From the author: Even killers have dreams. This one has figured out how to break in to Heaven. It's going to take dogged determination, 500 or so keys carved from God's own soul, and a whole lot of murder.
You know that dream you have? The one everyone has. With the long dark hallway stretching in front of you. Where you run and run because something, you're not sure what, is chasing you. And your breath bellows and your heart thumps in time to the crashing of your sneakered feet. Then suddenly in front of you appears a door. What number do you see as you pound and gasp and pray? In that split second before you lunge awake, safe in your bed and think, Thank God, just a dream. Tell me the number on that door.
This isn't the dream; don't worry. This is the part where I catch you. So save the screams and tell me the number.
You look like a 400. 420ish, maybe 440. Somewhere in that range. I hope you're not a 452; I've collected plenty of them already.
I don't think you are. You have that special look about you--a thrill of kindness in the eyes, a certain warmth of mouth. And the way your veins ladder your forearms is a dead giveaway: the cure to my 501 blues.
Though I've been wrong before.
I'd rather not be wrong about you.
Stop struggling. You're chained up so tight Houdini wishes he were you. Cough up the key and I'll be on my way.
'What key? What key?' Always the same boring bore. Wastes time, yours and mine. That little piece of God spirited inside your bone and sinew. The key to your dream door. That key.
The preachers lie, but Levi Strauss knew: God isn't in everyone. Just a chosen few. And He didn't send His son. He sent Himself. Tore His soul into tiny bits and stuffed it in His followers. Stuffed it into you.
Wake up. Heaven can't be accessed by a stairway. It's series of locked doors. Five hundred and one to be exact. Collect the keys and win the kingdom.
It's okay if you're 452. Just tell me. Otherwise I have to find out for myself and you won't like that. If you thought waking up to seeing looming old me was bad... Sorry sleepyhead, it only gets worse.
Thing is, there's no telling where a key will hide. Sometimes you have to dig for it. I found 127 secreted in a kidney stone. 236 was tucked inside the eleventh rib of a guy named Adam. Funny, huh? Like maybe God does have a sense of humor--even if He is a slippery son of a bitch. But fifty-one more keys and I'll walk through His doors and own Him. Fifty, if I get lucky with you and I'm hoping I do.
God put the first one in Jesus who gave it to Peter. Matthew 16:19.
Don't know it?
His soul is wasted in you. 'And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'
That's the important part: the loosening. I plan to be loosed. Slip free of these bonds and tear down those Gates. Open those fuckers up and rule.
Are you ready to stop whimpering and tell me your number? No? I thought we were bonding here. I thought we shared a moment. Don't you get it? I'm setting you free. (Here on Earth. Not in Heaven. Heaven's mine.) The least you could do is thank me.
You've carried this key around so long you don't realize what a burden it is. I was like you once. All compassion and heartache. Sweat and blood and confined flesh. But I searched inside myself. I cut deep. Sliced myself open and found my first key. Sweet, sweet sixteen.
It was a surprise; I won't lie. Sure, you hear about souls, but you never expect to see one, not yours, all shiny and glowing--shaped like a house key. And suddenly all those nightmares about doors and hallways make sense. Just wait. If you hang on long enough, you'll be amazed, too.
I think you'll survive. You have that strength of character people talk about but never really understand. Some of that's the key. I can smell it now. That raunchy metallic odor. It's almost eclipsed by your sweaty fear stench, but the basenote is all key. We're close, very close.
I'd show you mine. After all, you're showing me yours. But I stopped carrying it around. It got confusing, all those keys. I started mixing them up. It's not like they come labeled. Then I thought I had all 501, but I was wrong. Goddamn 452s.
You see, I'd forgotten to ask about the doors. Turns out, there're more keys than doors. Is that fair? Someone goes through all the trouble to reassemble God's soul and He throws extra pieces into the puzzle?
Took me months to sort out. Comparing teeth and grooves. Do you have any idea how tedious that is? Now I keep my keys on a corkboard shrine. Sorted, labeled. Hooked. Pretty keys all in rows.
God, those empty slots make my brain buzz. It'd make my night if I could pull two keys out of you--that's never happened, you know. Then I'd only need forty-nine more to knock, knock, knock on Heaven's doors. Quick, tell me your number.
Tut. You're as stubborn as the 310s. That's okay. I still need 317.
Shhhh. Almost there. One more snap/crackle/pop...
Come out, come out wherever you are.
Little key, little key...LET. ME. IN.
This story originally appeared in Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter.