Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today’s prompt is to write about a key.

Time to get writing! If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram (or anywhere else), be sure use the #FlashFictionFeb hashtag. Now, let’s get cracking!

For today’s prompt, write about a key. It could be a physical key, a metaphorical one, or even something completely abstract—it’s totally up to you!

Remember: These prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.

(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at mrichard@aimmedia.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue. Fingers crossed there are no tech hiccups!)

Here’s my attempt at a story about a key:

The Key

I shift a large stack of newspapers and wrinkle my nose at the clear outline of dust.

“Jesus, do you think she ever cleaned?”

I shoot Bren a dirty look over my shoulder. “Show some respect.”

Bren snorts and nudges the overflowing trash can farther away with the toe of one oversized boot. “Like she ever respected us.”

“Bren.”

“C’mon, can’t we just hire a locksmith or something?”

Deep breath in. Hold it. Deep breath out. “Just keep looking.”

“But—”

“Bren.”

I put the newspapers back on the table with a bit too much force—I’m only human—and then move onto the china cabinet. I have to yank pretty hard to get the door to open. The hinges screech. After a moment, there’s a huff, and Bren’s petulant stomps are muffled by the clothes strewn all over

Bren’s quiet while I opened the lids of pots and felt around under the doilies. It grates against me. It wasn’t even this quiet in the hospital room, when mom’s breathing was being regulated by a tube and the machines would hum and the air conditioner would click off and on and off again.

I glance up and catch sight of a nasty series of spider webs threaded through the ancient toys and faux plants lining the top of the cabinet. I shut my eyes so I don’t have to see it. My skin crawls. For a terrifying moment, I’m 13 and huddled with Bren on a nest of clothes in the bathroom, the only almost-clean spot in the house.

“Tell me what it looks like again?” Bren calls.

Deep breath in. Hold it. Deep breath out. I shout back, “It’s just a regular key. Like a house key.”

“Well, waddaya know.”

“Did you find it?” I open my eyes. My face looks both bloated and squashed in the reflection of a teapot.

“Something like that.”

I turn and pick my way around the various piles of clothes and papers and toys and whatever else could possibly be hoarded by an elderly woman. It takes me longer than it should to get to the kitchen where Bren is standing over an open drawer.

When I peer over her shoulder, my heart sinks. The drawer is full of keys. There’s obviously no way they could all have been hers, so she must have been picking them up in estate sales or finding them at antique malls or something.

“Sure we can’t just call a locksmith?” Bren nudges my stomach with her elbow.

“If that storage unit really does have a safe filled with cash, I don’t want anyone to lay eyes on it but us,” I say.

“You sound just like her.”

I give her ponytail a quick yank and ignore her snarl. “We better get testing.”

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