Fantasy Short Story
I found myself standing within a small, circular room, about two metres in height. My head ached and I was unaware of how I got to be there, so I came to the conclusion that I was in a dream. I had the faint memory of falling, though I believed that many people had this sensation when sleeping, so this proved my belief even more. I glanced around and thought to myself about how peculiar it was; the walls were lined with a velvet material the colour of crimson, upon which hung ornate, wooden picture frames, but no images were held within the tinted glass. I tiptoed over, my heeled shoes making a delicate tapping sound on the old, cobbled floor. I allowed my hands to brush over and feel the fabric, and found that it was strangely soft, and it tickled the end of my fingers. I withdrew, and looked about the rest of the room. It appeared very dinghy in the light.
Tilting my head upwards, I discovered that the whole ceiling was in fact taken up by a sheet of mirrored glass, and in the middle hung a single light bulb, the source of the dim light that was being emitted. I peered up into the face of my own, and was shocked. My once blonde hair was now a filthy grey, covered in dirt and soot. It was accompanied by my grubby, bruised face very well. My favourite blue pinafore was cut and shred, the sleeves torn and a stream of cloth trailing behind me. I even discovered that my shoes, which had minutes before tapped against the cobbles, were about to fall off. Collapsing to the ground in a feeling of despair and anguish, I immediately fell asleep.
In my dreams, I dreamt that I was back at home. It was Christmas time, and the whole of my family had come over. In the drawing room, we all sat around and sang festive songs, whilst my father played the piano, I sitting upon his knee. That was a very old memory, one which had almost been forgotten. How very funny it was, I remember thinking, a dream within a dream! Just as it was about to get to the bit where Domino, the dog, was going to lick the turkey, I felt a tickling sensation at the end of my nose, as though something was pawing at it, and awoke. Angry at this interruption in my thoughts, I opened my eyes and glared around the room. I was sure that I had heard the scurrying of tiny feet, but nothing, and nobody, was there. Sitting back against the wall and rubbing my sore limbs, I noticed something very odd.
Across the room from where I was seated was a door. A door which I was absolutely certain had not been there when I first stood in this room. But how had it come to be there? Ever so slowly, I lifted myself from the ground, and stared hard at it. Was it a trick? Had my mind gone mad? I had to remember that this was a dream, so nothing could harm me. I hoped. Forcing myself to walk across the room, my eyes focused, and with this came more detail. The door was the same shade of red as the walls, but it was faded, and evident that in some places it was starting to peel. Into the splintered wood was carved intricate patterns and shapes, dancing before my eyes, which almost seemed impossible to have been made by human hands. They were too tiny and delicate, too skilfully done. In the centre of these drawings was a singular rabbit, wearing a waistcoat and holding a watch, or maybe a timer, in one of his paws. Odd.
Closer to the ground than normally expected was an old, rusty looking, brass doorknob. I bent down and strained my eyes, struggling to see what was engraved into it. After some time, I realised that it was indeed a cat. It had a great grin on its face, with lots of large teeth protruding from within its mouth. Underneath, in tiny, almost illegible writing were some words. I read them as “We’re all mad here.” That would have been all fine and dandy, if I had actually known where “here” was. For a second it almost seemed as though the cat’s face disappeared, leaving behind only the smile, but then reappeared again once more. I dismissed this as my imagination, and noticed that there was some light attempting to get through from underneath the door. I placed my head carefully on the ground and tried to look underneath, but all I could see was a white glow. If I looked hard enough, it seemed as though there were shadows moving around on the other side. I was sure that I could also hear the wind, or maybe the sea, and the rustling of leaves, sounds only made by tiny creatures. A rabbit, or a mouse perhaps?
Suddenly, a screeching noise pierced my ears, and the door shook as something from the other side scratched at it, struggling to get in. I screamed and jumped back, tears forming in the corners of my eyes and my breathing becoming heavy. I retreated back to the other side of the room, curling up, holding my knees and bringing them up to cover my face. Whatever it had been, it sounded angry. Or maybe scared, I wondered. That thought had not occurred to me. Either way, it meant that there was something dangerous out there. However, I also remembered that this was just a dream. A dream which seemed to be never ending. Much to my dismay, curiosity soon became too much for me, and I gingerly walked back to where that deafening sound had emerged from. I reached out and grasped the handle, feeling its coolness beneath my touch, and, looking back at the room for one last time, I turned the knob and opened the door.
more by JESSICA BLUNDEN
photograph by Andree Brown