As she wandered through the rooms, the only sound was the ghostly echo of her footsteps. She stood at the far edge of the portrait gallery; each picture’s age betrayed as much by the style of dress as by the fine cracks that lined their faces like wrinkles in time.
A thin patina of dust had settled on the furniture. Some of the larger pieces disguised by drop clothes; once white, now grey with age. These loomed like ghosts against the twilight windows.
As she traced the shape of lovingly hand carved moldings, the outline of the time-darkened wainscoting, a small cloud arose – a puff, a wisp of smoky dust. She wondered how long these rooms had sat, their silence undisturbed, the portraits’ owners sleep deep and unending.
With the darkening sky, she could barely make out shadows, the play of light through high stain-glass transoms. Light now muted, like the 1,000 shades of brown that filled the air, rising from the oak, the cherry, the cedar, the maple that defined and delineated each room, each era.
She moved towards a sideboard where she had glimpsed an ancient candelabra, its sliver branches still holding stubs of candles. Fumbling with matches, she realized how unsteady her hands were. She needed to sit down in one of the heavy dining room chairs she had passed. To rest her head against its firm back and relax her tight and tired muscles.
With the candles now providing a reassuring circle of light, a glow, she guessed which way lead back to the formal dining room. Away from the picture gallery that now seemed eerily empty despite the generations that graced the walls; their posed and composed faces seemed to have turned ever so slightly as if to watch her leave and the glow of light fade into the distance.
She thought there should be floating, wafting sheer curtains, open French doors, fluttering doves – like a scene from the Hunger; an artsy framing of day into night. Instead, there were the long shadows cast by the candle’s flickering light; no breath of wind and the air filled with silence, not a premonition of danger, and fear.
Her reflection in the mirror startled her; she couldn’t remember passing it in her trek through the rooms. She jumped, taking two steps backward, pirouetting from foot to foot to retain her balance; hot wax from the candle dripping down on to her shoe, and thickly splashing on to the floor. Her hands automatically went up to her hair, checking to see how many strands had escaped from her hair clip. Without thinking or really looking, she readjusted the knapsack on her back, and felt to see if her shirt had come untucked from her jeans.
It was then she looked up and realized she didn’t recognize the woman who was staring back at her. It was as if the mirror was a pane of glass with someone else behind mimicking her movements. Each minute within the house had aged her a year. “Is there anybody there?” she timidly whispered, not sure if she expected or wanted an answer for she was, herself, a ghost held captive between time and space; these walls with darkened wood and wallpaper of faded roses and vines, the tall, narrow windows that sparkled like prisms in the day and stood blank against the night were her prison. “I am here now,” she said with more confidence, drawing strength from the history of the place; echoes of her words, like her footsteps, amplified by the dusty, dark silence.