Brother Feldman held it tightly in his left hand as he slowly walked along the corridor to Brother Whitaker’s cell. Hesitating before the cell door, he quickly stuffed it inside his robe. He had his hand raised to knock but suddenly, the door flew open and Whitaker was standing there, framed by the candlelight emanating from the cell.
“What do you want, cockroach?”
“I have something that would be of interest to you. Allow me inside and I will show you.”
“Is this one of your perversions, insect? I’ve seen it all so you can’t shock me and you can’t entice me.”
“No, no. It is something I found, in a manner of speaking. I retrieved it from Brother Cassava’s body before they took it away.”
“What scum you are. Very well, come in, mealy bug. Don’t touch anything.”
Once inside Brother Whitaker’s cell, Feldman stood by the door and pulled out the wooden key from his pocket. Whitaker looked at it and shrugged. Feldman pleaded with him to examine it under his microscope, the only one in the community. Being no skin off his teeth, Whitaker examined the key. It appeared nondescript until he increased the power. There was writing, which appeared cuneiform or even the earlier hieratic or demotic. He would have to research the writing. He pressed the image button on the microscope to have a record.
“You can keep the key if you need to do more with it, Brother Whitaker. Just don’t let anyone know you have it. I think Cassava was killed for it. No, don’t look at me like that, I know what I’m saying. I didn’t exactly find it “on” his body, more like “inside”…”
“Have you disinfected this thing? Have you washed it, dung beetle? What possessed you to look there of all places? Are you a necrophiliac?”
“What? Oh, no. Not there. It was in his mouth half way down his throat.”
The next day, Whitaker worked on translating the words on the wooden key. Once he eliminated languages, he was left with hieratic, the language of the pharaohs. The wooden key could have been a souvenir but basically it was a get out of jail free card, like the one used in the ancient game, Monopoly, and of no particular interest other than it was written in a dead language. Yet, there was a hieroglyph on the opposite side that was familiar. That got Whitaker thinking.
Whitaker went looking for Feldman. The insect had not told him everything. He would beat it out of him if he had to. As he approached the bug’s cell, he saw that there was a “crime scene” lock light on his door. Whitaker went to an adjacent cell and knocked. A very tall, very hairy, Brother answered. He told Whitaker that Brother Feldman was found dead in his cell– garroted, and his cell was vandalized. At that moment, Whitaker had an epiphany and charged back to his own cell.
A short time later, Whitaker was at the office of the asteroid’s Director: a small, bald man with a high-pitched voice. He authenticated the key, yet he didn’t ask Whitaker how he acquired one of the winning lottery keys. Taking a chance, Whitaker asked him why the key’s identity was written in hieratic. The Director looked pleased but he didn’t answer Whitaker’s question. Whitaker’s key was valid for transport to one of 12 different destinations in the Solar System by First Class transport. But, he had to leave immediately because the target trajectory for the asteroid had been pushed up.
Whitaker boarded the transport shuttle that would quickly take him to the ship. From his comfortable seat on the sleek transport ship, Whitaker could see the whole of the asteroid. There were maintenance and security vehicles, shuttles, robot servers, and tankers, moving away from the asteroid as it pre-fired its boosters for its journey out of the Solar System and out of the galaxy, if the Brothers were able to maintain the asteroid’s flight and life support systems. They were on their own. Because of a series of opportune events, Whitaker would not be taking that one-way trip with them.
Whitaker held the wooden key in his hand and gripped it tight. The Director was rather cryptic when he advised him to hold onto the key, reminding him that keys open doors.
Inspiration Monday: Lukewarm Revenge at Be Kind Rewrite
Prompt: Wooden key
Photo credit: Etsy
Word Count: 730
Thanks to Stephanie Orges for hosting Inspiration Monday