The Future Is Not What Was Promised But Is Almost Here Regardless by Aaron Burch

We were taking our nightly walk when I paused, looked down at the ground at my feet. Claire paused next to me, looked down where I was looking. “Don’t do it,” she said. I’m not sure I’d even had the idea to, until she said not to. “I have to!” I answered. I bent down and picked up the key that we’d both stopped, one after another, and looked down at. “You’re never going to find what that goes to,” Claire said. Of course I wouldn’t. Was that why I’d picked it up? Probably. Claire knew me better than I did. I put the key in my pocket and we completed our walk, neither of us saying anything more about it. The next day, at work, I spent hours staring at the key. Wanting it to speak to me. Wanting it to tell me its secret. What do you unlock? I asked it, though only in my mind. I knew better than to ask out loud. The day after that, I did the same. And then the same again. And again. And again. Weeks passed. Months. Time just keeps passing when you let it, and there’s no way to not let it. “That’s new,” Claire said one night when I came to bed. I’d been wearing the key on a chain around my neck for weeks but only ever under my shirt, and always taking it off for bed. “I’m so close,” I said. I was afraid to be away from it when it finally chose to let me hear it. Claire rolled her eyes, read her book, fell asleep. I never again removed the key from the chain, the chain from around my neck. It was ok, by then I’d memorized its every contour. More days, weeks, months. Years. Who can keep track? I got a promotion with a big raise; I don’t know why. Claire moved out. Forests burned, glaciers melted, global temperatures rose, animals went extinct. My skin started growing up around the key, holding it into my body. I was almost never not rubbing the key in the center of my chest over my shirt. I wouldn’t say pushing it into me, though that seemed to be happening. More months, more years. You can’t even see the key anymore. You wouldn’t even know it’s there. I do though. I know it’s there; I know it’s inside me. It’s getting so close to unlocking something. So close. At night, I go on walks, dreaming of the lock I might one day be able to open.


Aaron Burch is the author of an essay collection, a novel, and a short story collection; the editor of a craft anthology, a journal built on spontaneous submission calls, and another journal for longer short stories; a teacher; and some other things. He is super excited to be back on hex