By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: They decided to bury it at the edge of the farm under the big oak tree.
Everyone in town decided that because Jack and Kara found the box of keys, they should be the ones to get rid of it. Jack hefted the box from one hip to the other as he tried to walk as fast as possible across the farm. Kara followed, and he could hear her anger with every stomp of every footstep.
“I can’t believe you’d bow to pressure like this, Jack,” she muttered to his back.
He didn’t break his stride, didn’t even turn around, but he did lean his head back in her direction as he walked. “And I can’t believe you’d be willing to keep going in this weird sort of experiment.”
“People were finding out what they needed to know about one another,” she said for the tenth time since the entire experience started.
“People were getting hurt.”
“The truth hurts.”
He stopped mid-stride and whirled around. “And is it worth it for that truth to cut you to the bone? Is it worth it to find out that all the other things in your life were fine, but you or someone you love told a little lie and that one little lie is now going to unravel everything?”
Kara put her hands on her hips. “If you build a relationship on a lie, then it’s not a real relationship.”
“Are you telling me you’ve never lied to me? Ever? About anything?”
She held his gaze for a moment or two but then looked away.
Jack readjusted his grip on the box. “Just because someone lies doesn’t mean they plan to hurt people. And sometimes lying is better for the other person.”
“How?” Kara said, throwing her hands in the air. “If someone lies to you and you find out about it, how are you supposed to trust them ever again?”
This time Jack just rolled his eyes and started walking again.
“If a friend asks you whether she looks fat in a dress, would you tell her the truth just so you can always be truthful?” he said. “No. Because telling her the truth hurts her more than the lie.”
“Then I wouldn’t be a very good friend, would I?” Kara shot back.
Jack stopped again. “Okay. Here’s a truth: I’ve always loved you, and I know you don’t love me. We’ve known each other for years, and I think I’m the right guy for you, but you refuse to admit that because you’d rather have your fun time with those punks you date. You think that the little bit of excitement they bring in your life is better than something that might look boring but is actually stable and secure. Stable and secure scare you, because you’re afraid they make you look like a loser. Like someone who conforms. Like someone who isn’t special.”
The horror that flashed across Kara’s face made him regret the words, but he also saw confirmation in her eyes. They’d done the dance for years. Kara dating one loser after another, getting her heart “broken”—although he didn’t know how a person’s heart could truly be broken a dozen times or more—and then her coming to him for solace. Sometimes that included a bottle of wine and a long night of talking. A couple of times that meant going out on a “friend-date” so that neither of them were alone.
Once—the time that Jack suspected her heart held a kernel of the same feelings—he’d kissed her. It was a perfect kiss on a perfect occasion. They were strolling on the boardwalk, the moon was full over the ocean, and the sky clear enough to see stars for miles. Kara had even leaned into the kiss. Then she pulled back, and the dreamy look on her face dissipated as if she came to the realization bit by bit that she was kissing him and not one of the punks.
He hadn’t even planned the kiss, the walk, nothing. That’s what had made them even more special. Kara was special, to him at least. But she just kept friend-zoning him, and he knew it was pointless to keep chasing her.
Now she just stepped closer and narrowed her eyes.
“What I feel and who I date is my business. If it’s such a problem for you, we can definitely call our friendship quits after we’re done today.”
Jack thought of a dozen responses, but he didn’t want to give voice to any of them. It didn’t matter anymore. His entire body felt lighter.
Maybe Kara was on to something with this whole “speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” deal. Of course, he wasn’t going to admit that to her now. Not today.
A pain in his hip reminded him of why they’d come out to the abandoned farm in the first place. The box of keys. He, Kara, and a few friends had found them in an antique store. Kara bought the keys on a whim, saying the box “called” to her, and they started clowning around with the keys by fitting them to locks. Their friends grabbed a few and did the same.
Everyone was startled to find that the keys actually fit the doors. They were shocked to discover that they could go through the doors and walk into near identical versions of their lives. They were horrified to find how different their lives looked in those other dimensions.
The Truth Dimensions, Jack named them. No one lied there. Everyone told the truth. The consequences were painful.
At first Kara had tried to market the keys as some sort of relationship fixer, but they caused more trouble than anyone wanted. People in town complained, cried, even tried to sue Jack and Kara. They agreed to bury the keys if everyone agreed to forget about the whole thing.
Jack made his way to the large oak tree at the edge of the arm and waited for Kara to come around with her shovel. They would bury the keys, and life would eventually go back to normal for everyone else. But what about him and Kara? How would life go back to normal for them now? They were burying everyone else’s troubles, but this trip had only uncovered theirs.
How would they bury this?