Catherine hunched down and fit the second key into the door of the stump in front of her. She said a quick prayer that she wasn’t going to disappear for good and then turned the ornate brass handle in front of her. She had to squish through the doorway. It didn’t look like this was a passage made for full-grown humans. After entering, she gingerly stood up, hoping not to bump her head. The only light came from the open doorway behind her and that quickly disappeared as the door closed of its own accord. Now what? The air was damp and stale and it felt like she was in a cave. Catherine called out a “hello” to see if she could get a bearing on her surroundings. Her voice echoed back to her.
She felt paralyzed. If she inched forward into the darkness, she might fall into an abyss. Or at the very least she would lose contact with the wall and become disoriented. To figure out what to do, Catherine decided to channel Michelle and make a mental list to keep herself organized. Number one: find two more locks for her remaining keys. Number two: complete her quest. And number three: return home. No big deal.
Catherine could feel the tell-tale prick in her eyes and the instantly runny nose that told her she was about to break down and cry.
Suddenly a light flashed in the room. A flickering image appeared on the far wall of the cave. Catherine breathed a sigh of relief that she now had some idea of where she was--the chamber was not nearly as enormous as she had feared--and then turned her attention to the image. It looked like home movies of when she was a baby. Except these were events where no camera had actually filmed her. She watched as the movies (for lack of a better word) progressed at an incredible rate. Here she was with her mom and dad as a three year old, the vacation to Florida, then her first day of school. Catherine’s life was literally flashing before her eyes and she had no idea how she was processing so much information in such a short amount of time. Too much had happened today already though, that she was done feeling surprised.
The movie zoomed to when she was eight years old and had that horrible fight with Michelle. They hadn’t spoken for days afterward. Suddenly a second image flickered next to the first. It contained an alternate reality. Instead of days of not talking, Catherine and Michelle were hugging one another. Catherine’s reality kept hurtling on in the original spot on the wall of the cave. The alternate reality kept up its own story too. Every few seconds, a new alternate reality would flicker on in a different part of the cavern.
Some of these imagined life stories were beautiful and some were horrific. Catherine felt herself grow dizzy as she wheeled around looking at all the flashing images on the walls of the otherworldly chamber. And then all the pictures stopped. Directly across from her in the spot where her real life had flashed, Catherine could now see herself stuck in the cave like it was a mirror. She moved closer to herself. In the rock wall was a small lock. Catherine tore herself away from her reality and looked at the next image that had been stopped in time. In this one, she sat on a horse, looking smug. She touched her fingers to her familiar face in the unfamiliar setting and the alternate reality went into motion. She somehow absorbed this new life story in a matter of moments. When it finished, Catherine saw that this image too had a lock under it. She wondered how many alternate realities of her life existed in this place. She spun around and saw that every paused image had a lock underneath it.
If she chose a different lock than the one underneath her reality, would her real life be lost? Could she afford to gamble Zach, Gus and Sloane on a fantasy life?
Check back tomorrow to see what she decides!