My eyelids pried like old tape. Kicking from inside my skull pushed me through the haze. Every muscle whined as I rolled and planted my palm into the rug. The room was more dust than air and smelled like an attic.
I coughed and pressed against the ache until I was on my knees. From there I could barely make out the shapes against the dark. I reached out, ran my hand along fabric and pulled back the cobwebs.
“Ugh. Eww. What the hell?”
A sliver of amber spiked from the corner of the room, leading to the crack under a door. I pulled myself to my feet, nursed the thumping in my head, and hesitated when the floorboards creaked.
Where was I?
Turning the handle did less to answer that question than I would have liked. Nothing about this place was familiar; the flaking varnish, the strips of wallpaper and the dimness of the lamps were like something out of a goth horror flick.
I placed my high heels to one side and padded onto the rug. The walls seemed to close in despite the passage being tall enough for giants.
At the end of the hall was a stretch of what were once windows, but had since been boarded up and rusted shut; the wood was marked with scratches and stained with… something else. Whatever happened there was a long time ago.
Around the bend were two sets of stairs. My hand gripped the railing and I followed the set going down. That was where the entrance was, right? Or it could have lead to the basement, which in a place like that was not something I needed to think about.
Deeper and deeper, darker and darker, the bottom of the staircase swallowed me whole. My steps, light as they were, echoed into a chamber. Every inch further was driven by nerve, as though the very next would vanish and cast me into freefall.
It was barely a whisper, but still the sound was trembling as it came back.
“Screw this,” I huffed. What was I doing in the shadows when Glimmer Girl could bring the room to life?
The tiles under layers of dust reflected luminescence and opened the foyer of what might have been a mansion. Like in the hallway upstairs the windows were layered with panels sealing everything inside. On either end were hallways, another door beneath the staircase and above it a painting.
I looked up to the portrait and studied the face it held. Dressed in a black coat decorated with gold trim was a man with raven curls and a fine kept beard. He bore condescension on the room from behind his glasses. The inscription below read;
DR. MALCOLM VON STRUM, Custodian of these premises, 1927.
A chill ran down my hard-light arms. Could it be that a guy from a hundred years ago was responsible for my situation? It was creepy enough to sound relevant, though chances were he had long since died.
Then there was a voice.
“Did you see that?”
“See what?” another rasped.
“There’s a light up there, somewhere,” the first whispered.
“Beck, don’t you dare leave me alone…”
She couldn’t mean Becky Taylor, could she?
I was about to call to them when I heard a long whine; the same I’d heard in the street. Instinct said I should confront the thing, whatever it was; but what about the other girls? I wasn’t alone in this place, and I didn’t know the situation.
Light faded into dark and I began to sprint, blind, down the hall opposite the machine. The balls of my feet swept the floor as my breathing quickened. Panic threw the balance between speed and stealth.
“Something’s coming,” I heard her, Beck, say.
“I got it!”
Suddenly, a force struck my torso and knocked the wind from my chest. I doubled over and slipped into gravity’s hold. Shoulder first I fell to the floor. The world around was spinning, and I lay choking for life.
Just my luck.
“Oh my god,” one of the voices groaned.
A pair of arms wrapped under my shoulders and pulled me away, deeper into the mansion.
To be continued…