Darkness was the first thing that filled my conscious. Slowly, the darkness faded and light overwhelmed me. A group of shining mansions towered above. They were made of gold or marble and decorated with amethyst, rubies and other gems. Even the yards were perfect: neat flowerbeds decorated lawns that were so green they couldn’t have been real.
I knew I was supposed to live in one of the houses in this new place, but I didn’t know which one. The streets were empty except for an elderly lady walking toward me.
“Excuse me,” I called to her, “I’m new here, and I was wondering if you could tell me where my house is.”
“It isn’t in this neighborhood,” she chuckled. “Do you see that house, girl?” She pointed to one on my left sprinkled with emeralds. “That one belongs to a man and his family who spent their whole life helping people who lived in what people in the Old World called ‘third world countries.’ They deserve a mansion after living in the places they did.”
She pointed to another that looked almost castle-like. “The lady in that house has a beautiful voice. She used it to sing about The One.”
I knew about The One. He built this New World for people when they could no longer stay in the old. I guessed it would make since that if a person worked for him in the Old World, they would get a better place to stay.
“And the man who lives there,” continued the woman pointing out a golden house, “spent his life telling people in the Old World about this place. And those over there,” she gestured with her head to a group of mansions, “That entire row of houses belongs to a whole line of families who have passed down their dedication to The One from generation to generation.”
She looked at me. “You are the only one from your family that has made it here aren’t you?” I nodded. “And you didn’t do anything for The One while you lived in the Old World did you?” I shook my head wishing I’d done more to prepare myself for this place. “You didn’t even reserve a house here while you were in the Old World.”
It was true. I didn’t reserve a place here until just days before my journey.
She clucked in disapproval. “You definitely won’t be staying in this area. Come on. I’ll show you where your house is.”
She walked me down the row of houses, pointing out more great people and telling me of their wonderful deeds. We didn’t go far before the houses changed dramatically. They were shotgun houses at best, shacks and hovels at worst. Shiny windows gave way to square holes covered with rags. A rainbow of colors turned to grey and faded brown. The bright green grass disappeared, and in its place were muddy little patches of yard and alleyways littered with broken glass, overturned garbage, and foul smells.
After finding out that the mansions were for those who had made the most of their life in the Old World, I expected to live in a small house. I didn’t spend my time helping others, and I’d hardly even given a thought to the New World while I was in the old. I knew I didn’t deserve a mansion, but I didn’t think I would be given a dirty hovel either.
“Here it is,” announced my guide as we stopped in front of a sad looking shack. The paint was peeling off in so many places that it looked like a puzzle, and the roof sagged. It didn’t even have windows.
“Are you sure this is it?”
“It has your name doesn’t it?” She pointed to an inscription by the door. My name was carved into the plaster, though it was difficult to make out. There was a line of red paint running through it.
“See it’s yours. You can go inside.” She encouraged.
“I’m not sure I want to.” I took a step back. Something about this wasn’t right.
“Go on,” she told me forcefully as she put her hand on my back and pushed me forward. “It’s not so bad once you get inside.” I resisted her, but she grabbed my arm and pulled me to the door with surprising strength.
I stopped myself by grabbing the door post. I couldn’t take another step.
Where the floor should have been was a large pit. It was so deep, I couldn’t see the bottom.
“I can’t go in there!” I would fall to my death.
“But it’s your home,” she told me sweetly.
“You know that isn’t her home,” said a stern voice behind us. The old lady’s hands released me as if I had burned her. We both turned to face the man.
“I was only having a little fun.” She cackled nervously. “I wasn’t really going to…”
“Leave,” commanded the man. The woman disappeared. I blinked at the spot where she’d stood, but she didn’t come back.
The man held out his hand. “I’ll take you to your home.” The moment I touched his hand, the dilapidated houses were replaced by the pristine mansions I first saw.
“I don’t think I am supposed to live here either,” I told him. “I didn’t do anything great while I was in the Old World. I don’t even have family in this place.”
“Do you think these people live here because they had family here that came before them?” he asked.
I shrugged. “That woman told me about the people who live here. I’m not good enough to live in this place.”
“Neither are they.” The man smiled at my puzzled expression. “None of these are worthy enough to live here. They are here not because of what they did, but because of what was done for them.”
Before I could ask what he meant he led me to a mammoth house made of white marble and lined with hundreds of ruby colored roses.
“It has your name,” he said pointing to a golden plaque by the door. But this mansion couldn’t be mine, as much as I wanted it.
“But what about the other house? It had my name too,” I told him, confused.
“It was yours at one time, but your name was marked out in the only way that a name on such a house can be—with the blood of sacrifice.”
It was then I noticed his hands. Both palms were scarred in the center.
It was his blood that marked out my name.
In honor Flash Fiction Day, I’ll be posting flash fiction throughout the day. Be ready to read. There’s more to come!