As we reach the door, I pull out my keys.
The strange gold one that took me to the expanse of space.
The obsidian one specked with stars that brought me here.
The leafy one that seemed to loop me back here.
And finally the key of the forest. I place it in the lock and turn it. As the door opens and the familiar light shines out, I become a little contemplative.
“Let’s get going, bud!” Godemir urged. I comply and we step through.
Where will we go? A far-off field? Deep beneath the ocean? Another time? Another dimension?
The light fades and my vision comes into focus.
Or …a …diner?
I look around, doing my best to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Checkerboard tile, steel rod chairs, leather covered booths, pastel blue, and hot rod red.
Yeah, I’m in a 50’s diner. But then again, I look out the window and see nothing. Similar to when I found myself in Luna’s sky, though I get the feeling I’m not going to see the wonders of space this time. It’s just an empty black as far as my perception will go. I turn back to the inside of the building looking for a sign of life.
The furniture wasn’t covered in dust, and I could smell some kind of food, so I don’t think it’s abandoned.
“Hello!? Is anyone here?!” I yell out. I feel some fidgeting on my shoulder.
“What are you? Crazy? Don’t you know anything about stealth?” My friend was obviously not too thrilled with my brilliant tactic to find out who is in this building.
“I’m already dead, what’s the worst that could happen?”
“How about second death?”
I turn and look at the door to the kitchen. An older gentleman stood just outside of it, who definitely wasn’t there before. His hair was thinned and unkempt, but long, going to almost his shoulders. His clothes were very out of place in this building, dark rags, looked to have not been washed in ages. I would have expected him to walk with a cane to complete the Scrooge look, but it was not to be.
“Hi there! I don’t suppose you have a key to this door, do you?” I have no shame.
“You’re really just going to ask that right of way?” Godemir voiced his concern in a whisper, as he hides on my shoulder. I wave my hand at him and continue speaking with the man in the room.
“I kind of need it as soon as possible.” I reach into my pocket, ready to grab my keys in case I have to run.
The old man studies me, slowly walking closer. He stops a little ahead and pulls out a chair at one of the tables.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” His voice is deep and foreboding. And yet there’s a longing to it. Something mournful.
I shuffle a little realizing how rude I was. Luna and Puck both seemed very aware of me, but I don’t know why all these beings would. The spirit on my shoulder hops up and answers for me.
“Sorry fer my friend here. My name’s Godemir. This rude ass is Rodriguez. He’s just a foolish mortal trying to outrun death.”
“Whoa, hey, too mean,” I whisper to my ‘friend’.
“Your travels have reached my ears, Mr. Rodriguez. A soul trying to escape death. A futile pursuit. But an entertaining one to say the least.”
He takes his seat and gestures for me to do the same. I comply, keeping an eye on the door from which he appeared. Are there more people here?
“What do you guys use to communicate? I had barely left Luna and Robin Goodfellow already knew about me…”
“Do you not even understand the entities who are giving you audience? The power they possess? And they spend their time teaching you lessons and playing games. Why are you so special?”
“I dunno. You tell me. You are going to give me a challenge, aren’t you? For your key?”
He glares at me, his mind trying to find a way to not say what I know to be true.
“…Yes. My earlier question was not to say I’m unaware of you, but to say we do not know each other. We’re not friends. I owe you nothing. What purpose would I have to give you my key?”
That’s a good question. Why would these entities be giving me keys? Is it a trap? A bigger game? I couldn’t say.
“I’m sure you have one. What it is, I don’t care, so long as I can find my way to my family.”
He gives a smile and reaches into his cloak and produces a deck of cards.
“I do not suppose you are familiar with gin rummy?”