again, the bulk of us forming a battering ram, until the door falls and we tumble into a room.

In this room is a table, big and grand.

One one side of this very long table are the Doormakers. On the other are figures in suits. They look like us. We’ve seen some of them here before — they live here. In the Building, on the upper floors. A briefcase sits between them on the table, a golden glow coming from within it. The Doormakers quickly snap the case shut, but when they do, a piece of paper — a contract — slips off the table, stirred by the breeze of the closing lid. The paper lands at our feet. It contains a list of names. We know some of those names. Names of those who have been taken.

Before we know what’s happening, bodyguards of the Doormakers are wrestling us back out of this room, then out of the penthouse. They quickly put up another door — thicker, made of metal, with hinges thick as our arms. All the while we wail and yell and kick and thrash. They’re the ones taking us, we cry. They’ve made a deal with those who take us. There aren’t any shadowy people. It’s them. They’re taking us. They’re paying the Doormakers to not build us any doors, to keep the hallways open. The guards drag us down, down, down, past the floors on which we live, all the way to the basement.

There, too, we find doors.

We’re thrown into rooms. The doors slam shut behind us. We’re left in the dark. The guards hiss at us, tell us we’re the Shadow People, now, and we can have doors if we want to. These doors. Doors we can’t open. Doors that are locked tight, sealing us shut behind them. We realize too late that the freedom they talk about isn’t our freedom, but theirs.

We pound on the doors, screaming to be let out.

These are the doors the Doormakers made.

And we will help to make them.

* * *

THE RAPTOR & THE WREN: Miriam Black, Book Five

Miriam Black, in lockstep with death, continues on her quest to control her own fate!

Having been desperate to rid herself of her psychic powers, Miriam now finds herself armed with the solution — a seemingly impossible one. But Miriam’s past is catching up to her, just as she’s trying to leave it behind. A copy-cat killer has caught the public’s attention. An old nemesis is back from the dead. And Louis, the ex she still loves, will commit an unforgivable act if she doesn’t change the future. 

Miriam knows that only a great sacrifice is enough to counter fate. Can she save Louis, stop the killer, and survive? 

Hunted and haunted, Miriam is coming to a crossroads, and nothing is going to stand in her way, not even the Trespasser.

Indiebound | Amazon | B&N


57 responses to “The Doormakers Will Make No Doors”

  1. Fascinating! At first, I thought this was analogous to the ongoing problem with online books, but the further I read, the less certain I became. The words seemed to relate to any kind of freedom, really, and self-imposed blocks.
    You are a devious soul, sir. Deviously well-worded.

  2. That was way heavier than I thought when I started it, but appreciated and made me think more than i intended before noon.

  3. And then the Doormakers convinced half of the building that not having doors is a good thing, so now we can’t even complain about the doorlessness of our building.

  4. Chuck, I’ve admired your work for several years now, once I discovered you. I appreciate your blog posts, I enjoy your books (which keep me riveted). You are a talented writer, and a witty and kind person.

    This is the most impactful and moving piece I’ve read of yours so far, which is huge. I often share your blog posts, but this one I am spamming across my social media accounts.

    If this were a rock concert, I’d be holding my lighter up in the darkness.

  5. Holy shit, that was awesome. Pavowski, I also read it as about the current state of gun control laws in our country, but I think it can apply to quite a few injustices (immigration, LBGT rights, etc.).

  6. Of COURSE it’s about gun control!! And the NRA and other lobbyists/special interests and the Constitution and our feckless “representatives…” But it ain’t NOT about gun control.

  7. Well, now I’m crying.
    It’s about guns, and more than guns, it’s about a lot of things.

    Have you ever seen the movie “High-Rise”? It’s what I keep coming back to, reading this.
    So many thoughts. . .
    Thank you.

    • True. Though maybe especially pointed about guns in the US, as we listen to our daily tally of the dead. That hit awfully close to home.

  8. Not even noon and I’m crying. I don’t see this as about Gun Control, though I guess it could be.

    All I could think of as I read it was the people ICE is rounding up and deporting, more and more each day and making a public show of it as the so called ‘commander in chief’ ordered them to.

    People who have been in the US 20 or 30 years being taken from their families for no reason at all and being sent back to what the idiot in the penthouse arbitrarily decides is now ‘their’ country where some will be executed upon arrival, simply because they left that country to come to the US for a better life.

    We are living in horrible scary times. When a schoolteacher can be arrested simply for asking a question at a meeting, a nurse arrested for protecting her patients rights, a few journalists arrested at a ‘rally’ because the cheeto didn’t like the questions they asked him.

    Bravo to you, and to everyone who keeps on posting what they believe. Someday, and a lot sooner than we think, that knock may come on our door. Our name may be on that intercom.

  9. This is so good. And I love the ambiguity. It could relate to anything. At first I thought maybe net neutrality. Then gun laws. And then I realized this could really be applied to anything. You rock.

  10. It’s about gun control. And it’s not about gun control. It’s about immigration, but it’s not about immigration. I think it’s about elites, and governments, and the tension between freedom and control.

    I think it’s a fable, or a parable, and and is ambiguous enough to mean many things. It’s wonderfully written, and needs to be widely shared.

  11. The meaning of this allegory was clear long before the document was mentioned, because god, we have _lived_ it, again and again for so frustratingly long.

    There are doormakers paid not to make doors, there are those who fear no longer being one of the doormakers. And none of that justifies refusing to make the doors that keep everyone else safe.

  12. I always appreciate a well-written work with an almost-concealed undercurrent of rage. Beautiful work, Chuck!

  13. Wow, didn’t expect this to be an argument thread. No literary interpretation made in sincerity is wrong. There aren’t “right” or “wrong” answers when interpreting literature. Sometimes there are even themes or interpretations that the author didn’t realize were there.

    TLDR; Multiple interpretations of this piece are valid.

  14. There are other buildings, and the people who live in those building have doors, and the doors have locks, and for some reason the Shadow People don’t come as nearly as often.

    One might almost imagine that those other buildings were the ones that were in fact well-regulated.

  15. I admired this story very much. Sent it to my kids – all bright readers – and they loved it. I’m new to your writing, but I hope to stay tuned. I’ll even keep my door open.

  16. Positively Orwellian. We’re all ‘free’ but some of us are freer than others. Equality and justice are the first political virtues and without provisions for these, rights to ‘freedom’ from interference only serve the powerful. The US exemplifies this corruption of the ideal of freedom for all. Doors are a good symbol of the illusory and double-edged nature of rights to freedom in an unjust state.

  17. That one gave me shivers, Mr. Wendig. And possibly nightmares.

    It spoke to my rage at the status quo; the grasping, desperate hand of futility choking off our air as we try to change what’s broken.

    And, as so many have pointed out, so many political issues could be its topic.

    Kudos.

  18. That was one of the most riveting reads I’ve had in ages. Harks back to those chillingly weird/normal ’70’s Sci-Fi tales, also reminded me of Kafka’s “The Trial”. Thank you for this gem,Mr Wendig. (and fuck you Chuck for the casual throwaway of just popping it out like this) 🙂

  19. The well-regulated hallways will represent the right of the Building’s people to have unrestricted freedom-of-movement.
    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

  20. Great piece. I wasn’t sure at first what it was an allegory for – net neutrality? – but by the end I just thought, this is about America.

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