Warren eased the door open and poked his head between the jambs. The room was dark and silent, shifting in deep shades of gray. He could smell fresh air drifting in from the windows at the far side of the room. The low sigh of the wind and the cheering crickets covered over any other sighing sound in the room. Warren paused, blinking to ease his eyes into the darkness, listening hard for another breath or footstep. There were so many people itching to sneak in here. The only time he’d come close to getting caught was when he nearly tripped over another boy in the dark, and he never wanted to repeat that lung-squeezing scramble back to safe halls.
Warren listened until his eyes sorted out the blurred lines of the straight-backed chairs and square tables and lines of cabinets that turned the long room into a maze. He could make out the shelves around the outside of the room, but only at the corners of his eyes. Looking at them directly, they stayed heavily in shadow. It was an old trick of the eyes which he didn’t understand, but he’d grown used to. He looked straight ahead and waited for someone to move.
There was no one.
He waited another half second, looking for the tell-tale lights of less practiced sneakers.
Sliding inside, he shut the door behind him. He pressed his back to the wood for a moment before he slunk forward.
He had to touch the furniture as he walked, making sure that he didn’t run into it, or lose himself in open dark spaces. Everything was just as he’d found it the last time he came. The same floorboards creaked. The same chairs had been left out at odd angles. He wasn’t surprised. People kept the same hours, the same seats, the same sloppy habits, for the most part. Even he took the same skittering path across the room, slipped between the same rows of cabinets. He crouched in the same old place, took out his finger worn picks, and pried open the same old lock.
Then he took a breath, like always, and opened the swinging doors.
In the dark, all he saw were a few gleaming metallic points and lines in midair. With careful fingers, he lifted the metal box off its shelf. He turned it over, spreading his palms down the sides to take in the size of it again, feel the grooves where he believed it should open, and the studs and grooves that he had realized lead nowhere.
Sitting, he ran his fingers over the whole thing again, searching for the careful sequence that would pop the puzzle box open. Warren breathed in, and breathed out, pressed and twisted. Cross-legged in the dark, he sloppily prodded the same old mystery, and – happily – couldn’t let it go.
I’m a thief! I stole this line from my friend, Kathryn. Be sure to check out her blog tomorrow to read the original piece she wrote.