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My fingers caress the iron knob of the arched wooden door, its knotted wood longing to be cared for. Moving my fingers across the width of the door, I place both my hands onto its callous surface, it strikes my palms. A light waft of mould seeps through the tiny cracks in the panelling hitting my nostrils, pulling me back into the reality of the moment. I am not alone. Jenny stands behind me. Turning to her, I am lost for a moment of how I got here and the same thought reflects in her eyes.
“Was I sleepwalking?” I ask, glancing down at my boxers and t-shirt, now realising she too is in her PJs.
“Are you going to open the door?” her voice carrying as an instruction rather than a question. Exhaling, I move towards her. I had told her everything about my experiences as a child and on how I am seeing a strange woman appear to me from outside the castle. Her eyes reflect caution I believe rather than worry. Which is better, I do not know however she is adamant I now open the door of my father’s room in the attic.
“I am not sure,” I finally replied, taking hold of her arms, embracing her. She reciprocates and her lips touch my ears, whispering, “Open the door.”
Taking a step back, I search her eyes until my attention is drawn to a shadow on the window opposite. Transfixed for a moment, the shadow moves to the wall and descends the stone staircase. Rushing forwards, I reach the end of the wooden corridor. The low lamps illuminate the staircase, casting the shadow trail of the stranger along the white walls. “Wait!” I call out unsure with whom I am talking to. I descend the staircase, the shadow always ahead of me until I reach the ground floor of the castle and step into the reception area. Searching desperately with my eyes, my focus falls on the lit lamp next to the fireplace. I question how is it lit? Had we not been in bed?
I am on edge again, my body reacting to fear of the unknown. It’s a long dormant feeling of when I was a child. Slowly gravitating towards the main castle door, I check that it is still locked. I close my eyes. There is no sound. The castle does not feel right. Where is Jenny? Why did she not follow me down? Turning, the sight of the mysterious woman standing at the foot of the stairs roots me to the spot. My heart responds, pounding at the base of my throat, my breathing joining it, becoming rapid. I am unable to move. I hear my breathing. The mysterious woman floats towards me. Her oval hazel eyes never leaving mine. I struggle inside my body, wanting to scream, but I am unable to respond. Fighting to control my own thoughts, I slowly conjure the images of the numbers and begin laboured counting, each followed by a deep exhale. I, 2, 3, 4, 5. The numbers falter. The woman moves closer, reaching in and placing her lips next to my ears. Her voice is audible. “Come back to me Jan. Follow my voice.”
Jenny’s face appears before me. Her eyes cold, filled with an unknown anger. The strange woman’s whispers still echo in my ear. The scream that escapes Jenny’s lips stuns me before everything goes dark.
“What happened?” Jenny interrupts moving towards the bed and taking Jan’s hand in hers.
“I finally managed to reach him and he heard me but he is not alone in there?” the woman replies, her oval eyes narrow with focus as she returns her gaze onto Jan lying on the bed.
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