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Fantasy Speculative Contemporary

   The red-haired woman crosses her arms, and I fear she may be getting impatient. I pretend not to notice, continuing to examine the two doors in front of me. The first is silver, ornate, and altogether elegant. Beautiful dragonflies and lunar moths flitter around it, landing on it from time to time for a moment’s rest. The second door, a few yards to the right of the silver one, is gold. Unlike the first, it lacks any particular design, and is instead smooth and flat. It’s almost as if the door wants to appear strong and sturdy, despite how weak the thing that waits behind it is. A tiger lays next to it, sleeping, with its head rested on a paw.

   “Come on, Penny.” The red-haired woman, standing by the silver door, says. “We don’t have all day.”

   “Actually, we do.” The man standing by the gold door, clothed in a light blue suit, retorts. “Let Penelope ponder for a moment. It’s a big decision, and she should take as much time as she needs. Besides, patience is a virtue.”

   “You know I have never cared much for virtue, brother.” She throws back at him.

   I ignore both of them, sitting down to stare at the doors a little longer. This is no real decision for me, I knew what I would choose since I first laid eyes on these doors, since I first knew I even had a decision to make. Even so, I still find myself staring, stalling.

   Lilith, the red-haired woman, created the silver door so that whoever enters it may secure revenge against their worst enemy. Gabriel, the blue-suited man, created the gold door so that whoever enters it might find forgiveness for their worst enemy. If I choose the silver door, I will never be able to let go, but if I choose the gold door, he will go free.

   So here I am, little human Penelope, facing an angel and a demon, and being asked to choose. I feel like the mythic Paris, who was handed a golden apple and asked to choose between the gifts of three jealous goddesses, and I pity him. I wonder if he knew his answer as certainly as I do.

   That man who I may curse or forgive did unspeakable things to me, things he would do again to another in a heartbeat. So I know, and have always known, that I must choose revenge.

   Lilith starts tapping her foot against the ground, impatient. She knows I already made my choice, how could she not? She must think I am wasting time, but really I just want this moments break.

   I was dragged away from the world by an angel and a demon so that I may make a choice. Once I make it, I must return, but here and now I have a moment away from the wretched earth that allowed that man to hurt me. No one can hurt me here. 

   “I have things to do, girl. It’s time to decide.”

   “I don’t know how you think she’s ever going to choose you when you antagonize her like that.”

   “She will choose me regardless of what I say. It was never really a choice in the first place.”

   “If that were the case she would have chosen you already instead of spending all this time pondering.”

   “No, Lilith is right.” I interrupt the squabble between siblings. “It was never really a choice. I will choose her regardless of what she says to me.”

   “What?” Confusion crosses Gabriel’s face. “Then why spend so long thinking on it?”

   “She was stalling.” Lilith answers for me. “She doesn’t want to go back.”

   “Go back where?”

   “To Earth, of course. It’s horrible there, and she has to live in that hellhole.”

   “You’re literally from hell.”

   “And even I think Earth is horrendous, but just because she doesn’t like her home doesn’t mean she gets to waste my time.”

   They continue to argue, and I let them. It buys me more time in this endless nothingness. A moth comes from the silver door to land on my hand, and I watch as it’s wings open and close as it sits, ready to fly off again at the slightest sign of threat. That is how I lived most of my life after what he did. I felt as though I could never trust anyone ever again, even if they seemed kind, even if they seemed like a place I could rest, I still kept my guard up in case I had to run at a moments notice, in case everything changed. 

   “Gabriel, are you willing to try to convince me?” I finally ask.

   “Of course, Penelope. My only goal is to help you, of course, and the decision is ultimately yours.”

   “Fine then, I have a few questions for you.”

   “Go right ahead.”

   “Do you prefer pretty lies, or painful truths?”

   “Painful truths of course. The truth is always more righteous than a lie.”

   “Good, so we’re on the same page. The painful truth in this situation is that a man that I once saw as a trusted friend laid his hands on me without my permission. Should I not be angry?”

   “Anger is a sin, sweet Penelope. It is better to forgive.”

   “Is what he did not also a sin? And if I forgive him and move on, what is stopping him from doing it to another girl? Because the painful truth in this situation is that he will do it to another girl, given the chance. Do you truly think it is better for this man to roam free?”

   “If you do not forgive him, this will never leave you. You will carry this burden of hatred for the rest of your life. It is better to forgive.”

   “A pretty lie. I had a feeling you’d tell one eventually. It is far better to carry the burden myself then to pass it on to other girls, so no, it is not at all better to forgive.”

   Before he can say another word I walk to the silver door, and out of the corner of my eye, I see Lilith smirking as I open it.

May 29, 2021 03:03

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2 comments

Charlie Paul
01:31 Jun 10, 2022

I liked this a lot- especially the fact that Penelope leaned away from the more idealistic view that many characters I have seen take. It’s brutal, just like you said, but the story rings true.

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Michael Regan
19:25 Oct 21, 2021

A classic theme - very well done. I was reminded of Confucius - “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves” BTW: I liked your choice of the name Penelope.

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