Alice traced her finger along the dusty shelves of the Denwood Manor library. She inhaled deeply and grabbed the key dangling around her neck. She loved the smell of old books, but it was time for her to say goodbye. Her last day as an apprentice to Carter Denwood. She was glad, but a part of her would miss this old place. It felt like home.
“You’re here early. Already going without a goodbye, Miss Alice?” Carter spoke from the front door.
Alice jumped, but soon moved into Carter’s view. “Yeah, I’m sorry I should get going. I have a flight to catch-”
An object caught Carter’s eye, forcing him to cut her off. “Where did you find that?” he whispered, as his trembling finger pointed to the key dangling around her neck.
Alice instinctively covered the key with her hand. She usually kept the necklace in her pocket as she did not like drawing attention to it. She did not know why she decided to wear it today, but she already felt uneasy by Carter’s question. “I just found it one day when I was traveling. I saw it when I visited Italy, I believe.”
Carter could not believe his eyes. He looked at the diary in his hand. The one diary he had been trying to open for nearly his entire life. The cover of the diary depicted a key, the same key that girl had just dangling around her neck. Though the cover was faded and it was nearly impossible to tell what was on it now, Carter had the picture of that key seared into his mind. And now it was staring back at him.
“Hand me the key, Alice,” Carter breathed heavily as he stepped toward her. His voice never sounded so cold, and though it was only above a mere whisper, it was deafening to Alice’s ears. She noticed that he had a diary clenched in his hand. It was the same diary he always carried with him. It suddenly dawned on her that he never opened it. The old diary was nearly falling apart, but the clasp remained intact. Alice hesitated. Her gut was telling her not to give him the key: and she always trusted her instincts.
Carter saw immediate hesitation and clenched his teeth. What would he have to do to make that key his? What would he have to give? Carter’s mind raced. His voice became sharper as he inched closer. “You could join me, you know. All you would have to do is hand me the key.”
Alice stepped behind one of the several tables in the middle of the library to create space between her and Carter. “What is in that diary?”
“You have got to be joking!” Carter laughed as Alice could hear her heart beginning to pound loudly. “You were the one to find the key?” He slammed his hands on the table, making Alice jump slightly. “The key I have spent forty years trying to find? AND YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT UNLOCKS?!”
Alice shook her head vigorously. She took another step back. Words were failing her, but she tried to remain calm.
Carter snickered once. “Well,” he sneered. “I just have to tell you, don’t I?”
Alicia gulped. She had a feeling she did not want to know.
“This diary contains the formula for the elixir of life.”
Upon those words, Alice felt a chill up her spine as she whispered, “To live forever? Who would want that?” She felt goosebumps creep up her arm. Carter wants to cheat death? Alice shivered slightly. Life is sacred but only because there is death. She tried to imagine herself living forever. The idea of all her friends and family passing away, and she would just be left alone for eternity made her sad. A part of her wanted to believe that Carter was messing with her. It was her last day after all. He had to be joking, right? She wondered. But then, she looked at Carter’s face and felt her heart racing. He was not messing around.
Carter spat at her. “Life is wasted on people like you. People who spend their lives doing nothing meaningful! Life is wasted on those who do nothing. What I would give to know everything! I just need…” he looked into Alice’s hazel eyes, which used to shine with curiosity, were now clouded by fear. “Time.”
The light of the day began to peek through the curtains and shone upon Carter’s face. In that moment, she saw all the lines drawn across his face, almost as if his entire life was written out from ear to ear. Usually, she would see her mentor’s intelligence, stoicism, and in some rare cases, even compassion. But now, she saw something wild. This was not her mentor, or even a man. She was staring into the eyes of a savage.
Carter began to circle around the table, but Alice took the necklace off immediately and slid it across the table toward him, for she was terrified. Maybe he could just take the necklace and go. He was not hurting anybody, Alice reasoned to herself. It was not like she had to be a part of his dreams to be immortal. But she could not shake the feeling of disgust that slowly wrapped her mind. No one should be able to live forever. No one should want to live forever.
“I do not want to be a part of this. I just want to go,” she found herself saying, as she tried to move away from Carter. But Carter kept following her as he reached into his pocket.
“That’s all well and good, but the thing is,” he said as he took out a knife and let it shine against the sunlight for a minute. Alice backed herself into a wall, paralyzed. She opened her mouth to scream, but no noise came out. Carter was now inches away from her.
“Can you keep a secret?”