By Jessilyn Rich
I didn’t have the courage to turn around in the darkness. It was too dark to see more then a few inches away from me anyway. Maybe, if I didn’t move, whatever it was wouldn’t see me and it would leave me alone. I waited for what seemed like forever, but nothing moved. I listened as hard as I could, convinced that whatever it was was lurking in the bowels of the darkness was waiting for me to turn. I swallowed hard and turned toward where I thought I heard the sound come from. I saw only darkness and heard only the scraping of glass between my boots and the floor. I crept across the floor boards, chasing the small glimmers of light that were sneaking in through the cracks of the boarded up windows. I had no idea what to do or what way to go. I knew what I wanted and that was out.
I wanted to be outside. I wanted to let the sunshine warm my skin. I wanted to have never opened that door in the first place, but I did. I moved down the hallway, the blackness dominating the flickers of light. I ran my fingers along the wall as I inched along, trying to guide myself in some direction, any direction. My skin felt dry as it soaked up the dust that protected the walls from the raw air. My fingers struck a solid something, a large bump in the wall that I could only guess to be a moulding of some kind. I hoped it framed a door that would lead me outside. I guided my hands over the grooved panels of the door searching for a latch or knob. Its knob startled me. Its once smooth finish felt rough and tired in my hand. I rocked it back and forth willing it to budge, but it wouldn’t move. It was locked.
I returned to my search of the hall, hoping for the doors twin to sit opposite it on the halls other wall, but the wall seemed bare. Through the aching dark, I caught a glimpse of an old picture frame. I gingerly removed the frame from the wall, squinting in the darkness to see it’s occupants, but it was empty. Who would hang a frame on a wall without a picture?
Why put it back up when you had taken away what was inside? I wondered to myself as I moved down the hall, discovering eleven more frames on the wall, each one empty, but hung with great pride back on its hook. At the very end of the hall sat a small table. Its top covered in frosty marble. I tried to make out the details but, the end of the hall had suffocated any flickers of light. My fingertips ran across the marble top searching for anything that could help me, anything that someone might have left behind. I found nothing except another picture frame.
Even in the dark I assumed that it was empty, like the twelve that had come before it. I didn’t bother carrying it into the light. There would be no point, it wouldn’t help me to escape.
An incredible bang erupted from behind me, a sound so bone-chilling it mimicked a cannon ball being unleashed from a pirate ship. Instinctively I turned, praying my imagination was just running wild. The locked door I had tried to open just minutes ago was sitting wide open. Light poured through the opening and engulfed the hallway. I blinked hard, my eyes aching at the sudden change. I ran my thumbs along my fingertips for comfort, but that only made my heart race faster. Slowly, I turned my hands over to reveal clean fingertips. My throat felt full of sand as I tried to swallow. There was no dust, my fingertips were clean. Immediately, my head whipped back to the table at the end of the hall. My heart exploded with shock and terror within my chest, I couldn’t believe my eyes.