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Lena was undeniably trapped. She had been trapped for so long. Longer than a day. Shorter than a century, obviously. Or, at least, she hoped. She was trapped in a room, with dark stone walls and dim lighting. She had no idea where it came from. Probably from up in the pitch black ceiling somewhere. For all she knew, the ceiling could end a few inches above her head, or a few miles. She knew there was a door. A stone door with a keyhole. It had been there the whole time she was trapped. Ever since she’d decided to explore the cave she was told all her life not to enter.
But it was so pretty, covered by ivy and moss, surrounded by wildflowers, nestled in a spot by the creek where all you could see for miles was forest and all you could hear was the babbling of the creek water. But now Lena knew why it was so pretty.
To trap you in the room. The room she was in now.
She’d been exploring the cave, found a little door in the back. She’d opened the door and propped it open with a rock. She’d stepped in and the rock suddenly gave way.
Leaving her alone in the room with an ancient skeleton.
She lived off the supplies in her pack. She was hungry but not starved, thirsty but not parched. She would be fine, were it not for the keys driving her mad.
They fell once every few days, on no means of pattern. An avalanche of keys, from up in the cave ceiling somewhere. Hundreds, maybe thousands, rained down on the hard stone floor. They were made of silver, some slightly tarnished. They were long and skinny.
The perfect size to fit the door.
Try as she might Lena had never been able to pick the lock. She’d given up after countless failures and equally as countless broken makeshift lockpicks.
But every few days, the keys came down, along with the tiniest glimmer of hope.
She would scramble for them, grab as many as she could at a time, shove them in the lock, and when they didn’t fit, toss them in the corners of the cave. But the strangest thing always happened. When there was one key left to try, she’d pick it up, put it in the lock, and as she turned it, it dissolved in her clammy palms. Then Lena would hear a sound like raindrops, and turn to see that all the keys had melted into silver liquid of a water-like consistency that tasted much like warm lemonade.
Well, she had to stay alive somehow.
Sometimes she would ignore the keys. Some days she would not be in the state to scramble like a madman for the keys. She knew it would always end the same; she’d been trapped long enough to convince herself of that.
Today, though, was different.
After weeks and weeks of failure, she’d developed a strategy. She’d memorized the exact look of the last key, every tarnish, every last scratch, of the last key, the key that no doubt unlocked the door. This time she waited for all the keys to fall, then she got on her hands and knees and painstakingly combed through the hundreds, possibly thousands, of keys.
Then she saw it. The right key.
Her heart skipped a beat with cautious optimism. She gently picked it up and put it in the lock, praying to anyone and anything that it did not dissolve.
The feeling of opening the door was so surreal that she pinched herself to be sure it wasn’t a dream.
As Lena stepped back into the sunlight again, her mother called from the kitchen.
Lena saved and turned the game off.