• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 03
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The Key is Hope

Dusk is rapidly descending. Soon nightfall will be upon us like a damp cloak swallowing everything. I do not look at the faceless – the hooded figures who stand and watch us with eyes like smouldering embers, or so I’m told. It is their duty to watch us perform the same trial; passive spectators who attempt to conceal their glee at those who fail. Many have failed before me. I do not wish to be another nameless statistic.

There is an ancient key they say, deep in the ocean, a key that is disguised somehow and is only fully revealed once the subject’s consciousness has become separated from their body. I have watched my friends succumb to the murky fathoms, the lasting image of Mikhail’s bloated body being dragged unceremoniously away in a net composed of nightmares.

‘Come now. There are others waiting.’

I toe-grip the splintered wood, the gap between land and sea no bigger than two hand spans.

‘Focus young one. Clear your head of everything you think you know. You are an empty vessel, information flows through you the same way water turns into wine.’

I hear the smile behind the words and shudder inwardly.

And then I jump, breaking the distance between success and failure, allowing the arctic water to chill every vein in my aching body. Suddenly, Mikhail’s bloated body surfaces at the forefront of my mind and my heart beats furiously away like the loudest snare drum known to man.

With a surge of strength I do not feel, I pull my way through the water, willing my limbs to fight away the numbness which seeps in. I glide through the water, the wind tugging at my hair with invisible hands until


The Key is Hope

the world around me is pure darkness, where my attention falls to my index finger which begins to glow a soft gold; its metallic sheen the only object radiating hope in this vacuous abyss. Once my eyes have adjusted, I notice that my finger is now a key with very fine teeth.

I know what I have to do.

I close my eyes and pull myself below the water’s surface. Coldness scratches away at my skin.

This will not be the end.

And then I do what is expected of me and open my eyes to a plethora of doors which come in all shapes and sizes: tree trunks, astronaut helmets, diving bells, exotic beasts and Nordic gods.

I only have one shot at this – one key to fit one lock. If I choose the wrong door...I don’t want to think about the consequences. I stare at my index finger which begins to glow a faint gold and scour the myriad doors frantically, knowing my body will soon expire if a choice isn’t quickly made.

And then from amidst the ostentatious doors, the plain rim of a porthole glows. I propel myself towards the lock and slip my finger in.

The lock does not open.