He handed over his keys just like it was any normal change-over, the skeleton key heavy on its large brass ring, and sleep heavy in the corners of his eyes.
The door closed. From inside, the lock churned with a dry, mechanical sound. As soon as it was shut and his feet touched the worn surface of the long and winding staircase, he knew it would be snowing outside when he got to the bottom. He could taste it on his tongue, feel it swirling around him.
But when he reached the bottom, the air was oddly flat, the sky a low, uniform shade of dull steel grey.
The world was tense, waiting for something. He felt like he had broken into a conversation he had no business overhearing. Even the grey dirt under his feet seemed to be shrugging away from him.
It was high time to go.
There was nothing for his footfalls to echo from as he hurried down the path. The sound made its way up into the sky and was swallowed up by the low blanket of clouds.
He was thinking to himself that the path could very well go on forever when he saw a glint out of the corner of his eye – a deepening blue that he had never seen before.
It caught his breath.
With trembling fingers, he lifted the delicate string from its resting place in the dust. When the glass was rubbed against the rough orange fabric of his shirt, the small beads shone, splitting the light into blue shards even though there was no light to be split.
Later on, in his small, poorly lit space, he held those beads in his hand as he fell asleep in his nest of tattered blankets.