by Mark Stewart
Staring down at his feet, hands bound behind his back, he thought of all the doors he’d walked through during his life. The door to the schoolhouse he’d hated attending, a place where time seemed to come to a stop, leaving him in a limbo of confusion and pain. The door to the church where he’d exchanged vows with the most beautiful woman he’d ever met. The door to his office job, a place which had tormented him almost as much as the schoolhouse. The doors to the hospital ward where his son had been born. And later his daughter. The doors to another hospital where he’d said goodbye to his mother, after cancer had eaten her down to the bone, leaving nothing but a husk beneath the shroud-like sheets. The door to the bar where he’d shot dead the man who’d had an affair with his wife, the trajectory of a single bullet changing the vector of his own life forever. The door to the courthouse where seven jurors had taken no time at all to find him guilty, the judge’s gavel resounding on his oak desk like the slamming of a coffin lid. The trapdoor beneath his feet which even now falls open, despatching him to the end of the rope which breaks his neck in the same instant. And finally the two doors before him: adjacent, identical and unmarked. One leading to salvation, the other to damnation. Left or right?
Which one would you choose?
Mark Stewart is the author of three collections of short stories: The Screaming Planet, The Absence of Wings and Letters from an Astronaut. The first two collections, written in the style of magical realism, show the world through the eyes of some of the world’s most endangered and persecuted animals. The stories comprise an ark of sorts, offering a literary refuge for creatures that may one day exist only in story books, fables and myths.
Letters from an Astronaut is a collection of messages sent home by an interplanetary traveller on a journey through the solar system.