The two children skipped down the long corridor, chatting to each other in careless tones, their bright young faces so dynamic, smirking one moment and pouting the next. But though they both seemed unconcerned with their surroundings, any watcher could tell that the girl was leading the boy. And an experienced watcher could tell that she had a very special secret behind her playful eyes--something that she was planning to share with the boy.
Most secrets were only shared with the closest of friends. And yet, the sharing of this secret had been determined over a game of jacks. Perhaps, since Sam had lost the game, his side of the bargain included something more than simply tagging along for a secret.
They were soon walking along a long row of steel doors. Sam walked slightly ahead, passing by the doors without a glance, heading for the Fountain Atrium. He assumed that this was where they were heading. He did not know of any other way to travel now that they were within this long corridor. And yet Betty stopped.
"Sam," she said. "This is where we turn right."
Sam turned around with confusion. "What do you mean?" he asked, eying the closest door with skepticism.
Betty gave him a sly look and tapped her foot. Then she approached the door.
"You don't got a key for any of these!" protested Sam. "I know ya don't! All you've got is that silly button."
Betty did not let the sly smirk drop from her face, but she stuck her tongue out at Sam's accusation. "Maybe you're right," she said. "But I know something about this door anyhow. Just you watch."
Sam began to fear Betty's sincerity. "Betty," he complained. "You don't know nothing about that door! That door leads nowhere! It's not even a part of the whole Realm!" Sam was frightened now, and he tried to shove Betty away from the cold surface of the steel. It was a grave thing to leave the Realm. If you had no key to get back, you could be locked out forever.
Betty shoved Sam hard and he hit the wall with an outward breath of defeat. Then she moved swiftly, rapping hard on the door with her small fist, before Sam could say another word. She knocked three times, and the harsh metallic sound reverberated sorely on Sam's ears.
"No one's gonna answer," Sam spat. But his voice sounded false, and his uneasiness drew lines upon his face.
There was a solid note of silence and then the door abruptly budged. Sam took a few steps back, but stopped when he hit the opposite wall of the corridor. "Betty," he whispered. "I'm not going in there."
Betty raised an eyebrow. "You lost the game," she said snidely. "You gotta hold your part of the deal."
The door had stopped now, only ajar by one foot.
"Who opened it?" breathed Sam, ready to flee.
Betty grabbed his wrist. "It's alright. He's friendly," she said. Then she began to pull him towards the door. "And he needs your help," she added, tugging with all her might.
Sam let out a squeal. "No, I don't want to go!" he screamed.
Betty pulled even harder, half her body now within the dark room beyond. "Sam...don't...be...a...baby," she said between frustrated grunts of pulling.
Sam resisted as best he could, but when a strong hand shot out of the dark and pulled Betty through with one solid yank, Sam could no longer stand his ground, and he stumbled through with a squeal. The door closed behind him with a boom, and the darkness caught them all in its enveloping embrace.
They were beyond the Realm.