The village was quiet and cold. The old stonework, grey in the dim evening light, soaking in the silence and revelling in it. The scar of my car engine rumbling through the streets seemed to draw the shadows in, coalescing at the corners of my headlamps and pooling in the dark nook of the doorway. I parked my car and shut of the engine swiftly, eager to withdraw my mark, plunging the street into an eerie darkness.
I collected my things and stepped up to the door, my breath appearing in wisps, my trainers tapping like heals on the frozen ground. I rapped gently and the door creaked open at my touch revealing an empty lobby and I hesitantly stepped inside.
“Hello?” I called into the void my voice echoing off the bare walls. I leaned through the doorway to my right, a sparse living area with sofas, a coffee table, and a dining area at the back, all untouched. I squinted, something catching my eye at the back of the room and I made for it. On the floor under on of the dining chairs lay a book, open as if dropped mid flow…
The quietest giggle, a childlike chuckle darting across the landing. I ran back to the hall, dropping my bag, the clatter ringing out as fingers of cold grasped at my heart, and yet I felt drawn, compelled. The boards creaked underfoot as I cautiously scaled the stairs.
The thick silence returned and I waded through it, heart pounding in my ears. The landing was as empty as I expected, the walls lined with doors. I should turn back. Now is the time you’re supposed to turn back.
A long piercing creak and a door to my left slid open. Leave. Go down the stairs, out the door, jump in the car and go.
But my fingers tingled, like the wood of the door was an old friend, and my feet carried me forward like they longed to know. I took a breath, grasped the brass handle and pushed the door open.
“SURPRISE!” Lights, streamers, friendly faces, joy, excitement, and relief. Funny how your mind runs away with you.