Dark Dark House
I found a new room today. It was hiding on the second landing, just around the corner between the two blue doors. The courage to open it has failed me, so I sit outside on the floor wondering what could be beyond it. This door is different to the others. It’s black. The other doors have always followed the colours of the rainbow, but not this one. Like it wants to to be different. Strange that I never noticed it until now, but I wasn’t looking for it and that’s when you find new rooms in the house.
I’m not going to open it yet, I decide, getting to my feet. There’s more of the house to explore. It can wait. So I skip along the landing, the floorboards creaking under my feet as I twist around tight corners, narrow passageways. When I get to the stairs, I decide to go up instead of down and climb all the way to the tenth landing where things get strange and the air is thin. The Half People wander this landing, but they don’t seem to be aware of me. The half people scare me. Mum told me they’re shadows of the past, nothing to be frightened of. The further up you go, the more echoes you see. When I asked her what she means by echoes, she just smiles and says little girls shouldn’t ask too many questions. She hates that I like to explore the house. She wants me to stay on the first landing with her, Gran and Great Gran, but nothing happens there. You have to climb to the second landing for the really interesting things.
On the second landing, you can hear the Dark Dark in the walls. That’s why we can’t go outside, Mum says, because of the Dark Dark. They want to eat us, especially little girls. But I don’t think they do. The Dark Dark sound sad. If I press my ear to the walls when they’re talking, it sounds like they’re crying. Sometimes I hear a word or two, a whisper for help. The Dark Dark are lost. If you bang on the walls, they rush toward the sound and scratch from the other side. It’s a game I sometimes play when I’m really bored, though I feel bad afterwards because the Dark Dark wail with grief, muffled behind the crumbling plaster. Sometimes you can hear them singing, little snippets of songs. It’s where they get their name.
The Half People crowd around me, their glowing bodies freezing my skin, sending me into shivers. It’s why you can’t stay long up here and soon I’m forced to retreat back down. On the higher levels you’d freeze. I find myself opening and closing doors on the fifth landing. They’re mostly empty, but some are occupied by a Grump Witch. They scurry to the corners of the room when I open the door and hiss at me, gnarly old hands tearing the air between us. Mum says I shouldn’t tease the Grump Witches because they come out of their rooms at night when we sleep. One day we might forget to lock our door and one will get in and do for us. She won’t explain what that means, but I know it’s bad bad.
I soon grow bored of teasing the Grump Witches and my mind returns to the black door on the second landing. What’s behind that door? Mum might know, but I don’t think she’d tell me. For whatever reasons, she doesn’t want to tell me the truth about the house. When I ask why we’re here, she snaps at me, her face screwing into a thousand wrinkles. Her angry face, I call it. She says we’re waiting for the Dark Dark to go away so we can go outside and that’s all I need to know. What’s outside? No one tells me. But Great Gran says she remembers what it was like before the house and she says we’re better off inside. She’ll say no more about it and I don’t push her.
I’m back on the second landing and I can hear the Dark Dark, a distant mumbling of a thousand voices within the walls. The Half People make me feel cold when they gather around me, but the Dark Dark make me cold cold inside. Their whispering is louder at the black door and when I reach out to touch the handle, they fall quiet. The air is still, like the house has just taken a deep breath and is holding it. Just like I’m doing now. I want to open the door. There might be a Grump Witch behind it. Or maybe even a Wifflebug. I once saw one of those crawling along the fourth landing on ten legs. It stopped to look at me, a smile on it’s face, eyes half closed. It dribbled on the floor, then found a crack in the wall and squeezed into it. I saw two eyes staring out at me. Maybe they come from behind the black door? Mum says she doesn’t know where the Wifflebugs come from, but Gran once got bit by one and lost her leg. She has a new leg now, but it took a year to grow back.
Should I open the door? I know I shouldn’t because black is the colour of the Dark Dark who want to eat us. Would it harm just to open the door a little, just for a peek? What if they’re Pygmies in there? I once found a book about Pygmies on the sixth landing behind a yellow door that had been guarded by a Dust Ghoul. When it wasn’t looking, I grabbed the book. It had lots of pictures of squat beasts flying kites. Mum said they’re Pygmies and they use the kites to catch the Sky Divers so they can eat them. I’d love to see a pygmy and fly one of their kites, though I don’t think I’d want to attract a Sky Diver. Besides, there’s no sky inside.
My attention is back on the door. I turn the handle and pull. It opens to blackness, a gust of wind blowing in my face. The air smells damp in there and I can hear someone calling my name.
“Hello?” I call back. “Who’s there?”
Someone whispers. I can’t quite hear, so I step into the room and I know I’ve made a mistake. The door slams shut behind me and it won’t open again. I pull and pull on the handle, but it’s stuck. Turning back to the room, I try and see where I am, but it’s black black and I’m scared because it doesn’t feel like I’m inside the house, that I’m not protected. I walk into the room, calling out for help. I hear voices around me, calling back, asking where I am.
“I’m over here!” I call out.
A dozen whispers respond, echoing my response, desperate for attention. I wander towards the voices, then realise they are behind me and change directions. I’m calling desperately for help. I’m calling for Mum, Gran and even Great Gran. No one hears me, no one can find me. I’ve got stuck in the walls, I realise, tears wetting my cheeks. There’re things all around me, brushing against me, but I can’t see in the dark. It’s like tiny spiderwebs falling into my face. Somewhere there’s a big spider.
“Help,” I whimper, as I realise I’m lost in the Dark Dark. Then I hear them singing their songs and I run blindly, growing cold cold in the dark dark.