My heart is a door. No, not just a door; a house.
A while ago, I gave somebody the key. He unlocked my door and came inside, made himself at home. He was careful to lock the door behind him, so no one else could come in.
But, one rainy day, he got tired and left, walking out through that door, and locking it behind him.
He took the key with him, and hid it in a place I was sure no other man could find.
I stayed locked up, my windows fogging up and my hinges creaking, and the inside growing musty.
The door stayed locked.
Days, months, centuries crawled past, the rainy days beating on the windows and fading the paint. I grew older in those months, much, much older. I would never find the key again, nor find other keys to other hearts…
A man found the key. He found it in the ruined ashes, and knew it by sight. He put it in his coat pocket, and kept it. He did not know how to use it.
Under the rotting foundations of my heart, another key glinted in the dark,
I knew this key; I knew it by sight just like the man knew mine. I did not know how to use it.
The man with my key trudged through the rain and snow and blood and hurt, each step unknowingly drawing him closer to the lock that matched my key.
Now, I knew how to use the key.
The day came when the man reached my door, saw the faded paint, the rotting boards, and the empty lock. He knew what to do.
He unlocked the door and let himself in, making sure to lock the door behind him.
He stood awkwardly in the doorway, unsure of what to do. He had come this far; what now?
This house creaked. These hinges squeaked, this air was musty from being locked up so long.
I had the man’s key in my hand. I knew how to use it.
I wanted to use the key. But I wasn’t sure. Neither was he.
The man stayed locked for a while. I respected the distance and kept the key in my pocket, waiting for the chance to use it.
Sometime, somehow, the key crept out of my pocket and unlocked the door of the man, click, without the man nor I knowing.
So the door stayed closed.
Until one day…
The wind screamed, the rain and sleet ripping through the nothingness and somethingness and everythingness and tearing the flesh and flooding the eyes, and…
The door opened.
Emptiness poured out, left the dwelling, making space for the future.
I am not sure.
Should I come inside and get warm and heal my wounds and drink hot cocoa and fix what was beyond the door, make it good as new?
Or should I wait?
What if someone else came and I had to leave?
The man assured me, his door would stay locked, his house would stay warm, and I would always be welcome.
But, as I spent more time there, I was noticing things. A presence.
A ghostly being haunted the corridors and wailed out an angry lament, wringing her thin hands and pulling out her hair, sending shivers up the spine of the man and chilling him to the bone.
I tried to help the man dispel of the presence, tried to give him warmth the drive the spirit out, tried to shove her away and leave more room for myself, because there simply wasn’t enough houseroom for the both of us.
The house was always cold, and so was I.
I knew the man’s story, how the spirit had once been a real thing, like me, and had once lived, alive, in this house.
But she left him, like someone had once left me, except not quite.
A part of her was still here, created by the man himself.
At first she was comforting, he said. Almost like having her there with him.
Now he wanted her to leave. But she didn’t.
She stayed, following the man day and night, dropping the temperature, mocking him, and scolding him, causing his shoulders to curl forward and his steps to become slower each day. She wouldn’t leave him alone, just when he wanted her to leave the most.
I was angry, at first. How dare the mere memory of this long-ago thing invade my shelter, leaving a trail of pain and frozen air wherever she drifts?
The man was angry too, but not at me, or even the spirit, really. He was angry at himself for creating the spirit and causing even more pain and decay and mold to grow in his house.
We didn’t know how to get rid of her, of the other him, of the rot and stench that had grown inside the man and I together.
We still don’t.
We are still cold, rocking back and forth wrapped in thin rags, watching our breath fog in the chilly air.
Someone should light the fire. That would dispel the spirit.
But we can’t.
We are afraid, the man and I.
A fire can provide warmth and light and comfort for a while, that is true.
But a fire can die. Or it can get out of control and explode, destroying everything in its path. Fire is dangerous. Fire is life.
Life is scary.
Neither I nor the man wants to admit it. We are not scared. We like the cold, we like the fog pressing in on our brains and crushing our eyeballs and wrapping silk sheets around us in a cocoon.
We must light the fire, before the silk sheets wrap too tight, before the fog engulfs us and we stumble around, lost in the dark, too tired to keep moving on, too tired to stop.
Before we freeze to death and the keys are buried under a blanket of ice and ash, never to be found again.