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The Key to the Lock

The Key to the Lock

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The Key to the Lock

172 pages
2 hours
Nov 4, 2018


A book that's not supposed to exist pulls a man into a mysterious scavenger hunt with big prizes and bigger trouble. Is it just someone rich playing an elaborate game? It could be.

Where the "game" will end he doesn't know, but the lure of money and adventure drives him forward from his mundane life, even after his life is put at risk.

He'll find there's much more to this than a game, if he can keep ahead of those trying to kill him.

Nov 4, 2018

About the author

A writer, artist, storyteller, renaissance man, and seeker.

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The Key to the Lock - David Sloma


Dnierf C. Lem didn't like street people as a rule, but today he made an exception.

He didn't have anything against them per se, no prejudice against those without money or a place to go—he'd been through those things himself. No, he just didn't like the smell of those who didn't keep themselves clean, and they often had deep mental illnesses that were harmful not only to themselves but also to others.

He'd get hassled by such people as he walked the downtown streets of Toronto, where he lived, asking him for money, or just plain yelling and ranting at him. He was tired of it. He longed to move someplace else, maybe to the country, but that would have to wait, as he was in no position to do that at present.

He didn't have a lot of extra money to give the street beggars, as he only worked a minimum wage job at a bookstore on Yorkville Avenue called The Dayglo Snail, which specialized in esoteric and self-help books. He loved books and reading. Also, he was a writer in the true sense; writing for him was a need and an obsession.

He'd been writing since he was a child, and now in his mid-twenties he was staring to take his writing more seriously, with dreams of being a writer for a living one day. If he didn't write for a length of time then he just didn't feel good. Writing for him was a creative outlet and also therapy—without it he might be one of the mentally ill ones begging on the streets, he sometimes thought.

That day, that overcast afternoon, he was on his way to work feeling as grey as the sky, slightly hungover from his partying the night before, and still probably a bit drunk. It was an unusually warm winter's day in February, when it was normally far below zero with lots of ice and snow around the salt-stained sidewalks. But not today; it was more like spring with no snow or ice in sight. The temperature was above freezing and had so been for weeks, due to the shifting weather patterns or what, Dnierf didn't know. He was happy to be able to walk around in relative comfort in any case, through Yorkville, as the area was called, looking at the eclectic, artsy, and expensive storefronts and window displays.

Yorkville, the neighbourhood around Yorkville Avenue, had been the center of the hippy counter-culture of the 1960's in Toronto, with soon-to-be world famous musicians and artists populating its streets and coffee shops.

Three decades on, the area was one of high rents, fashion stores, expensive restaurants, well-heeled shoppers, and fine cars. Gone were the hippies and simple coffee shops of the past, but the creative spirit held on, expressed in designer clothing and works of art in galleries that no hippy of the day was likely to have been able to afford. But there were still some older hippies to be found there from time to time, seeming like wise ancestors from the past come to check on the current state of the place.

Dnierf always thought that the history of Yorkville was a bit ironic, given what it had become, but he still liked the creative vibe of the area, such as it was; it had transformed and gotten a budget increase. There was not much room for homeless people there.

But a street man who had set up shop in a small parkette just off the street caught Dnierf's attention that day. Hey, come take a look! Nice books here! Cheap! the man said, through bad and missing teeth, pointing and looking at Dnierf. His long, matted hair moved in the breeze as he motioned for Dnierf to come closer.

Dnierf snapped his neck around to look at the man and saw the box on the ground. It was full of books, alright, and they looked in not bad shape. Working in a bookstore, and having a big collection of books of his own which he'd been building since he was small, Dnierf knew books in good condition when he saw them.

Holding his breath, as much in anticipation as to avoid the man's likely stink, he stepped near the man and bent over to take a quick look at the books, thinking that if there was nothing good then he could start walking before he had to breathe again. The bending caused a bit of nausea, due to his lingering hangover, but he fought it off as he riffled through the books. There was nothing much of interest until he got to the last book, and it was a very interesting book!

The spine said PHILIP K. DICK – UNPUBLISHED. It was a PKD book he'd never seen or even heard of before. He pulled it out and looked it over, taking a tentative breath; to his relief he didn't smell the man. Good, he thought. The book looked like it had been made by hand, and was not a mass-production number, maybe just produced as gifts for a select few. Opening the cover, he saw no printing company or publisher listed. Odd. He read the back of the book, more like scanning it quickly. It said something about this being an unpublished story, found years after PKD had left this world for other planes. Dnierf was very intrigued!

Ah, Philip K. Dick! A great writer! Good choice! Only one dollar! the man said and smiled.

Hmm, said Dnierf. I like his writing a lot, but I've never seen this one before. He turned the book over in his hands, opened some pages, checked that the title and the author inside the book matched the dust jacket. They did!

That's a rare one! Better grab it before someone else! The man winked.

Dnierf wondered how the man got hold of such a book, but then thought it was perhaps better not to ask. He fished around in his wallet for a dollar coin and dropped it into the man's outstretched palm, careful not to touch the well-worn, fingerless black glove and the dirt-encrusted skin.

Thank you! Have a good read! The man said and smiled. He stood there, watching.

Uh, thanks. I will. Take care. Dnierf waved and walked on, putting the book under his arm before someone saw it. He wondered, Why am I hiding it? It's not like I stole it. Maybe he did, but I didn't. And maybe he didn't even steal it, either; he could have found it, or was given it. Maybe those books were his from when he had a house or something. You never know...

He crossed the street and looked back at the man who sold him the book. The man was yelling about his books to another passerby. The meek man he had spoken to hurried away, not looking at the street man.

Dnierf clenched the book under his arm, barely able to contain his excitement at what seemed like a very rare find, indeed! He was on his way to work at the bookstore, and he'd be able to look the book up on the computer in the publishing catalogs and see just what it was selling for.

He walked quickly, as a glance at his watch told him he was running late, a common occurrence for him. He just didn't feel there was enough time to do the things he wanted to, sometimes. But then, doing other things, like work, he felt that time passed more slowly. This was strange, but it was one of the things he had noticed and thought about. I'll have to write a story about that sometime, he told himself.

Then, he stopped by the side of a coffee shop, the aroma perking him up. He took out the notebook and pen he'd taken to carrying. He'd heard that it was always good to jot such ideas for stories down before they were forgotten. It was a writer's trick he thought, and he'd collected quite a few story gems or nuggets in his notebook so far. If he was ever stuck for something to write about all he'd have to do was consult the collection of ideas he'd recorded. He jotted some lines down, then put the notebook and pen away.

That done, he hurried the rest of the block to the Dayglo Snail, looking at it in the distance, about to do his shift at work. It was a fun job, as they went. He got to be exposed to new books and read them, too. Also, there were some neat (and not-so neat) customers who he got to know.

The job gave him money to survive, just barely, but he wanted more out of his future than working a dead-end, low paying job in a bookstore. No matter how cool the place was it was a means to an end. He knew most people didn't stay in such jobs for the long term, and neither would he. One day, he aspired to have books he'd written on bookstore shelves.

He took a deep breath and pulled open the front door of the store, smelling incense and hearing music; they always played music in the store and often burned incense, both of which they sold, as it was kind of a new age/hippy place. He had an eight-hour shift to go, and it was going to be a long day, he felt. He was tired from going out drinking the night before and was a little hungover. But he had the promise of the mysterious book to keep him going.

His stomach was starting to growl, as he'd not been feeling well when he woke up and had skipped breakfast. But the people he worked with were pretty casual and didn't much mind if someone had to pop out for a couple of minutes to grab a snack.

Dnierf was glad to see that the old hippy Wayne was behind the counter. Wayne had a long white beard, making him resemble Mr. Natural from ZAP Comics, or a wise sage, Dnierf couldn't decide which. Wayne was a staple at the store, an icon that had been there longer than just about anyone. Dnierf knew little of his background, except that he was an authentic hippy, and had gotten LSD in liquid form from the original manufacturer Sandoz back in the Sixties, when it was still legal. Wayne would regale Dnierf, and anyone in the store who would listen, with tales of his wild youth; of hanging around Yorkville in its heyday, and also at the infamous hippy haunt Rochdale College.

Customers were quite fond of Wayne, and rightly so; he had a near-encyclopedic knowledge of many types of books. Dnierf often wondered what Wayne would do if not for the store, as he seemed such an integral part of it, and if he'd retire working for the store, should it be around that long.

Good morning! Or should I say afternoon! Wayne bellowed out as Dnierf walked into the store and came around the counter.

Hi there. How goes? Dnierf said, looking around the store for any good-looking women, as they were often customers.

About as good as can be expected, Wayne sighed. He tended to be a bit depressive.

Not surprising, Dnierf thought. It must be tough on the old guy, after sailing to the heights of infinity to have to come back to Earth and be working in a bookstore in his older years, cool as it was.

But there was really nothing like that bookstore, Dnierf was coming to appreciate; in many ways it was the place to be at the time.

Check this out! Dnierf handed over the book for Wayne's inspection.

Philip K. Dick! A masterful writer! Wayne beamed and looked the book over. Haven't seen this one before. He lifted his thick glasses up and peered closely at the cover, a look of puzzled concentration on his face.

Me neither, and I've got nearly all his books. Seems like it might be rare? Dnierf asked.

Hmm. Let's see. Wayne, with the book in his hand, went to punching the title into the computer that was hooked up to the book publisher's catalogs.

While he did that, a customer came up to the cash register and Dnierf rang up the purchase, then bagged it and took payment. Thank you. See you again, Dnierf said as he smiled at the woman. She was not hard to smile at, since she was nice looking; a bit older than Dnierf, but he was trying not to discriminate. He watched her leave the store and sighed quietly to himself, wishing he knew her a lot better.

He took the elastic off the end of his long blondish hair, setting it free, and found it still a bit damp. It had taken him over a year to grow it out to its current length, a few inches below his shoulders. He'd never had it so long before, and he still sometimes didn't recognize his reflection in the mirror. It was more work to keep up, but he liked the

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