28 days of Flash — 27 of 28
Iris woke up on a floor. Not the concrete of the train station nor the unpleasant vibrating metal and rubber of the train, but a real floor. Varnished wood planks were under her and a thick red rug was just out of reach. She peeled her face away as she lifted her head and instinctively slipped her hand to her cheek to rub the dirt away. There was none.
“Oh good, you’re awake,” an unfamiliar woman’s voice said from behind her. Iris scrambled to retract her legs and pull her knees close with her arms, tightening into a ball. She wobbled. She was still dizzy.
“You were hemorrhaging energy,” the woman said. “You’ve been asleep for a couple of days.”
Iris listened to the footsteps behind her. She recognized the cadence. Step-thump. Step-thump. The woman walked with a limp. Iris thought the woman had been in the train station, but she slipped into the void again without warning. “You’ve been watching me.”
“You’ve been passing out on the train for weeks. You were lucky I was there this time,” the woman said. “You need help with your gifts, eh.”
Iris knew it wasn’t a question and tensed.
The woman said, “Don’t try to raise your vibration thinking you’ll just disappear again, Iris. You barely have the energy to be here, and I don’t have time enough left to keep chasing you. You have a lot to learn.”
“How do you know my name?” Iris asked, tipping her head to the side, staring. The woman came into focus slowly, as if she were walking out from behind thick glass that tapered gradually to a clear pane.
“When did you last die?” The woman asked, ignoring Iris’ question.
Iris shifted her eyes to look at the woman in hers, but moved nothing else. “How do you know about that?”
The woman smirked and tipped her head forward to stare at Iris. “I’ve died a hundred times just since before you were born, girl. I can teach you, but you need to trust me.”
Iris froze. Trust was a fragile word in her world. She trusted her father until he disappeared at a train station. She had been jumping between them ever since, trying to find him. She wanted to hug him again as much as she wanted to kill him for abandoning her to this world she barely knew and a power she didn’t understand.
The woman limped to a chair a few feet away from Iris. “I’m Melisande,” she said as she fished around in her pockets. “I knew your father. He asked me to give you this.” She held out a small object wrapped in notebook paper.
Everything about this felt like a trick. Hadn’t her father told her a thousand times not to take things from strangers? “You never know what some innocent looking package will do,” he had said. It wasn’t long after that Iris saw him accept something from from someone in a train station. It was the last time she saw him.
“You open it,” Iris said, furrowing her brow and narrowing her eyes down to slits.
Melisande smirked and nodded. “Smart. Very, very smart, girl. Okay.” The old woman grabbed a flap of paper that was sticking out and tore at the small package. A key fell to the floor.
“Give me the paper,” Iris said, holding out her hand. Melisande stretched forward to place the paper in Iris’ waiting hand.
Iris pulled the scrap toward her and grabbed the key with the other hand. She held her palm flat and brought the key over the top of it. Pointing the key straight down, the paper morphed into a cylinder into which the key slid and turned.
Melisande scoffed. “If you want to lose that key, keep going. I suggest you pull it and keep it and its portal safe for now. You aren’t yet equipped to go where it will take you. But I can help.”
Iris broke her gaze from the key and looked toward Melisande. The key and the paper it was wrapped in fell into Iris’ hand.
She had no choice but to trust her now.