Clearing the attic, I came across an old wooden barrel-lidded chest. Its hasp had been broken, the rusted padlock still attached and hanging useless, but everything else about it looked oddly pristine. A mix of trepidation and curiosity beheld me as I gripped the sides of the lid and inched it open.
Inside was a hand drawn map, a brass key and nothing more. The map had aged badly but beneath the stains of time I could just about make out the circumference of an island made apparent by the draughtsman’s inclusion of groups of tiny waves surrounding its enclosed shape. In a space between the waves was a scaled line noting a measure of half a mile. Within the island were groupings of palm trees, a dwelling which looked a lot like a shed, a large letter X, and an incongruous but perfectly recognisable standard door, the sort you normally see on the outside of any ordinary house.
It was then that I looked inside the empty chest and discovered that its base was in fact a door, with panels, a knob, and a keyhole, just like the one drawn on the island of the map.
Looking at the map again, I calculated that the door was easily within distance of the large X. I then held the key up to examine it in the half light; could it, I wondered, fit the lock in the chest door?
There was only one thing for it. Exhaling long and deeply, I put the key into the lock at the base of the chest and turned. There was some resistance, then a definite click. I grasped the knob of the door, holding my breath at this point. My palm was moist with perspiration and I couldn’t turn it sufficiently. Wiping my hand across the front of my shirt, I took hold for a second time, gripped tightly and, exhaling as before, turned the knob successfully. I sensed a lightness in the door and pulled it upwards, towards me. Suddenly, a huge gush of salt water poured forth from the chest, flooding the attic and washing its contents and me down the ceiling hatch and into the floor beneath. I fought for breath and control of my senses, the plume of water was unabating, my possessions cascaded down the stairs and into the street; I followed them, helplessly, soon after. Eventually, I managed to reach for the safety of a lamppost and pulled my fatigued body to the side, watching the torrent of water resemble a river in flood, or a tsunami, rolling down the street and through the town.
“What happened, Bud?”, a voice asked over me.
I looked up into the face of a policeman looking down.
“I guess someone drew the door in the wrong place”, was all I could think of answering.
The river is still flowing to this day, but as for the chest, I never set eyes on it again.