Catcher Key

December 10, 2008
By Arianna Nustad, Helendale, CA

For the love of God, I honestly have no idea why my father would purchase
this hell hole for a house. It was old, like Civil War old. The house was a classic, that
was for sure, large and made of wood. “It’s a fixer upper.” My father proudly said. He was always a sucker for the antique look. He was always bringing things home like, old rocking chairs, old toys, couches that were red and falling apart, and the funny thing was that my mother was just as enthusiastic about it as he was. They would always fix whatever dad brought; actually, they were actually really good at it.

Anyways, I could understand why they wanted this house. They hated the city where we lived before. A small apartment, crowded with many old, dusty things, the constant complaining of the neighbors when dad asked for their assistance when he brought something in that was too big or heavy for him to bring up himself. But here, in the quiet seaside world of Rhode Island, were there was a large mansion like house, and where our closest neighbor lived three miles away. It was perfect for my mom and dad, and I liked it too. I never really liked the city, but this house, what was he thinking? So many rooms, and most of them won’t even open. That’s right, about a quarter of the house was unusable to this family, and they refuse to get a lock smith to change the locks, saying things like, “it will ruin the antique feel of the house, that something completely new to the atmosphere would disrupt the original feel.” What ever, I just wanted to see what was inside these rooms.

I guess, that saying, “be careful what you wish for”, is a real aspect one should really regard carefully. It had been a month since we moved, and I was just about getting into the feel of the new house, when, by complete accident, a floor board in my room suddenly decided to give in under my feet. That darn floor board always bugged me, always squeaking, but this time, today, I heard the squeak, more like a loud wail, and then a erupting crack, like the sound of a tree finally splitting after the lumber jack cut into it, and then my foot fell into a deep hole all the way up to my shin.

I let out a few curse words, and pulled my foot out carefully, hoping that nothing was fractured or sprained. It was sore but there was no real damage. Just then, curiosity got the better of me, much like how it affects every human being when something new and un-expecting happens, and I looked down into that small floorboard sized hole; it was a secret hiding place.

I reached my hands down into the hole, feeling around for anything. There was a music box, a really old looking ruffled, light pink, silk covered box. It was covered in dust, but what was inside the box was what made life in the old mansion way more exciting. The music was light and charming, I didn’t know the tune, but it was very beautiful, and the treasure that was inside that music box was a bright, big skeleton key with a crest of chains and flowers imprinted on the handle.

My mind tinkered away at the amazing sight before me. The skeleton key was amazingly magnificent. Jeez, I sound like my parents now. How old was it? Over a hundred years old? Amazing! The color of the metal was reflective and shiny still, like dust never touched its beautiful surface, the crest was beautifully engraved, it was hard to believe that it was probably done by hand. A smile spread across my face as the adventure came to my mind.

With this key, I could open every door to the house.

I gently ran my fingers over the cool surface. I wonder what was in those rooms? What was so important to keep secret and hide from the rest of the world? Or maybe, more importantly what was locked behind those rooms? The questions echoed through my mind as my body moved through the halls of the empty manor. Right now my parents were gone, going out to find more antique nick-knacks, giving me at least four hours to explore. I wouldn’t let my parents know what I had found, this key could open rooms that could be become my hiding place were I didn’t have to deal with things. My skin prickled at the thought of something major behind those doors.

Two hours quickly passed, and I had just about opened all the rooms. Every room had something different hiding within it. One room looked like a ballerina studio. It had a wall-sized mirror, wooden floors, and a dancing pole, and one of the walls was painted, the most beautiful portrait of this magnanimous ballerina forever shown in her dancing state. She wore a crown of red and purple flowers over her long straight hair. Her dress was black, and ruffled, her long elegant legs were wrapped in a red lace ribbon, and tied in a delicate bow, her face was pale and serene, her eyes green emeralds gazing out the single window in the room. She was my favorite. And then there was a room that was like a pirate ship, with the walls painted with the ocean accompanied by the thick bearded portrait of the captain. There was a library too, but just like the other rooms, there was one wall filled with the portrait of a teacher, or librarian. She was pretty too, but was nothing in comparison to the ballerina. Every room was different, pirates, ballerinas, teachers, mothers and children, painter, and a chief, the list going on and on. It was weird how each room had it’s own theme to it.

The next room, I opened with the glistening skeleton key, was just as much unique like the rest. It was a light blue, empty besides the few toys that were wrangled within the detailed wooden toy chest with their own design printed along the sides. The room was simple with a single window facing the west side of the room, looking out towards the garden that looked like it was plucked out of a romantic literature book. I walked over to one of the many chest that cluttered the room, wondering with my human curiosity, what was waiting within those chest, what type of old toys were stashed away from the world’s view.

I reached my hand forward, and pulled at the chest cover, completely disgruntled to find that it was locked. I moved over to the next, and a few more, tugging at the lids, again finding with disproval that they were all locked.
I sat in the middle, looking unpleasantly at the toy chest that scattered the room. I felt like a kid again, wanting to play with what I could not have. I felt that I should leave the room, to go back and explore more of the other recently disturbed rooms, but I couldn’t; it was like I was drawn to the room I was in now. Maybe it was because I wanted so badly to see what was in the chest, or maybe there was something more, supernatural keeping me to this room. I wished so badly to do something adventurous, that my mind was playing make-believe again, just like a kid.
My eyes unhappily looked at each individual chest, analyzing them, and memorizing the pictures each chest seemed to make. They really didn’t seem like they made a picture, which didn’t make much sense, because in this house, with all the locked rooms I had been too, every room had a delicately, and detailed designed specifically assigned to them, so why would this room be any different. It was so blank.
I strained my eyes, looking more closely at the chest before me. I tilted my head to the side, and just by chance, my eyes darted to the other side of the room, realizing the pattern that seemed to materialize right before me. All of the chest had a picture imprinted on them, pictures by themselves that seemed to make no logical sense at all. My eyes danced across the room, analyzing every chest, my head tilting this way and that, allowing my vision and my mind to take in better views on a few of the chest. My guess was correct, alone the pictures were meaningless, but together…my mind whizzed with curiosity as I got up, and began rearranging the colorful chest.
It was like a giant puzzle, each piece having their own specific spot, and in the end would create a wonderful picture. I pulled, and pushed the chest, surprised that they really weren't heavy, I lifted a few chest on top of another, and soon, I figured out the puzzle.
I stepped back, admiring the work I had just performed. My heart pounded with excitement and adrenaline as my eyes scanned over the picture before me, that would have taken up the whole wall behind it, if it were painted on like the rest of the rooms. The picture that revealed itself to me, after long work, was a painting of a large, golden lock, detailed and imprinted in the same pattern that decorated the skeleton key that I had resting in my pocket, its large golden arc were given the job pinning the ends of the chains that were wrapped around a pitch black chest.
My eyes glistened with excitement. The picture, it seemed so real, like I could reach out, and feel the cold golden metal of the lock and chains, to feel the imprinting carved onto the giant lock, to feel the material of the chest. I reached out, automatically, my hand pulled back in shock when I felt the sudden change in the air’s temperature as it got closer to the painting. I looked back, suddenly feeling weary of nothing in particular; just that feeling that you tend to get when you feel someone is watching you. The feeling that causes you neck to tickle and causes violent chills to rock through your body.
I jumped at the feeling of a pulling at my leg, and bumped into the stack of chests. I flinched, waiting for them all to begin an avalanche and tumble down on top of my body. I waited, and was shocked to feel no pain on my skin, but instead was shocked to feel the cold metal brush up against arm, and the sound of clinking metal floating to my ears. The painting that seemed so real was now staring down at me, my hand clutching onto the thick heavy medieval chains.
I pulled my hand back with such force, the sound of the metal clinking against the side of the black chest echoed through the air. I turned around, noticing the long, forever going echo…noticing the white empty space that now surrounded the black chest and me. The door was gone, all the walls were gone, the window that showed the outside world was now gone, every thing but the locked up chest and me were all gone. Where was I? How did I get here?
The sound of my pounding heart jumped through the empty space, making a loud drumming noise that seemed so loud that it couldn’t be within my body. My frantic eyes looked around the empty white space, what was I going to do?! This was just a dream? Could it be just a dream, but every thing felt so real. The feel of my racing heart in my chest, the feel of the cold chains against my skin, the black chest, this couldn’t be a dream, every thing was just too real!
I fell to the ground, and closed my eyes, thinking hard on what it was I could do. I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out the golden skeleton key that got me in here in the first place. A key that could open any lock with in the house, so, could it possibly work on this lock? But what if there was nothing in there? What if I’m trapped in some strange purgatory world forever? I looked at the heavy lock in my hand, and then at the lock and chain around the chest. It couldn’t hurt to try it, it’s the only thing in here, so it’s got to be something important.
I reached towards the lock, my hand holding tightly to the key, a strange, eerie anxiousness filled my body. Something bad was going to happen, I could feel it, some old primeval instinct was telling me not to unlock the chest, but the same instinct was telling me that this could be the only way for me to get out. The first tooth of the large key entered into the deep black hole floated for a minute as I hesitated. My life was going to change and I knew it.
I pushed the key in completely, twisted it, and listened to the loud click, and the echo of the large lock collapsing to the white ground.
There was no hesitation as the chest burst open in a whoosh of black air exploded from within, throwing the chains up into the never ending white. I backed up, and began to notice the black air, slowly seeping and eating away at the white, soon turning the area into a deep black hole.
It looked like my eyes were closed; I rubbed my eyes a few times over, assuring that they were really open. I couldn’t see anything, nothing at all. But then something small, a tiny warm light entered into the darkness, then another, and another, and soon there were fifteen, maybe twenty small lights floating around in the black. I watched intently on the lights, realizing that they began to get bigger, and started to take shape.
They were people, the people that were painted on the walls in all the rooms! The beautiful ballerina, the pirate, chief, parents and child, teacher, they were all there all standing right in front of me, smiling. They began to approach me, I backed away as far as I could, and I felt their hands cover my body, I cringed and yelled out in horror and I was gone.
A week later, my parents left the house, the trauma of their missing child too much for them to bear. The house was again empty, the skeleton key again hiding within the floorboard, and all the rooms locked tight once again like they were never opened in the first place. Everything was back to the way it was before, with one more addition. A new room locked tight that belonged to me, my walls hidden from the world and my image, the image of a adventurous kid forever trapped on that wall.

The author's comments:
this work was done as a project for my creative writing class/major. our teacher gave us a simple writing prompt, "A Skeleton Key" to get our stories started. It was simple idea, and fun to do, and i wish i could have gone more into detail, but i had to keep it a certain length. So my story ended up more as an open ended mystery.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.

Parkland Book