The door swung open and didn't shut. No one entered, no one left, yet it stayed right where it was. At this time of night, none of us could tell what was outside. There was just darkness as far as we could see, which wasn't far at all.
The first time, Simon kicked the door shut and we didn't think any more of it. Must have been a breeze, maybe a loose screw. Who cares why, the answer isn't worth the time or effort it would take to find. The vast majority of us reversed our stance when it opened for the second time, and anyone else was safely converted by the seventh or eighth.
None of us moved, none of us spoke. We could stand up, walk over to the door, and shut it again, but what would be the point? Mark had found some bricks by the side of an old bookcase - god knows what they were doing there - and stacked them by the edge of the frame. The door still opened and pushed them aside like they weren't even there at all. So we were stuck with it, with this silent darkness staring at us. We all sat cramped together against the wall, staring back.
"Hello!" Simon yelled out, and was immediately greeted with a shocked chorus of gasps. "What?" he whispered, looking at the rest of us like nothing was wrong. But even then, he waited for a good minute before continuing, almost as if he was expecting some kind of reply. When it was clear that one wasn't coming, he just said, "someone should go out there."
I wanted to speak up, to tell him that was ridiculous, to tell him that we should just stick together, because it couldn't possibly be that long til morning. But I didn't, and neither did anyone else. We were all thinking the same thing, and before we knew it, turning back towards Simon.
"Oh, oh no no, not me." He brought his hands up, shook them in front of his face, sat down even further against the wall.
"It was your idea!" said Mark, and murmurs of agreement went around the group. Simon just shook his head, backed up even harder against the wall. So Mark stood up, and took a few cautious steps over to the bookcase. With us all watching, waiting with baited breath, he opened an old book, and began ripping out pages, and scrunching them up. He threw them on the floor in front of us. "Okay, everybody pick."
Gemma reached out first, but stopped before she chose. "What are we, what is -"
"Highest page number," Mark said. "Is that a good idea?"
No one objected. Gemma picked first, Amy next, and along the line we went until it came to me. There were only three scrunched up pieces of paper left, and I held mine in my hand, resting my hand close to my chest. Nobody had opened theirs yet, so I didn't either, waiting for the choices to be made.
"Do we all have one?" A wave of nods went down the line, and we started to unwrap the pages. The paper was old and brown, I was terrified it'd rip in my hand as I tried to straighten it out. As I opened it out, I began to notice some of the words and realised that I recognized them, Mark had managed to find an old copy of Lord of the Rings. Or The Hobbit. I couldn't tell, but I knew one of those books was long and one of those books was not, so I knew which one I was rooting for.
I moved my eyes to the top of the page, and saw the number: 212. It was high, but not so high that I was without hope here. I looked around, trying to read the reactions of others, but only saw others who had the same idea.
Gemma went first. "185," she said.
We went along the line again. "124," then "15," then "208." I held my breath as we all read out our numbers in rushed tones, friends rooting against each other. My head sank when Simon read out his number, and everyone turned to me.
I looked up, and saw the door. I half thought it might have closed on its own, that in our distractions and our arguments and tensions we'd have forgotten about it and the problem would just go away on its own. But it didn't, the door was still there, as open and as dark and as empty as ever.
"It'll be fine," I said to the others, "nothing's out there. It's just a path and some leaves."
None of them said anything in response. They just sat, giving nods of encouragement, as I stepped towards the front of the room. I shut my eyes as I stuck my head out, only opening them once I felt the wind through my hair. I was fine. Everything was fine. So I breathed in, steeling myself, and took my first step outside, as the door shut behind me.