“Come on! Come on! Come on!” I slammed the dresser drawer shut several times out of frustration.
I had been messing with the dresser for an hour trying to activate it again. Everything that happened the previous night began with the dresser, but I couldn’t figure it out.
The dresser was tall, as tall as I was. It had three big drawers on the bottom that spanned its entire length, and six smaller drawers situated in three rows of two on the top half. I had already pulled each drawer completely out of the dresser.
Though I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, I inspected each drawer thoroughly. I looked each one over, inside and outside, top and bottom. There had to be something, a light source or at least some kind of clue. I didn’t find a single thing.
I peered deep into the openings I had removed the drawers from, but there was nothing in them except the wooden track for the drawers to slide in on. I blew a long breath out through my nose in disappointment.
There was nothing but dust and cobwebs under the dresser when I got down on my belly to look beneath it. The only place I had not checked yet was the back of the dresser.
It was heavy, but I pulled it away from the wall as far as I could, which wasn’t far. There wasn’t enough space between the dresser and wall for me to see the entire back, but I could reach my arm into the space and feel around.
Perhaps it was just my imagination, but when I reached my arm behind the dresser, it felt noticeably cooler than the rest of the room. My heart began to race as anticipation filled my mind. My hand trembled as I felt around in the void.
The back of the dresser did not have the same shiny, smooth finish as the front. It felt rough and textured beneath my fingers. Motes of dust and the scent of wood filled the air as I rubbed my hand along the panel covering the back of the dresser.
At first, all I felt was the grain of the wood, but then my fingers settled on a discrepancy in the texture. Though the rest of the panel felt rough and unfinished, the section my hand rested on now felt soft and slightly raised. My eyes widened and the hairs on my arms stood on end as a shiver ran down my spine. As I probed it further, it came dislodged from the dresser and fell into my hand.
I cradled it gently in my palm as I removed my arm from the space. I could feel the weight of the object in my closed fist as it cleared the edge of the dresser. It wasn’t heavy, but definitely noticeable. Before I could open my hand, I felt the object in my grasp move.
My fingers flew open when I felt the movement. A scream escaped my mouth as my eyes settled on what was in the center of my hand. It was a spider, and it was big, about the size of a quarter. It had a black, bulbous body with yellow markings.
I shook my hand in disgust as the spider began to move towards my wrist. It hit the floor and scurried back behind the dresser. A glance at my palm caused me to dry heave. One of the spider’s legs was still on my palm, but that wasn’t the worst part.
Between my fingers was a silky mass of web. It was the spiders egg sac. I know that because the eggs had hatched and what looked like hundreds of baby spiders were darting around on my hand.
“Oh, gross! That’s disgusting!” I rubbed my hands together and sprinted to the bathroom to wash off the spider leg and egg sac residue.
There was no trace of the spiders when I returned to my room. I almost convinced myself that my mind had conjured them in the first place. I still felt the imaginary spiders crawling all over my body though. At least I hoped they were imaginary. A shudder passed through my body at the memory.
I still needed to figure out how to get back to Khôra, but I wasn’t exploring the dresser again. I had already searched every inch of it. Opening the portal involved the dresser, but I couldn’t activate it manually. I felt quite certain I knew what I needed to do. Before the dresser began shaking and glowing the night before, I had been reading the book, and the book had to be involved.
I was only halfway through the book, so I settled down on my bed and began to read. I kept glancing at the dresser waiting for it to start again. My focus drifted to the dresser so often that I lost track of the story. Nothing was happening with the dresser, so I made a conscious effort to focus on the story and let the dresser take its own course. That’s how it happened the night before, so I thought maybe the dresser wouldn’t or couldn’t begin flashing if I was watching it.
I turned the page prepared to forget about the dresser and panic set in. There were no words on the next page. I thumbed through the second half of the book, and every page was blank. I forgot about all those blank pages.
I didn’t know what to do. The book was unfinished. I was convinced that I had to be completely engrossed in the story for the portal to open again, but there was no more story. I didn’t believe reading it a second time would have the same effect because I knew what was coming.
Standing beside my bed, I skimmed through the entire book again. Just as before, the words ended halfway through, leaving a pile of empty pages. I dropped the book on the bed and placed my hands on the sides of my head. I took a deep breath in through my nose and held it as I turned my tight-lipped face up to the ceiling.
Pacing back and forth, looking from the book on my bed to the dresser, something caught my eye. The riddle on the inside of the envelope was sitting next to the box on top of my other dresser. Maybe there was another clue!
I picked up the envelope and read it aloud as fast as I could.
“In your hands, you hold the key. Squeeze both sides and you will see.” I had figured that part out already. It was referring to the wax seal.
“A different perspective is the clue. Only then will it open for you.” The engraving on the back of the seal was the answer to this part. It matched the carving on the box.
“Let your mind show you the way. Can you be the hero that saves the day?” What did that part mean? Could it be talking about the way to Khôra? If so, I had already figured out that clue. I needed to focus my mind on the story about Khôra, and nothing else, to open the portal. But there was no more story.
“You are the author of your own fate. When the storm closes, so does the first gate.” This was the part I needed to focus on now and based on the last line, I had to figure it out before the storm passed.
I glanced out the window. The sky was still roiling with storm clouds, but they appeared to me to be thinning. Rays of sunlight were piercing them in spots. It was still raining, but not as hard as before. There was a low murmur of thunder, but it seemed weak and distant. Time was running out.