You stand before the old house on Nouvelle Vie Street. It has been abandoned for X years but stands perfect. The black paint is unmarred; the red door stands solid, dainty lace curtains peek from behind the Montecello windows. Your own house safely positioned blocks away is in worse condition than the old house on Nouvelle Vie Street.

The hill it stoops on, is dead. The grass is gone, replaced by a carpet of fine dust pierced by dark delicate skeletons of dead trees.

You stand before the Victorian house; your friends stand on the sidewalk behind you. You are to retrieve something from the second story and bring it back.

You take a step forward; dust rises and coils around your shoe. You approach the door and clasp the clear diamond cut handle. You feel something tearing at your index finger. Recoiling you see a scarlet trickle sparkle at the tip. You clutch the knob, gingerly and turn it. The door cliks and opens without another sound.

You let go of the handle and see a red silhouette drawn on its clear surface. The inside is all washed grey; you see a neat seating room, an opening to a kitchen and several hallways.

You walk towards the seating room. There are several chairs, a coffee table and a large knick-knack cabinet. There are faded photographs hanging from dark frames. A little black tea set sits on the coffee table. Another door is neatly tucked into a corner.

There is also a book on the table. You examine it, the book is thick, the only writing is on the spine ‘Eop’. ‘Eop’? ‘Eop’? It confuses you. You set the book down, head for the other door and swing it open.

Gold eyes and white teeth beckon from the dark interior. You slam the door, stumble backwards and hit the coffee table. The tea set flies off and plummets to the carpet. Pleio, pleio, pleio, ker-plap, pleio, pleio, pleio, the set shatters on the floor. The pot sending up a shower of dark liquid. What was once a delicate ornament is now a bed of sharp shards. You regard them for a second; the points stand gleaming in the grey room.

You open the other door oh-so slowly and peek inside. Something illuminates the room to a misty grey. The gold-eyed, white-toothed boogeyman is a stuffed wolf, mounted to look ready to attack.

This is a parlor. Two petite wooden chairs and a sofa with bulging upholstery arranged chair-sofa-chair. A tall umbrella holder stands by the door; there are several canes inside it.

You grab one and poke the stuffed wolf, the fur ruffles and it stares ahead. Through one of the Montecello windows you see your friends. Standing in a blind circle on the sidewalk, obviously chit-chatting.

You smile, a thin smirk that would’ve slithered up and bitten your ear. You tilt your head back and scream, piercing the veil of silence and causing your friends to jump.

You snicker, whatta bunch of idiots. Turn and exit the room, which gets darker as you draw further away. You leave the neat little also.

Feeling a pang of curiosity you walk down the hall past the kitchen. There is a large oak door, you pull it open.

Behind this door is an immense dining hall. The long table and chairs look like pieces from a dollhouse. The places are set with crystal, teeny lace napkins tucked into slender wine glasses. The marzipan tree in the center growing up from the elegant white tablecloth with lacey edges. And the room is bathed in light.

From your trenches outside you’ve never seen a speck of light within the house. The big windows are dark, the landscape beyond incomprehensible. The chandalier is not lit; it hangs like the blade of a guillotine over the table. You look over your shoulder, the hall is dark. Not one drop of light passes the doorframe.

You approach the table. The chairs shine as though they were polished you scrutinized the neat little seating room. The settings glimmer in the unknown light. You clutch on wine glass by the stem and take a look at it. It’s real enough, smooth, you see your face on it, though it looks like the image in a fun house mirror. The napkin is soft, not silky more like cotton. You hold the glass up to your face to examine it further. Your fingers pinch together and the stem snaps, the base and cup spiral downward. Plash, the glass shrapnel shoots through the air as it shatters. You back out of the dining room and tap the door shut with the cane.

You head for the stairs and vault up them two in one leap. Tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp, tomp.

The first thing to meet your gaze on the second floor is a large, hazy, circle window. Half of it has been broken off, a few dark smudges mar the remaining glass. From outside you see your friends again. One of them stands fists on hips, a jackal’s leer smeared on their face, eyes burning ice and mouth a-flapping.

You turn away, all you need is some little anything and you’re home free. There are abundant hallways branching from the staircase.

Eenie-meenie-miney-moe-catch-a-hallway-by-it’s-toe-if-it-hollars-let-‘im-go- eenie-meenie-miney-moe. You walk down the appointed hallway.

The hand you clasped the wine glass with begins to sting. You look down at your clenched fist. It’s warm, wet, and stinks like copper. You unball that tight fist and see a tiny piece of the stem standing on your palm. It’s streaked with dark liquid on your dark palm. The clear almost nonexistent. You pluck it out and flick the particle away.

You rub your soaked hand against the wall. The drops coagulate into little glyphs. Line after line of glyphs and at the end of every one is a ‘?’. A very clear ‘?’. You poke one glyph, it flattens and re-forms.

You lash your head side to side and continue down the hall. It coils back around to the circle window room. The window is filled with just a bit more glass then when you first saw it. Frustrated, you charge down another hallway. There are no doors, windows, balconies, nothing but endless grey. You go around and around, again and again, hall after hall, step after weary step.

There is one hall left, it lies past the circle window. The window is now whole and shines silver. You trudge down the hall, the carpet darkens after the first turn, your shoes squish on the saturated fibers. You stumble and creep forward your hands aiding your miserable feet. Still you go on, turning another sharp corner. Khur-kree, a door opens behind you.

You rise, holding yourself up with the cane. The door is the same grey as the wall. It’s all there; door, handle, hinges, frame, where no door was before.

You step cautiously into the room. It’s brighter than the hall. A bed is against the north wall, a large armoire against the east wall, a nightstand and a simple window on the west wall. On the nightstand is a music box, red and white striped, trimmed gold at the edges. A slender gold handle turns as it purrs a serene melody.

Above the bed is a portrait. The background is clear but the subject is shadowy. The music box skips a few notes but continues on.

You walk to the armoire, open it’s doors. The are bulging with all sorts of odd effects; soap, a towel, a bristle brush, three Chinese teacups, a stack of dinner dishes…. The music box screeches a noise like dragging a hundred banshees across a bed of nails.

Your mouth froths a bit as you tear through the piles of objects. In your frustration you pick up the cane and slam it against the side of the armoire. It snaps in two. The item you fetch must be credible, and there is nothing of that nature in this great wooden box. You pull an entire drawer out and scatter the objects across the floor. The music box chokes, gurgles…..and stops.

You whirl around, the music box is grey blending into the nightstand. You dash to it, cradle it in your hands and wind the grey handle. The music box sputters out a few notes and stops again.

It rattles and in one violent schism blasts into separate halves that fall apart in your hands. You drop the pieces and slowly walk back to the items. Sitting on top of the hill is a porcelain baby doll in a pink shift. You grab it and flee the room. The grey brightens and the landscape outside gets dimmer and dimmer and dimmer.

You cut the corner to the dark carpet that brightens to red. You run across the soiled carpet, slip and fall. You fall and fall and fall never seeming to hit the carpet. Just falling down down down forever like you’ve found a wormhole to the Abyss and shall fall until you wish you could fall up.

You hit the carpet, the doll shatters. Your jaws click together your brains rattle in your skull. And the light dims away driven by the warm grey blackness….

You awaken pull yourself up and walk back to the circle window, now void of any glass. Seeing your friends you squeal, a happy little noise. You run to the staircase and slide down the rail, whistling a happy tune. Stride across the dove-grey carpet of the first floor and swing the front door open.

Your friends look ecstatic, but none of them step onto the dust. Their eyes all over your hands, greedy to see what trinket you’ve brought them. Once they process the image of your empty hands a look of disappointment paints their faces. Then shock settles in as they notice the large red seas on your clothing, face, and hands.

One mutters something about home and they scatter like leaves in a breeze. You return to the house. It’s too dark and unfamiliar outside. The house of Nouvelle Vie is familiar.

You’re sad your friends left, but happy they aren’t around. Tears well in your eyes when you realize you’ll never be able to join them in their blind world. Yet at the same time laughter bubbles in your throat.

In that house, the house with the big circle window, the perfect house on a dead hill, your house. A bastion in the center of the shadows