Only once a year was this door opened, and that day was today. Many people loved the pomp and pageantry of Christmas, but for Elaine, it was Epiphany that took the cake. She celebrated all the usual observances her little village church offered, and a few extra. Opening this door was one of them, and this honor was now entrusted to her.
Elaine‘s family had been the keepers of the key since time and memory began – and perhaps longer. Every generation it was passed on to the second oldest daughter in a modest but meaningful ceremony upon her entering into cronehood. Of course they never used such words outside of the family, never even said menopause. It wasn’t anyone’s business how and when the key changed hands. If questions were asked, they were deftly and efficiently turned aside in such a way that the asker felt that his query had been satisfied and yet was none the wiser.
The door was a deep turquoise blue, the color of the domes of Santorini sanctuaries, of endless pools in long-abandoned quarries. There was an ornate metal scrollwork seemingly festooned with clusters of ripe grapes upon it. This was no mere feet of artistry – there were two purposes to these ornate bands. The first was obvious: it gave the wood a structure, like a skeleton, to ensure the door’s persistence. It would not do to have this door, of all doors, decay before it’s time. The second was hidden: never spoken aloud, never even hinted that. The guardian of the key invariably realized it soon after she was entrusted with her noble task. It was of no matter if she didn’t, however – early, late, or never, the truth was still there. It had no need to be passed down like an heirloom or a password. It was too precious to need to rely upon something as fallible and frail as human memory. The truth could go many generations before being realized again. It could wait.
So why Epiphany? That was a little murkier. All Elaine’s family tradition would comment was that the one year it wasn’t done, the cows ran away, the children were more difficult than usual, and the tractors wouldn’t start. And not just any Epiphany, but the one on January 19, the one of the Julian calendar. This made the tradition a little less obvious to the village, which wasn’t cosmopolitan enough to know that there were two different dates for the same event, just like with Christmas and Easter.
Not like it really mattered what day it was celebrated, because lightning never strikes twice in the same spot with the same day, but it was the principle of the thing, and a tradition was a tradition.
Elaine opened the door at sunrise as she has been taught. The door would remain open all day, letting the chapel inside soak up the sunlight from the sacred day. Then at sunset, the door would be locked again, sealed for another year. Perhaps the chapel was some sort of holy battery, solar powered, long-lived, and needed the light on just this day to keep the village running smoothly.
Just in case that was true, they kept the population of the village under 100 people to ensure the special energy would not be used up too soon.