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Skeleton Key

Updated on July 14, 2012
HLKeeley profile image

HL Keeley has received a Bachelors degree in middle grade education. She is currently teaching high school.


The air was crisp and the fog rolled in around the inky waters of the lake. High above in the sky the moon was full beaming a bright eerie light over the lake. Raven Sterben stepped out of the tree lines. Her blood red dress billowed in the wind. Her black hair danced around her face. In her hands, she clutched an ancient key attached to a crimson ribbon. Her cyan eyes looked weary at the black lake spotting the thorns growing out toward the tree lines. She stepped out further cautiously. Her shook as she placed her beige high heel down on the withering grass.

Taking a deep breath, she strode across the grass through the thickets with her head held high. She was not going to go down as a coward. The thorns grabbed at her dress tearing it, but she continued as her skin broke on her legs. Approaching the water line, she did not slow. She allowed the black water to pull her to middle of the lake. Raven flew through the water with grace and poise.

In the center of the lake, she hid her cyan eyes behind her eyelids. As brave as Raven was to even come to the lake on Friday the 13th with the key that her mother left for her, she did not want to see the next part of the process to accept her destiny.

The journey will be challenging, but your destiny will not embrace you, if you push away. Raven reminding herself her mother's dying words.

Raven began sinking in the lake. Her hair melted with the lake's inky waters. Descending completely into the water, Raven kept her poise as the air was gone. Her hair flowed away from her face. It was peaceful, that is, until the first hand gripped her right ankle.

Bony fingers gripped her left ankle and pulled her down. Another set of bony hands grabbed her right wrist as another pair grabbed her left pulling her down to the bottom of the lake.

The air she had saved was almost gone. She did not want to waste any of the air escaping, but the more she held in, it burned more. Raven let some air flow to the surface.

This is my destiny. This is my destiny. This is my destiny. Raven repeated to herself.

She was tempted to open her eyes, but she knew that she should not. The descent continued seeming like it would never end. The air was now completely gone. The bony hands gripped her wrists and ankles right before her instincts took over.

Raven began thrashing trying to escape and go to surface for air. She contorted her body in ways she did not she could even do just trying to escape.

Relax. It will be over soon. Relax, Raven, a male voice said in her scaring her. Something about the voice though reassured Raven. She tried to fight her instincts. Her blood was boiling. Her brain pushed against her skull. The air was no longer and neither was Raven's strength.

Another pair of bony hands gripped her waist as she slumped into unconsciousness.


Raven later awoke to on an embankment. There were skeletal remains all along the embankment. Her hair was dry; make up fresh, wounds healed, and her dress mended. The crimson ribbon was tied on her wrist with the key dangling. She stood up on her beige high heels walking toward the water looking around.

The walls were covered with algae. The ceiling was covered with dripping stalactites. Her cyan eyes took in her situation. Up until now, she knew what to do. Now what? She sat down on embankment pulling her legs to her chest waiting. Raven fiddled with her key waiting for something, anything.

The bones began shaking around her making her stand in surprise. The bones started to assemble into skeletons. They straighten themselves out standing in front her like soldiers waiting for command. She looked at the fifty skeletons standing in front of her waiting for what's next. The skeletons one at a time raised their hand pointing their index finger at her. Or was it behind her?

Raven turned to see a shining white door floating in the water of the cave. She turned back looking at the skeletons for assistance, but they continued to point. There was no boat or anything.

She walked closer to the water realizing that she had to swim to the door. Raven was pretty sure that the key she held would unlock that door, but if she swam how would she unlock the door?

Walking up to the water, a breeze swept through the cave rustling her hair. She heard the clanking of the skeleton's bones. Where did the breeze come from? Raven took another step to the water to wade, but what she found was that her foot did not sink. She was weightless on the water. Raven literally could walk on water.

Her pearly white smile spread across her face. The wonderment radiated in her eyes. Brushing her bangs straight, she composed herself and took another step. What a glorious feeling! She was defying gravity and science.

Raven headed straight to the door twisting the knob. Surprised, she found that it was unlocked. Turning back to the skeletons, she realized they all dropped their hands and positioned them over their chest. She nodded at them and walked through the door.

The door led to a room that was similar to the one she grew up in. The walls were still pink with baby animals dancing across the top of the wall near the ceiling. Her bed was made with white duvet and pink pillows. Scattered across the bed were all her toys that she could not sleep without.

In the corner of the room where when she turned thirteen a television would be was a man in black. His jet black hair messily spiked out of his head. His eyes were a bright green, close to harlequin, but not as bright. He was familiar to Raven, but she could not place him. His hand lazily trailed her white dresser as he strolled closer to her inspecting her. His eyes approved what he saw. Raven was self-conscious, but tried to stand confidantly. He strolled over to the bed where a huge trunk sat.

Raven remembered the trunk. It was in her room until she finally decided to redecorate. She demanded the trunk to be put in the attic or somewhere anywhere other than her room. What use was the trunk if she could not open it? She even suggested it would serve better at the bottom of the lake. How ironic, Raven noted as she remembered the day.

Now here she was again with the trunk, this man, and a key. He placed his hand on top of it staring at her never speaking a word. She walked over. Her high heels echoed throughout the silent room. Stopping in front of the trunk, she inserted the key and turned it to the right hearing a click. Opening the trunk she found a beautiful blank dress.

It was plain, but exquisite. Raven held the dress looking at the man who responded with a turn. She was to change. Slipping out of her red dress, she stepped in the black pulling the zipper as high as she could. "Can you finish zipping?" Raven asked. The man nodded as she turn pulling her hair away. He finished zipping as she saw herself in the mirror.

The dress fit perfectly. The dress was a demure V cute complenting her chest instead of exposing it. The straps of the dress clung snuggly to her shoulders not slipping off. The cloth hugged her waist as the rest flowed to her knees. The fabric shimmered. It was plain, but elegant. It was perfect for Raven. After appraising herself in the mirror, she turned to the mute man.

He was watching her with curiosity. Not sure why, Raven really was hoping that he approved of the dress. "Well?" she asked. He just nodded pointing to the door she entered through. "What about that door?" Raven asked walking to her bedroom door, but the man gribbed her arm.

"No," he said surprising her. His voice was the rational voice in her head during chaotic times. It was the voice that told her to relax. She stood there gaping not realzing he had released her. "Who are you? Where am I? What do I have to do?" Raven asked.

All her questions flowed out of her mouth. For too long everything was quiet. The man breaking the silence also broke the filter between her brain and mouth. He raised his hand silencing her and pointed at the door again. They both stepped out of the room and walked across the water back to the embankment. The skeletons still stood there waiting.

The skeletons bowed as the couple approached. The man nodded his head in acknowledgement looking to Raven to do the same. She gave a small nod. "Raven," the man began as they stepped on the land, "My name is Tod. I am the leader of the Grims." He acknowledged the skeletons. "Grims as in Grim Reapers?" Raven asked. Tod nodded continuing, "Every 500 years the Grims are given a new leader. I was twenty when my father told me that I had a great destiny. He never told me what it was of course, but that I had to have complete faith. 1512 I died and became the leader of the Grims fulfilling my destiny.

478 years later I am given an anonymous letter telling me that it was time to find a replacement. The pressure was enormous. For years, I have been transfering souls to a place I am not granted access to and now I had to find a replacement by joining the human world. Times had changed drastically. The metal contraptions that have caused many deaths whirled by me. Metal birds flew in the sky carrying people inside them. I was dazed. It was when I was in New York that I met her. Her name was Christine. She was beautiful. I did not want to ride in a death transporter. Ironic now that I think about it, but I had to find a replacement. Anyway, New York had horse drawn carriages. It a piece of my life in this modern world. I hailed one and to my surprise a beautiful woman drove the carriage. She gave me a tour of the city showing me the best places to eat. I knew I was enthralled by her, but I knew I had to find my replacement. Still, I had 22 more years. How could one night hurt? It hurt bad because I never left. I was with Christine for a year never finding my replacement. We were together for over a year when she told me she was pregnant. When I heard the news, I was shocked. I was death and somehow I made life. Her belly grew fast. When the baby started kicking was when I believed that this was really happening. I got another letter telling me my time on Earth was about to end and wrap things up. At first, I was in dispair because I had not found a replacement. Worse, I had to tell Christine I was leaving. I was going to lie, but then I told her the truth. She thought I was crazy. She kicked me out telling me never to see her again. Little did she know, the next time I would see her was delivering a letter telling her everything. It was attached to a giant trunk. For whatever reason, she believed me. Now we are here. She passed on the key to her beautiful daughter, my beautiful daughter."

Raven did not realize halfway through his speech she began crying. She knew halfway how the story ended. She always knew the ending after halfway through the story. How was this story going to end for Raven, though?

"It is my time to move on, Raven. I was human once. I had a different name. Then I was Mark Stergen, the same name your mother knew me by. The destiny lies in the name. The catch is though, do you accept your destiny Raven?" Tod asked.

Raven stood there looking at the soldiers and at her father. This is her destiny. Her mother never questioned it. Why should she? Yet, there was a question nagging her. "What would happen if I don't?" she asked.

Tod hissed looking away. "There are others to replace you of course. There is always a way to keep balance." Raven nodded. She was needed, but yet not needed. The dress was tingling through her. Many questions arose in her head, but they were quickly answered. The dress was beginning to shimmer. A light blinded her eyes.

When she opened them, she saw her father smiling. "What just happened?" she asked. "You accepted your destiny," Tod said.

Everything was there in her head. What she had to do now, where to send the Grims, but first she had to do her first crossover. "Tod," she began, "Father, it is time to cross over." He nodded, "Mark now. Tod was my Reaper name."

Raven nodded as her new name floated in her head, Mortisha. She crinkled her nose at the name. Tod laughed, "You can change it. Once you annouce it, it is solid. It was a recommendation."

Raven held out her hand to her father who took it. They walked back over the water. When they got to the door, Raven stopped her father saying, "Since I won't be able to speak inside, I want you to know I love you. I always have. Mother always talked highly of you. She loved you too." Her father nodded, "I know, sweetie. I watched you grow up." He placed his hand on her face catching a tear. "It killed me that I am the reason you died, but I know in 480 years I will be a proud grandpa. History has a way of repeating itself," he laughed.

Raven laughed hugging her father whispering her name to him. She open the door to find the room changed to a busy New York Street. Across the street where her bedroom door was stood a horse drawn carriage. Raven walked her father across the street. He placed his hand on the door pulling it open. Before walking in, he turned to his daughter saying, "Thank you Kuolema."

He turned back to the door walking through leaving Kuolema as the new Reaper.


Inspiration: A Look into the Writing Process

I do not want to write much more because this story is one of my longest.

I wanted to drift from the angels. This is much darker than my other stories, but like all of my stories it is about destiny and faith.

I took on a challenge and dealing with Grim Reapers. This is new to me. I have done witches, angels, immortals, demons, but never grim reapers. So it was fun, especially the skeletons.

Behind the Name

Tod Stergen- Both German for "death"

Mortisha- Famous use in Addams Family, playing on Mort or Morte which is in many languages death.

Kuolema- Finnish for "death"

Raven- It is a more gothic name, but I think when a girl is given this name you immediately get an image on girl with black hair. She is sharp and confident like the bird. Also ravens, the birds, are seen in a lot of gothic literature with death.

Mark- I wanted him to have a human name, a timeless name yet a name that was weird for that time era. Raven is not a common name, but people do have the name. I wanted his name to be weird for his time era. Like he never really fit in.

Christine- Phantom of the Opera reference. I just love the musical. She entranced with a ghost who lures her, speaks to her in her mind.


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