The girl and the tabby guide you toward the front door: past closed doors, trinkets of indeterminate age, the oak cabinets in the kitchen, the critical eyes of the ancestors. You are close to the front door, and the smell of hyacinths drift through a nearby window.
You are almost out. The bag weighs heavy on your shoulder. The girl opens the front door and the tabby saunters out ahead of you. You say goodbye to the girl before you step over the threshold, but she only smiles at you. A sad smile. She looks hollow.
You step out and the door closes behind you with a thud, nearly catching your shirt in the process. The sun is going down now, casting golden light across the path in front of you. In the sky, the clouds are saturated in orange and deep violet.
You remember another day like this, only last summer. You took your children to the ocean and watched as the waves crashed against the shore, your children giggling as they only just barely outran the surf. You stayed until sundown and ate ice cream cones while the sun sank below the horizon and brilliant colors danced across the sky.
The tabby yowls, bringing you back to the doorstep of the strange women you just met. He’s looking back at you from the corner of a house about thirty steps from you, and he looks irritated, like how your mother looked at you when you were dawdling. He flicks his tail at you and turns the corner.
You follow, of course, because what else are you going to do at this point? You turn the corner and he’s already five houses down, so you hurry to catch up, and he slows for you then. Once beside him, you walk swiftly through alleyways, past closed doors and open windows.
All is silent, save your footsteps on the stone streets. Together, you take a left, two rights, another left. He stops, and you almost walk past a thin path compressed between two old brick buildings. It is nearly smothered in vines and no light emits from behind them.
The tabby looks at you, looks at the path, looks back at you. It’s dark in there, and you can hear a wet snuffling sound. You think of the book, of the unusual people and things in it. You don’t want to go down this path. But you push aside the vines, and you go through.
The previous chapters can be found here.