Read Look or Do Both

As we begin the second week of the Thursday Doors Writing Challenge, I am offering my first independent entry, a story based on Manja’s photo.My story was inspired by the photo she offered, but it also draws from the blog post in which it first appeared. I know there’s a lot here to read, but that post will explain a few things.

Of course, Monday is also the day I usually take part in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. This week, Cee gave us ‘Industrial’ as a topic. So, if you’d like to read my short story and continue into the photos, keep going. If you want to check out the photos and come back to the story, I understand. Click here to jump to the photo. A link back here will be posted at the TDWC page.


The opening riff from the Allman Brothers’, ‘Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More’ woke Gary Conway from a sound sleep. He awkwardly reached for his phone, partially blinded by the annoying white image announcing it was 2:13, and that his interagency counterpart, Timothy Higgen’s was calling. “Tim, what the hell? It’s two A.M.”

“It’s what you’ve been waiting for, Gary, we have a conversion. In Slovenia. It’s fresh! It occurred about four hours ago. If we move fast, we can get there before that radiation signature you’re always looking for is lost.”

Gary was sitting up. He put Tim on speaker. “OK, I’ll shower and be ready in thirty minutes.”

Tim cut him off. “No time for that. You need to be at the airport in twenty minutes. NASA has arranged a small jet transport. It’s landing at ANG as we speak. Grab your equipment and get over there. Tell the guy at the guard shack that you’re there to see Colonel Patrick.”

The airport was in Fairmont where Gary lived. The Air National Guard base was behind the airport in the next town over. Twenty minutes was more than enough time. Gary’s equipment was packed—it was always packed—and sitting in his office. He popped a K-cup in the machine and brewed a cup of dark roast straight into his travel mug. Sergeant Forbes met him at the guard shack.

“Mr. Conway?”

“Yes, I’m here to see Colonel Patrick.”

The Sergeant got in the passenger seat. “Head straight down this road. Turn right after that second building. Your transport is here; it’s being refueled and serviced as we speak. Your partner and the Colonel are waiting at the hanger.”

Gary turned as instructed. He saw Tim speaking with another man outside an open hanger. Gary looked to the Sergeant, “Where should I leave my car?”

“There’re parking spaces on the other side of the hanger door. You can leave it there.”

Gary slipped the car into the first space. Tim walked over, opened the tailgate and unloaded Gary’s bags. Gary Conway, this is Colonel Race Patrick. He’s in charge of this mission for the Guard.

“Pleased to meet you, Colonel.”

“Likewise, Mr. Conway. Your plane is almost ready.”

“No offense, but can that thing make it to Slovenia?”

“It’s a C-21, basically a Lear jet built for the Air Force. This one has been modified for NASA. It can be refueled in flight. You’ll hook up with a KC-46 returning from a mission near Greenland. That’s why the timing is critical. If you miss that tanker, you’ll have to divert and land. You’ll refuel again over an AFB in England.”

“Lear jet? Sweet. Maybe I’ll be able to sleep.”

Tim shook his head. “Not until I bring you up to speed. I think this one is real.”

Gary and Tim climbed on board the small jet. It was configured with two rows of two facing seats, with a work surface between them, and two seats in the back. Two armed airmen occupied the seats in the back. Gary greeted them, but they offered only the slightest reply. “I guess it is real,” he thought.

Tim sat down opposite Gary and began laying out a mix of papers and photos in a few different piles. “This is the door to a curio shop in Ljubljana, that’s the capital of Slovenia. Anyway, that’s what the door looked like last week.”

Gary studied the image of a nondescript green metal commercial door.

Tim slipped another photo partially over the first one. “This is what it looks like as of six p.m. yesterday.”

Manjs Green Door

Gary studied the photos. “What are you saying, the owner replaced the door and then the store was tagged?”

“No. The owner didn’t make any changes to the door. We think that’s the conversion. A transformation if you will. Also, it wasn’t tagged—that’s not graffiti—your counterpart in Slovenia thinks it’s a message.”

“What does the owner have to say about this?”

“Nothing. He’s been in the local hospital since last night. A family member in Italy was notified that he had a stroke.”

Gary picked up the most recent photo of the door. “This pattern… Do you recognize it?”

“Random triangular shapes are common throughout history. The earliest were discovered on stones near the shore in South Africa. They’re called ammoglyphs.”


“Ancient symbols? I think somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty-five thousand years. Early indication of human movement and communication.”

Gary shook his head. “Interesting, but that’s not what I mean.” He took out his phone. Tim laughed.

“You aren’t going to get a signal up here. You’ll have to take my word for the age of those symbols.”

Gary laughed. “I trust you, but I’m not talking about ammoglyphs, and we’re not looking for anything here on earth.” He turned back toward the airmen. “Do either of you have a flashlight?”

One pulled a small Maglite out of a Velcro pocket on his sleeve. “I do. You want to borrow it?”

“No, get your butt up here. I need to borrow you.”

The airman looked at his partner and shrugged. He walked up and stood beside Gary. Gary stood over the photo. “OK, I need you to shine that light on this photo from waist high.”

The airman sighed but did as he was asked.

Gary shook his head. “Narrow the beam?”

As the airman focused the light, Gary told him to continue, finally telling him to stop and hold the light as still as possible. He took several pictures of the illuminated photo with his phone. Tim rolled his eyes as he looked at the airman.

“Sorry, Sergeant. My friend doesn’t seem to know his phone has a flash.”

“I need the light at this angle. Thank you, is it Sergeant Adkins?”

“Technical Sergeant Paul Adkins. You’re welcome, sir.”

Gary opened the photo in a graphic editor. He started drawing circles inside some of the triangles with dark backgrounds. When he was done, he showed the modified image to Tim. Tim stared at the image for a few minutes.

Gary’s door

“This does look familiar, but I don’t know why.”

“It’s Voyager’s next stop.”


“It’s a solar system thought to be orbiting Proxima Centauri, one of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system.”

“Next stop? That’s two thousand times farther out than Voyager One, and the Voyagers have been traveling since I was three.”

“I didn’t say we’d be there to watch them land. My point is, I think that door was transformed into a map.”

“Gary, if the only interstellar objects we’ve been able to make are still billions of miles away, why would they draw us a map? Why would they draw it now, and why on earth would they draw it in Ljubljana?”

“I’ll spare myself your ridicule until we get there. Suffice it to say, the city has an interesting history with aliens, at least a fascination with them. We might be looking at the Area-Fifty-One of the Balkans.”

Tim chuckled. “Funny. Just don’t say that after we land. Andrej Lesjak, from the science ministry and our guide during this visit, doesn’t consider that Slovenia is part of the Balkans.”

“I’ll try not to start an international incident. Speaking of landing, I’m going to try to get some sleep before we do.”

On the ground at Jože Pučnik airport, the plane was escorted to a small hangar at the northeast corner of the airfield. Andrej Lesjak greeted them and directed them to his official car.

“Gentlemen, I know you are in a hurry. We’ll be at the store in thirty minutes. The area has been cordoned off, although our guards are drawing more attention than the door. Triangular shapes are common in the architecture around the city, and sadly, graffiti on shop doors is equally common.”

Tim introduced himself and Gary. “Thank you, Mr. Lesjak. We appreciate your taking every precaution. I should warn you; my colleague doesn’t think the markings are graffiti.”

“Please, call me Andrej, and I agree with your colleague.”

Tim sighed. “Great, two of them…” he thought. “Gary, why don’t you show Andrej your artwork.”

“Sarcasm noted.” Gary opened his phone, called up the image and handed it to Andrej. “Does that mean anything to you?”

Andrej smiled. “Proxima Centauri. I had the same thought.”

When they arrived at the site, Andrej had his driver pull onto the walk. “I think it will be best if we hide our interest in the door, at least until you conduct your tests.”

Tim was confused. “Wouldn’t it be easier to remove the door. Perhaps we could take it into the shop to study it.”

Andrej looked at Gary for support. “That would not be wise.”

Gary agreed. “We should avoid moving the door in any way. They chose this door for a reason. Its location might be critical. I can conduct my tests with it in place.”

Tim decided to let the two nerds have their moment. “Your country, your door, your decision.” He paused. “I didn’t mean to sound so defeatist. I oversee the program at NASA, but I am by no means a scientist.”

Andrej laughed. “No offense taken, Tim. I have dealt with American bureaucracy on many occasions, and I hope that didn’t sound, I believe the word is, condescending.”

They all laughed. Gary had set up his first experiment. He waved a sensor around the joints of the triangular panels. The LED bar graph readout on the device the sensor was attached to barely indicated any activity. Tim asked about the sensor. Andrej thought it might be better if he answered, having noticed the friction between the Americans.

“He’s using a magnetometer. We can’t yet detect graviton particles, and if we could, we’d need to move this door to a laboratory the size of a football field. Assuming that a lot of force was involved in rearranging the structure, we were hoping—well at least I was—that there would be a residual magnetic field from some equipment. Sensing none indicates the use of a technology beyond our science.”

Gary started inspecting the edges of the symbols and writing on the glass. “I’m trying to see if these are etched or embossed. They are so fine, I can’t tell.” He handed the scope he was using to Andrej.

Andrej studied a small symbol, a rounded rectangle with a distorted eye in the center. “The technology that made these markings is remarkable. The symbols exist within the upper atomic layer of the glass, if in fact, this is glass.”

Tim decided to play on his own ignorance. “Could the entire door have been replaced. I mean we keep thinking these things have been transformed. Could we be wrong?”

Gary studied the door before answering. “I don’t think so. The bottom panel shows the kind of wear and weathering you’d expect to see. Besides, you said the door was a normal eight-panel door before yesterday.”

Gary opened a case and turned on a different device. He began waving its sensor near the writing and symbols on the door. Andrej noticed a slight fluctuation in the display.

“I would suggest searching for a much longer wavelength.”

Gary nodded and bent down to adjust the scale. “Agreed. Perhaps in the neighborhood of twenty-nine mu-meters.”

Tim shook his head in frustration. “Mu-meters? I’m sorry, I have to ask.”


Andrej let Gary continue his scan. He quickly brought up an image on his phone. “This is pronounced ‘Mu.’ It’s the lower-case Greek letter used to designate ten to the minus sixth power, or in this case, one millionth of a millimeter. Infrared radiation occurs within a wavelength range of seven hundred and fifty nanometers to one hundred mu-meters.”

Tim nodded. “So, you think the message on the door pertains to some kind of infrared radiation?”

Gary stopped scanning. “I do, but nothing detectable. It’s not meant to be any sort of signature.”

Andrej interrupted. “Perhaps an instruction?”


Tim was totally confused. “Instructions? For us?”

Gary shook his head. “No, not for us. Glass has the ability to attenuate electromagnetic radiation. This door might be here to accept a signal. The symbols are an elaborate message. I think it’s meant for alien travelers—perhaps their descendants.”

Andrej nodded in agreement. “Some of these symbols relate to information they would have learned here. Some might relate to information passed down to them.”

Tim remained confused. “Gary, are you saying that a signal, or something like a signal in the range of twenty-nine mu-meters, will trigger something within this door?”

“Within the dark panels, yes. Perhaps this shop is aligned with a corridor of some sort, maybe a bit of folded space. The signal will either trigger something on this end or send a message to someone on the other end for them to activate their technology.”

Andrej nodded. “Most likely the glass will direct a message into space—to the planets depicted on your crude stellar map.”

Tim studied the dark panels. “If you guys are correct, if this is all beyond our technology or even our ability to understand, then what do we do?”

Andrej smiled. “We let them go home.”

Of course, if you did read my story and liked it, you can visit any of the links below to see some other things I’ve written.

If you like magical realism with suspense, action and a bit of family sarcasm, you will enjoy these books:

The Evil You Choose
When Evil Chooses You

Series page on Amazon

My profile page (and books) on Lulu

All available on Kindle Unlimited!

If you care to listen to Gary’s alarm, here’s the video.


  1. This is so cool and creative,Dan. You managed to weave an entire story based on the picture. It made me rebook at the photograph for codes. This was truly a lesson in creative writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed the story Dan you had me completely booked from the beginning…. .my type of story! I could definitely read more!

    The photo were absolutely great also. I have noticed that the description that usually comes with the gallery of photos is no longer visible but I enjoyed them anyway. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Sherry. Two of the stories I wrote for this challenge last year are being incorporated into a future book (release in 2024). I’ll have to think about what to do with this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Dan! This was quite a project. It involved quite some research! Not only you had to get the name of our airport, but you came up with Mr. Andrej Lesjak, which made me giggle. I don’t know how you did it, but he is a perfect Slovenian. :D I don’t know of any such guy at the Ministry (we are so few, each knows everybody, hihi), but what do I know? Maybe he helped you break the story… Thank you so much for all the work that went into it, and that you didn’t only use the door but my entire post as the base for your story. I shared it my sister who lives near this door and asked her to snoop around… One can never be too careful. Extremely well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Manja. I searched for Slovenia surnames and Slovenian boys names (there are lists) and combined two that I could pronounce. I have no idea how to pronounce the city name. I read that part of Slovenia is considered to be in the Balkans, but that not everyone likes that consideration. I didn’t want to offend you, so I added that bit of back and forth. I started thinking about this before you told me to switch this door for one of the duplicates I had put in the challenge. I was so glad you did that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah! You see, I read your mind. :) I wondered if you knew a person by this name or you went online. The result is perfect. As for the Balkans, I heard famous Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek say in a documentary that the border of the Balkans peninsula is actually the Ljubljanica river in Ljubljana. :D In this case the door would NOT be in the Balkans, since Trubarjeva St. in north of the river. But yes, there are different ideas about it. I’m not even sure how I lean. We live north of the river too, so that’s that. :D

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great story Dan! You have a fascinating imagination!

    That first picture …where did you find such a ginormous Reese’s Pieces, on a stick no less?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ginger. I’m glad you liked this story. I’m still laughing at the Reese’s Pieces comment. That gear is being used as garden art at an old mill building (recently transformed into a restaurant). At least it is until Judy drives down and steals it ;-)


  5. An enjoyable read, Dan! It is a perfect story for this intriguing door.
    Excellent photos all. Love the plane, crane and the bridge images. The lighting is superb!
    P.s. your story reads like a great start to another book series…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan–this was wonderful! I was reading and thinking of MuMu and ET!
    That Death Calendar–OSHA would have had a fit with that. What a horrible thing that the county didn’t learn a thing from all these deaths. You can take the girl out of risk management, but you can’t take risk management out of the girl! 😮

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lois. I think MuMu would have hitched a ride. Certainly MiMi, her more adventurous sister would have. The Death Calendar shocked me when I first saw it. I think of it now as states are rushing to lower the age limit on child labor. My wife never worked in risk management, but she’s forever checking things in my shop and whenever I’m working outside.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Last night on 60 Minutes, they had a report about 13-year olds working in slaughter houses. Then there are 10-year old working in McDonalds?! Please let’s let kids be kids. This is nuts.
        Glad your wife checks on you. You know that old saying, ‘Safety is no accident.’

        Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great ending line! Yes, it LOOKED long, but it didn’t READ long — and that’s a big difference. What a very interesting interpretation of the door. The tributes to industry certainly took me back to my early life, except you had more close-ups. The death calendar is very sobering; we can look at how many did so much, but sometimes we forget how many lost so much. You know I loved the view from the trestle!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked this, Maureen. The death calendar is scary. That’s are part of the industrial revolution people don’t often talk about. I figured you would like the trestle photo.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Teagan. The photo had so much going on, I had to find a way to use the symbols. Cee’s challenge was right up my alley. I have so many photos of industrial stuff. I hope your week is off to a good start.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great story! You could be a writer for a new Twilight Zone. Incorporating the door into the story was brilliant (of course), and your gallery of industrial photos is impressive. Thank you, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a wonderfully inventive story! It brings up the whole concept of the fact that THEY might already be here. And I loved your pictures, especially the one along the train tracks over the water. Great shot.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You have an imagination, Dan! Wow! I couldn’t have pictured that story going with that door no matter how long I stared at it. Yet you made it look like the picture was created for the story instead of the other way around. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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