Annette’s parents were always open with her about the locked door in the attic: it was a dangerous portal to a place she was only to go to when all other hope was lost. Any curiosity she might have had died the day she saw her father return through it, grey-faced and thin, even though he’d been pink and healthy at breakfast a few hours ago.
The world hadn’t ended that day, but Annette knew what nobody else did: that the world might have ended—probably had in another time stream—and her father had paid the price to keep everyone safe.
Annette piled boxes in front of the door after she inherited the house, when she was far too young, and pretended that it didn’t exist. Over the years, she brought home a wife and then two children, but the awareness of what waited for her in the attic never went away.
It waited until the day finally came when she had to unstack the boxes, open the door, and step through to say, “What is your price to save my world?”