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Ivy and Roses
The ground blurs underneath my feet as I race over the field, my feet pushing hard over the dry patches of wintertime ground. Cold dry air stings my face and my lungs begin to cramp with pain as I pile the pressure onto my legs, desperately sprinting to put distance between myself and my pursuer. As the exertion becomes increasingly painful, I close my eyes and bite my lip, putting down my head and fiercely pushing back thoughts of pain. I cannot afford to stop moving. I am so frenzied in my attempts to escape that the shouts of my name and calls of warning float past my head, unrecognized by my singularly focused brain. I am so preoccupied in keeping my legs working that I do not see the great stone wall in my path – do not see its existence, in fact, until my body slams into it with crippling force.
I open my eyes, and see a clear blue sky. The air is hushed and silent; the shouts and footsteps have vanished. The clouds have disappeared along with the chilly breeze, the sun shining brighter than is possible in the northern winter. The grass around me is softer than a dream, satiny, silky, floating gently around my shape like feathers made of air. The pain that should have been nearly killing me from my impact with the wall and the sprinting expedition is nowhere. No living being has ever felt as painless, as purely heavenly as I do now. I lie for a moment in the feathery carpet of grass, luxuriating in the sensation of complete and utter peace. However, after only a few minutes of breathing in the oddly scented yet refreshing air, I feel the urge to stand.
This place feels familiar.
As I stand, I notice there is no grass around me; the ground is covered in ivy. The enclosure is fully blanketed in ivy; thick, deep green ivy with glossy leaves, growing so rampantly I cannot see my feet beneath the layers of vines, more perfectly shaped than I imagined nature was capable of. Not a single leaf is browned, missing, or wilted; not a tendril out of place. More perfect ivy could not be found in the grandest king’s garden or under the greenest thumb alive. It climbs up the walls and spills over the other side. It’s impossible to fathom what might be on the other side; the place is so strange and fantastical, it could be anything. Perhaps it is only fields and fields of ivy, stretching on towards eternity. Possibly is it simply emptiness, a vast expanse of nothingness. It may well be that the blue sky and sun cover an 8 by 8 dimension, and the rest is an empty vacuum. Or perhaps…perhaps it is less than nothing. Perhaps this tiny little room of ivy is the entire world. I try to imagine it. An entire world, an entire universe, made up of nothing but four small walls. But oddly enough, I am not curious in the slightest. I feel no urge to peek over the walls and have a glimpse of what lies beyond. I do not worry that I might be trapped forever in a tiny universe filled with ivy. There is something in the scent of the air, washing through my lungs and spreading throughout my bloodstream, that reassures me that all is right with the world. Everything about the tiny little room is the way it is meant to be; everything from the perfect shape of the ivy leaves to the exceptionally flawless hue of the bright blue sky remind me that nothing could ever go wrong here. I wonder briefly if I’ve died, and this is heaven, but presently disregard the theory. I came here for a reason, to serve a purpose. This is a quest for me to partake in, not an afterlife for me to live in. I trail my fingers along the glossy leaves, smooth enough to have been coated in human-made varnish, and turn around.
In front of me is a small, white door.
I don’t see how I possibly could have missed it. In a universe the size of a walk-in closet, one would think it might be difficult to overlook a door that takes up a substantial chunk of the entire world’s surface area. And yet, like the grass underneath me being replaced with a carpet of ivy, this inexplicable appearance does not surprise me. There is magic in this place; I sense it. It tickles my throat and caresses my fingertips and makes my hair stand just barely on end. The air is perfumed with a scent like flowers, but crisper, less sweet and ever so subtle, as if it is less of a fragrance and more of simply a part of the air. The scent of magic. The scent of magic, of fantasy, of spells and mythical things. I inhale deeply, taking it in. I’ve smelled oranges and roses, green tea and dirty socks, rotted eggs and sugared bacon, paint and plastic and full rows of perfume. I’ve smelled sweet and tart and putrid and sickly, but never before magic. It is not pleasant, but it is beautiful. Filled with mystery and promise, and saturated with irresistible enticement. In a world so filled with the strange scent of magic, ideas of abnormal and strange are turned on their head. The impossible becomes the expected, and what was once normal could never exist.
People often say that scent is the sense most connected to memory. This fact has always been among the most truthful things ever said, but as I breathe in magical fragrance it escalates to a unthinkable level of accuracy. I’ve often smelled a candle and been reminded of two summers ago, or smelled bubblegum and thought of last Halloween, or smelled coffee and been taken back to that vacation in Florida, but the strange sense of familiarity has never struck me harder than it does now. As I breathe in magic, entire lives I’ve lived and died rush in through my nose and dance through my brain. With every breath, handfuls of black typed words rush in and out of my mind. Cuts and blurbs of books and stories and writings, every book I’ve ever read. Books and stories from my babyhood, from far before I could possibly remember, come back to me. Memories, déjà vu, sudden realizations, and nostalgia swirl inside my mind. Above all else nostalgia takes hold as I am reminded of my only true childhood memories: my storybooks. I long to return to the time of innocence, magic, fantasy. I long to once again live in a world where everything is real, where everything is true, and lies are only uncovered. I stand and longingly gaze at the small white door.
I realize now what is beyond the ivy covered walls. This is a universe of passageways, a universe filled with doors. Beyond these four walls are more walls, more enclosures, more doors. But only this one is meant for me. Right here, right now, I face one door, and no other passageway in all 10 dimensions of reality could possibly matter.
The door is old and brand-new. The wood has an aged look to it, but the snow-white paint is absolutely immaculate, not a single chip or peel. A very faint, almost unnoticeable imprint of roses is painted around the handle. The gentle arc of the door is framed by a thicker, more bushy layer of ivy, with vines of roses winding through, as though supported by invisible metal structures. These roses, like the ivy, grow with a natural perfection; not a single blossom wilted or browned, not a single leaf out of place. The blossoms are shaped with flawless symmetry and a deep flourish, growing larger than most, with distinct coloring straight from a master’s portrait. They have thorns, layers and layers of thorns. Small thorns, with a delicate quality, but fearsomely sharp for it. These roses are the keeper of the door, not the decoration.
I face the door, and the door faces me. It waits patiently to be opened. The simple, white, wooden door contains human qualities so distinctive, I can feel it watching me. I am meant to open the door, I know. There is no question of my purpose; I have clearly been brought here to open the door. Ivy and roses, ivy and roses. Why ivy and roses if the door is not meant for me? I step closer.
The door cracks open. Just a smidge. Through the sliver of opening, I can see the world beyond. The scent of an enchantress’s potion wafts through, a mixture of lavender, rainy desert, and rotten roses. The faint notes of a mermaid’s song woven into the breeze, holding tones of longing and invitation, ringing with the most seductive power. A ray of sunshine, golden as a precious metal and brighter than the hottest desert, yet cool and lusciously fine to the skin.
I am an inch away from the door. I am close enough to smell the flowers talking and hear colors in the wind. The dimension of fantasy, the world of fairytales and storybooks, lies beyond. Pages from books woven throughout my history, images of fantasy movies from my childhood and beyond, every word, note, key of magic and wonder and supernatural things, exists beyond a rose-guarded door of snow white paint. Towering castles hiding the secret witch, golden hair a mile long, ruby red lips meeting in the embrace of love to break through the bonds of evil. The world that, to a younger version of me, was the only world that existed. The world that I had lived in, outcast by other humans but embraced by the fantastical creatures and characters. Holding my breath, I reach for the handle, ready to unlock the world that I’d yearned for since I left behind my fairytales for the harsh reality of life.
My fingers brush the handle, and the door slams shut. Frantically, I pull on the knob with all my might, but to no avail. I panic, desperate to reach the other side, desperate to escape the fierce claws of life, reaching out with all my heart and mind to the world beyond. I yank and thrust on the bronze handle, crying out with the pain of a broken soul, tears streaming down my face, tightly contorted in the wild desire to open this door. My dreams lay beyond. My dreams, my hopes, and my life are hidden behind the tightly locked door, within an inch of my grasp, but barred from me by an impenetrable barrier.
I slam my fists on the door, sobbing faster and harder than the crystal-clear river flowing in the world beyond. I beat on the faintly rose-embroidered surface, throwing my pain and frustration and ferocious want and need into the tauntingly pristine white door. The wood refuses to dent, refuses to budge, refuses to move an inch. The ivy walls begin spinning around me, taking me away from the only world in which I’ve ever felt happiness. The bronze knob that I clutch onto with all my might melts away underneath my fingers, as I am dragged, kicking and screaming, from my only true home.
The grass underneath me is patchy and dry. The sky is dimming, with clouds visible around the horizon. The air smells putrid, disgusting, compared to the sweet fragrance of magic from the ivy-filled room. Footsteps thud around me, and I hear the voices of disdainfully ordinary mortals.
A week later, I am at home on the couch with my boyfriend. The memory of the incident is still sharp in my mind. It will never fade, I know. I will never forget that snow-white door. I will never forget the ivy and roses.
“So, what movie do you want to watch?” he asks. I think for a moment, although the answer is clear.
“Let’s watch a fairytale.”
Somewhere in a dimension far from reality, a bronze lock in a snow-white door clicks open.