Version 4

A stand-alone short story inspired by the large doors before a dungeon boss in a video game.

"This is it." I say to myself as I enter the room. I look down at my map and look for the room I'm in. The next room sits at the deepest part of the dungeon, and it's marked with a skull. I swallow, and grip my sword a little tighter.

I look up in front of me, and notice the doors to the final room. Two massive slabs of brown stone, carved with an ornate picture of a city on fire, and in the center, a massive monster with a polygonal hole carved in the center for the key. An intense, carefully crafted warning to anyone who would make it this far.

I look closer at the monster, notice its muscles, its claws, its wings...I imagine myself in that city, surrounded by that fire, hearing the screams of those people. I imagine myself looking up at that monster, and wondering if I will meet the same fate as that city.

"Why am I doing this?"

I step back instintively. I start to think about home...straw-thatched roofs, a quiet rolling countryside dotted with grassy hills and plateaus and covered with cherry trees. I think about leaving this dungeon...walking back over the corpses of gigantic spiders, broken skeletons, and decaying lizard men. I think about returning home, putting away my sword, my cloak, the strange artifacts I've collected so far. No, I think of wrapping them up, tying the bag with stones, and tossing them into the lake near my village. I think about quitting this quest, living at home, returning to my books and ale, and sitting by the river with Julia.

"Julia..." I say without thinking.

I start to think about her long brown hair, her smile, her laugh, and how it blends with the gentle roar of the river falling into the lake. I think about sharing some warm, freshly baked bread, and about a kiss I was never brave enough to seek...

We could live forever there. I think.

I hear a roar rumble from beyond the door.

I picture the monster attacking my village. I see the flames on my home now, I hear the screams from my neighbors, I see...I see Julia standing before the monster.

I picture myself reaching for my sword, and feel my heart sink when I see it isn't there. I picture Julia being eaten, and being unable to stop it.

"NO." I say to myself, feeling my hand hurt from its grip. I look back up at the door.

"Alright then, I am afraid." I say. "But I have something that I'm afraid of, even more than you."

Stepping forward, I place the golden key into the carved beast's heart, and hear the door click. Metal gears sound from within the walls as the doors slowly open.

"I don't know if I can beat you, but I'd rather die trying, then let you go free." I say, before stepping between the doors.