Audrina Millicent Fairfax the 3rd lived in a nondescript house at the end of a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a small hill in a town that lacked a library. She was not old, nor young, but had lived an average number of years. The carpets in her house were beige and the walls were painted a hue called 'eggshell'. She owned a clock that ticked loudly in her kitchen, but she never heard the ticking since her brain had long since tuned it out. Quietness sat in the house like an important, imperious guest. Audrina herself often dressed in khaki 'slacks', and wore sports socks. Her shirts always had buttons. She parted her hair on the left side, and got it trimmed every three months, and while it was being trimmed, she enjoyed the sound of the scissors snipping. It was one of the few things she truly enjoyed.
Her life was very ordinary until one day when a small key appeared on her kitchen counter. At the time she was baking cookies--sugar cookies, because they were plain and Audrina felt comfortable with plainness. She cracked an egg, emptying it into a dark bowl to check for elusive bits of shell, and turned to put the empty shell halves in the sink, and when she turned back, there was the key, a dull, aged bronze, that sat between the egg bowl and the whisk. Its sudden appearance hit her consciousness like a brisk wind in November.
Audrina quickly washed her hands and scooped up the key. She examined it against the light of the window. It seemed ordinary enough, but was not the least bit familiar to her. She decided to dismiss it and chucked it into the junk drawer.
She slept terribly that night, dreaming of doors and locks, and slept terribly the rest of the week (and she avoided the junk drawer) but the feelings of dread and uncertainty at the root of it all slowly subsided. She forgot about the key.
One day, a few months later, she was reading quietly on her beige sofa with her legs tucked under her. She had a cup of coffee sitting on the table beside her (polluted with a copious amount of skim milk). She picked it up without looking and sipped--and when she went to put it down again, there was the bronze key, sitting innocently in the center of the coaster. Audrina bolted up, spilling the coffee all over the carpet--she stared at the key, her heart thumping a latin rhythm. She snatched it up and ran into the kitchen. She found a roll of packaging tape, and wrapped up the key with it, then pulled off an additional length and used that to affix the bundled key to the bottom of the junk drawer. When she was done, she slammed the drawer closed for good measure.
This time the dreams and the dread didn't subside. It was not a coincidence; it could not be, she could not have misplaced the memory of ever owning the key, let alone placing it in those spots. She began to start the day with sagging skin under her eyes and her hair pointing in odd directions. One morning she was trying to run a brush through her hair with much struggle and pain, when the key popped out of the mirror, right in front of her, but it didn't fall--it just sort of stayed stuck to the surface like a magnet on a fridge.
Her arms fell (the brush still stuck in her hair), and she stared at the key, her mouth agape. She stared at it for a full five minutes, afraid to move and afraid to think. In her reflected image, the key appeared to hover over her chest, and this eventually gave her an idea. With shaking fingers she pulled the key away from the mirror. It was warm in her hand, like it was a living creature. She pulled out a few feet of dental floss and strung the key with it. She tied a knot, then put the key around her neck.
As soon as the key touched her chest, she felt lighter, like a great worry she never knew existed had lifted. The room brightened. Audrina smiled, and pulled the brush easily out of her hair. She readied herself for the day, and drank orange juice for breakfast instead of coffee. She wore her running shoes instead of her sensible flats. She rummaged a red dress out of the back of her closet, with the price tag still on it, and put it on for the first time since she deliberated buying it. She left her house, with the door unlocked, and she walked up the cul-de-sac to the intersection. Drab little cars passed her by, and when she arrived at the top she looked down at the town, smiling, surveying, and for the first time in her life, plotting all the new things she could see and do.