A short story from a prompt on Reedsy Prompts, the prompt was:
Write a story about someone who finds a secret passageway in their house.
I am going to include my edits for you – so you can see what I’m up to, replaced words with be crossed through – added words will be underlined.
Minimal sound could be heard in the vast house, the cat purring from the
sunlight sunlit bay window, the seat was originally meant for Lynn but Leroy the cat always got there first and you don’t move a sleeping cat. Out in the kitchen, the boiler kicked in, the woosh of the pilot light and the ticking of the radiators, reminding her that while it might be sunny outside, it was not warm. The chaise that she curled up on creaked slightly as she shifted position, attempting to stop her leg from going numb while it tingled its warnings at her. Lynn had lived in this house for just under a year, not her longest time in one place, but not her shortest by far. Lynn had constant itchy feet, needing to move around, she’d taken a job that she could do remotely and a boss that was understanding of her need to not remain in one place too long. It helped that no matter where she worked, she was good at her job and made him no small amount of money, in return he paid her enough to allow her to move around – a lot. Lynn didn’t think she’d last the whole year in this house, although it had been love at first sight, that had worn off fast and now there just seemed something off with the place. Creaks and clunks beyond what was normal for a property this age, she was sure someone had gotten in at some point as things had started gone going missing, like her mobile phone. Yet there had been no sign of a break-in, her brother Douglas, suggested she’d just lost it, but Lynn was a creature of habit and one thing she didn’t do was lose things. Arrogance was how he described it, arguing that no one could ever avoid losing things all of the time.
“Be realistic Lynn, even you lose things now and then.”
“No, I don’t, because I have a routine, a place for everything. If it’s not in its place then it gets lost, so I always put things back in their place.”
“You sure you’re not OCD?” He’d quipped back, she still remembered the smirk he wore as he’d said this, she could have slapped him right then. Clearly, she didn’t find him nearly as charming as he found himself.
“I’m fastidious, not OCD.” She caught herself muttering out loud, as she recalled the exchange. Her voice sounded off, muted almost. The room she was sat in was the loudest room in the house,
with an open plan and with a high ceiling, no quantity of furniture was enough to stop there being a slight echo. And yet In spite of this, the silence of the house seemed to swallow up her words.
She closed her book in her lap, pulling her legs around in front of her and placing her pop sock adorned feet on the floor, straining to hear noises that just a moment ago were loud to her. She heard nothing, the cat sleeping in the window lifted his head to look at her, his eyes darting around the room and he twitched his ears. At least Lynn wasn’t the only one that thought things sounded odd, Leroy clearly thought something was up. Finally, a sound made it through the fog of silence, a bell.
A Or perhaps a chime? Lynn didn’t own any clocks, not noisy ones at least – all of hers were digital because that way they were quiet, the ticking just reminded her of all the things she needed to get done. The noise she heard sounded like the chimes of a grandfather clock though, she had no doubt about that, so where did it come from? She dumped her book unceremoniously on the chaise next to her and stood to up ready to track it down. She didn’t see the book slip onto the floor behind her, nor did she hear it, as it soundlessly bounced onto the floor. Slowly Cautiously, she tiptoed through the doorway and out into the hallway, with its equally high ceilings but with here the only natural light came through the windows around the door, it felt a lot less open and airy than the lounge. Even now the sun streaming through the windows around the door did not lift the room with light but dramatically increase the weight of the darkness/ The shadows in stark contrast to the beams of sunshine falling across the floor at the foot of the stairs. The sound came again, this time it was clearly coming from the kitchen, the Echo! Her brother had bought her a virtual assistant for Christmas, clearly, he’d added this as some kind of prank, yet again proving he wasn’t as funny as he thought he was.
The kitchen was clean and crisp, a modern white room
that didn’t really fit with the rest of the house and it’s overly victorian feel. In every other room, she had attempted to work with the style of the property, but she just hadn’t gotten around to doing the kitchen and so it was still as cold and clinical as it had been when she’d moved in. Time was not an issue, that she could always make for the things she considered important, this room just didn’t inspire her and making time for that was not so easy. She scanned her eyes across the room, lingering on the now silent echo, there wasn’t anything else that could have done it, a sigh escaped her lips, it seemed so silly to get worked up over a small prank, yet the tightness in her chest did not let up. Something just felt wrong, completely and utterly wrong.
The chimes went again, the sound was not coming from the echo but from the pantry cupboard, how on earth was it coming from in there? Lynn headed straight over to the cupboard, Douglas had clearly set up some elaborate prank, there were bound to be cameras too, why else go to all this trouble? The pressure on her chest grew, even as she feigned rage at being pranked she knew that Douglas would never stoop so low as to prank her and film it, whatever or whoever this was, it was not Douglas.
She reached out to grab the pantry door handle, ready to scream and shout or defend herself, not knowing what exactly she was expecting.
Whatever it was, it wasn’t what she was greeted by. In front of her, where the pantry should have been was a hallway, long, dusty and poorly lit – no candles or windows, just small, somewhat grubby fluorescent lights. The tiled floor littered with leaves and dirt, the walls once a pale green, streaked with dirt and handprints. Instinct told her to walk away, shut the door and forget she’d seen anything. It had to be a hallucination so clearly, she was losing the plot and should just go back to bed. She stood for a moment longer, moving briefly as if to walk away and yet still staring down the passage before her. A piece of hair that had fallen from her normally tidy bun flickered against the side of her face as a breeze whispered around behind her. Although not a strong breeze, it pushed her towards the door, just a tiny nudge. She knew none of the windows were open so it had to have come from the passage before her, and even though she knew it wasn’t possible she was sure it was trying to draw her in.
Her left foot lifted off the ground, stepping toward the door as the breeze crept around again, one step towards the doorway, as she moved her right foot it occurred to her that she hadn’t made an active decision to go through the door, so why was she? Her hand slipped from the door handle as she continued to walk tentatively into the hallway before her. Despite her onward progress, her body made down the hallway, fingers sweeping along the filthy walls, collecting dirt as they came, her mind rebelled. She didn’t want to walk down this hallway and she sure as hell didn’t agree to this so why couldn’t she stop herself? What was making her move, because she was more than certain that it wasn’t her.
As she reached the other end of the passage, she approached another door, identical to the one she had just walked through. Gaining enough willpower to at least turn her head, she looked back. The door she’d come through was firmly shut, and now seemed a considerable distance behind her, much further than she thought she’d actually walked.
“What the fuck…?” She whispered, the air here wasn’t the same as her home, the sound of her whisper was not muted as before, but louder and with more echo than the hallway had a right to be. She turned back to face the new door, she was here now and whether she wanted to or not she was going through that door. She knew that much.
The other side of the door held, much to her astonishment, her own house. The layout of the kitchen was the same, the same cupboards, even the plate left by the sink from the morning’s breakfast was where she’d left it. She looked back at the hallway behind her, still there, perhaps she’d somehow just turned herself around? Lynn moved through the kitchen, checking details, looking for something out of place. When she found none, she moved onto the hallway, a large mirror stood against the wall on one side, a mirror she did not own. Dark and gothic in style, with flecks of gold, dusted around the frame, it stood at 7 feet tall. As Lynn walked past, she checked her hair, a reflex that Douglas had teased her about. Her bun, always done tightly to avoid stray hairs, was immaculate, not a hair out of place. Her hand, absentmindedly, moved to the straggle of hair that had tickled her face only moments ago. Her reflection followed the movement, but as Lynn looked on at the hand in the mirror she couldn’t help but notice that it was empty while hers tugged at the tendril that lay on her shoulder. A shiver rippled down her spine, causing a slight shudder that her reflection did not mimic. She stepped back, moving away from the mirror and her reflection did the same.
“You’re imaging things, get a grip.” As she spoke she glanced along her otherwise familiar hallway, her book, if this was her house, her book would still be there. The living room looked the same as it had when she’d left, only minutes earlier. Her book was where she thought it would be, on the chaise, where she had placed it. But the book wasn’t the same, this one was larger, leather-bound. The texture was rough, as she moved her hand across its surface, the edges were worn from being touched regularly over a prolonged period. Whoever this belonged to, they loved it very much, it was well used. Grasping the book with both hands, she lifted it off the chaise, propping it on the right forearm so that she could open and look through the pages.
What met her eyes as she pushed aside the protective sheet, horrified her, she turned the page, and was met with more of the same. Each photo was similar in overall style, showing people lying down, eyes closed, a single flower on their chest. But these people weren’t sleeping, each person missing two vital parts of what were otherwise calm, peaceful faces. People, men and women, faces she knew. Her body started to shake, waves of violent shudders ran through her from top to toe. From behind her, Lynn heard the pantry door slam shut, dropping the book to the floor she rushed out of the room, past a now empty mirror towards the kitchen. The pantry door was closed tight, Lynn stretched her hand out to grab the handle, ready to rip it open as panic powered through her body. She hesitated momentarily, praying that the hallway was before her, but when she yanked the door open, all that met her was the pantry. Not her pantry though, where her jars of chutneys and jams bought religiously at markets each weekend, sat jars of another nature. Staring and unblinking, the eyes looked right back at her. A gurgle stirred as Lynn’s stomach shouted in protest, without moving from her spot she bent and evacuated her breakfast from that morning. As she stood there, hands on knees, panting from shock and panic, she heard a banging at the door.
“Could this day get more fucked up?” Lynn mumbled. Outside a voice answered her question for her.
“Lynn Jessop! This is the police, open the door!”