Hardly surprising, it’s another one of these. I’d guess they’ll be ‘appearing’ for a little while yet, or until I get bored of doing them. Hopefully you aren’t all getting bored of reading them, lucky for me there’s no real way to tell 🙂

* * *

She opens her eyes.

In the dead of night the girl lies perfectly still in bed, her breathing deep and even, straining her ears for any sound of movement about the house. Barring the occasional creaking of the timbers as they cool after the heat of the day all is quiet. As silently as possible, she lifts the sheet, turns, and slips out onto the rug. Picking some of the larger soft toys from around the foot of the bed, she lines them up roughly in front of her before pulling the sheet up and over them, all the way up to the pillows. Dis-satisfied, she pushes another couple of toys under the sheet and rearranges the line. Across the bed, a pale wash of blue moonlight seeps under the blind and into the room. She tiptoes around and tugs gently at the bottom of the blind, hoping it will go a little closer to the sill. Pushing a book and a decorative glass paperweight out of the way allows the girl to lower the blind completely, and turning to the bed decides that the decoy version of herself is now sufficiently convincing should anyone chance to look into her bedroom while she is away.

Padding over to the door, she holds her breath and listens again before slowly turning the handle and pulling it toward her. The light of the moon makes the landing seem cold and alien, pouring in from the window high on one wall, but allows her to see that both bedroom doors are closed, and between them, the bathroom door is open a fraction, as it usually is when unoccupied. The girl steps out onto the cool wood paneled floor and carefully closes her own door, moving as slowly as possible at the point where it clicks shut.

Turning, the girl paces quietly along the hallway. The first room she passes, the one her two brothers share, is quite silent. A flickering glow is just visible at the bottom of the door, she guesses they’ve forgotten to turn the aquarium light off again. Moving quickly past the bathroom, she pauses as she reaches her parents’ room. One of them is snoring gently, it’s difficult to tell which one, but there are no other sounds, so she continues on before slipping round the corner and starting up the stairs to the attic room.

From experience the girl knows to keep her feet as close to the wall as possible as she ascends. If she walks up the centre of the wooden staircase she knows every footstep will produce a loud creaking sound, or at least in the quiet of the night they sound loud, so she presses herself against the wall as she moves up toward the doorway into the attic. As she approaches the top step she slips into shadow and slows down, holding one arm out before her, reaching for the smooth surface of the door. Quickly finding the handle, she opens it and slips through. Once the door is closed behind her, she breathes deeply, relieved to have made it this far undetected.

Before her, the attic is bathed in the same unearthly glow as it streams through the skylights, illuminating the piles of boxes and luggage which fill the floor. Old toys, mostly belonging to her brothers, camping equipment, chests full of school books, reports and drawings, even a set of bagpipes, a souvenir from a family trip to Scotland. So many things that would ordinarily be sold, given to charity or just thrown away if there wasn’t enough storage space for them ended up being squeezed into this space, along with stacks of photo albums and family heirlooms which would be ceremoniously brought down and pored over whenever a relative came to stay.

None of these things interest the girl though. Her target is over at the opposite end of the attic, where a large framed painting leans against the firebreast. Picking her way precariously through the minefield before her, she soon arrives at the far side and crouches down before the painting. It is no masterpiece, rather something that her mother painted many years ago when she fancied herself an artist, a pastoral mountain scene in which a young couple walk through a flower filled meadow whilst a small dog runs before them, seeming to chase a butterfly. The girl barely looks at the image, but with both hands on the frame she lifts the painting and carefully moves it to one side, revealing a ragged hole in the exposed brickwork of the firebreast.

Who made the hole or why the  girl does not know. Her brothers have denied any knowledge of it, her parents only built the family home twenty years earlier, and she can’t imagine why they would have left this gap in the wall. It appears that a number of bricks have been removed to leave access to the flue, on the far side of which is a series of rungs leading downwards. She has never seen where the bricks ended up, either here in the attic, or at the bottom of the flue, but the girl doesn’t have time to contemplate these things now and prepares for the last part of her journey.

Sitting on the dusty attic floor, the girl slides herself forward until her legs are dangling into space. Pushing further, she points out her toes until she can feel the cold metal of one of the rungs on the far side of the flue. Bracing her legs, she twists through the gap and reaches across with her hands, grasping onto the topmost rung before lifting herself away from the hole in the wall. She looks down into the darkness. A rectangle of light, tiny and faint from this distance, is her destination, and she begins her descent, hands and feet synchronised as she moves rhythmically down the rungs.

Minutes pass as she continues downward, her pace steady, her breathing even, the rectangle of light gradually drawing closer. Eventually she passes through the gap and is back into the light. The air is clearer and less dense. As first one bare foot then the other leaves the last rung, she steps down onto the perfectly square tiles, turns, and sets off down the corridor toward the first courtyard.

The girl hopes she will understand more about this place tonight. The place hopes for the same thing. Understanding.

* * *

Apologies for this one being longer than usual, and probably a little more baffling than usual as well. It will all make sense eventually… Maybe. Another one of my less than successful experiments next time, though for a change it’s entirely legal 😉

Peace… ses x