The Key

Cailean Darkwater
Copyright 2000

Here I go, like a good little wageslave off to mindlessly chase the corporate carrot on tedium's treadmill.

Here I am, sitting in the corner of the train with a mind-numbing headache. Emotion boiling over inside, I'm one of those pressure cookers you see in the cartoons - pumped more and more until the temperature gauge is double its normal size, the cooker sending angry spurts of scalding steam from the lid.

And then it explodes, sending some hapless cute cartoon character careering uncontrollably in the air with a high-pitched squeal of surprise.

Sometimes I'm that reluctantly airborne animated victim, too - out of control, not knowing where I'm going to end up.

Not as if you could see any of this of course. Outer layer is cold stone, completely concealing the inner turmoil. I'm kind of proud of myself. With this pain that I am, I can still drag myself in to work. I'm a trooper, through and through. Cheering myself up very vaguely with that thought: not many people, after going through what I have been through can go and face a normal work day.

A knife twisted in my heart, the betrayal. My love, a broken doll when I found her, limbs shattered and splintered, colours running on painted features, wood scratched and charred in places.

Glued the limbs in place, built up and sanded back the grooves and burns, repainted the doll with new paint in the original design. I had given her back to herself. Listened to her, cared for her, suffered for her. Without me she never would have gotten out of the black pit where I had found her, despairing, totally hopeless and helpless.

But I had been her hope, a guiding ray of light in the consuming darkness. She clung to me, tenebrous claws of oblivion sinking deep as she scrabbled to redeem herself. I was there each time the dark siren sang to her the sweet threnody of annihilation; I was there each time she slid towards the edge, pulling her back into the land of the living.

Gave her new life

And now she had devastated mine.

Before, I had seen my love for her as helium filling me. I floated one with the creamy clouds in cerulean skies. Now just sable chains, the shade of defiled, dried blood, binding us together, burdening us both with their crushing weight.

Love? Love has only brought me anguish and oppression. Who really needs it? People whine that they don't have it, but what has it ever done for me? They can damn well keep it, far as I'm concerned. Had it. Ruined by it. I just want it all to be OVER.

I need something to unlock these chains, a chance at freedom from this terrible love.

She owes me; is this how she chooses to repay it? By leaving me for someone else? Such gratitude! Oh, I feel so richly rewarded, my love exchanged for torment.

I hope she's never happy with this new love. If she prospers, where's the justice? She's destroyed my happiness, why should she have any joy?

The pressure cooker boils ever hotter, growing ever larger, inflating with its searing contents, but none of my fellow commuters notice. Wrapped in cold corporate stone, none of my co-workers will know either.

But I know.

It's my stop, my headache hasn't lessened one bit. It figures. Monday. Did I really think that a Monday ever was going to be good? Must be a universal thing, like bad hair days.

Trundling out onto the platform I head into the subway entrance, mind too busy with the complexities of walking to mope over my predicament.

Some nut has decided to redecorate the subway walls with bright yellow graffiti. The animals in this city! Trying to distract myself again, I focus on what it says. Probably the insane ramblings of some deranged starving junkie, mind-bombed on some recreational pharmaceutical.

"Love is the key."

What the hell does that mean?

And then, everything connected together, truth slicing down through my carefully-crafted illusion. Seeing the chains that bound us were not of love, but petty, hate-filled dark joy. Envious of her happiness, I had created these manacles of misery to drag her into my agony. But how did her sadness make me happy? If I loved her, why was I inflicting my pain upon her, which didn't give me any relief from my own?

Who am I to question what is fair in love and war?

Thunderstruck, stock still, paralyzed. She was happier now, why couldn't I be the same? If I loved her, her happiness was the most important thing to me. I would set her free to enjoy that happiness, even if it did not include me.

The iridescent key hung in space just close by, easily in reach. It had always been there, I just hadn't noticed it in the gloom of my soul. I unlocked the shackles, freeing us both. She was happy, and there was no reason why I could not find such happiness myself.

I floated again, helium sending my soul awaft on the gentle breeze. I can't say that I didn't feel pain; my heart had been ripped out, but somehow I could bear it better now, seeing a possible end to it, my own glimmer of hope.

In my mind's eye I see the doll: beautiful, perfect, changeless, inanimate; become flesh, pulsing with life. She was never a prized possession, to be pulled out of the cupboard when I chose, arms and legs set in poses I defined. She was a living person, a unique individual with no limits to her potential. I could hold onto a piece of painted wood, but not a free willed woman as she.

I sank to my knees in regret, happiness and epiphany. Tears streaming down my face, I'm sure that the other salarymen and salarywomen noticed the spectacle that was me.

"Hey, you like my work?" The enthusiastic inquiry.

Blinking back the tears, I looked at who had addressed me. Long ratty hair and scraggly beard framed a wide-eyed open face.

"It's the best, ain't it?" gesturing to the first word of underground art. "I mean, I tried a lotta different things, and nuffin' really worked. Then I got on that, and I don't need any of the other stuff, man. I got it." He looked at me vaguely, but somehow conspiratorially, and asked, "You got it too?"

I nodded dumbly at him, still floating, unable to think the words, let alone utter them.

With a warm, genuinely happy smile he commended me. "That's SO COOL, y'know? It's GREAT STUFF, happy for ya, 'kay?" He gave me a friendly wave and strolled off into the crowd. I struggled to try and catch up with him, to thank him further for his help, but I wasn't fast enough; he was gone.

I composed myself a little, and headed towards work, thinking all the while.

I don't know when I will stop loving her, perhaps never. It doesn't matter. My reward for the love I felt was the love itself.

Love was never a prison. It is the key to freedom forever.

"The Key", (c) 2001 Cailean Darkwater (r) (pending),