The old man stood in front of the giant ebony door and sighed. He had stood there day in and day out for years, but on this day everything seemed to crash down on him. He felt irritated and uneasy. It just wasn’t his day and he wished they had called and told him to stay home. He looked at the door. He could vaguely see his reflection through it. His black suit made him look even older than the wrinkles on his head. He never did understand why he decided to wear a suit every day. He supposed when he started he felt he had a purpose. Now, it just made him stand out from the others who wore t-shirts and flip-flops. That’s probably why they never assigned anyone else to work with him, he often thought. He’s always worked alone. He looked away from his reflection, noticing after all of these years that his door never had a door knob. It had a simple silver handle that he used to pull the door shut and a lock placed inside of the door that kept the door from swinging back open. He always had to make sure the door was locked before he could leave. He had never questioned this, even on this day.
He looked up and down the hall. Several doors, just like his, ran along both sides, leading up and down until they ended under a sign that said “exit”. There were no decorations or gaudy designs ornating the walls, just doors, with the name of each department written in on them in metallic silver-blue lettering. Every door but his, which he was convinced was done on purpose, as if someone was playing some cruel joke on the one department where things went when they were supposed to be forgotten but never actually were.
His shaky hand reached into his pocket and pulled out an old-fashioned skeleton key. When he started his job many years previous, he was told to hold onto this key for dear life. He was told that it would become his most sacred possession. He was still waiting for those feelings to happen. He wished most days to lose it so he’d have a reason to not come into work. He wished someone would steal it so he could be rid of it. He didn’t care for the key. He looked at it, his feeble hand struggling to bare the weight of such a simple thing. He turned it in his fingers, hesitated, turned it again, and put it into the lock. As the door unlocked, it cracked open without a sound. To his knowledge the hinges had never been greased or maintained. It should stick closed or be in some sort of disrepair, but day after day, it silently slid open, waiting for him to enter. He stood there, thinking the same thing he often thought these days, “do I really have to go in”. Sighing, he stepped into the darkness, making sure to grab the key and put it in his pocket.
The first thing he did was lock the door. He then felt the outside of his pocket to make sure that his key was in there, he wasn’t allowed to let anyone into his room. Grumbly, he thought of how different he must be to everyone else. Next to the door was a small, wooden table. It was painted black, which he thought fit the room perfectly. He placed his few belongings on the table and sat down in simple wooden arm chair. He sat in complete darkness, listening to himself breathing, trying not to think about the task at hand. As he sat in the blackness he’d sometimes close his eyes and listen. If he strained his ears hard enough he could faintly hear into the room next door and pretend that he was with them. He could hear them laughing as something funny would happen or gasp in anticipation as something surprising occurred. He could even hear them cry together, when something terrible was going on. They had each other, and when he sat there in the darkness, he could feel as though he was a part of them. But, then his undertaking would beckon and he’d be forced to return to the blackness.