Gil grasped the key tight between her cold fingers. It was solid brass, rusted around the edges and with sharp teeth. The key opened a door to somewhere deep underneath the tower, a place where men should not go.
She was not meant to be holding it. One of the other turnkeys had left it on the mess table and Gil had not been able to resist. The thirst to know what was behind the door had been too overpowering. It had gnawed at her until, without even knowing she was doing it, Gil’s hand had snatched up the key.
Now she stood in front of the thick oak planks which separated the ground level of the tower from whatever lay beneath. With her other hand, she stroked the door. It almost felt warm to the touch, and the sensation drew her closer towards it.
Gil slid the heavy key into the lock and twisted.
There was no click, no movement and no wave of warm air. The key was stuck. Gil tried to twist it first one way and then the other. Finally, she tried to yank it out of the lock in frustration.
A snapping sound came from inside the locking mechanism. Through the cracks around the door came a short, sharp blast of cold air. It smelt of damp, darkness and decay. Gil pulled the door open and stepped down into the opening.
“Is anyone down here?”
There was no reply, but through a veil of darkness she saw a shock of light hair flash past the bottom of the steep, narrow stairway. Gil walked down towards it and was enveloped in a thick mantle of blackness which drowned out the light of the living.
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