The Forgotten Key
Leslie reached for another box. The attic was full of boxes, old clothes on racks, and a few pieces of old furniture. Her mother had been a pack rat and didn't believe in throwing anything away. Now it was up to her to clean it all out. As the only child and heir to the dead woman there was no one else to do it.
Leslie and her mother had never been too close. Not as close as some girls' relationship's to their mothers. Leslie always figured that they were too much alike in temperament to get along for very long.
Sighing to herself she put the box of old clothes that she had found aside for the Disabled American Veterans. What she didn't want she was going to give away to the charity. Someone could use them.
The attic was hot and stuffy. Full of dust that kept making her want to sneeze and cobwebs as big as her five feet eight inch height. She would have to make sure the cleaning crew came up here and gave the attic a good cleaning. As soon as she could she wanted the house on the market.
Leslie hated this old house. She grew up here but it was anything but a good childhood. Her parents were always fighting. At least until her father disappeared. Her mother said that he ran off but Leslie didn't believe her. At least when she was a little girl. She was her daddy's little princess and there was no way he would ever leave his little princess. He told her that all the time when he came in to tuck her in bed. Or when he came to her room late at night. Leslie couldn't remember much of those times. Her head would hurt and then she would get nauseous when she tried to remember those nights.
After that her mother sent her off to boarding schools. Leslie rarely if ever came home on holidays or summer vacations. She either stayed at the school or was shuffled off to some relative. It was almost as if her mother was punishing her for her father's disappearance.
Reaching for another box, Leslie tried to remember her father. He was tall and good-looking with dark hair. But she couldn't remember his face. For some reason his face was a blur. Damn this headache anyway!
The box that Leslie was trying to get, fell with the top flying off and the contents scattering all over the attic floor. Cursing under her breath, Leslie bent down to pick up the papers and other things that were the closest to her. She was going to have to get some of this downstairs and outside. She was making a bigger mess trying to clean it up. There were boxes and suitcases strewn all about with piles of clothes either in give away or throw away piles.
Grabbing the now empty box she began to stuff the contents back into it. Newspaper articles and letters from long ago. A name caught her attention. Picking up the clipped article Leslie read the faded and yellowed lettering.
"Walter Thompson missing for three months. No clues have been found as to where he went or how. Wife denies knowledge of her husband whereabouts." It went on to say that Mrs. Thompson hadn't even called the police and filed a missing people report. Her husband's job had. There was a picture of Leslie as a little girl being held by her mother on the front steps of their house. Her mother looked angry and anything but worried about a missing husband.
Leslie put the clipping back in the box and reached for more things. A glint of a sparkle caught her eye. The sun shown through cracks in the small painted over window on the far wall that faced the front of the house. One lone beam shone down on the floor where Leslie knelt and something caught and reflected the errant ray back.
Reaching for the small metal box, Leslie wondered what could be in it if anything. Picking it up she ran a finger over the odd design that had been etched onto the top. It looked like some kind of symbol. Maybe of the occult or something because of the one large eye inside a circle. Her mother had a fascination for anything occult.
It was locked and there was no sign of a key. The box itself was only the size of a pack of cigarettes so the key to its lock would have been tiny. Leslie briefly wondered if the key was in her mother's bank deposit box or jewelry box. No matter, she would just pry the box open with a screwdriver or something.
Standing up from where she had been sitting on the dusty floor, Leslie brushed the dust and bits of dirt from her tee shirt and jeans. Taking the small box with her she went down the attic stairs to the second floor.
Leslie walked down the stairs to the first floor and went down the hall to the kitchen. Quaintly appointed, the kitchen had a window box window for herbs and small plants that looked out onto the patio. Her mother loved to grow plants and flowers. Framing the patio were daffodils, gladiolas, and irises and there were two rose bushes on each end of the house, one red and one white. Flowerbeds were here and there in the back yard.
She got a flathead screwdriver from the junk drawer and putting the box on the counter started to pry open the lock. It was an old box but very sturdy. The small lock finally came open with a loud snap. Opening the lid, Leslie spotted the key at once. A large ornate skeleton key lay on the black velvet that inlaid the inside of the box.
That key, the forgotten key! Her mother used to say it went to a special room in the basement. She remembered that room. Her mother had a room that had been used for storage room converted to a workspace for her. No one was allowed in it. Leslie had gone looking for her mother one time when she was a young girl and found her in the room. Leslie also remembered the rolled up parchment that her mother was studying. Her mother became very angry and took Leslie upstairs. Leslie asked her mother what was written on the parchment.
“Oh this is a spell about the dead. Ancient peoples believed in an after life and there were many spells that they cast when preparing the body to preserve the soul unto eternity. Except for those that were criminals or those that they thought were unworthy.” Her mother said.
“Sometimes they even buried people alive and put spells on them to keep them alive for a very long time while buried.” She continued. “Very interesting concept I think. A suitable punishment for the evil.”
Leslie quickly left her mother alone and never went down there again. Her little chat with her mother had given her the willies and she was never comfortable in the basement again.
Now she wanted to find that room. Surely there would be some relics she could sell. Her mother’s medical expenses had been large. Cancer care was very expensive and took most of the life insurance money.
With key in hand Leslie went to the basement stairs and went down. The house had a full basement so there were a couple of separate rooms for storage as the house was large. Originally built in the 1920s the house was a three-story monster. Her parents loved the old and mysterious house and restored it to its former glory.
Leslie went around the old boiler heater and down the small hallway that led to the back of the basement. The old coal chute door had been nailed shut years ago and old pots and tools for gardening were kept in the old coal room. The room Leslie was looking for was next to the stairs that led out side to the back yard. It was as long as the width of the house with a big oak door with fancy copper fixtures. It had an old lock on that the key fit to. But when she got to the place a blank wall met her. Against the wall was a bench that had other pots and gardening tools sitting on it.
Leslie looked around the rest of the basement for the door she remembered but her memory was cloudy. She was sure it had to have been by the back stairs. Pulling the bench away from the wall Leslie felt the smooth wall for any kind of bumps or something that would indicate that there used to be something there. She couldn’t feel anything so she stood back a little to take another look. She was sure that the door had been on this wall.
Surveying the blank wall Leslie noticed that the plaster looked newer than the rest of the basement. The color was not as dirty and as dingy. The door must have been walled up, but why? She would have to bust the plaster to see if the door was there.
Finding a sledgehammer from the tool room, Leslie swung it at a spot where she thought the door should be. The plaster was old and dry so it cracked and broke on contact. Removing the bigger pieces from the hole she had created, Leslie saw the door. So it was here after all.
Swinging the hammer over and over again, Leslie was able to make the hole bigger. Tearing down the wooden support beams that held the drywall intact, she was able to completely clear the door. It was exactly as she remembered.
With her headache getting stronger Leslie was filled with a sense of foreboding. Something bad was in that room. She sensed it! But her curiosity got the better of her and she put the key in the lock and turned it.
The door opened with a hard tug on the knob. Swinging on squeaky hinges the door opened up to a dark room. No light had been allowed in this room. All the windows had been nailed shut and bricked up. There was a lantern right inside the door on a ledge with some matches. There hadn’t been any electric run to the room either. A small fireplace, almost big enough to roast a small pig, was on the left sidewall. In the fireplace was a cauldron suspended from a chain attached to a bar that was sunk into the stonework. Cobwebs and thick dust covered the fireplace and the room. Neither had been used in a very long time.
Leslie walked farther into the room. Against the wall opposite the door was a box. It was approximately seven feet long and three feet deep. It had been propped against the wall and there were strange etchings on the lid. Fanciful figures of animals and plants were on it. The foreboding grew stronger and Leslie did not want to open the box. Her headache and nausea was getting worse.
She knew that she had to find out what was in it. A morbid curiosity got the better of her and she walked over to the box. Running her fingers over the strange words and pictures she shivered with dread. It had been nailed shut. She went to get a crowbar and pried it open. Grasping the edge of the lid she lifted it up and with the box now open she could see the contents.
With a gasp, memories flooded her mind, memories of all those nights when her father came to her room. Bending over with the sudden pain in her gut, Leslie puked. She remembered everything now. She remembered her father molesting her and her mother catching him. She remembered the tea her mother gave her to put her to sleep.
Dropping to the floor Leslie stared at her father’s remains. He had been tied up and put in the box. And from the look on his face he had been alive when it happened. The horror that was in the expression on his shriveled and sunken mummified face was evident that he was fully aware of what was happening to him. He hadn’t disappeared! He had been murdered!
Leslie got up and stumbled out of the room. With the wall to support her she went up the stairs to the kitchen. The police had to be notified. After calling them she sat down at her mother’s kitchen table. In total shock she surmised that her mother must have drugged her father and put him in the box. She had been a full figured woman and knew a lot of nursing. She could have managed a drugged body easily.
Leslie remembered her mother telling her the next morning that Leslie had been having nightmares and she gave her medicine to sleep. Leslie knew now that her mother had made Leslie forget about the molestations. That was why Leslie had the headaches and nausea. Her unconscious mind never forgot and was trying to tell Leslie what had happened. She remembered everything now. The forgotten key had opened more than a locked door.