Short Story: The Key to No 43

Alice tried to remember who had given her the key. The memory seemed to dance out of reach. Strangely she could remember the rest of the day, but not that one moment.

Someone had given it to her for a reason; that much seemed clear. The heavy iron key sat on her kitchen counter and Alice perched on a stool considering what to do with it. What use was a key without a lock? On the side of the shaft, someone had etched a single number into the metal. 43. An address perhaps?

Yes.

Alice jumped and turned to look over her shoulder. The thought was definitely inside her head, but it felt so utterly alien she must have heard it. There was no one there.

“Hello?” No answer. She turned back to the key on the counter top. So it was part of an address, but there was no street name. Or was 43 the street number? 43rd Street. 43, 43rd Street?

Yes.

This time Alice controlled her flinch but a shiver still ran up her spine. Where the hell was the voice coming from? Her own thoughts did not sound so masculine, and they didn’t have such a strong British accent.

“Who are you?” she whispered. Her head stayed quiet. Who are you? She tried thinking.

Someone who needs your help.

She tumbled off her chair and backed away from the counter. Single words were one thing but that! Ge-agh, weird! Okay, okay, she needed to get a grip. She took a deep breath and climbed back onto the stool.

Why do you need my help? she thought clearly.

You are the only one who can free me. Take the key, open the door.

Each time he spoke his voice became clearer and more distinct.

Alice picked the key up. Crazy guy in her head wanted her to drive across town and open some door with a medieval key. Yeah, nothing fishy there. But, she got the strong impression he wouldn’t take no for an answer and she didn’t know how to block him from her head.

Fine, but you’d better get out of my head after.

***

The door on 43rd street was impossible. Sandwiched between a deli and a dry cleaners the tiny, drunken building looked older than Columbus. Chunky iron studs dotted a weathered oak door barely five foot high.

It certainly matched the key.

She turned the key in the lock with a satisfying clunk and then pushed the door inwards. Stiff hinges resisted. She ducked under the lintel and took a single step into the dim interior. Cool air rushed past her, gathering force until she had to strain to resist it.

Thank you said the voice in her head.

She staggered back and her heel caught the doorstep. She hit the side walk with a bump and muttered a curse under her breath. When she looked up, the door was gone, as was the wonky little house. The dry cleaners simply pressed up against the deli with no gap in between.

Alice stood and put her hand up to the line between the two properties. How could a whole house vanish?

Are you still there? she asked the voice in her head. Silence.

But, what had he meant? Who had given her the key? What exactly had just happened?

“You freed me.”

Alice jumped and spun to face the man behind her. Dust clung to his archaic long coat and ruffled shirt. He looked like he’d just stepped out of King Henry VIII’s court. Her mouth dropped open. The voice perfectly matched the one in her head. A million more questions bubbled up.

“Why me?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Fate, destiny. Call it what you will. It always had to be you.”

“Huh.”

Middle ages guy look around, eyes widening as he took in the tall city around him. A woman with a little terrier on a string frowned at them as she walked past.

“Maybe we should get you indoors,” Alice said, grabbing his arm. She’d released him, it seemed like he was her responsibility now. Oh boy.

 

Based on writing prompt 309 from Creative Writing prompts.

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