Fiction: Behind Closed Doors

An essay by Emilia O. Anthony, as provided by Johanna B. Stumpf
Art by Luke Spooner

I swipe my key card in front of the keypad and wait. A short beep and a small green light indicate access has been granted. A hydraulic hum sounds almost inconceivably, and the two metal doors in front of me slide aside swiftly.

My heels click sharply on the tiled floor as I enter through the doors and walk along the corridor. The neon lights on the low ceiling bathe the scene in merciless white light. On both sides of the hallway are more doors exactly like the one I just stepped through. No signs or markings. Just impenetrable steel doors with keypads to one side. I only have access to some of them, and sometimes I try to guess what might be behind the others. The projects, the experiments, the prototypes. On other days, these thoughts fill me with excitement, but today I’m not in the mood for guessing games.

My destination is the eleventh door on the left. I don’t have to count. I have been there almost every day in the last four months, and my feet carry me to the right door without a second thought.

I stop and swipe my key card absentmindedly. The door remains closed. Lost in thoughts as I am, it takes a few seconds before I realize the door won’t open. I swipe my card again. A red light blinks once on the keypad. My heart skips a beat. I try one more time, putting the key card carefully in front of the card reader. This time the light turns green and the hydraulic motors start humming. I step forward eagerly.

For a moment there, I was afraid. Afraid the experiment had been canceled and the room had been sealed off. I have seen it many times before. Once I arrived at work, only to find that the laboratory I had been working in had disappeared overnight. Well, technically, the room was still there. Had to be there. Somewhere in this building. Right next to this corridor. Deep underneath the earth. But the doors were gone. In the place where they used to be was just a plain wall. It didn’t even look new. That day I continued to walk to the next doors that would grant me access and started working on a new project behind them. I never asked anyone about the abandoned experiment. In a place like this, it is better not to ask too many questions.

Illustration of a scientist holding a long report printout.

For a moment there, I was afraid. Afraid the experiment had been canceled and the room had been sealed off. I have seen it many times before.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2019 collection.

Emilia O. Anthony holds PhDs in electrical engineering and computer science. Unfortunately, the university recently lost all records of her studies. The fact that her birth records went missing from her hometown around the same time is completely coincidental. The loss of her dental records is entirely unrelated and has not even been noticed by her dentist yet.

Johanna B. Stumpf is a German millennial, living and working in Norway. She is fairly new to fiction writing, but she did enough academic writing to earn a PhD in computer science from the University of Oslo.

Luke Spooner, a.k.a. ‘Carrion House,’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree, he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales, his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy, or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility, as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at

“Behind Closed Doors” is © 2019 Johanna B. Stumpf
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Luke Spooner

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