Winston settled her into the library with a large cup of coffee, overlooking the garden in the back.
“Ms. Moll will be down in a few minutes.” Winston said as he left her alone in the room with the tray of coffee. Caroline poured herself a cup, needing the warmth of the liquid to help steel her resolve. She would dive into the unknown today, and she didn’t know if she was prepared or strong enough to handle whatever was said tonight.
“I, too, use coffee to help stiffen my resolve,” Moll said as she slowly walked into the room. “Of course, coffee has changed a lot since I was a child. Back then, it was thick like pudding and very bitter. Now, it has flavors from around the world.” Moll settled herself in the chair across from Kostova and helped herself to a cup of coffee. “I am glad that you were able to appease an old woman and come talk to me.”
“Of course.” Kostova replied with a smile. Sitting across from Moll, she was able to see the lively eyes that Eidolon had told her about. Sitting with Moll, it was like coming over to a friend’s house, comfortable and warm.
“I know that you are wondering why I asked you here. I have a story that I want to share with you before the others arrive.”
“Of course.” Kostova brought her legs underneath her and got comfortable. She wasn’t sure why Moll chose her to tell the story, but she was excited to be a part of something that no one else was.
“Do you have your key?” Moll asked.
Kostova looked up in surprise. She had almost forgotten about the key that she was handed the night before. So many things had happened since that moment. She had put the key into her purse when they were on their way to dinner. She reached down to her purse sitting on the floor and pulled out the key. It was a beautiful ornate bronze skeleton key, adorned with stacked filigree layers and a delicate red crystal heart nestled inside the bronze floral center.
“Keys are such amazing creations. Everyone has a key in some shape or form. House keys, car keys, hotel keys, keys to lockboxes- all have their uses in society. The interesting thing about keys is that they protect the things that we love or fear the most. We have our valuables, and we hide them away, never to be looked at unless the situation warrants it.” Moll looked at Kostova profoundly and asked, “Why do we hide away the things that we love or fear the most?”
“I am not sure.” Kostova stammered.
“I think because each item that is protected by a key is actually a thought, idea, memory, or fear. The keys to your home protect the personal world that you have built based on what you think your perfect world is. In that home, you may have old photos, jewelry handed down from your grandparents, books that your mother and father read to you at night. It may hold artwork from the countries that you have visited. It may have the latest technology- the biggest TVs, the fastest computers, the latest gaming system- the ability to free yourself from reality and enter into the world of fantasy. Maybe in the attic, locked away from the rest of the house, sits our deepest regrets and fears. Maybe it is a never-finished painting, a book never completed, memories that scare us, or photos that remind us what use to be. Thieves cannot steal the house itself. It cannot be lifted off the foundation and carried away. The memories, the concept of who you are and what makes you happy- those are what can be taken. And that is what we are really protecting with keys.” Moll took a sip of her coffee and looked at Kostova.
Kostova looked down at the key in her hand. “What is this key protecting?” She asked softly.
“That is your story to tell,” Moll answered. “Only you know what you are keeping safe from the world. That particular key chose you for a reason.” Moll reached up to the black ribbon around her neck and pulled out a key from her shirt. The key was an old iron and bronze skeleton key, a simple cylindrical shaft with one single, thin, and rectangular tooth. “This key represents my story. It is a simple construction, with not a lot of shine or glamour to it. However, this key has stood the test of time and has opened many doors throughout generations.
I still remember the day that I was given the key. My grandfather handed it to me as he laid on his death bed. I had been by his side for over a week. I was feeding the fire, wiping his brow, reading to him when he was awake, praying over him while he slept. I was exhausted the evening that he called me over and told me to go to the attic and bring him a wooden box that he had. I knew the box that he was asking for. It was a beautifully engraved wooden box, and as a child, I would often go to the attic to hide from the world and sit on it, looking out the window. I would trace my finger around the cravings and play out scenarios in my head. One where I was invited to Katie McGee’s 13th birthday party, and I got to wear a new yellow dress. One where Bobby Heavey would walk me home from school and try to hold my hand. Sitting on that wooden box, I would imagine things that I knew would never happen.
I carried that large, heavy box downstairs to my grandfather and laid it gently on his bed. He took this key and unlocked it, showing me what was inside. He told me that this was what my future was. That box and all its contents were mines to guard and safely keep from people who would try to steal it. I asked him why anyone would want a box filled with papers and a small, worn black journal, and he told me that the box represented the past, the present, and the future—his collections of stories and the stories that our family members, like me, wrote before him.
He died that night as I held his hand and whispered stories of what I had seen of the future. He found comfort in the stories of trains, hot air balloons, lights that turned on with a flick of the hand. He laughed at me when I told him about cups that were only used once, not having to make your own butter and machines that washed clothes by themselves. He looked at me and said, ‘That sounds like a magical place where everyone has time to relax.’ I assured him that the future held only the brightest of lights and that everyone was happy. I did not tell him of the darkness that I saw, of cities laying in piles of stone, of hunger that crept its black fingers to every corner of the world, of the few faces of the men and women who would eventually lead the masses to their deaths. This I told him nothing of. Only of the good times. I promised him that I would write everything down that I saw and safely keep it, and that is what I spent my life doing.”
“Why write it all down?” Kostova asked. “If the information was too dangerous, and people would be after you for it, why not just hold on to it and not say anything?”
“My dear, what if you had a story floating in your head. It was a story that wrote itself, filled with characters and scenes, a plot of good vs. evil, a happily ever after ending? Would you only think about it while drinking coffee or in the shower? Would you tuck the story away into the attics of your mind because you were worried how people would perceive it?”
“I would have to write it.” Kostova answered softly.
“Exactly! A story needs to be told. Regardless of whether it is good or bad. Every story deserves to be heard or remembered. These are not stories of wishes or fantasy; these are stories about real people who lived or are going to live.” Moll chuckled and poured herself another cup of coffee. “Sometimes, I look back at what was written before me to see if it is still accurate. I always wondered if the chosen in my family would start getting it wrong, that our sense of what is to come would diminish. Like a blood hounds’ nose as he gets older, just not as effective or trustworthy.”
“Have you found any mistakes?” Kostova asked
“None. Though I wished I would have.” Moll answered. “Then maybe my children and future generations would not have to carry this burden. And for a moment in time, I thought that my wish was answered. When my daughter was born, she didn’t have any of the usual signs. I watched her closely as she grew up, and she seemed to have a natural childhood. There were no nightmares or visions, and I thanked the Gods; they had spared my daughter this life. And then she meets James. It was a whirlwind relationship. They had both just graduated college, and they wanted to see the world before they settled down. I supported their year of traveling and seeking out the unknown. They came back, married in an ice chapel outside of Quebec, and pregnant. It was early into her pregnancy that I started to notice the change in her behavior. Gone was the sunny and warmhearted daughter; she was replaced by someone cold and distant. I went over for tea one afternoon, and she handed me a book of sketches that she had made over the last three months. She kept having a dream of a dark hooded man after a chest that contained a book. In every dream, she kept running through different doors that contained different points in history and the future to get away from him. But he would find her and the book, and then the room would fade to nothing.”
Moll silently wiped the tears from her eyes as she continued with a shaky voice. “She looked at me that afternoon, fear and anger raging through her. My daughter told me that the worse part of the nightmares was that I was always in the background writing. She would call out to me, but I would keep writing and handing her more and more papers to carry as she ran from the hooded man. She told me that my writing burden would become so much that she couldn’t run anymore, and the hooded man would take what she was protecting. But each time, the book and papers would turn into her unborn child.
The only way she could deal with the nightly terrors was to draw what she saw the next day. She had the drawings piled up in a black folder on the kitchen table, and she slide them to me. In that bright and friendly kitchen, my daughter asked me about her visions over a pot of tea. I told her the same story that my grandfather told me. I told her about my life and how I learned to live in two different worlds. She just looked at me with her beautiful violet eyes, taking in everything that I had to say. The kitchen’s warmth seems to dissipate with every word I spoke, and when I was finally done- my daughter was shivering.”
“What happened next?” Kostova asked gently
“She left. Went to a new city with James and started a new life. She had Lucas, and they were happy. So, I stayed away. When Lucas started school, my daughter started having dreams again. I could see her pain and her fear. I watched from a distance as her drawings became more and more detailed. The man that was chasing her nights was someone that I knew and feared from days long ago. I had thought that he was dead, but when I saw a portrait that she had drawn the morning before her disappearance- I saw exactly what was going to happen.”
“If you knew what was going to happen, why did you not stop it? Kostova asked. “Do you know where Lucas’s mother is now?”
Moll wiped away a small tear forming in the corner of her eye and said, “No, I can’t see her anymore.
She and James are hiding behind a locked door somewhere in the timeline of history. What door she went through, or how many times she has jumped to stay hidden, I cannot say.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Kostova asked a little harshly.
Moll looked at her intensely, “Because I believe that you are the only one that knows how to find her and save her.”
Kostova just stared. If she was the lifeline of hope for Moll, everyone was going to be very disappointed and very quickly.
“I think that you have the wrong person.” Kostova stammered. “I can’t possibly be the person that you are looking for. I can’t find my pen sitting right next to me when I am writing.”
“No Kostova,” Moll replied as she grasped Kostova’s hand. “My visions are never wrong. You are the one that can go through the doors of history and still return to the present. You are the one that will help Lucas find his mother, and in that- the Book of the Veiled.”
Lucas walked into the library; Kostova’s eyes darted to his face to see if he already knew what she had just learned. Did he know what Moll was going to tell her? Did he believe in this world of locked doors, magic keys, and time travel? Did he know that she was not the right person for the job?
But all she saw was a look of grief, acceptance, and a shimmer of hope. He held onto her gaze as too silently plea that she would accept the story Moll just told her, and agree to help. A thousand reasons not to accept what she just learned leaped through Kostova’s mind. But she was a writer- a spinner of tales. Kostova knew the magic of a story coming to reality through the use of the written word. The unbelievable could become believable, even if it were just, for a moment.
What was to say that this tale was not reality?