Farley told me that if the key fits in the lock, it’s the wrong one. It might fit, but it will only turn to the left, not the right. So i have to first insert the key, and attempt to turn it to the right. It might turn a little, but not all the way. If it turns too far, it will get stuck. I won’t be able to pull it out of the hole. I have to be careful. Once i get the key out, that is, if it doesn’t get stuck, i have to try a number of password phrases. When he gave me these instructions, i rolled my eyes. I don’t think he noticed. I should explain myself. Farley is Farley Friday, my boss at The Agency. I’m Ardith August. I’ve worked for Farley and The Agency for three years. Our Agency has been hired to find Chronos, the God of Time, and the Three Fates.. Lena, Isabelle and Stephanie. My assignment for today, Friday, July 36th, (i know,) is to make my way, if at all possible, into the Three Fates’ penthouse.
I think these instructions are ridiculous. I have to try a key that likely won’t work, but not try too much, or the key will get stuck, then say a bunch of nonsense words to see if the penthouse door opens. What’s up with that? Is this a test of some kind? Knowing Farley, it probably is. The key in my purse must do something else if it doesn’t open the door.
It’s a splendid key. It’s a skeleton key of gold, and the heart shaped handle is inlaid with tiny rubies around its edge. In its center is a lovely four carat rose cut black sapphire. It’s the Thirty Third Sapphire, so it has significance.. an important role in finding Fate and Time. Farley wouldn’t divulge the secret. Maybe he doesn’t know. That would surprise me, considering he’s so close to Venus, but that’s another, long story.
I board the building’s elevator and press the key for floor #26. The only apartment, though it’s more like a mansion, on that floor is the Sisters’ penthouse. I’ve heard it’s luxurious. I’m sure it is. I’ve heard many things about its features and magic, but who knows what’s rumor and what’s truth.
The elevator dings at #26, and its doors open. I step off into what looks like an indoor jungle, so many enormous tropical plants. This is apparently the lobby, or something like one. I see the penthouse door about twenty yards straight ahead. I walk to it. The floor is made of some kind of gleaming hardwood. I’m wearing heels, but they make no sound as i walk. I stop at the door and take the key from my bag.
Well, here goes. It’s not going to work, but boss’ orders. I think Farley sent me on a wild goose chase. I didn’t talk to him in person. He’s in Other Portland, Universe 4422 looking for Stephanie, the youngest of the Sister Fates. Venus sent him. I got my directions by text from there. I don’t think my boss is working too hard. Seems by all the typos in his text, that he’s had one too many of his beloved dirty martinis, three olives, please. I took the key from the wall safe in Farley’s office. I hope i got the right one, or rather, i hope he told me the right one.
I look at the key more closely and notice the insert’s shape. It’s not a regular skeleton key. Its end is shaped like an elephant with long tusks, and it’s an inch and a half wide, big for a key. I slowly try to insert, and it slides right in. I turn it a hair to the right, then stop. Just a hair more, and i lose my nerve and pull it out. I begin to sweat and feel dizzy. What’s wrong with me?
Then, i hear a loud whisper.. Ardith.. Ardith!
I look around and see no one. The key feels pleasantly warm in my hand. The sapphire begins to glow blue.
Ardith.. Ardith! Insert me the other way. The heart is the key. I’m an elephant, not the key. It’s the heart! The heart’s gem. Heart will help you find Fate!
So i do it. I put the heart with its sapphire into the keyhole. It slides like butter. I turn it once clockwise around and hear a loud click. I pull out the key, and drop it back into my bag. I will not lose this key. It’s too important. I know that now. I don’t have to turn the knob. The door opens wide on its own. I realize this isn’t the penthouse. I step over the threshold, and the door closes quietly behind me.
I hear the whisper again. It says, and this time i know the whisper is coming from inside my bag, Ardith.. welcome to Aquarius Island! Follow the path ahead, and you will find your Time.
I look in front of me and there is a lovely stone path that’s glowing silver. On both sides are nine foot tall red roses and yellow tulips. Above, bright blue, cloudless sky. Well, why not? I take my first step on to Aquarius Island and toward Time.