Chapter 29

It felt like months since Beatrice had been awake, since her thoughts had been clear. The whispers had stopped. Then the nightmares. And at some point Beatrice realized that she was hungry.

Fighting exhaustion and blurry vision, Beatrice tried to move. First, she wiggled her nose, and when that worked, she tried her fingers. She was surprised to find that she still had complete control. Her muscles were weak, but functioning.

She rubbed her eyes, and her vision slowly adjusted to the dark room. She saw that she was laying in an old bed with an antiquated quilt resting over her. To her left, there was a window, but it was small and too high for her to reach. The walls were wood paneled, and mostly bare. There was a needlepoint of a flower hung on the wall above the bed and a mirror on the wall directly in front of her.

Beatrice looked at herself in the mirror. She could not remember the last time she’d looked at her reflection, and it took her a moment to recognize the person staring back at her. Her hair was a mess, and she’d lost weight. Her face looked thin and frail, and her joints looked knobby and awkward. She was wearing a long, pale pink nightgown that she couldn’t remember putting on. There were dark circles under her eyes, despite the fact that she’d been sleeping for what felt like years.

Beatrice’s stomach growled audibly. For the first time, she thought to look for a door. At the wall to her right, she saw a nondescript brown door with a faded gold doorknob. She walked towards it with little hope that it was unlocked, but to her surprise, it opened without protest.  To either side of her was a long, dark hallway. There was dust covering every surface, and out of the corner of her eye, Beatrice thought she saw a mouse scurrying across the hall. She noticed a light switch, but when she flicked it, the lone light bulb above her flickered and went out.

There was dim light shining through the single window at one end of the empty hallway, so Beatrice estimated it must be either dawn or dusk. Everything was eerily silent; Beatrice could hear herself breathing and the floor squeaking with every step she took. To her left, Beatrice found a stairwell. It was dark and led to a floor above. She started walking up it. The stairs went on and on, and there was no end in sight. Then, just as she thought she might give up and turn around, Beatrice felt something crunch beneath her feet. She looked down and saw an old photo laying on the floor. Picking it up, she saw there were four people in the photo. One was her Uncle Gerald, he was standing behind a young Gerald Jr. and holding a toddler Janelle. Standing off to the side was another young boy. Beatrice couldn’t place him, but he felt eerily familiar.

Suddenly, the stairs disappeared and Beatrice was falling, falling, falling…

-M.A. Gavin

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