128: The Fifth Floor

The fifth floor looked rather small. Edmund could only see one long hallway stretching off to the right and left of the elevator. He could faintly see two very simple doors at either end–doors to the two tower rooms, probably–but what caught his attention was the door directly across from the elevator.

It was a small double door, not much bigger than he was. A strange dragon-like creature was engraved in silver on the left side with green-painted eyes, ornate feathery wings, and massive gouts of steam pouring out from its feet. Edmund could almost imagine it waving its claws in the air, roaring triumphantly into the sky.

On the right side, a long thin dog was curled around a brass tree. The tree had a strange knot in the front that looked like a warped clockwork spring, and the branches were trimmed with red stone that bloomed into bulbous apple-like blossoms. The dog looked like it was sleeping, its nose tucked under its tail.

The door looked old and imposing; a wooden boundary that separated the real world from somewhere incredible. Not just the beautiful and ornate carvings, but the fact that it seemed like there were no other doors along the whole wall. Whatever lay on the other side of this door seemed like the entire purpose of the fifth floor.

Edmund tentatively reached out his hand to the door handle on the left side, a small crystal knob gripped by the silver dragon’s claw. He tested it, twisting the knob slowly. It turned with the soft creak of slight rust. He took a deep breath, gripped the knob hard, and pushed.

It was locked.

Edmund pushed harder, jerking the massive wooden door back and forth, sending a rattling noise echoing around him before he let go of the handle with a resigned sigh, and looked down the long hallway he found himself in the middle of.

It was long and painted a dusty bone white, with only two doors at either end. The gas lights were off on this floor, and there were only a few soot-covered windows in the ceiling to let in the sunlight from outside. A thin beam of dim sunlight shone from under the huge door, but this did little to brighten the shadowy hall. The statues and paintings that lined the walls were somber affairs, with wet fields being plowed by tired farmers, dour marble and bronze faces or busts, and strange oil paintings of black shapes and red flames. One painting even had just a man–or women?–standing on what looked like a pier, screaming. The effect was intriguing to Edmund, rather than unsettling. This part of the house seemed to promise something interesting.

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