The Wardrobe

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The Wardrobe
Copyright 2006 by Heather Rose Brown

Paul was carefully inking his name to the sign-in sheet when he caught a whiff of a particularly clingy, musky perfume. Just as he was about to write in the start time for his shift, slender fingers ending in long, silver fingernails snatched the pen from his hand. "Thank you, Angel. I'll just be a moment." A silky strand of platinum hair slipped over Paul's shoulder as the intruding hand reached over his arm and scribbled the current time in the out column next to her overflowing, scrawled signature.

"Ms. Nivose, I wasn't finished with that pen." He tried his best to sound calm and professional, but it was always difficult hiding the annoyance he felt when she was around.

"A thousand pardons, Angel." She slipped the pen back into Paul's grasp, resting her palm on the back of his hand a moment longer than necessary. Instead of being enjoyable, her icy touch made the hairs on his knuckles stand up and the muscles in his forearm quiver spasmodically.

"Thank you, Ms. Nivose." Paul was barely able to keep the revulsion from his voice.

The woman leaned her back against the security desk and pouted. " ‘Ms. Nivose' sounds so formal. Why won't you call me Reine like all of my friends do?"

"I'm sorry, but it wouldn't feel . . . proper."

"You're so sweet and polite, Angel. Are you sure I can't steal you away for just a little nightcap?"

Paul gritted his teeth and slowly counted to ten before he answered. "My name is Paul Angelos, not Angel." He paused, wondering again why he was the only one who had his last name on his nametag. "And I've already told you before, none of the security staff is allowed to drink alcohol before or while on duty."

Ms. Nivose patted Paul's arm and flashed a dazzling white smile. "Very well, An -- I mean Paul. Perhaps another time." Still smiling, the she swung away from the desk and slinked down the hall toward the elevator.

When she stepped into the elevator, an older man wearing a uniform matching Paul's and a name badge that read "Dave", leaned over the security desk and playfully punched Paul in the arm. "Dangit, how'd you get to be such a babe magnet?"

"Seriously Dave, I'm about as far from anything like that as you could imagine."

"You've gotta be joking. The Ice B --"

"Dave!"

"Sorry, I forgot how you felt about cussing. What I was gonna say was, Ms. Nivose barely talks to anyone, but she was hanging all over you just now."

Paul picked up the clipboard and filled in his start time while wondering how he could erase the last few minutes from his memory. "I noticed, but she really isn't my type."

"She's sexy, smart, and rich; what's there not to like?"

"I don't know. She's just so. . . ." Paul involuntarily shuddered.

"What's wrong? You ain't into girls?" While Dave's words could have been taken as an accusation, his gentle smile and matter-of-fact tone of voice made it a simple expression of curiosity combined with concern for a friend.

"No, it isn't that. I just. . . ."

"Listen, Paul. I've been around for a while and seen just about everything there is to see. I wouldn't suggest you go telling everyone here about it, but I personally wouldn't have any problems if you were into guys."

Paul handed the clipboard and pen to his co-worker. "Honest, I've never been attracted to men." He nearly added "either", but he was pretty sure that would have brought more questions than he was ready to answer.

Dave chuckled as he signed out. "Okay, I know better to poke my nose where it ain't wanted." He handed back the board and pen before tipping his hat to Paul. "Be careful and have a good night."

Paul waved as he took the seat Dave had just vacated and pulled out the logbook to check on what had been happening on the previous shift. Finding nothing unusual, he flipped the book closed, checked the camera monitors, and then got an early start on his first patrol of the grounds. It wasn't until he was coming out of the underground passageway connecting the main office building to the warehouse that he heard the voice.

"Come." It was deep, definitely male, and seemed familiar, but Paul couldn't quite place it.

Paul slipped the flashlight from his belt, flipped it on, and swung it in a wide arc down a dimly lit aisle of crates. Trying to hide his annoyance, he called out out in a firm, confident tone. "Who's there?"

"An old friend." The voice was warm and comforting, like a familiar, fluffy blanket.

Paul wiggled a finger in his ear. There was something very odd about the voice. It seemed to be coming from inside his head.

"You mean like you think I'm all in your head?" The new voice was softer and had a higher pitch.

Paul mumbled under his breath. "No, you're not real. It took two years of therapy to get rid of you."

"You can't get rid me."

"Why not?"

The deeper voice returned. "Because she is you."

"That's impossible. I'm me."

"That's both correct and incorrect. You are yourself, but you are not the person they have tried to convince you to be."

"What are you talking about?"

"There's not much time to explain. I doubt I could make a convincing argument if there were time. You must look inside yourself; trust your instincts; believe what you know to be true."

"Okay. . . ." Paul could feel what passed for sanity slowly evaporating. He'd been told the only way to make the voices stop was to ignore them. However, something much deeper down inside told him this was a voice one should not ignore.

"Now, tell me your name.” While the words were gentle, there was the force of a command behind them.

Paul grinned. "I thought you were going to ask a harder question. My name is P--"

"NO!" The thunder behind that single word made him stumble back against a pile of heavy wooden pallets. "You must let go of what you were told. Let go of the name you were given. Speak from your heart. Tell me your true name."

Paul slid down against the pallets until he was sitting on dusty, polymer-sealed concrete. He knew he was having another breakdown. The last time, he thought he was a little girl. Eventually, his therapist helped him realize the little girl was just a voice in his head, and then taught him how to ignore what she had referred to as "aural hallucinations".

All that therapy slipped away. He giggled from both nervousness and giddy relief as the shell he had built around himself floated away. In the center of his thoughts, shining like a beacon, was a realization logic told him was impossible, yet his heart knew without a doubt to be true.

"My name . . . is Angela."

"Angela." The voice was tinged with both sorrow and joy. "For a moment, I feared I had lost you as well. You must come through the doorway at once before they find you again."

Along with the realization of who she was came a sense of what her body should be like, which conflicted with the body in which she found herself. It took a couple of tries before she could find her balance and stand up. She took a few steps and discovered she could walk fairly normally, although the length of her legs made her feel awkward. After some experimentation, she eventually felt confident enough to walk away from the underground passageway and began searching the shadows with her flashlight. "Which doorway am I looking for?"

"It is a very old object which connects your world to mine. Can you feel it drawing you closer?"

She came to a stop, closed her eyes, and noticed a slight tug. "Yes, it's leading deeper into the warehouse."

"Follow it until you reach a large container. The object is hidden inside."

Angela followed the faint sensation. It almost felt as if she were floating down a stream as she wandered up one aisle and down another. Eventually, she was drawn to a huge wooden crate and the pull disappeared like a snapped rubber band.

Angela glanced toward the end of the aisle and spied the battered toolbox she had seen on countless rounds through the warehouse. She stifled a squeal of excitement when she opened the rusty lid and found a couple of hammers, several chisels, and a long crowbar.

After taking more time than she had expected (which was partially due to her nervously glancing around every few minutes and freezing whenever she heard an unexpected sound), Angela finally managed to pull the last nail from the crate. Her heart jumped into her throat when the front crashed to the ground, the noise echoing from the high rafters and distant walls.

Her fear of being discovered breaking into company property was nudged aside by the sense of wonder she felt when she saw what was inside. It was a wardrobe, but not just any old wardrobe.

It was . . . "The Wardrobe."

Slowly, reverently, Angela opened one of the doors, but instead of winter coats, there were little girl dresses filling The Wardrobe. Even though they were all too small for her, she found herself admiring them and wishing she could try one on.

The voice returned, shaking Angela from her trance. "You have done well, but you must continue. Come through the door." Her heart was thumping from both fear and excitement as she moved some of the dresses aside and climbed in.

The soft, delicate fabric of row after row of dresses brushed against her as stepped gingerly through them. Every so often, the scent floating from them changed, but remained sweet and hauntingly familiar. Angela began noticing the dresses were in larger sizes as she moved forward, yet they still looked as if they were designed for little girls. She found it difficult to not stop and admire many of the dresses, which seemed to range from simple play dresses to very delicate and frilly party dresses.

Eventually, she came across a beautiful dress that she knew, somehow, was hers. In the dim light, she saw a summery pink eyelet dress with lacy white trim on the hem and short, poofy sleeves, a white Peter Pan collar, and a white satin sash that was tied into a huge bow in the back. Without a second thought, she had shrugged off her grown-up clothes (which somehow had gotten very loose and baggy) and stepped into the -- no -- her dress.

She was still struggling with the last button on the back of her dress when the voice returned, but instead of the strange echo that had seemed to bounce off the inside of her skull, this was the distant sound of a voice filled with warmth and strength. "Come along, young lady."

Angela turned toward the voice and waded through the clothes until she came out onto a wide, sandy path in the middle of a dense forest. Standing in the middle of the path, looking both terrifying and beautiful, was a giant lion!

"A-Aslan?" She could barely speak above a whisper.

The Great Lion answered with a nod. "I was beginning to wonder if our enemy had shrouded your heart too deeply in the false reality growing in your land. I'm glad you were still able to hear me and answer my call."

"I'm a little confused." Angela nibbled on her lower lip for a moment before she had the nerve to continue. "What enemy are you talking about, and what is the false reality?"

"I'm not sure of the identity of the enemy, although I believe a certain witch you've come to know is most likely involved. The false reality is something that has been twisting your world in some unusual ways. For instance, it turned you into an adult."

"But I never felt like an adult."

"Yes, you're one of the few who can sense what is real in yourself, even when all else tells you otherwise. It is that specific ability, which I believe will help my army turn the tide on the false reality. Will you join me?"

Angela looked down and, for the first time, saw her real self. The joy and relief she felt was almost overwhelming. She knew she could not allow others to continue going through what she had experienced.

"Yes," she answered, her eyes brimming with tears. "I will. I must."

Aslan's rough tongue gently brushed a tear from her cheek. "Then let us go. We have much planning to do before the war."