Every week in Friday Free Web Fiction I post a first draft scene from my work in progress (WIP), or a short story, or an excerpt from one of my books. Today’s offering is from my Prunella Smith WIP, Past Worlds, The Lock Smith’s Secret.
Once again I’m in the ephemeral city that floats in outer space. Through the luminous outlines of the buildings, I see planets floating, suns sparkling and constellations swirling in the darkness. I walk down a corridor in a transparent building with no doors, looking upwards at my goal—a room high above me. Someone is up there, working at a desk in a pool of light—a beacon in this otherwise empty city. I’m pretty sure they’re making keys and think they might know where the doors are. I stop and look around me at the doorless walls. How did I even get inside? With a shrug, I walk on.
The corridor seems to go on for ever. Shouldn’t I have reached the outer wall of the building by now? Strangely, with that thought, the end of the corridor comes into sight. A stairway beckons me upward, and I quicken my pace, eager to reach my goal. The broad stairs glisten like ghostly chrome and marble, and despite their insubstantial appearance, feel solid beneath my feet. At the top, another corridor awaits me. I follow that to the end where I find another staircase, at the top of which is another corridor with another staircase at its end. I make my way up a seemingly endless series of stairs and corridors, but the light above never gets any closer. I feel as if I’m treading water, kicking my feet and arms but going nowhere.
I stop. My quest is pointless, but how do I get out of here? The ground is countless floors below with a maze of stairs and corridors between us, and the maze continues above. Even if I walk back to the ground floor, how do I get out of a building with no doors and with windows that don’t open? I see no catches, hinges or sliding rails on the windows, and even if I could get them open, I still have to be on the ground floor if I’m to escape that way. I look down and shiver. A sense of entrapment comes over me. But since I got in somehow, I must be able to get out. Perhaps there is one door at the entrance.
The light still shines in that room above me, but it seems unreachable. The key-maker still works at his desk, a kindly soul, I feel, someone who could explain this place, be a friend, provide some comfort. He stands and holds an object—a key I presume—to the light for inspection. He nods his approval, then places the object on a hook on the wall where it glints in the light as it swings until it settles next to the other golden keys. He glances down—does he see me?—then walks back to his desk, lifts a sheet of glistening metal and lays it down ready to begin again.
Where are the doors for his keys?
I shrug and walk on, though more slowly now. What else do I have to do in this place except find what appears to be the only other soul in existence? At least here I have a goal; no matter how unachievable it seems, surely seeking it is better than wandering without purpose in the empty streets below. My progress is slow, but I am moving upwards. On the streets I would likely walk endlessly in circles.
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