the key

For a long time I never thought too deeply about the true predicament my family had stumbled into the moment my sister took that key off the mantle in the guest bedroom, but the morning I woke up with unmeltable frost clinging to the underside of my calves in strange curling vine patterns, I knew I would have to do something about it.

*

My name is Monica. I like lots of wind, very little rain, and no direct sunlight at all. It gives me headaches. I haven’t found the perfect place to live yet, but then, I haven’t had much choice seeing as I’m only 14 years old and still live with my parents. My older sister is the one who stole the key. I knew what she was doing but she didn’t. She couldn’t have, her hair is red and it is common knowledge that redheads don’t Dream, they have other special skills. I can Dream because my hair is whitegold and straight as starlight. It was in a Dream that I found out about the key and the gate it would open. My sister just wanted the key for some strange sewing project she had in mind, something about a necklace and real lace. Her friends would love it and it would catch the eyes of the young man she had hers on. I thought it was dangerous. She wouldn’t listen, of course.

In my Dream, these are the things that happened:

First, I was floating above a great lake looking down at strange swirling patterns on the surface. I realized it was frozen and the patterns were lines of frost. I floated down from where I was observing and reached out a finger to touch the frozen lake when a tug on my belt – for I was now wearing a white belted robe – pulled my finger away just before contact. I was not startled, only curious. I turned to look at what had interrupted me when things shifted in a tilt of shadow and color and I was in a new place.

Second, as I looked around this new place I realized I was standing quite firmly on the ground in a patch of carefully groomed tulips which had, instead of vibrantly colorful petals, only grey. I looked up at a slight stir in the air that means someone has just entered or exited a room and saw a young man with cloudy eyes the same color as the tulips. His presence chilled me a little and the feeling was doubly disturbing when I saw a young woman, nearly identical eyes entering my vision from the other side. I was alarmed at a sudden feeling that they were trying to “get me.”

Third, I felt that tug on the belt of my robe again and the scene changed once more, thankfully dragging me away from those two. I was lying on my back or, rather, floating on my back a little above a cot that was sitting on the top of a grassy hill. I felt as if I had just woken so I sat up, turning to put my feet on the sunlit grass next to the bedside. Everything was calm, still. Peaceful. A prickle, like a cool shadow brushing its fingers along my neck caused me a thrill of fear so potent it was very unlike a dream at all and I was afraid, again, in that moment that I had woken in some strange dimension. I sat very still, listening. It was then that I felt a heavy, cold weight in the palm of my right hand. I looked down and saw a great whitegold key sitting there, beautifully intricate. I knew what I needed to do. At once, I leapt to my feet, turning to face the threat head on, right in the middle of its pounce toward me. I knew what would be waiting for me, and though the form of that cold Two was different, I recognized it. Cold, grey, ice. Throwing my left arm in the air, I reached for strength from Somewhere and it came. I threw my arm forward, pointing with a fateful gesture, commanding the cold Thing to obey me. It fought back until I brought forth the beautiful key in my right hand, at which gesture it flinched back terribly, howling in recognition. I swept my left hand in front of me as if closing a great door, and suddenly one was there, shutting out the icy cold threat. A perfectly matched keyhole sat in the center of the door, at my eye level so I raised my key to it, slid it in, and turned until a great resounding gong sounded out across the grassy hills. All this felt like hours, though it could only have taken a few moments I am sure.

I did not realize I had been yelling until I woke myself from the Dream.

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