Books and Vases, Coins and Keys

The key radiated an eerie cold in her palm. If ice could be welded into awestriking metals, surely this would be the first. Frosted to the touch, a pale blue sheen in the hall candlelight, as fine a craftsmanship as a key could desire to be. Though, the aura was a meager one with little more than a field of white, a blank canvas. What was most fascinating was when Anteola ran her fingertips against it, it was a smooth and clean surface, rust-less and unweathered. With rust came a sensation of knowing curiosities and one could find its stories lost to the ages with enough of a prying eye or a focused hand. There was no history behind this artifact; it knew only the present. Stranger was it that it did not possess eyes to draw in the world nearest to it like most common things. Books, vases, coins, keys...or at least if it did she was blind to it. She knew nothing of this key and it, her. They would surely become acquainted.

As she walked along staring down to the chunky ironwork, her hands grew clammy. Her head snapped up in a sudden motion which fell her hood. The air around her body began to crackle and smoke, her sunken eyes darting to each side of the wide hall. Crack. Crack.

Then was it a shuffling like the one of a man walking with heavy boots on a gravel road? Or the crackle of a slow burning fire caused by a loose bolt of the sky's energy amidst the treeline? Like everything else, it was all uncertain yet very certainly alarming. She abruptly pressed her back against the wall with eyes shutting tight. The ground trembled and quaked, the walls split around her violently with their own faint screams in agony. The hall sounded as if it were filling with rubble, the crumbling collapse sending plumes of dust into the air. Her free hand reached up to secure itself on her narrow neck as it filled her lungs. The particles settled into her throat, her bones, her blood. She began to gag on dry air and heave out nothingness. The key slipped from her grasp as she collapsed against the wall in the dim hallway.

Almost as quickly as it happened, it faded away. She sat in a heap of flesh and cloth, slumped over to peer at the carpet in broken wheezes. It was newly swept. The air was crisp and clean. The eclectively painted walls were scrubbed and refined, their portraits dustless and captivating. The ceiling was held in pristine condition. The hall appeared just as it should to everyone else.
Anteola scrambled breathlessly to the key and found security in the undefined object, her breath chilled and desperate. In inner cupping motion it was clasped to her chest as if in prayer. After her few seconds of silence, her right hand trailed along the wall as she rose, a guide to the lost yet a master of the preposterously long hall and its imprisonment. The smoothed bumps of them were chilled as well as she carried on aimlessly, passively, and in denial of the illusional formalities that had passed. Quite a detail-oriented eye, whomever the lucky fool was to paint this. A master artisan?

The woman found herself stopped in front of a mounted mirror, grand with gold and trimmed with pearls. An elegant giant, truly. Only then did she understand from the shaking of her long fingers that her helpless grasp had grasped too long. There were nail markings on her throat with small trails of blood, the skin around already bruising terribly. The longer she looked at the reflection the more uneasy she felt. Then there was the eye contact which finally connected despite her deepest fears, sending her stumbling back immediately in a jolt. Her palms began to persperate once more and it was high time to lock herself away. She disappeared with a quickened gait down the empty hall all without another thought. Swift as she was silent, the encounter had come and gone with little to no noise so not to disturb the guests.

A bath and a warm meal were in order, sleep if she could call upon it to bed her this eve. This was only the beginning delusion of a torturous multitude.

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