A to Z 2016 · Creative Exercises

E is for “Evil Lies Beyond”

Today’s prompt is a creative exercise, just to flex the writer’s muscles (so to speak). It comes from an old blog post from Shelfari, which Amazon killed mercilessly after it acquired GoodReads:

Write an ominous description of the most terrifying door you possibly can.


Again, I was influenced by a book that I read in the past; this time, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. He wrote a looooooooooong, incredibly detailed description of the church door, carved with various figures that he needed his readers to know about. Mine is not so detailed, and only a couple hundred words and not seven single-spaced pages. But the carved door was a jumping-off point.

I’ve never written anything truly creepy probably in my life, so this was tough. I’ve also never really devoted a passage to pure description, so I fudged the instruction a bit and created some interaction. And holy wow, I don’t think I’ve used so many adjectives and adverbs in such a brief passage.  Probably too many…

But we all have to start somewhere, right?


Evil Lies Beyond

In a home that looks much like any home — even yours; in a room, that could be any room; there’s a wall that you barely notice. You pass the wall again and again, never noticing anything there.

And then one day, something happens, somehow — perhaps a toy skitters across the floor and hits the wall in such a way that you finally, really see it. Was it there the whole time? Or did it just appear?

You see that it’s not a wall at all, but a large wooden panel, set flush against the wall, made of a solid piece of beautifully carved deep ebony. From a few feet back, the images are lovely and sweet — almost heavenly. A lush garden, enormous flowers, trees reaching from floor to ceiling; birds of all sizes swooping around soft clouds in the skies; and scattered throughout, little children playing and frolicking with winged cherubs.

But you step closer for a better look, and you realize — nothing is what it seemed. Instead of flowers, you see grasping licks of flame; the trees, fiery columns looming over the scene. Above, winged harpies and floating wraiths scatter a sky that no longer looks calm, but disturbingly menacing. What you thought were happy children are instead joyful imps with cloven hooves dancing with demonic serpents and horrifying insects. Beneath their feet, where you thought you saw soft foliage and grass, lay the bones and terrified, howling faces of the dead and dying.

Slowly you reach out and brush an imp’s nightmarish face; the panel begins to shudder and tremble violently. As you leap back, the door becomes still once more. Suddenly, from that distance, you can see words, shaped by the monsters and the fire — a warning: “Evil Lies Beyond.”

Despite the sudden chill that blows through the room, you slowly approach the panel again; the “d” in “Beyond” looks like it’s formed around an oddly shaped hole bored into the wood. That’s when it dawns on you, it’s a keyhole. Even though there is no visible doorknob, it becomes very clear, it is an eerie and ornate door that has appeared in your home.

But where does it lead? You’re compelled to bend down and peek through the hole, to hopefully quiet the enormous feeling of dread that has begun to creep through your entire body. When you look through it —

something on the other side… blinks.



2 thoughts on “E is for “Evil Lies Beyond”

  1. Blinking doors are creepy!

    I think it needs to be established more whether the door had been there all along or if it had suddenly materialized. If it was a new thing to the house, or it was somehow revealed through a renovation, then the level of detail is great. If it was a door that’s been there unnoticed for a while…then that level of detail suggests that it’s a door that would be very noticed.


    1. I thought about rewriting it after I read through it, to make things a little more clearer. But for a first stab, it wasn’t the worst thing I ever wrote.

      I like to leave a little reader interpretation, but short answer: the door was magicked invisible until something made it visible.

      I’ll make it clearer when I do round 2 on this piece.



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