Restlessness consumed me. I woke to a dark sky that held rumors of future rain. It reflected my mood. My dreams had been filled with the flutter of heavy wings and soft fur. I had not been allowed to enjoy, just sample something I would never have. I feared the sobbing had been real. No one was close enough to hear if it had been.
I dressed and made my way to the library. My desire to return to the stories of a life unchallenged wavered. Standing in front of the bookcase, ready to select the next journal to catalogue, I realized I just couldn’t do it. Anna’s description of her uncle was all I could think about. I pulled her book out and re-read the passage.
I stood on the hard soil, the front deck behind me, and looked up at the tall pine tree. The grey of the morning had broken revealing a swatch of bright blue. A cluster of small dark birds rose from the canopy, peppering the sky.
“Everything okay,” Thomas asked, his energy changing the atmosphere around me.
“John lived in those trees.” With my reverie broken, I turned to face my companion. “I was just trying to imagine what life was like for him. So much pain, and yet, he was free. He was true. If Em could have seen him. And to think it was his daughter that called him back.” I looked to the house.
“Marian said her father was housed in the dungeon. From what I’ve read there’s a basement in the center of the house but I have yet to find the entrance. I believe it may be in the kitchen but I don’t have the heart to search for it.”
I walked past him towards the deck. The sky lost the blue and threatened to envelop my whole world. I fought against it. The wood held me, even though I felt my body losing its corporeal form. Please, I begged in silence, do not forsaken me now. I haven’t the strength if you leave me now.
Thomas took the chair in front of mine. Marian, all bright white, behind him. Her smile jumpstarted my soul. The warmth returned, leaving prickling feelings through my limbs. His face scrunched in thought. I wondered how much he could see.
“When I was little,” he said, “I would play hide and seek with my cousins. I remember a place in the kitchen. I got caught once by my uncle and was forbidden to ever go in there again.” He rose and I followed him.
“Cousins,” I asked as we entered the house.
He nodded. “I was sent to school and when I came back for holiday, they were gone. Apparently, my uncle and father argued so they left. Father doesn’t talk about it. I can’t imagine what happened but you’d have to know my uncle. He was always angry about something.”
He stopped in front of the wall next to the fireplace in the kitchen. He pushed the table away to give him more space. I watched as he caressed the wall. His hands, like a lover’s, explored the slats. With a push, a section of the wall moved back. He guided it up into the space above, revealing a cube of a room just a few feet high. In the center of the room was a trap door.
I laid on my stomach as I opened the door. A deep black pit was all that was below. I let my head hang into it but no light penetrated.
“Here,” Thomas handed me a flashlight. The room was not very large but the floor was further down than I had expected. I sat up. “I could jump down there but I don’t see any easy way I can get back out.”
He left and returned with a long rope. “This could help. I should be able to pull you back out.”
I looked around the kitchen. The women were trying hard not to pay attention to us. Rose tsked and shook her head. It was probably a bad idea.
I took the end of the rope and tied it around my waist and thighs. With full confidence in my knots, I nodded to Thomas that I was ready to go down. I thanked my father for that summer of sailing lessons – I had aced the knot portion. As I hung in the darkness, I wondered if spelunking would have served me better.
On the firm rock surface, I took in my surroundings. The flashlight did a good job of cutting through the black. I took mental measurements. The room was a perfect cube as far as I could tell, no area longer than about seven feet. No spreading your wings. I took a few steps toward an opening in the wall.
“Careful,” Thomas yelled down, “there’s not a lot of rope left.”
I stopped. I was not going to reach the opening. “Looks like there are more rooms.” Thomas said something in reply but my attention was on the thick metal rings on the walls. The walls were out of reach as well, leaving me to gaze at them. I didn’t have to imagine what they were for. This room was a prison, no one would be leaving without help.
I returned to the space under the trapdoor. The light of the kitchen barely touching the floor. “Pull me up. There’s not much I can do if the rope doesn’t reach.”
Thomas grabbed my waist as I climbed from the hole. The movement forced us to the ground. I landed on top of him, his poor body twisted. My heart raced with effort. His face sweet beneath mine.
“Need some help?” Jane stood next to me, hand outstretched. I took it then turned to help Thomas once I was on my feet.
“There’s a ladder in the shed,” he offered.
“Not until after lunch.” Rose stood with her hands on her hips doing her best mother expression. We scurried out of the kitchen.