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The Forbidden Door


copyright CEary

The Forbidden Door

I made my way through the inky blackness, walking ninja-like towards the door. A thick chain barred my way. Just like the queen to take such extreme measures to protect her riches. But I knew that she kept the key under her pillow, and I had stolen it.

I unlocked the chain and lowered it silently to the floor. As I drew open the door, a hallowed light burst from the chamber within, revealing the treasure I so desperately sought.

The light snapped on. “Harold, are you getting into the Thanksgiving pies?”

I wiped meringue off my lips. “No, dear.”


Brothers in the Fatherland

copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Brothers in the Fatherland

The guards never check the back, my brother Kurt had said.

I crouched in breathless darkness, rain Niagara Fallsing down the windows. Kurt was talking to the guard, getting me through security.

I gripped my pistol. Kurt was loyal but I knew that only a bullet in the tyrant’s head would set the nation free.

I heard a command and the van moved forward. We were in. Kurt thought this was intelligence bureau training. This would kill him.

I’m sorry, Kurt.

The van doors flew open. Rifles pointed at me. “I’m sorry,” Kurt said. “It kills me to do this.”


You Never Forget Your First

I feel like I should apologize. I feel very out of things, blog-wise, at least compared with what I used to be. Both my reading and writing dropped off before the summer when I moved and haven’t really recovered. Part of it is that I’m much busier at work, so everything has to be done when I get home, including all the other details of life. Part of it is that I’m working (hard) on larger projects that I can’t post here. In any case, I am very appreciative to you for reading. Thank you.

This story is dedicated to my friend Susannah Bianchi.

You Never Forget Your First

The kettle is screeching, sending out puffs of steam just like Yarr when he went out to play on a cold, winter day. There’s nothing like seeing a great red frolicking in the frosty air to make you feel like there’s still beauty left in the world.

I bring the cup to the stove and watch the teabag bleed rust as the boiling water hits it, coloring the water with that deep, hardwood hue that would have matched Yarr’s hide like a chameleon.

Gorgo, my new little one is scratching at the door, trying to get out. He was a gift from my sister. She got me a green, even though they’re supposed to be friskier (read: wilder). I open the door and Gorgo bounds off into the night. He’ll probably go hunting and I’ll go out for the morning paper to find a burglar or hobo lying on the doorstep. Then I’ll have to call the coroner and try to explain again. I couldn’t stay mad at him though, not with that open, innocent look of his. What an old softie I am.

I sit by the kitchen window and as I take a sip, the tea slips down my throat like a burst of invigorating fire. I hear Gorgo roaring out there in the velvet invisible, already on the prowl.

I miss Yarr but life goes on. Still, as they say, you never forget your first dragon.

The night I was a ghost – a true story

I am now a legend of terror, a whispered story that will be told over and over in bars or around the dinner table. I am talking about myself now, David Stewart. This is a true story, after all.

It all started because my wife wanted to see a ghost. I’d like to see one too, if they exist, which I’m not entirely sure of. I have an open mind though. In any case, when I heard about a reportedly real haunted house on the east coast of Korea, my wife and I rented a car and drove four hours across the country to the rural area of Youngdeok, right on the coast of the East Sea (or Sea of Japan. I don’t want to get involved in that controversy).

Youngdeok Haunted House

I had seen another video about people who had gone to explore the house, but they had gone during the day. Bah! We like to go at night. Actually, we meant to arrive around sunset, but it does get dark earlier these days and it was pitch black by the time we arrived.

The last abandoned house we explored was out in the middle of nowhere but this one was right next to a vacation condo on a busy highway. We walked up the road on the condo side and set off two geese and a dog who were standing guard. A man came out and we thought he was going to yell at us, but instead he just told us to go up the other side.

The graffiti says variants of "ghosts" and "evil spirits"

The graffiti says variants of “ghosts” and “evil spirits”

The house, being famous, was quite vandalized, with graffiti all over it and broken windows. But it was also nice and creepy. We were looking for the basement, especially, since that was supposedly where people had heard ghostly voices. While we were looking around, a car stopped at the bottom of the hill. At first, we thought they had seen our flashlights and were coming to yell at us, but we quickly realized they were just there to see the house too.

Suddenly, we were in the position of being in a haunted house at night with other people coming to see it. What would you have done? Well, what we did was stand without moving in the front room with our hoods up and wait for them to come. Honestly, I had no idea how they would react. They walked up, shined the flashlight in and…

…screamed like banshees. They kept screaming and ran all the way down the hill to their car and drove away while my wife and I laughed and laughed. I would have explained and apologized but they never came back. Oops. So, that is why there is now even more anecdotal evidence that this house is haunted. However, if you hear any Koreans tell about how they saw a ghost in the window of the Youngdeok house, feel free to explain (or not).

Youngdeok Haunted House

By the way, we finally did find our way down to the basement but we never heard any voices. And we still haven’t seen a ghost. Yet.

Here is the video of our explorations. Go to 3:21 to see the part where the other people come.


Screams at Midnight

I woke up suddenly to screams coming from the road below my apartment. I jumped up and went to the window. It was almost midnight and the road was deserted. Then I saw the small figure shrinking back against the wall on the edge of the streetlight’s circle of light.

night alley

What should I do? I had only been in the country for two weeks and I didn’t know the language beyond basic phrases. I stood there for a few moments, listening to the cries and praying other neighbors would call the police and relieve me of any responsibility.

The windows across the road from me remained dark and I saw one light go off and unseen hands pull the shutters closed. So that’s how it was.

I thought of just going back to bed, but how could I sleep like that? How could I stand by and do nothing while someone was suffering? I had always been appalled at stories of people who heard muggings and murders going on outside their apartment and did nothing for fear of getting involved. On the other hand, I didn’t want to go get involved in something that was none of my business.

Finally, I got dressed slowly and went to the door. I would at least go try to get a better idea of the situation. I went down the stairs and peered out the front door.

The figure—it was definitely a woman—was in the same defensive position, but I could not see anyone else. I took a step outside, still scanning the shadows. The fact that she was apparently alone alarmed me almost as much as if someone had been there beating her.

I walked into the circle of light and the woman abruptly went quiet. The next thing I knew, she was clinging to me, looking back over her shoulder at the empty road. She was talking to me, fast, but I had no idea what she was saying.

She seemed to be in her 20s, long black hair, and almost freakishly thin. Her skin was cold against my arm. Strangely enough, she smelled of wood smoke, a smell I have always loved.

“Uh, are you okay? Okay?” I said. She gave me a look of incomprehension.

What was I supposed to do? Finally, I asked, “Do you want to come up for tea? Tea?” I made a drinking motion, then hoped she didn’t interpret it as alcohol. I remembered the word for tea and said it and she nodded.

I lived alone and my apartment was not exactly neat. I blushed and tried frantically to clean up, at least superficially, as we walked in. She didn’t seem to notice—just sat on the couch and looked around. I was glad she had calmed down, at least.

As the water was boiling for tea, I tried to make small talk, which is very hard without a common language. I showed her my language study book and she seemed to approve. Then we silently sipped at our tea and smiled at each other when our eyes happened to meet. Finally, she stood up and took a deep breath.

“Thank you,” she said, one of the few phrases I knew in her language. “Thank you, thank you.”

“No problem,” I said, completely forgetting the appropriate response.

She walked to the door and put on her shoes.

“Uh . . .” I began—she had walked out with my mug in her hands. But then she turned and gave me such a radiant smile that I let her have it. “Have a good night,” I said. “Bye bye.”

“Bye bye,” she said, in English, and giggled.

The next day, I asked my landlord about her. It took him a few minutes to understand. “Ah, I know. I know the girl,” he said at last. “Yes, she is not . . . not okay in the head, you know? Sometimes she cries at night on the street. Don’t worry, don’t worry.”

“What happened?”

“Years before, she had a boyfriend, he was very bad. He hit her a lot, very badly. Then one day he hit her on the road right there and she hit him back with rock and killed him. No trouble with the police—not her fault, but after that she not okay in the head. If you see her, don’t worry.”

“Okay,” I said. I didn’t tell him that I had made her tea in my apartment and that she hadn’t seemed crazy to me.

Two days later, I opened my door to go to work and found my mug sitting in front of the door. It had been washed and was stuffed with money, mostly dirty and wrinkled bills. There was about $25 worth in all. After that, other cups and containers appeared in front of my door, all filled with money. After six months, I had over $300 collected.

I didn’t spend the money—I felt bad just having it. I wanted to give it back, but I never saw the woman again. I looked for her but couldn’t find her. No one seemed to know where she lived. Based on the smell of wood smoke, I even wandered out into the forest, wondering if she lived in a cabin out there.

Even now, a year later, the money still comes from time to time. I’ve thought of hooking up a camera to catch her in the act. I just want to tell her thank you, that I don’t need the money, that I want to know more about her. All I can do now is study the language and keep my eyes open.

What else can I do? What would you do in my place?

The Mystery of the Abandoned Farmhouse

This is a true story. It happened yesterday. I feel I should put that out there right away, since this is a fiction blog. But even in real life, interesting things can happen.

This weekend, I went up to the Seoul area with my wife. We went up to find an abandoned mental hospital that’s been closed for about 20 years, which is apparently one of the creepiest places in Korea. We were planning on exploring it at night. However, when we got there, we found the road leading to it blocked with a pretty imposing gate and barbed wire.

I think I can jump that.

I think I can jump that.

However, we had traveled many hours to get there and we decided to try a more lateral approach. A little ways up the road was another road that branched off into a small valley parallel to the one the hospital was in. It had rained heavily and the road was more or less a rushing stream. Our shoes were quickly damp.

We soon came to a farm, which we realized pretty quickly was abandoned. After an abortive attempt at climbing over the ridge to the hospital, we went back and looked around the house.

It was odd, to say the least. It was clearly abandoned–the front door was smashed in–and there was a lot of weather damage inside. Still, it looked as if the people had literally just gotten up and left. There were family photos hanging on the walls, clothes in the closet, dishes still sitting in the drying rack by the sink.

abandoned farmhouse

The house was totally furnished, but totally abandoned at the same time.

I didn't try on any of the clothes.

I didn’t try on any of the clothes.

It would have felt like we had just broken into someone’s house, except that it was clear it had not been used in a long time. The calendar on the wall said January, 2011.

abandoned farmhouse

I took a picture of the mirror to see if a ghost would appear in the photograph. But alas.

I took a picture of the mirror to see if a ghost would appear in the photograph. But alas.

We speculated about why the house had been left like this, although most of my theories were too mundane for my wife’s liking. It seemed to have belonged a retired couple, the husband of which had been a lawyer, based on all the law books around. Of course, why they came out to a farm, I don’t know, especially one with a huge warehouse of old mattresses, couches and chairs in it. And why didn’t they take things that would have had sentimental value, like this huge family photo over the fireplace? Even if they had both died, you would think that their children would have taken care of things.

abandoned farmhouse

It showed a lot of moisture damage. Then there was this long-dead houseplant.

abandoned farmhouse

abandoned farmhouse

In the end, we didn’t touch anything or take anything, just looked around and left. As much as I would like to know what had happened there, that would take a lot more poking into the piles of documents and other things that had been left and that would have seemed strange. The juxtaposition of the almost completely furnished house and the totally abandonment of the place made it seem both like we were in a ruin and in an occupied house. But who knows? If I ever find out the story, I’ll let you know.

abandonded farmhouse

(I also made a video, which I will share tomorrow, if I can get a chance to post it.)


Fantastic Travelogue #6 – Enough of This

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.


There are times in life when something happens that changes everything. Like if you’re arguing with someone and they pull a gun out, or if you’re in a restaurant and find a mouse in your food. They’re kind of deal-breakers. That’s what it was like when I saw that map, which apparently showed where I was, yet was nowhere that I recognized.

That’s it, I’m done, I thought. I wanted to get some air. I wrote the word “air” (空氣) on the paper, but the woman didn’t seem to understand what I meant. So I just stood up and walked out. She came too, of course.

I had no idea what time it was, but it must have been pretty late. The moon had set and the sky was dark. One door of the gate had been shut, but the other was open a crack. I walked around a little, as if admiring the architecture, and then when I got close to the gate, I just took off running. The old woman shouted after me, but I was already through the gate when the two guards wheeled out of the darkness towards me. They lowered their spears to block my way, but I was too fast for them and a second later, I was running and stumbling back up the valley.

It was exhilarating to break social convention that way and just run away. Once when I was in Korean city with my cousin, a man came up to us and wanted to guide us around. Nothing we said could make him leave and eventually we ran away as he was getting a taxi for us all. It was that same feeling, a mixture of adrenaline and relief, spiked with the fear of being followed.

I left the path to avoid being caught again and started blundering blindly through the underbrush. That place may not have been in Korea, but it sure had the same amount of thorns on every living thing. My jacket was torn and my hands were scratched and bleeding before I had gone very far.

I was out there a long time, maybe hours. All I know was the sky was just beginning to lighten in the east when I came out of the woods and found a tall fortress wall in front of me. I didn’t see the gate anywhere. I had left the path on the left side, and so I now continued left along the wall. My plan was to walk around the fortress and then back up the valley where I had come from.

I was really tired by this time. I hadn’t slept all night and the last time I had eaten was when I was locked up in the room in the fortress. I kept stopping to lean against the wall and close my eyes. Maybe twenty minutes later, I came to what Koreans call an ammun, or secret gate, built into the wall. The tiny door was open and all I could see inside was darkness. I was about move on, when a lantern was uncovered and a woman stepped out of the gate.

I was about to run, when I saw that it was young woman I had seen earlier the day before; the same one who had helped to lock me up. Still, she beckoned me in and smiled so joyfully, that my legs moved on their own and followed her inside.

Just inside the gate was a small chamber, probably designed for guards. There was food and water there, as well as a bed. I had a drink of water, but before I knew it, my eyes were closing and I couldn’t keep them open. The girl saw this and helped me lie down on the bed and covered me with a blanket. Within a minute, I had drifted off to sleep.

I know I usually draw pictures, but I didn't have time this week. This is a secret gate close to what it looked like.

I know I usually draw pictures, but I didn’t have time this week. This is a secret gate close to what it looked like.

Visual Fiction – Moonlit City

The moon glowed bright above the sleeping city. Below, thousands of people slept, ensconced in cocoons of warmth to keep out of the cold and snow. Each with their own lives, their own stories. For each one, the old year was past and with the rising of the sun, each could start anew.

Taken in Jeonju, South Korea on New Year’s Day, 2010

Visual Fiction – Midnight Lantern

All of my novels, as well as most of my short stories, have started with a single image in my mind. Pictures are powerful sources of inspiration, like creative food. I’ve decided, as a change of pace, to occasionally post some of my original photographs that seem to inspire stories in me. I won’t necessarily write any stories based on them, but if you wish to, feel free. Just let me know since I’d love to read it.

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