Some slight changes. Second chapter is under revision 8,000,002.

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There is a man in the absolute center of all things. This is not to say that it is man who has dominion over heaven and earth, time and space; nor is it implying that the dominant gender is indeed male. It is simply fact. There is a man in the absolute center, and he has been sitting in silent sentry over innumerable doors. These dark entryways stretch out without limit or ceasing into the surrounding void. Beyond these doors lies nothing, around them (save the first twelve which surround the man in the absolute center) lies nothing, but within them is held everything. Countless worlds are stored here, an individual universe tucked behind each cosmic gate. The role of the man is to watch these doors, ensuring they stay closed for all time. Should something spill out of a door, it is his responsibility to return it from whence it came. He does not peer beyond the doors. He does not move out of the absolute center lest there is an open door beyond his reach, or he is returning some stray door-ward. He does not touch the door-wards with his own hands. He does not partake of food or drink from beyond the doors. He does not speak to those who find their way beyond the doors. Above all, he does not covet the worlds within the doors. He wants nothing of them. Those are the Rules, set down before him before he thought it wise to keep track of time. He has quietly abided them, shutting and sorting doors since his memory was memory. The man does not know loneliness or hunger, fear or joy. He is nothing more than a keeper of doors. He's never thought much of his maker, or of life before the doors, if there was such a time. His world is that quick and ceaseless creaking; the shuddering of old locks and bolts. The eyes of man cannot possibly stretch across the endless world that is his, so every grunt and groan of the doors echoes in his mind. He always knows where and when a door has opened, or to which door a wayward door-ward belongs. Over time other men have stumbled out from various doors. Not permitted to speak with them, he would guide them quietly back to the portal of their world. He keeps a pole at his side of ridiculous length. With it, he moves his bewildered brethren along without ever coming in contact with them. He is able to shut many doors from his place in the absolute center.

All but one door is ignorant of his presence. That door has countless legends concerning the Keeper of the doors. He is something of a hero to them. It is one of the twelve surrounding the absolute center, and it is a beautiful door. A deep, red wood, carved with things the man cannot name. But it is a beautiful door. Of the countless, guarded entryways, it is this that pleases him the most. Every so often, this favored door creaks open, and a hand appears. The hand will wave briefly and push forth a gift for the Keeper: a plate of food, a picture, or a book. Random bits of the human world for him to gaze upon. Each time this has occurred, the Keeper has stared from the absolute center, gently smiling. When he is through, he will unhook the outer latch on the Red Door and nudge his latest gift back inside.

These things were enough to keep the man satisfied. He continued on in this way for a time, the length known (and yet unknown) only to him. But there came a day when a dark door opened and something came screaming forth. From this black, lusterless door ran a child, shrieking and crying, filling the world of the doors with her utter terror. Before the Keeper had even time to react, the child was upon him, touching him, burying her tiny, tear-streaked face into the dark folds of his shirt. The dark door had closed behind her. Her wailing did not cease for quite some time, and the Keeper did nothing but stand in the absolute center, pole in hand, staring down at the tiny thing which so desperately clung to him. Even after her cries quieted, her body shook with fear. The man was perplexed by her touch, confused by her tears. Men had stumbled through the doors before. Always confused and murmuring absently of dreams or hallucinations as he silently led them to their rightful door. Some had cried, of course, afraid of this dark, limitless place. But never with such intensity: such palpable, abject terror. And never had they sought out the man. Some even ran from him, and his task then became chasing them to their proper door.

This here should not be. For the first time in all his time, the man had broken a Rule. This child should not be here, and she certainly should not be touching him. Turning her round, the Keeper gently pushed her back towards her door, but the child refused to move. The man stepped back and tried again, nudging her forth with his pole. Still the child resisted. The man applied more pressure, pushing harder, until at last the child stumbled forward a step. Yet when he saw her wince in pain he found himself unable to drive her any further. Since the Rule of touch had already been broken, he stepped forward, placing his hand against her tiny back and went to herd her towards the door. But the child whirled round and stared him full in the face. Wrapping her tiny hands round his one she begged him to let her stay. The Keeper found himself unable to return the child to her proper door, so oddly moved was he by her wide, pleading eyes. The man did not truly know fear. He knew of it, but had never felt it, and so did not understand it. How her terror affected him he could not explain. He returned to the absolute center and sat. The child followed, sniffling still. She sat besides him, still staring with those strangely luminous eyes. It occurred to him that he had never seen a child before. It did not occur to him to question how he knew this. It had never occurred to him to question how he'd known anything at all. He simply knew and simply knowing had always been enough. This was a problem for which he did not know a simple answer. She could not remain in the world of the doors, that much he knew. The consequences of her contact with him were yet unknown, such a thing had never happened before. He'd never violated one of the Rules. He could not return her to her original door. Her terror prevented him from doing so. While the man had never lived in total apathy, he'd certainly never known a level of compassion great enough to influence him into breaking the Rules.

For the first time in all his time, the man was uncertain. The child had yet to look away from him. She seemed transfixed by his face. Timidly, she asked if he was an angel. Not knowing what an angel was exactly, but feeling no connection with this title, the man shook his head. She asked if he was god then, and again, the man shook his head. Gods he knew. He certainly was no god. For a length of time, she was silent. The child, eyes never leaving his face, asked what he was then. For the first time in all his time, the man spoke.

"I am man"

Was all he said. His voice echoed in the world of the doors. The child didn't seem satisfied with this answer, but she fell silent. The man stood and motioned towards his favorite door, the red door. But the child would not follow, the tears and fears returning to her eyes.

"It is safe"

The man said as he opened wide the door. What a strange thing his voice was, that deep rumbling in his chest. She gazed beyond it tentatively. The child looked back at him, stood, and moved cautiously toward the door. Stopping by the man, she reached for him with her child's arms and embraced him, still staring into the world beyond with her wide, curious eyes. The man gently pried her loose and pushed her through the door. For a brief moment, the man caught a glimpse of the world within the Red Door. All beyond was bright and green. He slammed the door shut and secured its singular latch. The child's laughter echoed within the emptiness. He had broken three Rules. As the man returned to the absolute center, he broke the greatest: he began to covet the world beyond the door.

The man sat, silent and still, in the absolute center. The countless doors creaked in his mind. He left some unattended for long periods, and many actually fell closed of their own accord. The mans mind was consumed with what lay beyond the Red Door: that world of blue-sky, green grass and most importantly, other men. He knew there to be men behind that door, creatures that walked as he did and spoke as he could. For the first time in all his time, the man felt lonely. He wanted to be around those other men and that little girl; he wanted to feel things as he did with her near. For the first time in all his time simply knowing was not enough. He wanted to know why, and he wanted to know how. He wanted to remember who had given him the pole. He wanted to remember why it was he, he all alone, who must guard the doors. He wondered why he felt so compelled to stay and what about that child, that tiny being had compelled him to question it in the first place.

The creaking of the doors continued, opening and closing, then opening and closing again. He did not know what would happen if he left the absolute center unattended for as long as he intended. He would learn. Placing his pole down in the absolute center, the Keeper opened his treasured door and stepped through.

It closed behind him.