Five people sat in the office, looking down the long hallway. For the first time in nearly ten years, the door at the end was open.
"Looks nice out there," Mr. Charlton said, his desk the nearest to the opening.
"It looked nice last time too," Mrs. Andrews replied, coldly. "Doesn't mean any of us are foolish enough to go out there."
"Why is it foolish?" Ms. Nelson asked.
"You're new here," Mrs. Andrews said. "You don't know the stories."
"I have heard the stories," Mr. Charlton said. "Still, there is temptation."
"And how far have you advanced in this company?" Mrs. Andrews was five years younger than the bearded, long-haired Charlton. But she made a point of conforming to company policies.
"I'm comfortable," Mr. Charlton said, unperturbed.
"What about these stories?" Ms. Nelson asked, impatiently.
"You ever see those ads for prescription medicines," Mr. Charlton asked, "that warn of having unusual urges as side effects?"
"That is being flippant," Mrs. Andrews scolded. "Poor Mr. Dolan divorced his wife, sold his house, and moved to Wyoming."
Mr. Charlton looked at the mousy brunette in the corner. "You came back."
Mrs. Harmon fidgeted in her chair. "I'd rather not," she said. Yet as the attention focused on her, she sat back and sighed.
"What was it like?" Ms. Nelson asked.
"I did things," Mrs. Harmon said, sounding almost like a child in a confessional. "Things I should be ashamed of, but am not."
"Why did you come back?"
"How was my family supposed to accept this new me?" Mrs. Harmon asked.
"This is stupid," Mr. Cook said, angrily. "Mrs. Andrews is right."
"I guess the thing that bothers me," Ms. Nelson stated, "is why is the door there in the first place?"
"It may have had importance," Mrs. Andrews said, "early in the company's history. But that purpose has either lost its importance or has been forgotten."
"The door has been opening less frequently since computers were installed," Mr. Charlton commented.
"That would support Mrs. Andrew's opinion, then," Mr. Cook boasted. "The door is obsolete."
"The last time it opened," Mr. Charlton said, "I almost went through. Now every time I look down that hallway, I wonder, what if?"
"What if?" Mr. Cook asked, indignantly. "What if what?"
"Maybe that's something the individual has to ask," Mr. Charlton suggested.
"It isn't bad," Mrs. Harmon said, meekly. "But most people aren't ready for that much honesty. I wasn't."
"Honesty?" Ms. Nelson asked.
"We all delude ourselves," Mrs. Harmon stated. "Go out there, the delusions all disappear. Mr. Dolan saw his life was a lie and that caused his reaction."
"Mr. Dolan was a good worker," Mrs. Andrews snapped. "That is until going outside corrupted his mind."
"I'm willing to take that chance," Mr. Charlton said, standing up. He walked into the hallway and then looked back. "Anyone care to come along?" he asked.
"Maybe in a few years," Mrs. Harmon said, sadly. "Maybe when most of my family is gone."
"You're insane," Mr. Cook said, angrily.
"You trust yourself that much?" Ms. Nelson asked. "I've built a few defensive walls that I'd hate to see come down."
Mr. Charlton nodded. "I have to learn to do without them."
"Do...without..." Ms. Nelson repeated, astonishment in her voice. "I never considered that a possibility." She sprung from her desk and joined Mr. Charlton in the hallway.
They held each other's hand, and walked through the door together.