That’s all Miss Annabelle Corlet saw when she lurched upright with a gasp.
To be specific it was a murky whiteness tinged with grey, something Annabelle’s mother would nasally pronounce to be Dove White or Honeymilk.
Annabelle didn’t know what the busybodies of the fashion world would call it. All she knew was that it was slowly building up around her threatening suffocation or at least eternal blindness. Never one for idleness, Annabelle pulled herself to her feet, rearranging the abundance of fine red silks that made up her dress skirt. Brushing down the red - dragon’s blood red - fabric once. twice. The young girl looked up at the encompassing expanse of white.
All around, that nameless white persisted. Unable to discern any silhouetted path, Annabelle Corlet pointed her toes in a random direction and started to walk.
Time quickly slipped by, or perhaps it never moved at all. There was no way of judging the arc of the sun in this hidden place; and Annabelle had the distinct feeling that this place was not beholden to the movement of the sun and was instead very much other.
Any attempt to cast her mind back to before she woke up in this place were useless. Her memories as shadowed and clouded as this place she found herself in. Refusing to succumb to worry and despair just yet, Annabelle gathered together the last of her courage and hastened her steps the faint memory of a distant lullaby echoing in her head.
Chopin’s concerto number 2 in F.
That was the first thing that brought Annabelle out of her muddled mind and stumbling back into the endless white abyss. The delicate trilling of the flutes offset the trombone bass, creating a muted echo that seemed to weave through the clouded white and wrap tight around Annabelle’s heart.
The second was the flickering lantern light.
Rocking onto the balls of her feet, Annabelle staggered to a stop as if she had reached the end of a taunt knotted rope. A small spark set a blaze of hope alight in her chest. Chopin’s piano crescendo grew into a fortissimo as the spitting lantern flashed once. twice. thrice.
The invisible rope snapped.
Annabelle Corlet fell forwards into a jagged run as if propelled by the winds of history herself.
It was in fact a lantern.
A moss riddled, cracked lantern, but a lantern nonetheless.
It was swinging from a rusted stake, the end swallowed by the mist, as it squeaked with each rock of a non-existent wind. Annabelle walked around the lantern, mesmerised by its soft yellow light. A hesitant reach of a gloved hand found the post to be cold, almost bitterly so.
Disappointment crashed down on Annabelle as she too crumbled to the floor. Leaning against the lamppost her head fell into hands, tangled blonde locks obscuring her face.
There was no one here.
The lantern was only that, a lantern. There was no one holding it, not even anyone sitting beneath it. Simply a rusted iron cage housing a flickering flame. For the first time since she’d woken up in this place, Annabelle felt truly and utterly alone.
There was no one around. She was lost in an endless reach of nameless white with only her muddled memories and the echoes of a forgotten song.
Annabelle looked up suddenly with the reminder of the muted melody in her head. Chopin’s beloved concerto was the first thing that drew her from her previous wanderings. The tinkling notes had faded, but as if drawn by her remembrance they returned: the first clarinet’s triplets overlapping the bash of the timpani.
Spinning on her knees - Annabelle could hear her mother’s dismay over her slowly ripping dress - she focused her attention once again on the rusting post. Towards the bottom, near where the post disappeared into the fog, faint scratchings could be seen. Ripping off her silken gloves, Annabelle reverently traced the marks: two mirrored parallel lines curved up a swooping third at their base.
A panel sprung open, jostling the girl to fall backwards as the metal clanged thrice. Shaking out her scraped palms, Annabelle crept forwards again to peer into the opening. Inside the lantern was a network of gears cycling around each other, a small metal rod stuck out from the contraption oscillating slowly.
“A music box,” Annabelle’s voice sounded muffled, as if this place itself was muting her, shying away from any disturbance.
Chopin’s concerto number 2 in F flowed out of the mechanisms, the openings of the hatch seeming to make the harmony grow that much louder. Intrigued by this supreme oddity in a place of oddities Annabelle reached forwards to delicately turn the metal rod three and a quarter times.
The music stopped.
A crash echoed somewhere in the distance.
The very air went still.
Miss Annabelle Corlet fell.