Author : KimBoo York

Tandoo sat on the steps, turning the key over in his hand. It was a silver stick, long and blank, and heavy. The door behind him stood solid and bright, just as without character as the key.

He held the key up and let the sunlight glint off the surface. The door would open onto a new world for him, he knew, but it was the key that had power over his life. His key. The key was a gift. It was not stolen. Still, he felt guilty, sitting on the steps with the key in his hands.

A hint of delicate, lacey latticework trim peeked over the top of the door frame. From that small bit of ornament, Tandoo constructed in his imagination a whole world – a whole life, in fact. It was full of white, clean architecture and lush, green gardens, and he loved to envision himself walking through those gardens in a light yellow pantsuit on his way to…

“You still here?” Mako walked up.

His sister was portly and kind, and worried. It seemed to Tandoo that she never stopped worrying about him.

“You need to go. You know the Corps will be grabbing boys soon for service. Off planet, right? Deep space. To fight the Unity.You need to go.”

He nodded. It wasn’t their war and no one wanted the village boys to go. He was lucky, as in blessed-by-ancient-gods lucky, to have the key.

“Go.” Mako turned and walked away.

He stood up and faced the door. The small square keyhole was in the middle of the door, so he reached up and slid the key in. He waited.

When Mako returned, Tandoo was gone. His key was sitting on the ground next to the door. She took it, even though everyone knew that once a key was used, it was worthless. She looked at the door, and stood on tip toe to view the lattice trim work that hinted at the other side. It was more like a garden fence, the wall that the door was in: 20 feet tall and running forever into the rest of the world. It was a division to be respected but not understood. Mako thought maybe Tandoo understood it now that he was on the other side, but then again over there it might be just a wall the same way it was in her world. She had her suspicions.

At home with the other twelve siblings, no one asked her about Tandoo. Their mother cooked stew and looked very tired.

Tandoo threw the key back over the wall. On this side, the door trim looked faded and unkempt. There were no gardens here, and no one to greet him, and when he realized that this world was the same world he just left, he threw the key back. There was no keyhole on this side to let him return, anyway.

“You made it.” Mako walked up, smiling and in a worn, dull dress he had never seen before.

“Mako? How…?”

“No, I’m not your same sister. I’m a different sister, the same, I guess, but on this side it’s all a little different.”

Tandoo, shocked, stood still. Mako shrugged.

“I’m sorry, but when the Unity takes our people to fight the Corps, we try to get a replacement from the other side. They drafted my Tandoo last week. But now you’re here, everything will be just fine.”

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