How free are we? “I am the doorway” by Stephen King is an early work. It was published in 1971, when he was just 24. For context, we’d just gotten back from the moon 2 years prior. The stories in Night Shift were gathered from this time period. “I am the doorway” was published by Cavalier (see above). I always thought that was odd not that Stephen King was getting published, but Cavalier? Cavalier was a “Men’s” magazine. I always thought that was strange and must be unique to the 1960s and early 1970s where people paired their Men’s magazines with literature and poetry. Shel Silverstein wrote poetry for Playboy. I guess that’s where The Sidewalk really ended?
The stories in Night Shift, and “I am the doorway” revolve around free will and how free we actually are by outside influence. The occult is present of course, but that’s tangential. The real meat of Stephen’s stories is always about the people living with the monsters. In these early stories, it’s the people who are the monsters. Either people are pulling their strings, life is pulling their strings, or monsters. This was his life. He was newly married, he had kids on the way, and he was working jobs from substitute teaching to laundry to meet the bills. Very few of us are free and if you think you are one of the Select, stop paying your credit card or student loan for a couple of cycles and get back to me.
The will once given up can’t be retrieved, you’re trapped like Richard in Quitters Inc.. Blood called to blood in Jerusalem’s Lot from generations forward, poking free will right in the eye. In Salem’s Lot, Ben Mears described his oddly fortuitous meeting of Susan Norton – Ben Mears’ love interest- as if the “universe were making some sort of cosmic bread.” When the will is taken away, it can be retrieved with a cost like in Jerusalem’s Lot or in this story “I am the Doorway”. The main point is that if we give into the darkness like the teenagers did in Night Surf, we are gone for good. The will itself is like origami beautiful, fragile, and unique to the individual. The will is cajoled, stolen, sold, and bought back. The will for King appears to be akin to the soul. Perhaps that’s why giving up one’s will to a higher power is so challenging and difficult to do?
“I am the doorway” is told as a first person narrative by Arthur who was an astronaut to Venus. He gets exposed to alien cooties and starts to morph…grossly. He develops eyes on his hands, which allows the aliens from Venus to see into our world. Although he is disabled, when he falls asleep, the Venusians hijack his body and make him kill with lightning bolt powers. The first victim is a child. He understands that the Venutians will invade using him as a portal somehow. Maybe he could try Atkins and get really small? To stop the invasion, he tries to burn the eyes off of his hands with Kerosene, but 7 years later, eyes open on his chest or as Stephen King would write “Sometimes They Come Back”.
Arthur can get his will back and stop the murders and the invasion, but the price will be the highest he can pay. Like Arthur, we have these external forces in our lives. Whether we are really free or not, I don’t really think so. Some will is great to be abdicated. You give some freedom for the best moments in your life: marriage and children. Both take up time and limit your freedom (no spur of the moment Vegas Trips and getting out the door can be interminable), but they complete a part of yourself that was missing and desperately needed to be found and they kinda look you and act like you, or the UPS man. Maybe giving up some of our will is the only way we can grow? Perhaps the doorway for us is to wisdom.