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Keys to Heaven This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

There is a man standing in the underbelly of the city, handing out keys to heaven.
Nobody can remember him from before he started passing out the keys. They know that he had a name, and a childhood. When they try to look back, it’s foggy in their minds, like entire years were on days too hot to remember. He is dressed in all white. Everything around him is broken and dirty.
People too poor to afford anything crawl to him, and beg on their knees. He hands them a golden key. This small key is full of hope. It is more than they can ever afford.
In return, they lay riches at his feet. Anything they have. Everything gets set down in front of him, left to rot on the cold, damp floor. People lean down to kiss his feet, but they cannot. His dragon's’ horde blocks their way.
“I am offering you something precious.” He says. “You will never get another opportunity like this.”
And they say that the people who lay what little they have at his feet get keys with little jewels. He takes, but he gives more than they have ever been privileged to hold in their meager lifetimes.
The truly rich people will never speak his name. The truly rich people will walk above him on the walkway. They would scoff at the poor men lined up if they could, but they know that the Poor Man’s God would frown upon them. They know better than to upset the Poor Man’s God, because the wrath of a poor man would leave them hanging from a tree. They do not venture into the underbelly of the city.
One night, the man with the keys fell weak. His knees hit the pavement of the sewers. The pure white of his robes soaked through to reveal that his knees were bleeding, the same red color that the poor and the rich alike ooze from their own veins.
He cries out, and the poor men rush to save him. They offer him their own food and water, but it is not enough. The key around the man’s neck turns to silver, and a poor woman faints upon the sight. The poor decide that they will help their savior, because this is a sign from God himself.
They turn on the rich men. They turn on the rich women. They break into their houses, burn everything they love, douse all of the vibrant rugs and curtains and dresses with bleach so that everything the rich once had would be white. The rich weep at the loss of their color. The poor were too jealous of the freedom their money would buy.
The rich began to pretend to be poor. They would hide their plunder. They would never again indulge in a burgundy or a chartreuse. They would no longer be able to display their fine jewelery, jewelery that they would have likely shared with any poor man who didn’t expect them to give up all of their spoils.
They bring the keyholder bread. They bring him the finest white wines. They do not bring him the red wines, but leave those bottles broken in the street. The keyholder smiles as he takes the bread, and raises it to his lips. His key flashes and changes to a dull, rusty bronze.
The poor rally to kill the rich. They want to rid the world of the corruption. They long for their master’s key to return to gold.
As they left, they left the keyholder alone. And he froze in the city, the dampness and fragility of his age striking him down. A trickle of red ran from his mouth as his bright blue eyes lay open. His body hits the floor with a dull thud, and not a soul heard it.
And at that moment, all of their keys turned to a crisp, breakable wood.
And they knew that he was dead.
And it made no difference. Because no poor man truly believed in a heaven, anyway.




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