The Key KeeperMature

Anna Lucia was often called ’the key keeper’ of wing 4 of the female wards. She locked up the wards late at night, when the hallways were empty and the Wards and their inhabitants lay quiet. Part of the hospital’s night shift staff, she worked from early evening to early morning and was rarely seen without a steaming cup of coffee and a large belt on which hung a plethora of rusty keys.

On one particularly cold autumn night, Anna Lucia was going about her regular duties, walking about the wards, dismissing the day staff and locking up each door of each ward as well as the pull-out steel walls that barred sections of each hallway. The jangling of the keys echoed across the dim corridor as the woman completed the arduous task as she did every night. It was cold in the halls, and she paused to rub her frozen hands together in a feeble attempt to generate warmth. All of her thoughts were fixated on returning to the staff room and make a fresh cup of hot coffee. Suddenly, a shadow darted out of the corner of her eye. She whirled around abruptly, trying to discern its source through the darkness. A light had been switched off at the end of the hall. Intrigued, she approached it cautiously.

“Who’s there?”

A dark figure appeared from behind the hall corner. Probably just another day staff member,  leaving late as always, Anna Lucie mused.

“It’s rather late to be leaving now, isn’t it?” She shouted across the hall, her voice reverberating through the narrow passageway. The figure paused for a second, turned, and started towards her. The light that shone behind it cast it’s face in shadow, but she could plainly see that the figure was not clad in hospital uniform. As it drew closer, she observed that the figure was tall and slight. It stopped a few meters away from her. The light directly above it sudden blazed on, and she was taken aback by what was illuminated in the synthetic light.

An slender boy stood before her, no more than seventeen, with fine, chiseled facial features and a pointed chin. His eyes were a pale, faded blue, and a mass of wild blonde hair encircled his narrow face, coming down over his eyes in thick uneven bangs. He was smiling, a light, playful smile.

“Excuse me,” Anna Lucie stammered, “Visiting hours are long over… do you have identification?”

He shook his head, a smile still tugging at his lips.

“ I am a friend of one of the staff. He just left. I apologize for disrupting you; I was just looking for my coat.”

His voice was surprisingly deep and throaty, full and almost sedative.

“Oh, and by the way, I believe you dropped this,” he said, outstretching his hand. He held a small iron key with an ornately carved handle. She took it from him, examining it carefully. Etched into the side of it was a miniscule but legible ‘9’. What is this? I’ve never seen this key before. There’s no ninth ward here… only in…she paused.

“Alright, but this is against regulations to be in the halls after hours without ID. I just need to take you down to the office for a few--” She looked up, but to her bewilderment the boy was gone. She ran down the hall, looking around from corner to corner, searching up and down the corridor.

 After a few frantic minutes, she gave up. Probably ran out the door. I’ll have to report this later… What kind of joke IS this? Damn staff, always trying to prank each other...doesn't anyone take anything around here seriously anymore?

Sighing gently, she returned to locking the doors, sliding the ‘9’ key onto her belt.

“I really, really, REALLY need some coffee right now.”

The End

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