Whichever door I choose I have a feeling it's going to be the wrong one. Although I think I have to be dreaming, the situation being so weird and all, it feels real. My dreams are fluid things, they change around me in kaleidoscope ways. But here the doors remain doors, the twirly-cane man stays the same; doesn't morph into a stuffed rabbit or my dad. Still...
"Here goes," I think.
I pick the first door, mainly because it's the one I don't want to choose. See my clever reverse psychology? If it's the one I don't want then it must be the good one, right? Unless I know I'm going to go for the one I don't want, in which case I should pick another because this one is going to be a disappointment. So I need to go for one of the others...Oh to hell with it!
The handle feels slick and unpleasant under my hand, the metal warm. It turns too fast for the amount of pressure I used, as if it's eager to be opened. The door behaves the same way. As soon as the latch clicks it yanks at my hand so quickly and so strongly I'm pulled off balance and have to follow it or fall on my face.
Behind the doors are three small tables, and just as I knew I would I've chosen the wrong one. Typical, but I'm resigned to it. On the two other tables are fantastic prizes - at least if you're dreaming and you happen to be me. One's got a crown on it, a huge great thing of solid gold all over with jewels. There's a little card in front of it like you see in museums and I can just make out the writing.
"For the King of the World," it reads. Dammit.
The other table holds a pair of wings. They seem too big for the table but balance there somehow, pure white, gleaming and strange, pinions brushing the ground; awesome, breathtaking. I crane to see what the little card says.
"For the Lord of the Air and Winds," it reads. Just great!
I wish life had a rewind button, don't you? Dreams too should definitely come with that option. I hate myself; I must do. Maybe I was evil in a past life, some cackling maniac with a dungeon full of really nasty stuff.
The twirly-cane man, now there's someone very much of the cackling maniac school, appears and sort of bows over my prize, wiggling his fingers. All that's missing is a drum-roll and him going; "Tadaa!"
I stare at my prize with distaste. As far as I can see they haven't even made a token effort with it. Even the little card is stained and crinkled and charred down one side. Not nice printing either, it's scribbled in someone's crabby handwriting.
"For the Other One," is all the card says.
The prize itself is a key. It's large and black, looks heavy too.
"Your prize!" the twirly-cane man says and grins like he's expecting me to weep with gratitude. Not a chance.
"Ok," I say. "Thanks."
They're already clearing everything away. Within minutes the place is deserted and I'm left standing there holding the key in one hand and the card in the other.
"So," I think. "What happens now? Is this where I wake up?"
Unfortunately nothing happens. Weird. I never had to walk home and go to bed in a dream before. But that's exactly what I have to do. I put the key down on the table by my bed. It looks just like a key, strangely enough, and eerily refuses to behave in any way but the normal way a key behaves, it just lies there looking all innocent and keylike.
I wish I'd gotten the wings, or at least the crown.
Then, as I look at it...