Just a heads up about this next week: I’m headed out to a wedding in Seattle and I am trying to get some blog posts queued up for the week so I don’t have to think about it, but forgive me if some are a little out of schedule. I get back super late next Sunday, but I’m trying to be diligent about posting regularly for my readers!
__________________________________________________________________

Susan had given in to her mother. She was finally going to go see someone about the vivid dreams she had been having, though she was determined not to go to the damned psychic her mother had recommended. She wanted to try and keep this at least somewhat grounded, so she had made an appointment with a psychologist in the next town over, someone who’s website specifically stated they practiced Freudian and Jungian dream interpretation. Whatever that was. It sounded almost as terribly mystical as whatever koolaid the kooks would have her drinking, but she couldn’t sleep and needed to do something.

The office was almost clinical in its sparseness. She had been expecting something a little more warm and inviting than bare, green walls and plastic covered furniture in the waiting room, but who was she to say what kind of feelings the doc wanted to instill. Perhaps they wanted to heighten their patient’s anxiety and put them off balance when they first walked in, because that’s how she felt. There wasn’t even any music playing to lighten the monotony, or a receptionist. Just a sign asking the patients to wait, the doctor would be out shortly.

After about ten minutes, the only other door to the room opened and a young woman stepped out. Susan assumed she was another patient until she came over and held out her hand. “Ms. Krantz? I’m Dr. Glenn, but you can just call me Kathryn.”

“Kathryn, hi.” Susan tucked her Kindle away (on which she was reading reports from work) and stood up. “Sorry, I was expecting someone–”

“Older.” the doctor finished. “I get that a lot. I’m actually in my thirties and have been practicing for ten years. I just look young. It’s all that yoga and good jeans.”

Susan was thrown off by the woman’s informal attitude and fumbled for a response. “So, your mother look this young too, then?”

“Nope! She’s a hag, but you find the right pair of blue jeans and your ass will always look phenomenal.” She laughed at her own joke and Susan smiled, finally relaxing a little bit. “Come on back to my lair, and let’s start getting you sorted out.”

The back office was much more warm and inviting than the waiting area. There were soft abstract paintings on the wall and several choices of seating from an overstuffed armchair to a sofa that looked like it would devour you if you sat on its cushions for too long. Kathryn collapsed into an uncomfortable looking wooden chair and gestured for Susan to sit wherever she wanted, so she chose the couch.

“Thanks for filling out the pre-survey, that really helps me to get a feel for you before you come in. So, you’re here about disturbing dreams?” The doctor pulled an end table closer and picked up her mug of tea, making a face when she found it cold.

“Not disturbing, per se, but I can’t seem to get rested. They’re so vivid and I feel like I’m expending so much energy in the dreams that I just feel exhausted in the mornings. Like I’ve been running a marathon in my sleep.”

Kathryn nodded and started making notes on a pad of paper. “So, ultra-vivid dreams that leave you exhausted. But not bad dreams?”

“No, not really. I’m trying to open things, but there’s always a lock, and no matter what I try, whatever keys I might have, I just can’t open it.” Susan didn’t want to tell her the part where she felt like if she didn’t get it open, that something was going to go wrong. It never did, it was just a feeling.

“So, there are locks and keys, but the don’t fit.”

“Yes, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a box, I can’t smash it open, I can’t kick down the door if it’s a door. It’s locked solid.”

Kathryn got up to go to her bookshelf, pulled down a volume and started leafing through it. “Do you have any kind of feeling as to what’s behind it? Or in it?”

“I don’t know, I just have this overwhelming sense that I have to get into it.”

“Or what happens?”

Susan took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She didn’t really want to tell this woman, but maybe, just maybe, her mom had been right about needing to talk to someone. “I will lose myself.”

“How do you mean? Lose yourself?” Kathryn put the book down, made a note, and gave Susan her undivided attention.

“That’s just it. I’ll just–poof.” Susan made little poofing motions with her hands. “Not like, disappear, just, won’t be able to find myself.” She slouched back into the corner of the sofa and crossed her legs and arms. “It doesn’t make any sense when I say it out loud. It makes perfect sense in the dream.”

“No, I’d say it makes perfect sense here, too. This lock is somehow preventing you from protecting yourself. Have you ever tried lucid dreaming?”

Susan snorted. “I heard it doesn’t work.”

“Not true. It just takes some practice. Here, I’m going to give you a focus.” Kathryn got up and dug around her massive antique desk in the corner, finally surfacing with a brass scrollwork key. “Take this, wear it on a chain. Think about it all day, wear it at night even, and when you’re falling asleep, repeat to yourself that this can open any lock. It’s a skeleton key that isn’t balked by any obstruction. Then, when you start dreaming about the locked door, or chest, or whatever, you’ll find you’re wearing it in the dream and you’ll be able to unlock the door.”

“That’s it? That seems rather…over-simplistic.” Susan reached out for the key and when Kathryn dropped it into her palm, she was surprised at the weight of it.

Kathryn flopped back into her chair. “The human mind is sometimes extremely simplistic, particularly in base functions like dreaming. It’ll probably take some time and some practice, but I have faith that you’ll get it. Now, dealing with whatever is behind that door may not be so simple.”

“What do you mean? Whatever is behind that door. I just feel like I have to go through it.”

“Sometimes the things we feel we have to do are not necessarily the best things for us, like peer pressure, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Anyways, we can deal with that when you get through the door. Sound like a plan? See you back here in a month?”

Susan stood and pocketed the key. “Sure. Maybe I’ll get through the door by then.”

***

She did exactly like she was told. She wore the key all day and all night, she even wore it into the shower with her. When she woke up exhausted from the struggle all night, she held it tightly and told herself, “This can open any door. This can open any lock.”

Three weeks went by, and there was no change. Every night she threw herself against unyielding wood or metal or stone, and no magic key appeared.

Finally, the night before her next appointment with Kathryn, she dropped into the dream just as she rammed herself against a solid wooden cellar door. And as she bounced back from it, she felt the weight of the key bounce against her chest. Nearly crying in relief, she grabbed it, took it off the chain and approached the door.

Whatever was behind the door seemed to glow brighter as she approached, key in hand. Taking a deep breath, Susan put the key in the lock and turned. She felt, rather than heard, the tumblers fall and she closed her eyes, hand on the door knob. She could feel everything, the light and heat from behind the door, the brass inlays of the knob pressing against her skin.

And she let go. She stepped back from the door and it dissolved, leaving an opening ahead of her, empty. There wasn’t anything behind the door, in fact, the door wasn’t even in a wall, it stood on its own in the middle of the room, a brass key laying on the threshold.

Susan picked up the key, smiled, and tucked it in her pocket.

The next morning, she woke up feeling relaxed and exhilarated. She didn’t quite know what the empty room meant, the fact that there was nothing on the other side of the door and in fact, it hadn’t been separating her from anything after all.

When she showed up for her appointment, she waited impatiently in the waiting area. Dr. Glenn came out and Susan handed her the key.

The psychologist turned the key over and looked at it. “Did it work?”

“Yes, thank you, I don’t think we need to meet today. I feel fantastic.”

“What was on the other side of the door?” Kathryn pocketed the key and leaned against the door frame.

“Nothing, it was a barrier to nothing. All these months, pounding away at the door and it just…dissolved.”

“Well, maybe that’s a symbol of something, then. Work? A relationship? Just relax and it’ll sort itself out kind of thing?”

“Maybe. I don’t really care. Not now that I can open any lock.”