I met a man with a skeleton key while I was waiting for the 11.47 on Platform Six.
“Do you know what this is?” he asked, turning the key, letting it sing in the high orange light as he held it in front of his nose. “It’s a skeleton key.”
So that’s how I know.
“This won’t hurt,” he said.
A half question died on my lips as he lifted the edge of my coat and pushed the key hard through the sweater beneath. I waited for pain to blossom, for bone to scream and split, but there was only quiet.
And as I scuttled backwards, things long bound and silenced tumbled out in front of me. They lay scattered on the grimy floor like empty parcels, hollow and broken. Some would mean little enough to anyone; others, viscous, and tangled with dark, matted string, should have stayed hidden.
Meeting my eye, the man touched one of those gently with the toe of his shoe. And under its damp, shattered fragments, the key gleamed.