BEHIND THE DOOR
Kathy Ryan #1 by Mary SanGiovanni
Genre: Horror Pub Date: 8/28/2018
Occult specialist Kathy Ryan returns in this thrilling novel of paranormal horror from Mary SanGiovanni, the author of Chills . . .
Some doors should never be opened . . .
In the rural town of Zarepath, deep in the woods on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, stands the Door. No one knows where it came from, and no one knows where it leads. For generations, folks have come to the Door seeking solace or forgiveness. They deliver a handwritten letter asking for some emotional burden to be lifted, sealed with a mixture of wax and their own blood, and slide it beneath the Door. Three days later, their wish is answered—for better or worse.
Kari is a single mother, grieving over the suicide of her teenage daughter. She made a terrible mistake, asking the powers beyond the Door to erase the memories of her lost child. And when she opened the Door to retrieve her letter, she unleashed every sin, secret, and spirit ever trapped on the other side.
Now, it falls to occultist Kathy Ryan to seal the door before Zarepath becomes hell on earth . . .
In the town of Zarephath, Pennsylvania, just past the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border and northwest of Dingmans Ferry out by the Delaware Water Gap, there is a Door.
Many stories about it form a particularly colorful subset of the local lore of the town and its surrounding woods, streams, and lakes. Most of them relate the same essential series of events, beginning with a burden of no small psychological impact, progressing to a twilight trip through the southwestern corner of the woods near Zarephath, and arriving at a door. Numerous variations detail what, exactly, must be presented at the door and how, but ultimately, these stories end with an unburdening of the soul and, more or less, happy endings. It is said “more or less” because such endings are arbitrarily more or less agreeable to the individuals involved than the situations prior to their visit to the Door of Zarephath. More times than not, the “less” wins out.
There are some old folks in town, snow- and storm cloud–haired sept and octogenarians who sip coffee and people-watch from the local diner or gather on front porches at dusk or over the counter at Ed’s Hardware to trade stories of Korea and Vietnam, and in one venerable case, World War II, and it’s said they know a thing or two about that door. The old-timers remember the desperation of postwar addictions and nightmares and what they used to call shell shock, of families they couldn’t help wearing down or beating up or tearing apart, despite their best efforts to hold things together. They remember carrying burdens, often buried but never very deeply, beneath their conscious thoughts, burdens that crawled their way up from oblivion and into nightmares and flashbacks when the darkness of booze or even just the night took over men who had once been children and who were expected to be men. They remember late-night pilgrimages through the forest on the outskirts of town, trekking miles in through rain or dark or frost-laced wind to find that door, and lay their sins and sorrows at its feet. And they remember that sometimes, forgetting proved to be worse.
The old women too remember bruises and battered faces and blackouts. They remember cheating husbands and cancers and unwanted pregnancies and miscarriages and daughters being touched where they shouldn’t by men who should have protected them. The old women remember the Door in Zarephath being a secret, almost sacred equalizer that older women imparted to younger women, a means of power passed from one group whose hands were socially and conventionally tied to another. And they remember watching strong women fall apart under the weight of that power.
And these old folks remember trying once to burn the door down, but of course, that hadn’t worked. The Door in Zarephath won’t burn because it isn’t made of any wood of this earth, anything beholden to the voracious appetite of fire. It had an appetite of its own that night, and no one has tried to burn it down since. Rather, the old-timers have learned to stay away from it, for the most part, to relegate the knowledge of its location and its promises to the same dusty old chests in the mind that the worst of their war stories are kept. There’s an unspoken agreement that as far as the Door in Zarephath goes, the young people can fend for themselves. While the folks in Zarephath won’t stop a person from using the Door, they aren’t usually inclined to help anyone use it. Not in the open, and not just anyone who asks about it. Behind some doors are rooms hidden for good cause in places human beings were probably never meant to know about—rooms meant never to be entered—and the old folks of Zarephath understand that for reasons they may never know, they were given a skeleton key to one such room. There’s a responsibility in that, the kind whose true gravity is maybe only recognized by those with enough years and experience and mistakes left behind to really grasp it.
People often say the old-folks’ generation were stoic, used to getting by with very little and largely of a mind frame not prone to histrionic anxiety or useless worry. People say it has to do with surviving the Depression and growing up in a simpler, more rugged time. But for the old folks in Zarephath, the strength of their fiber comes from what they remember—and from what they have come to accept forgetting. It comes from what they no longer choose to lay before the Door.
Mary SanGiovanni is the author of the Bram Stoker nominated novel The Hollower, its sequels Found You and The Triumvirate, Thrall, Chaos, Savage Woods, Chills—which introduced occult security consultant Kathy Ryan—as well as the novellas For Emmy, Possessing Amy, and The Fading Place, as well as numerous short stories. She has been writing fiction for over a decade, has a masters in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University, and is a member of The Authors Guild, Penn Writers, and International Thriller Writers. Her website is marysangiovanni.com.