Chapter 15- The Great Room
I didn’t know what was on the other side of that door. There was nowhere else for me to go. Just through that knotted, wooden door. I’d climbed five flights of gray-carpeted, yellow-walled, tightly-winding stairs. I was hoping it was a kitchen. Just a normal, apple-pie kitchen. Or a bathroom. Something that could resemble a piece of a normal house. A home where someone, once upon a time, had lived. The pain in my leg would then, at least, be justified.
As much as I wanted that, I knew I had to bury those images. My expectations had been thrown out the window long ago. I had no idea what to expect. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. I could probably expect to open the door to something unexpected.
I nodded to myself. That, at least, was reasonable. But the tiny hope that normal was behind door number one was still peeping through the key hole, trying to stay afloat. I was afraid to let more of its light in; break the lock so the hole was bigger. But I was even more afraid to cover the hole entirely.
In a flurry—so that I didn’t have time to think—I wrenched the door open.
When I peeked one eye open, I almost laughed with relief. “This is more like it!” I said, hurriedly shutting the door on the unnerving staircase behind me.
It was an old Victorian-era room. Complete with a grand, stone-grey fireplace and everything. I looked down at the floor as I took a step forward. The wood panels were scratched and scuffed up—finally proving my suspicions true that someone had at least lived here once—and I couldn’t help but smile. And my knee didn’t hurt anymore. It was bizarre. I glanced at my pant leg, pulling the fabric of my jeans to the side. Even rubbing it against my skin didn’t bother me.
Breathing freely for the first time all day, I let myself stroll across the floor to the wall of broken windows on my right. It was now light out, and the houses, road, yard and separating fences were all still there.
How long had I been in here? It had barely been sunset when the car started to follow me.
This whole thing was surreal to me. Though I had come to accept all the strange, supernatural things that had happened to me and around me in this house, I was still pretty staggered when this realization hit me. This house just…was. There is no such thing as magic, as far as I was aware, so I just had to accept that this house was as natural as the sky or its neighbors.
I felt my shoulders rise and then fall in a sort of shrug. I guess I’m better with strange than I thought.
I turned around, unable to stop myself from marveling at the room. It was beautiful. I don’t usually use that word—for anything, really (not even any of my girlfriends—I shrank a little guiltily on the inside)—but the high ceiling, the polished beams, the four shining suits of armor at each of the beams’ touchdown point… It was impressive. I’d never really appreciated all that medieval stuff on the history channel. Because when did I ever have time to watch it? Or want to learn more than the basic Wikipedia facts? So I just stood there, staring around myself like an idiot for a good long while.
A cloud passed in front of the sun, and the rays danced through it sporadically. They came in from the broken windows, and even though the shadows that crawled across the floor towards me, reaching for me with spiky fingers and open jaws should have given me the chills, I just couldn’t feel any. As I stared down at the shadows, watching them inch closer and closer to my feet, a strange calm settled over me. It was like this room couldn’t feel the eeriness of the rest of the house. And that meant that I was okay too.
I let a puff of air out of my nose and turned away from the shadows.
It was then that I noticed a circle that was cut into the center of the floor, disappearing into darkness. I’d taken a few steps towards it, and glanced over my shoulder at the shadows, but they were gone. Turning back, I felt sure the hole hadn’t been there before, when I’d first entered the room; maybe it hadn’t. I closed the distance between me and it and hesitated over the edge, gripping the railing of a spiral staircase as I leaned a bit into the hole. The staircase descended into total darkness.
I should know better, I thought, straightening and taking a few steps away from the landing. Unknown places weren’t good to get lost in, especially here. When I was younger—or just a few days ago, actually—I would have jumped into that hole head-first. I didn’t care if I’d get lost, or if I didn’t come away without a scratch. Now, I wasn’t sure if I wanted that. I just wanted to get away.
But there was something that was making my feet retrace those back-peddling steps. I was down the first four steps before I realized that I was actually on the staircase.
The moment I noticed this, I froze. My hand was on the bannister, but it was only there as a precaution. Again, I couldn’t see anything. I looked above me, back up the stairs, and felt my heart lift when I saw the sun-lighted ceiling above me. At least I had somewhere to aim for if I got down to the bottom and had to book it out of there.