Time’s Key

My grandfather once painted me this story:

A child, clothed in gray, wept atop the hill called Sunflower Gulch; this was not the first time.

The child’s mind was afflicted by a host of darkness. This darkness had many tormenters in it’s army: home, friends, dogs, and even Summer thunder; these fiends all waged an unending and undefeated war inside the child every waking moment of the day; there was no army that could stand against them.

At the bottom of the gulch, a steep and long distance from where the child sat with knees and head curled into lap, there was the pit. The unburdened children of the neighborhood believed that this pit was alive; with gnashing teeth and consuming belly. This pit ate no children, but it did eat what they fed it: emotions, mutilated dreams, innocent hopes, and anything else that was offered to it.

Grandpa continued: the child in gray on yellow, that day fed the pit the most exquisite meal it had ever partaken of. After consuming the meal, the pit let out an appeased rumble that reminded the child of a belch. The noise was so loud and quaking that it made the very tree tops tremble in fear. In the midst of this noise, the child saw an object rising out of the pit’s maw: the child discerned that the object was a key as it spun through the air, glinting with mysterious promise. The key careened into the Earth, stabbing into the soft soil with ease.

The pit was so full and pleased that it fell into a deep slumber. The child had made sure to give every last morsel to the pit.

The child decided to fill in the pit so that the dark host would never have the opportunity to torment the child again. The child scooped dirt in bare hands and threw it into the pit, one handful at a time. Once it was done, the child searched for the key. Upon finding it, the child picked it up, inspected it, and carried it for many years.

I asked Grandpa if the child discovered what the key went to, and Grandpa said no.

It is today. The sun is setting. Residual gray clouds obscure the sky and the stars. Early this afternoon while the sky wept, the worker’s from the old people’s home came and picked up Grandpa. After they left, I began boxing up memories, I set things out on the curb that had only been valuable to Grandpa, and I took a journey through time as I rediscovered trinkets that carried the essence of my past. One trinket I discovered was sitting forgotten in a metal coffee can, clanking around as I lowered the tin from a closet shelf. In the tin was a gold key. It It was dull, but still glinting with mysterious promise.

I deposited the gold key into my pocket and withdrew the key to Grandpa’s home. Locking the door behind me, I let the feeling the gold key gave me direct me.

The key led me to the home Grandpa was now staying at.

At Grandpa’s bedside, I presented the key inside the coffee can just as I had found it. Any luster the key had lost over the years I saw now in Grandpa’s eyes as he inspected it.

I can feel it all, Grandpa said. Everything I locked away that day, Everything I gave to the pit. I remember now.

Grandpa tapped the key to his head and said: you know what’s funny? All those fears and concerns and torments? They’re nothing to me now. I can say that with confidence. I see my life now, all of it, from this perspective, and I know I would have overcome those things just a few years later. My perspective and my circumstances were changing me day by day and would have led me from that place near the pit regardless of whether or not I fed it that day.

I asked Grandpa if he was still glad to see the key. He said yes, and he said that he was glad he got to see it again so that he could tell me how the story ended, so I wouldn’t have to live another day not knowing what had happened to the child in the story.

The last thing Grandpa said to me that day was that he believed every life was like a painting; and that no painting could be seen in it’s full beauty and potential until it was completed by the artist creating it.