The headmaster reached into the safe and pulled out a key. It shimmered and kept changing colour as he held it up.
‘This my dear Mr er… what was it again?’
‘McCloud, sir,’ said Normal.
‘Yes, that’s right. Well, this key will open all kinds of doors into all kinds of places. What you might call a key of the kingdom.’
‘Let me show you young man.’
The headmaster waved Normal out of the way and came over to the door out of the study. The head slipped the shimmering key into the lock and twisted it round.
‘Where would you like to go?’ he asked.
Normal shrugged. ‘Home,’ he said, and then he felt a little guilty for being honest about that.
‘Really?’ said the head, his bushy eyebrows sliding up his forehead with surprise. ‘Still finding your feet, eh?’ he asked, and he gave a reassuring smile. ‘Home it is then, ‘ he said and he twisted the key back and forward four times and swung the door open.
Instead of the winding corridor outside the head’s office Normal saw the street where he lived. The shimmering river flowing down the middle of it and the glistening trees of life growing along each side. As they watched, the door of number 77 Celestial Crescent opened and his father came out and headed off to work at the Pearly Gate Administrative Centre. Normal felt suddenly homesick. Everyone said he looked a lot like his father, just a bit reduced in size. In the distance, beyond the houses of Celestial Crescent Normal could see the towers of Halo prep school. It felt like a hundred years since he had been going there, though it was only a few weeks. Normal sniffed, the head glanced at him, smiled again and closed the door.
‘See’ he said in an overloud voice, ‘this key will take you anywhere through any door. But,’ and he held up a chubby finger, ‘it is only to be used for important missions. Not for visiting Alton Towers.’
‘What’s Alton Towers, sir?’
‘Hmmph, a place on earth you need not worry about. Some new cadets last year decided to have some fun on a day out. Hmmph. Look, is that the time?’
The headmaster twisted the key four times back and forth again and swung opened the door to reveal the school corridor outside.
‘Off you go then, young McManners.’
‘Yes that’s it. Off you go. You’ll be all right. Just a matter of settling in.’