The ancient oaken door at the back of the root cellar. It had obsessed Mallon since he first beheld it as a child, more than three decades ago. Now, the massive rusty key finally in his grasp, he hurried down the creaking, worm-eaten steps from the kitchen of his great-grandfather's mouldering New England manse. The cellar was cool, with a smell of damp
about it. The fifth stair crumbled to powder as he set foot upon it, and he crashed through, banging his chin with ferocious violence against the sixth step, and impaling himself on a rusty pitchfork stored beneath the stairs.
Bridget parked behind Mallon's leaf-littered BMW and slid out easily. As she knocked on the front door of the ivied family home the door swung open. Not latched! How like Mallon to neglect such things in his haste to do her ill. Ever since that New Year's party, when she'd had to club 14-year-old Mallon with a brick to keep his adolescent fingers out from under her skirt, he had hated her with unwavering intensity. She searched the house, calling, but received no answer, save for an unpleasant odor of decay. When she reached the kitchen, she saw the door to the basement standing open. The odor was intense. She peered into the lightless hole, eyes tearing in the putrescent miasma that flowed out like an evil tide. What was down there? The light switch was up, the light evidently burned out. "Mallon?" Silence. Evidently he was not home. She would have to come back with a flashlight to see what was amiss down below. It smelled like a hundred dead rats.
Mallon gloated as the will was read. At last! At last he was free to bulldoze the derelict pile of crap in the midst of that valuable new England farmland. Valuable not as farmland of course, but in the hands of a canny developer, worth millions in upscale tract housing. He certainly wasn't going to let his tight-assed cousin continue her futile search for the old man's key. Mallon tossed the centuried iron key in a dumpster behind the court house on his way to his beemer.
With palsied hands Mallon inserted the archaic key into the freshly oiled lock. He gently applied torque. At last! The key was beginning to turn! Soon he would own the secrets of that door, reported to mask a pre-Columbian tunnel of hideous architecture and dubious purpose. Where
did it lead? Why had the old man protected its secret with almost hysterical vehemence, even far gone in dementia after his last stroke? And why was his bitchy cousin so interested? Well, she'd never see beyond it!
It was dark, dark and cold. His flashlight illumined nothing, save a few feet of worn stone. Had he heard something moving down the tunnel? The cold air assaulted his face, its icy caress burning his eyes. He blinked several times and moved forward cautiously.
Bridget saw Mallon's BMW parked under the carport, but no sign of her cousin anywhere. "Mallon?!" There was no reply. She let herself in and walked through the house, calling. Her cousin's attache [acute accent on "e"] case lay on the kitchen table and the basement door was open. A frigid draft flowed out of the dimly lit basement and chilled her legs. Why was it so cold down there? She shivered, but called down the stairs: "Are you there, Mallon?" Was there an answer? She couldn't be sure.
She descended, skipping the weak fifth step. She'd have to remember to mention that to Mallon when she found him. Where was he? She peered about uneasily, then made her way among boxes, gardening equipment, and less identifiable debris. The Door was open! Of course, the air Beyond would be freezing cold -- it explained the draft. She ran to the door, but stopped at the mouth of the impenetrable dark that filled the doorway like an unquiet pool of oil. "Mallon?" she whispered.
Bridget hurried through the house and slid into her Buick, not without a brief twinge of pain from her pelvis. It would pass. Poor Mallon. He had had only a sixteenth part of the Blood, not nearly enough to withstand what lay beyond the Door. And of course, he was a man. Not what was wanted at all! She had to laugh. But it was too bad she had not reached him before he used the key.
She shrugged as she whipped out of the drive and turned right, towards Arkham. What grew within her would be a burden, true, but the fruits her "condition" would bring would be well worth the price. Another twinge. She felt a warm trickle. Her suit was already ruined, but she'd hoped to spare the car seat. The next pain caused her to jerk the wheel sharply and gravel flew from the shoulder. It might be wise to rent an apartment close to the Medical Center, just in case.
Created: August 17, 1999; Updated: August 9, 2004