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Infinite Doors by Platt & Wright

Once upon a time, Johnny, Dave, and I tried an experiment, asking our Self-Publishing Podcast Facebook group to come up with a few characters, settings, and conflict ideas for us to live-brainstorm into a story, using a half-hour on air.

We had a setting — parallel worlds — but nothing more. Dave was quiet, and Johnny uncertain, doing his best to bat ideas back and forth with me while I filled the space with a lot of rambling ideas that weren’t really connected or going anywhere. A normal part of our process, just not one we’d done out loud more than once or twice.

Dave is at his best when imagining the myriad ways things can go wrong. It’s his superpower.  And while that prowess might not make him the star of a party, or even relegate him to the basement, he can always guide a plot through its darkest, most tangled paths with ease.

Johnny and I noted his silence, mistaking Dave’s distant gaze for disinterest, perhaps biding his time until the show was over and he could retreat into his personal abyss of contemplation.

In reality, Dave was simply waiting to deliver his pitch before dropping the mic.

As always, he started with a depressing premise. A woman living out a life of quiet misery in a loveless marriage. She had been in love with a woman a long time long ago, but living in the closet and hiding their relationship caused her true love to leave. Soon after that she died in an accident, causing our main character to live with the pain of what could have been ever since.

Infinite Doors is a business offering people a fresh start in another parallel world. 

What if you could live the life you were meant to live? The advertisement asks.

Dave was determined to find out. He appeared to have the entire story mapped out in his mind before we ended that show. The short we finished a few weeks later is still one of my favorites we’ve written together.

You can start reading Infinite Doors below, with the full short story (no email required) available for download below the excerpt.

Next week, you can see what Johnny and I did with the same basic premise.

Claire stood in the living room, staring at her stupid husband, Harry as she fidgeted with the bracelet on her right wrist, sliding the interconnected silver hearts back and forth, asking for strength to get through the day.

Harry was turned away from her. “Fuck you, loser!” He raised his hand and squeezed, blowing someone away in the virtual world of his war games.

“What are you doing?”

“What?” Harry clicked on the side of his glasses to kill the neural transmission connecting him to the game he wasted so many hours playing. “I’m off today. Got a cold.”

“Yeah, but I’m not, and I asked you to wake me up.”

“Penelope’s supposed to wake you.”

He’d clearly forgotten that their virtual home assistant was on the blink.

“Penelope,” Claire said, “time please.”

“The time is …” Penelope started in her usual pleasant British accent, but quickly changed into a German male, “in today’s stock news, Advanced Dynamics is up four points—”

“Penelope, stop!” Claire snapped.

She looked at the holo-window displaying a delayed video feed from yesterday morning — snow falling on the mountain landscape of Shibu Onsen, a place she’d traveled to before settling into married life. “Window, time please.”

The time appeared in faint blue letters above the mountains: 10:16 AM. At least something was working right today.

“I asked you last night to make sure I was up by 8:30. I’m taking Ms. Roberts to the doctor.”

“Ugh. Just tell her to call for a car.”

“It’s not the same and you know it. Now I need to call her and see if she found someone else, or if she’s still waiting.”

“You don’t need to do anything.” Harry walked over to Claire in his robe and kissed her on the lips. “Stay home. We’ll play hooky.”

She pulled away. “I thought you had a cold?”

He smiled. “Just a little one.”

“Sorry, but I can’t just call in sick. People depend on me.”

His boyish face withered. “Are you saying nobody depends on me?”

“You have assistants and people to help you when you’re out. But at my work there’s just me, and my absence will screw several people’s schedules.”

Her head was throbbing, thinking about Florence Roberts missing her appointment. She was only in her early fifties, younger than most of Claire’s clients, but she’d had a stroke six months ago and needed help while her wife was at work. She was a pleasant woman, and Claire hated the thought of disappointing her.

Harry touched her cheek. “It’s not like you need to work. Why put yourself through the stress? I make enough for us both. Take some time off, do things you want to do, instead of spending your life running errands for others.”

“I am doing what I want to do,” she said, hating how Harry was always dismissive of her job as a caretaker for the elderly and disabled. Sure, the pay was a lot less than a realtor’s, but that didn’t make the work any less important.

Claire did a lot more than running errands. She was helping people who couldn’t help themselves — cleaning, cooking, sometimes bathing them, and yes, occasionally running errands. But she’d argue that salary aside, her job was more important. Claire mattered more to her clients than Harry did to his. He was a means to an end, and easily replaceable. But Claire was like family to some of these people.

Yet, salary rarely matched a job’s importance.

That was something she’d learned as a teacher before giving it up after Sam’s birth six years ago. He’d been gone for a year, and staying home, alone with the pain and ghosts of what might have been had he lived, was the last thing in the world Claire needed. She’d initially gone back to teaching kindergarten, but it was too painful being around all those kids. So she took her current job — just as rewarding, but also as stressful.

“I have to call Ms. Roberts.” Claire went to their bedroom, grabbed her phone from the nightstand, and dialed Florence’s number.

She could hear Harry in the living room, the game back on, calling people losers as he killed them.

Nobody answered.

She wondered if Ms. Roberts found another ride.

Claire hung up, then looked through her contacts to find the number for Helena, Florence’s wife.

Four rings, then Claire could tell something was wrong from hello.

“Hi, Helena. It’s Claire. I—”

Helena was sobbing.

“What’s wrong?” Claire asked.

“Florence. She’s … she’s gone.”

Download Infinite Doors by Platt & Wright here.