short stories

Part Ten: The Descent

The Descent

The Descent

The weight of the silence wraps around you like snow on a street at midnight. It feels different than the rest, hollow, as though inside a vacuum. You breathe in and you breathe out, in and out in and out, rapid, laboured. You wait. Your chest is tight but quickly, silently, you make your way back to the front hall, searching for a way into the depths of the house.

You pass through a dining room and two more sitting rooms, brimming with what you assume is impressively carved furniture and immaculate paintings – even in the shades of grey that you see in, the house exudes the dull brilliance of opulence forgotten long ago.

Back in the front hall and you still haven’t found a door to lead you below. You lean against wall and let your breath out quickly, as you do when your children are trying your patience. Your children – how are they? Are they safe?

A faint glow then, like fireflies on an August evening, lights up underneath a tapestry opposite you but fades just as quickly. The tapestry is not only decoration, but function as well; you brush it aside and make out the faint outline of a door embedded in the wall, the flat handle not visible, only sensed by touch.

You give it a gentle tug, fingers metaphorically crossed that it will be silent, and it is. You go inside, letting the tapestry fall as you pull the door shut. Before you, wood stairs spiral down towards a faint blue glow. Nothing can be heard from below.

You and the tabby descend, then, feeling somewhat like moths drawn to a lamp. As you circle the winding rotten steps that seem to continue on into nothingness, the sound of windchimes drifts into your ears, crystal clear this time, followed by a wave of something nauseatingly sweet.

You stop at the bottom of the stairs and a dimly lit hallway lined with flickering torches illuminates about twenty feet in front of you before veering off to both the left and right. You walk to the end, your footfalls like marshmallows, and stop at the crossroads.

All is quiet for a moment that inches forward at the pace of molasses before you hear giggling drifting towards you from the left. You move forward, careful not to trip on any protruding bricks and stop in front of an iron bound door with a small, fogged window embedded high up.

The giggling has shifted to low, guttural moans. You don’t want to look through the window, you don’t want to know what’s making that sound, but you force yourself to look.

 

Come back next Thursday to see what happens next. Previous chapters can be found here.

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