I woke up this morning with my finger in the shape of a key. The kind with teeth and a notch at the end, except this one was still the same pale flesh as the rest of my hand.
I sat still in bed, my tea growing cold, a euphoric nausea swelling in me.
I’d been warned that I would feel this way. Ignore all feelings and follow your instructions, they’d said.
You see, I’ve always known the key was coming. You may be wondering what sort of person I am, and if you should be reading this story at all. Even if it’s not your sort of story, I ask that you see me to the end.
I live in the top story of a manor with a garden bigger than the sky. At least, I’ve never been to the end of it, and I’ve tried. The garden tumbles and twists around pools and fruit trees and bushes always laden with flowers. I follow a different path every day, but I never reach my goal: the gazebo.
But today, today, I thought I would find it. I wore my gloves (thank Heaven it’s chilly) and began to look at once. Miss Prism frowned in her gopher way—teeth out front—but she didn’t call me back.
I followed the path that first caught my eye, through a drooping orchard, past a tiny brook, and across a small meadow of blooming mums. Beyond them, shadowed by willows, I found it.
The windows were all blocked. I held my breath at the doorstep, too scared to look back in case Miss Prism was rushing my way. The keyhole held dark shadows, a familiar shape. I held up my finger, a sharp knife in the other hand. My final chance: obey my instructions and cut the key finger away (it would vanish, they said, and a stump would remain. A small sacrifice.), or slide the key into the hole and turn.
Unlock the door that had been sealed centuries ago.
I dropped the knife into my pocket with a sharp laugh. I’d always given the right answers, but from the beginning, I’d known what I would do.
My key slid into the shadowy hole, vibrating through my body. The lock clicked and the door burst open, tossing me aside. A cloud of gossamer wings burst forth, cries of joy flooding the air. My smile stretched wider.
I’d brought the fairies back.
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