It was about seven o'clock by the time I was done putzing and sat down to try and figure out what the key was supposed to mean. I picked it up to get a better look at it, and it was still warm, which was a little unsettling: it should have been cool, or at best room temperature, but it felt like it had been sitting on top of a radiator, or held in somebody's hand for a long time, and radiated residual warmth. A closer look didn't really gain much, the head was still some sort of unidentifiable rodent that I still think of as a squirrel. The teeth of the key were fairly elaborate, shaped like an uppercase 'E', but with additional scrollwork that was a lot more detailed than I would have expected, like it had smaller and smaller 'E's inside each nook. It looked like there had once been some writing engraved on the shaft, but it had long since worn beyond any hope of reading it; what remained was not recognizable as any language I knew. It looked like it might have been Greek, or possibly Hebrew, machined or stamped into the metal.
I tried the key in the old dresser. I didn't think it would work, and I was right-- it didn't even fit the lock. It was smaller than the key for the dresser would be. So I figured I'd start looking around the house; being old, it was bound to have some skeleton-key-ish locks somewhere. And sure enough, pretty much every door in the place had a skeleton-key lock, something I had never really noticed before. Every interior door that is: the outside doors have regular key locks that look as old as the house is.
Something that's a little weird about the arrangement of my house: all of the interior doors on the first floor converge in what I call the Hall of Doors. It's a room that's relatively square-ish, sort of in the middle of the house, but offset toward the back, toward the kitchen. The room consists entirely of doors: there are a couple of doors on every wall, and it's designed in a way that is a sort of optical illusion which is kind of freaky if you shut them all, because it leaves you unable to really tell where one door leaves off and the next one begins. There are really only seven doors here, which I can only count if I draw them on a map, because I swear that there are either six or eight doors when I look. I never count seven.
I tried the key in each of the doors. It fit each lock perfectly, but just wouldn't turn. And as I made it around to the seventh door, I noticed that with the optical illusion, it looked like the space around the doors would open if I could find the "lock" for the eighth un-door. And there it was. An eighth lock. Where there should be no door. Where there could be no door. Yet there it was.
I put in the key and turned it. And it opened.
It was like a passageway in between the walls of the bedroom and the bathroom. Plaster and lath, pipes, and lots of dust and spiderwebs. The passageway went back farther than the few feet that I could see, but it sounded like it wasn't probably more than ten or twelve feet deep. It made no sense: there wasn't enough space between the walls for a passageway that wide, the wall should be six inches deep at most and this was probably two feet or more considering the space for all the pipes. I went back and paced off the depth of the bathroom, and the wall ended right where I thought it should, right where the wall of the passageway stood. The bedroom was the same way, the passageway fit perfectly between them, yet there wasn't space for it. I knew there wasn't space for it. There couldn't be.
I got the flashlight from the bedroom and shined it down the passageway. It came to a 'T' just past the end of the bathroom wall, continuing to the left and right. It was hard to tell, but it looked like the passageway was just as wide going that way, which would have been running along the outside wall of the house. The walls can't be that deep, I thought, and stepped into the passageway, brushing away spiderwebs and dust as much as I could. It was a tight fit, but I managed to squeese through by turning a little bit sideways and holding the flashlight in front with my right hand. At the end of the T, I stuck my head into the passage. Off to the right, it went another fifteen feet or so and branched off to the right again. To the left, the passage continued straight for about ten feet, then ended about where the bay window in the dining room jogs out. I turned to the right and continued as far as I could down the passage, turning again to the right.
The passageway went another several feet, then came to an intersection with more passages going off to the left and right which was impossible, because that would mean that the passage that branched off to the right would be running straight through the kitchen and the one to the left would be heading through empty space. My brain was busy trying to reconcile the weirdness of how this didn't fit in the space that I knew, and then I realised that part of the space that I had walked through should have been a window to the outside, but there was no window where there should have been. There was no window in the bedroom wall, there was no window in the bathroom wall; the whole thing was impossible. I started to feel claustrophobic and freaked out, and I tried to turn around, but the space was too narrow, so I started backing up until I reached the passage that I first entered and was able to turn around enough to head back to the hall of doors where I came in.
Except when I looked, I didn't recognize the passage. Where it should have been fifteen feet or so lined with old plumbing pipes, this passageway went straight for about 30 feet before it ended in a smooth, featureless wall.
This is not good.