Baffled as he was, Arthur was well trained and his survival instincts kicked in quickly. He estimated that it was about 4 o’clock in the evening, an estimation based on the light coming through the window. There were a lot of clocks in the house, but they were all set to different times and some moved obviously faster than others. He’d also determined a few weeks prior that the house slanted, indicating the exit was on the downward slanting side.
Arthur moved quietly and fluidly, as if there was no doubt he was going in the right direction. Beatrice’s mother followed behind him, clutching Pepe to her chest, and Beatrice took up the rear. They followed silently, trusting Arthur would get them out of that god-forsaken house.
It was the best look that Beatrice had gotten of the house since she’d arrived there what felt like months ago. It was bigger than she’d remembered, funny considered what she remembered of it was from when she was a child. The hallways seemed longer, and the doors seemed farther away. They made turn after turn into empty hallway after empty hallway. Beatrice tried to keep track of their path, just in case they had to turn back. Every turn they made, she expected to see a cousin or a cousin’s child, but she saw no one. In fact, the entire house looked, sounded, and felt empty. There were no nasty kids running around making a mess, or nastier adults making an even bigger mess. There was no screaming, yelling, or maniacal laughter.
After what felt like ages, Beatrice’s mother said she needed to pause for a moment.
“Carrying Pepe around is like running a marathon cradling a bowling ball!” her mother stated, breathing heavily.
“That’s ok, we can take a break for a second,” Arthur said, still on high alert. His eyes darted from side to side, checking for anyone or anything that may try to stop them.
Arthur casually pulled Beatrice to the side, stepping momentarily away from her mother and Pepe. Beatrice saw in his eyes that something was wrong.
“Birdy, I don’t want to scare you or your mother, but something is…off,” Arthur said, trying to sound calm. “We’ve been going in circles. Every clue indicates that the exit should be right there,” he continued, pointing down the hall. “But its not. We just end up right back where we started. Beatrice, I don’t know what to do.”
Beatrice tried but failed to hide her surprise and disappointment. She knew it was too good to be true. Why would the cousins just let them go? It was counter-intuitive. It was another one of their tricks, and she’d fallen for it. Face first.
“There has to be another way. We can’t just be trapped in here forever,” Beatrice whispered, beginning to panic. The walls that had seemed so tall and the hallways that had felt so long suddenly began closing in. She felt trapped, and struggled to catch her breath.
Just then, a chubby Pepe waddled over to Beatrice. He nipped at the old pair of pants Beatrice was wearing, pulling her forward. Beatrice looked at her mother, who in turn looked at Arthur. He shrugged, “I guess we’re following the dog.”