Denise Callaway’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: The Inheritance
Sam Connely checked the address once again. The pictures sent to her of her inheritance were from a bygone era, one that hadn’t seen the estate for quite sometime. The gate, now rusted almost to the point of not opening, squealed in protest as she forced it open. Leaves covered the grounds heavily and rustled around her ankles as she proceeded to explore. “Needs some work,” she muttered under her breath.
She paused to take in the breadth of the property. The southern plantation house would have been stately back in its day. Now age darkened shutters hung at odd angles on walls that barely remembered paint. Still, most of the windows appeared to be unbroken. The unkempt gardens spilled out around the paths that led to the house from different directions. Choosing a path, she approached the house slowly, taking in the experience with each step. She wasn’t sure if she was excited or afraid of what she would find.
As she skirted around the hedge, the bridge crossing the dried up creek bed was surprising. She contemplated the safety of crossing the structure but it looked sound. She tested the boards with her first tentative step. The wood groaned as if disturbed from a long rest but otherwise seemed strong. Sam shook her short hair, amused at her hesitance. Stepping off the other side, she cleared the garden and stepped into the drive. The house stood much more imposing as she stepped closer.
The wind picked up, swirling the leaves and brushing up from behind to push her towards the door. Twisting the corner of her lip, she glared in the direction of the push before stepping onto the porch steps. Her steps quickened as she reached for the door. It was time to find out what was inside. Retrieving the key from her clutch, she turned the lock. Resisting at first, the lock finally gave way and the door opened to reveal the entrance.
“Hmmm...it’s as if they left everything as it stood and disappeared.” She knew from the legal papers that the house had been uninhabited for some time. Picking up a bowl, revealed the surface beneath it and the dust that shrouded everything. “Where to start…”
Sam settled on the ground floor. Quickly taking in a series of rooms full of cloth covered furnishings and dusty fixtures, she emerged into the kitchen. “Oh, wow!” She was startled by the age of the space, the ancient stove, pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, the sink with a pump faucet. “I suppose...no electricity?” In the full light of the day, she hadn’t thought about switches and such. Locating a lantern with oil in it, she turned toward the last door on the ground floor.
It opened to an odd spiral staircase with marble stairs and iron rails. Stepping onto the steps, she looked down the center. She could not make out the bottom. “Well, it has to stop somewhere.” She took one tentative step, then two, and then finally plunged forth with courage. “I’m being quite silly.” However, after descending for quite some time, she began to doubt her silliness. Looking up, however, she could not make out the top. “I’m Alice and I’ve just stumbled down the rabbit hole.” Steeling herself, she continued downwards.
“Finally, the bottom,” she breathed a sigh of relief. Holding the lantern up, she chased the shadows out of the corners. A door revealed itself and seeing nothing else of interest, she approached the door, turning the knob breaking the seal to what has to be a cellar of some sort. As she swung open the door, she was surprised to find another kitchen, this one lit up and the smell of food cooking making her stomach growl a protest. Stepping out, she demanded, “Who are you?”
The servants paid her no heed, not even acknowledging her presence. Plates came and went as they were served and returned. A servant walked directly towards her and startled her as he walked right through her. “What? Am I? No, it isn’t me. I must have found some ghostly den.” Stepping deeper into the room, she found her presence caused little disturbance in the flow. After the third servant past through her body, she decided this was far more alarming for herself than them. Occasionally as she walked by, she would see one or another shudder as if they sensed her but couldn’t quite pinpoint what they were seeing. She followed the line of servants out with the next course into the dining hall. The family seated around the table were clearly entertaining a few others that evening. She observed them eating for just a moment and continued through the house. It was the same house but all of the dust and covers had been removed. As the laughter of the gathering faded into the background, she crossed the hall to the stairs. Two children sat upon them, watching the evening activities through the railings. One turned towards her and stared knowingly into her eyes. “You shouldn’t be here,” she stated simply. The other nodded in agreement. Chills went down her neck as she heard the first scream. Part of her wanted to run from the house, but she did not belong here. She belonged above. She needed to find the other stairs.
Taking a deep breath, she turned and ran back through the dining hall. She quickly saw the scene spill out before her. Eyes darkened from some unknown poison fell one diner after another. Those who had not yet subcombed to the drought, turned upon her, seeing her finally. “Did you do this?” they demanded. “Did you do this? Why?”
Shaken, she backed away from them, bumping into the wall. She needed to flee. Finding the kitchen entrance behind her, she turned and dashed inside. The servants now saw her, realizing she was an invader. They started to come at towards her. “She knows,” they murmured. “She knows!” Reaching the door to the stair, she jerked it open and then turned to quickly secure it. A chair nearby was quickly acquired to brace the knob. Then she quickly took flight up the stair. Breathless, she froze as she cleared the upper landing. The chair from below now braced the knob from above.
Looking down the stairs then over at the chair, she began to shake with fear. She needed to escape but was afraid of what she would find on the other side. Taking three solid breaths, she wrenched away the chair and pulled open the door. Relieved, she entered the same sunlit kitchen she had left earlier with its old dust and cobwebs. She finally understood why the many generations left this house alone, passing it from one generation to another. This inheritance was meant to be untouched.
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Denise finds herself lost in a field of dandelions. With one blow, her dandelion dreams transform into the words on a page. Some of those dreams have found their way to her website: https://lostinafieldofdandelions.wordpress.com/