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I have been subscribing to The Writing Reader’s daily prompts for quite a while now. I tweet them regularly. This is the first time I have used one as the starting point for a piece of my own writing.
Ornate. Ornate and inviting. The oxidation of the copper plate and the heads of the rivets securing it to the body of the door. The bolt that can be slid back from the outside thanks to the elaborately carved pull-ring. And the key left in the keyhole so that it can easily be turned from outside by any half competent lock-pick.
Temptation. Do I enter at once, or stop and study the intricacies of the exterior? Wonder about the person who created it? What was his life like all those years ago? Centuries, even? And it was a ‘he’. Back then women knew their place. But, by the same logic, it was surely a woman who commissioned the construction of this door with its pretense at security. Was the carpenter-locksmith she employed aware of the purpose for which his craftsmanship was purchased? Did she pay with her husband’s money or by some other means? Either way, it is clear that she was betraying his trust.
Who was the suitor for whom the door’s lack of security was intended? Did her husband discover the truth of her barely concealed subterfuge? Did he challenge her lover to a duel? What weapons did these rivals for milady’s favors choose? Foils? Or pistols at dawn? Which of them died? Which claimed her for his own? Was it the one she would have chosen?
So many questions and I haven’t begun to consider what lies beyond the door. A prison cell? A boudoir? A larder, full of oriental spices and dried fruits from distant lands?
I stoop, insert the bent wire into the keyhole. The key is, after all, not easy to turn. Years of neglect, the same passage of time that has allowed the formation of verdigris on the copper escutcheon has caused the lock to stiffen like the rheumatic joints of an old man. I withdraw the bent wire. From my toolbox I take a can of lubricant. The interior of the can is pressurized and the nozzle has a long thin plastic tube attached. I insert the tube into the keyhole and press the red button releasing a jet of lubricant into the mechanism.
I wait for the magic fluid to do its work. To dissolve the cobwebs, disperse the damp and rust, flush away the dust. Minutes pass. I turn to my right and inspect the hinges. They, too, will benefit from a short burst of magic from the end of that translucent tube.
Once more I turn my attention to the lock. This time the key responds to the pressure of my bent wire and moves jerkily, gratingly. I grasp the pull-ring, marveling at the feel of those intricate carvings. The bolt moves easily. Now I push. Gently at first then with increased pressure, my shoulder thrusting the door forward, grinding ancient timber against even older stone. I am greeted by a pungency of odors, mold, rotting timber, decaying drapes. My eyes adjust to the dim light. At first I am transfixed. Unable to believe what I am seeing. Seconds pass as my mind grapples with the reality of what my eyes perceive. Then I am running. Are those screams coming from my throat or just in my head?
Intrigued? Now read part 2