The door in the back of the storage room is locked. It has been that way since the day I bought this place, before I swept out the dust and cobwebs and stocked the shelves with bright colors.
I haven’t found a key that fits the lock, and all my attempts to pick it have failed. Even the ring of ancient keys that came with the store can’t unlock the door. In fact, the ring of keys don’t match any of the locks in here.
The morning is still yawning, sending pale yellow beams to peek through my windows. I’m standing behind my counter, moving the bolts of silk that line the wall. It only takes a few bolts being used to send the shelves into chaos, so I’m often standing here, reorganizing the shelves.
The rest of the store is filled with my work. Beautiful silk on the framework of bamboo, cherry, maple, and birch. Handpainted, embroidered, or trimmed with lace. I made every single fan on display, and I’ve been selling them for a long time.
It’s been years since I was handed a ring of ancient keys that didn’t fit any locks and dragged my first box of fans behind the dusty counter. I’ve given up trying to open the locked door inside the storage room, but it never leaves my curiosity. It leaks out of my mind sometimes in black painted locks and keys embroidered in golds and silvers.
People ask me where I get my inspiration. I laugh and tell them this place, this place, it haunts my work. I don’t tell them how it grabbed my heart the day I first saw it, I don’t tell them how it creaks and whispers in words I can almost understand.
I don’t tell them I come here in my dreams, and only then has the door in the back unlocked for me.
Beautiful, impossible things come out from behind that door. Oranges that taste better than candy, fairies with toadstool umbrellas, trees from forests too old for this world, kittens with wings and birds with antlers and golden doves with silver lined wings.
They fill my dreams and echo in my mind, and I catch glimpses of them between the bolts of silk and in the lining of my fans. I’ve given up trying to unlock the door, I have, I tell it to myself every morning. I’ve given up, it doesn’t want to be unlocked.
But someday, perhaps, the store will know me, the lock will trust me, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll try the door and it won’t be locked. This place, this place, this place . . .
It haunts me.