Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 11
The hardwood planks creaked as Nikki climbed the stairs. It hurt her so much seeing them so dirty. She’d grown up in a house without any stairs, so finding them in a house was awesome and these had been a golden brown that shone.
Randy followed behind her. She was glad that he hadn’t brought up the question about selling the house, though she was sure he wanted to ask.
“What do you remember about being here?” Randy asked.
They emerged at the top of the stairs into a hallway that ran the length of the house. Rooms spouted off the hallway like tree branches. Bedrooms were on the left, and a full bathroom on the right. The hallway ended at a screened off porch that would be closed during winter. She stayed there on the summer visits, in the cooling night air.
“Thinking that this house should have a ghost,” Nikki answered. “I’d look at the outside, at the tower, and fancy that I could see a ghost in the window, waiting. My aunts never let me in that room. I didn’t know why.”
“Do you want to have a look?”
Nikki gave him a big grin. “Yes!”
To the front of the house, the hallway led through a pair of doors with grimy stained glass showing a peacocks, feathers spread in an elegant fan as they bowed. The doors led to a landing with another stairway, and two additional rooms. Her aunts hadn’t stayed in either of these rooms, which mystified Nikki. Both rooms would have overlooked the street and the beautiful view.
The tower room was on the right, the door closed, forbidding. She tried the door knob–actually, she just touched it. The door opened like it had been waiting for her.
The room smelled of being closed up for too long…and something else. She hesitated in the doorway, not sure what she was feeling. It was faint, like electricity in the air as a thunderstorm approached. Maybe one was coming?
This had been a woman’s bedroom once. Except for the dust, it looked like the original owner could walk right in here and go to bed. A large four poster bed was against the far wall, giving a good view of the two windows looking out over the street. The fireplace had an elegant, hand-carved mantle with more wood then she had ever seen. She had to restrain herself from opening the glass doors to a bookcase and inspecting the volumes, afraid they might be fragile. But she did open the dresser drawers.
Emptied, long ago.
She opened a door at the end of the room, thinking it went to a closet and expecting it to be large like the room. It was a pantry. Shelves lined the upper half of one wall, cupboards below.
“A pantry in the bedroom?” She glanced back at Randy, not expecting an answer.
He chuckled. “The woman of the house would have kept on the valuables. Spices, coffee, sugar.”
“But where are the closets?” Nikki wondered what she would have done if she had no place to hang up her dressed and blouses.
“They didn’t build houses with them. The government could have counted the closets as extra rooms and taxed the owners for it.”
“Really? A closet’s not a room you could do anything but store clothes.”
Randy snorted. “You should see where—some of the classrooms of the era. Our modern closets are bigger.”
The pantry had a door that opened out into the next room. A pale yellow glow came from under the door. Sunlight?
Her fingers closed around the doorknob. It was warm, but not uncomfortably so, like it had been in the rising sunlight. A vibration tingled her palm.
Hinges creaked as she opened the door. It caught on a rug, dragging, then popped open. Another bedroom. Near the great fireplace was the strangest thing Nikki had ever seen. An irregular oval shape hovered in the air, a patchwork quilt of yellows, oranges, red, and black.
A gasp came from behind her. Randy had come in through the pantry, staring at the oval, his mouth gaping open.
“Don’t touch it,” Randy said, his voice thinning out. He was frightened.
Nikki supposed she should be frightened too. Yet, she was drawn to the portal. She wasn’t sure if it was just natural curiosity or if the portal was calling to her. She moved closer, though cautiously, circling around it. Two feet away, she could feel both warmth and icy cold streaming from, it like two winds mingling. Smelled like water and grass.
Behind the oval, the room was ice cold. Her breath came out in wispy fog. The oval did not look the same from this side. There was more of the red, like paint being swirled around. It was mesmerizing to look at—
Suddenly she fell backwards, landing on Randy.
“You almost walked right into it!” he blurted.
She sat up, shivering and stared at the oval. The chill she felt like had nothing to do with the air in the room.
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