The contest rules were simple: write a piece of flash fiction no longer than 300 words including both the words “liar” and “key.” No other parameters specified. (This is the second iteration of this contest, the first being for The Prince of Fools.) The fiction would be judged by authors T. Frohock, Myke Cole, T.O. Munro, David Jackson, Fantasy Faction Overlord Marc Aplin, and Mark Lawrence himself. The prize would be a signed ARC of The Liar’s Key, graciously provided by ACE Books.
I submitted a piece titled “A Locking Door,” which, to my delighted surprise, was selected for the top ten out of 105 entries. Here it is:
A Locking Door
By James Cormier
Chloe checked the door again, the knob warm in her hand, careful not to jostle it. She’d never seen doors like these before they moved, heavy things with glass knobs and worn brass plates, each with its own tarnished skeleton key. Old keys, like Chloe’s, that squealed in dry locks that drove heavy old bolts into neat slots cut into the heavy wooden jambs.
Her mother had pressed it into her small hand after she’d told her, her mouth firm. Chloe was a good girl, and almost a young woman, now. Good girls locked their doors at night and didn’t talk about those things. Good girls were quiet as mice.
Chloe listened through the storybook keyhole and heard the TV downstairs, along with the clatter of dishes under the running faucet and the clink of his glass on the table. If you told anyone, he’d said, after the first time, they’d just think you were making it up. You don’t want people to think you’re a liar, do you? You know what God does to liars. He only said it that once. She chewed at a fingernail, peeling off a half-moon shred and hissing when it bled.
She’d locked the door during a loud commercial, when he’d gone to the bathroom, flinching at every squeak from the lock. It would be worse if he caught her doing it. Chloe waited another minute, just to be sure, then got into bed with her jeans on. She listened to the hissing, clanking radiator and squeezed her key until it hurt. She opened her hand and felt the key-shaped mark in her palm. When she started to nod off, she slipped the key into its spot under her mattress to keep it safe and waited for morning.
My heartfelt thanks to Mr. Lawrence, Agnes of ThatThornGuy.com, and all of the judges and participants.