Can You Keep a Secret? by David LaPointe

“Can you keep a secret?” I asked Carol.

“Sure! What is it?” she responded smiling, with a sidelong glance.

“It’s really big. This isn’t like when you were a kid and a neighbor kid had a secret hideout. This isn’t like that. This is even bigger than national security. The fate of the world is at stake here.”

“Oh, come on! What could you possibly know that’s such a big deal as all that? You exaggerate everything. Did you write a new short story? Did you get a publishing contract?”

“No. I created something … and I’d like to show it to you, but it’s a really big deal, and I can only show it to you if you promise to never tell anyone about it. No matter what the cost, you can’t tell anyone. Millions of lives depend on your silence. Can you handle that?”

“Um, O.k., sure.”

“You know that before I became a writer, I worked with a lot of physicists, and that I was educated in physics myself. I saw something then that no one else understood. Those short stories I write seem like science fiction, but they’ve actually happened! Because they’re so unbelievable, I market them as fiction so no one questions my sanity. You’ll understand when you see what I’m about to show you.

We drove to my home as I explained, “My house looks to be an average house, even small, when viewed from the outside. But, it’s just a shell. The inside of my house isn’t inside it.”

“What do you mean? That doesn’t make any sense at all,” said Carol.

“Wait until you see it. You’ll understand, more or less.” It was a big decision for me to trust her with my secret. Marriage is a big step even for normal people, but I wasn’t normal, and I couldn’t propose to her without showing her my secret.

“We’re almost there,” I told her as we came around the corner. Then we drove into the driveway.

When I opened the door, she said, “It looks pretty normal to me. What’s the big deal?”

We walked in and I closed the front door behind us, shutting out the blowing snow, and the bright winter daylight. When we turned around, she saw what looked like a normal mirror on the back of the door.

“This is where things get interesting,” I explained. Then, I said to the mirror on the back of the door, “Mirror, mirror on the door, whatever are you looking for?”

It replied, “I seek the key to another land, so reach to me your noble hand.”

As I reached out, the reflective surface of my door swam and I walked through. When I came back through to Carol, she didn’t know what to say. She just stood there with her mouth open.

“The door is smart. It knows my voice and it can learn other people’s voices, too. Want to try?”

“Where do you go when you go through?”

“That’s the bedroom door if you go through the mirror. Of course, if you use the knob, it lets you back outside the house. Via the knob, it’s just a normal door. Door: enter command mode.”

“Done,” it replied.

“Door, meet Carol.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Carol. Please say, ‘Mirror, mirror in the door, whatever are you looking for?’”

She said it, and the door responded, “I’ve learned your voice now. Please touch my surface with the palm of your hand,” which Carol did.

It answered, “Thank you. I have now learned your genetic signature. Would you like to go through now?”

“Yes, please.” Carol then repeated the rhyme, looking back and forth between me and the door unsure what exactly was going on, and then touched the door again. The glass swam and she stepped through into a warm but dark room. Then, I joined her.

“What happened to the daylight? That sky is beautiful. What a view! I’ve never seen so many stars! Is the whole ceiling made of glass?”

“Yes. That’s what I was trying to tell you about my doors and about how the inside of my house isn’t inside it. That door teleports me to my bedroom. This way, I can make my house as big as I want without having to buy more land or pay more taxes. I put several of the rooms of my house on other planets. This room is on a planet where the atmosphere is very thin, and this side of the planet is always pointed away from the sun. So, anytime I want to sleep, it’s always night time. I get to see more stars than anyone on Earth will ever be able to see. This has a lot of advantages, but do you see why no one else can ever know about this?”

My dog, Alice, rubbed up against my leg. I pet her as Carol considered my questions. “Are you telling me you’ve created a teleportation device and you only want to use it so you can have a permanently starry sky and to avoid taxes?”

“No! I like both those things, but that’s not the point. Imagine what the military applications of something like this would be! If you could teleport troops in wherever you wanted without any warning, or weapons (think bombs and assassinations), it would be enough that a strong leader really could rule the world. It would be terrible. No one would ever be safe again. Do you see how dangerous it could be?”

“Sure, it’s dangerous. What happens if a fly comes through right when you do? Will you get turned into part man part fly?”

“I’m not kidding around here! I’m not talking about that type of thing at all! Will you be serious for a minute?”

“Of course, honey. I’m sorry. No, silence is fine. I like starry skies, too. Is that fly thing just not an issue, though? That does seem scary to me. That movie gave me nightmares.”

“No. It’s a portable worm-hole generator. It doesn’t dematerialize you like in ‘The Fly’. The bigger danger is that we have to do everything ourselves. There isn’t anyone here to help us build anything. There aren’t any nasty monsters outside or wars going on around us or anything bad like that. It is just a very, very good place to sleep. We are more alone here than anywhere on Earth.”

She laid down on the bed and said, “Well, I’m not really tired right now. And, you’ve given me a lot to think about. It seems like an awful lot of work to just get a nice starry sky and some quiet.”

“Have you ever had to live really close to your neighbors?”

“No. I’ve always lived in the country. My nearest neighbor was hundreds of yards away from my house. Why?”

“My last house was so close to a neighbor that if her phone rang, I had to think about who’s ring tone it was, because it sounded like it was ringing in my own house. Then there are the many noises people make at night that I don’t want to hear! We’ve talked about having kids. When they’re still little, do you want to explain what those noises are?”

“I can see how being farther from your neighbors could be a good thing. The one thing I didn’t like about being out of town was that it always took a long time to get anywhere.”

“Right! I have that problem solved, too. My house is right in the city, but when you want to go to sleep, you just step through the door, and you can have one of the most beautiful views possible without a space ship. Go through another door and we can cook and clean up while looking out at a tropical paradise! (The kitchen is on a different planet: very beautiful, but completely different.)”

Alice was pawing at the mirror when Carol got up and said, “Well, for now, I have to get going. This is a lot to consider. It’s amazing, but I don’t know if I want to live like this. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

When Carol left, Alice wasn’t quite fast enough to get into the portal before it closed. She barked for a moment. I had flopped on the bed when I heard water hitting something metallic. I looked up and saw the door’s power supply start to smoke and crackle. Alice jumped away from the door and the mirror-like surface dissolved leaving a blank wall in its place.

All my food and water were in the kitchen. I had spare parts there and instructions for what to do if the teleporter broke. All those things were on another planet. My bedroom suddenly became a prison. Carol couldn’t call: I didn’t exactly have cell phone service on this planet. I hope Carol thinks to come back over and isn’t upset when I don’t answer the phone.

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