PREVIOUSLY, from 1.2 The First Room:
Eryx crouched, held his breath, and placed his eye to the keyhole, expecting something frightening to see in the hallway outside his bedroom.
Or something peering back.
Eryx saw nothing.
With a sigh of relief, he rose and tried the handle, but it wouldn’t turn.
As he unlocked the door and returned the room key to his neck, a thought struck him: So . . . if the door was locked all along and I had the key, where did the one who had kept the chair warm go?
Fear froze him and his breath, but he was tired of this room and he person it was turning him out to be. With that thought, he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.
Eryx stood in the hallway.
The very well-lit hallway with several doors. He didn’t need his lamp at all. It was . . . nice after all the darkness. Not worrying at all.
Yet . . . he had seen darkness through the keyhole, just moments ago, when inside looking out. And . . . what if he closed the door and looked back in at his room through the keyhole? What would he see then?
A well-lit room?
Someone peering back?
The speaker who had woken you?
Eryx shut the plain door of his room. He should lock it.
You should look inside.
Something might have changed since you left. Like darkness instead of a lit hallway. Like scratches on a table that disappeared when the light came.
The view of the hallway might have had a sane explanation. Someone might have been standing in front the door.
And the table?
Eryx licked his lips. All right. He would look. Then he’d lock it. Then he’d do something productive with his time, such as taking a look about himself and finding someone or something holding answers. He rolled his shoulders to relieve the stiffness and stress in them. Crouched. Set down his lamp. And placed his eye to the keyhole.
The room was pitch black.
As it should be. Eryx settled back on his heels, looking down at his stolen light. As it should be.
Someone could have been standing in front of the door. And I could have been imagining things in the dark. Darkness plays tricks on the mind, and mine isn’t that reliable of late.
I could have imagined the voice.
And the body warmth of the chair?
Yes. Because of fear. You’ll get nowhere with fear, but crouching in a hallway, cowering before a door.
With that thought, Eryx drew out his key, locked the door, and tucked the chain away.
Instantly, tension crawled up his spine, and a sensation of being watched settled between his hunched shoulder blades in the little-too-large outfit. His gaze darted, taking in details rapidly. To the right: walls, floor, lights, and a bend. To the left: walls, floor, lights, and bend. No one was there but him.
He forced himself to go slower as he rose, his right hand resting against his door, the other clutching his unnecessary lamp.
There were gaslights on the walls that did not look in danger of going out, a red carpet that didn’t span to the walls, intact yellow wallpaper, and two ends to the hallway, one to either side of him, equidistant. Two, plain, closed doors, then a bend cloaked in darkness as deep as his room. Two, plain, closed doors to his left, then a well-lit bend.
But no people. Nothing to explain the sensation of being watched. He was alone.
What about behind you? You haven’t checked there.
With a deep breath, Eryx about-faced.
And was no longer alone.
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Jodi Ralston, All Rights Reserved. 2016, 2017.