129: The Tower

Picking a direction at random, he walked towards the east wing, breaking into a jog when he realized the hall was stretching the entire length of the mansion. long tapestries trailed after him as his passage stirred up layers of dust and breathed life into ancient and long dead drafts. He reached the far end of the hallway out of breath and with aching feet. He leaned against the wall for a moment, trying to steady his heaving chest.

As his breathing slowed, he heard a soft scraping noise coming from the nearby door. Pushing himself off the wall, he approached the thin pine door and gently pressed his ear against the wood, wondering if this was the excitement this floor would provide. Sure enough, there was something scratching at the door.

At first, Edmund thought it might have been some kind of machine, its scratching was so regular–but then it paused, and he heard what might have been a small sigh before the scraping resumed. It sounded like someone was carving a design into the door, carefully and methodically. He swallowed, and decided that if he was wrong  then no one would hear him be foolish.

“Hello?” he asked the empty air. The scratching stopped so abruptly, Edmund worried he had frightened whatever it was. “Hello? Who’s there?”

At first, Edmund couldn’t hear anything. Then, as he pressed his ear to the old wood, he heard the sound of very faint breathing on the other side of the door. It was quick, but steady, much like Edmund’s. Carefully, he knocked firmly three times and reached for the door handle.

The door creaked open slowly, so he didn’t hit whomever, or whatever, it was on the other side. Edmund tentatively peaked around the door into the small room. It was a tiny stone stairwell with a winding staircase barely wide enough for Edmund to climb.  There was almost no light, but the room was small enough that Edmund could easily tell that whatever had been scratching and breathing behind the door had vanished.

Stepping slowly, so as not to startle his new friend, Edmund climbed the twisting wrought-iron stairs into a large circular room. It must have been the east tower, Edmund realized. It seemed a little smaller than his bedroom, but it had to have been larger than it looked, as it was packed full of old boxes, bags, furniture, furnishings, and the like. What little sunlight filtered through the small soot-caked windows gave the room a dusky tired air, full of forgotten memories and wistful imaginings.

Edmund looked around in amazement at the objects that had been stashed away in the tower. Strange brass rods with circular ends were stacked along one wall, while a cabinet full of glass bulbs and cylinders squatted next to it. Dusty white cloth covered what  looked like a stack of paintings that rested next to a large black armoire with ivory trim and knobs that looked like rat skulls. Several glass chandeliers that had become as tangled as cobwebs sat resting on a large oak chest that had been lined with gnawed leather.

In a daze from everything he could see, Edmund turned around and found himself face to face with a monster.


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