“Head North for the weekend. Give yourself some alone time.”
That was what they told her. Keira remembered the words as she opened up her suitcase along the faded emerald divan that sat adjacent to the window. It was an odd color to match the faded blue pastel wallpaper that lined the room; framed by wooden accents that added a quaint antique feel to her surroundings. She breathed deeply.
“Well, I always did love Vermont…”
“Excellent idea! Find a BnB out of the way. Most of the tourists are probably gone by now.”
She twisted her ring around her finger.
“I wish you came, Alex.”
The words spoken out loud caught her by surprise. Who was she speaking to? Herself, she figured. Something to fill the void. Something to drown out the thoughts plaguing her mind.
“Is it really that dark out already?” She continued to think, checking the time on her phone. 7:41 read back to her as she glanced out at the final light of day setting behind the mountain. Long past the peak days of foliage the subtle air of twilight gave a rustle to the dead leaves strewn about the ground outside her window. The place itself seemed in well enough shape. The Red Maple Haven – “Not exactly the most inspired of names.” Classic Victorian architecture with an emphasis on what one might consider “the art of getting away”; for it was nestled back away along a dirt road, though not too far along the beaten path.
Keira thought to her drive up the gravel – the hosts coming to greet her and help her with her bags. She counted a few other cars. For some reason, knowing that she wasn’t the only guest gave her a sense of comfort. Even though she wanted – needed – to get away from the matters at hand, it was still nice to not feel truly alone. That afternoon she took tea with other guests in the main living room. Though, when asked about her own reason for visiting, she hesitated before coming up with-
“I’m a photographer. Thought I might try and catch whatever foliage remained.”
“Miss, I’m afraid you are a little late for that, though I gather you must be well enough aware.”
“I suppose there is beauty in that, too…” She had trailed off, sipping her tea, lost in her own mind. “Keira, you aren’t a very good liar.”
Creaking from out in the hall brought her back to reality. From the sound of things one of the couples was heading out for dinner. A second door in the corner of the room grabbed her attention. It seemed older – even for this place. Examining the wood proved to confirm her suspicions, for it did not match the bordering designs. The knob itself was decorated, faux golden paint clearly rubbed away from years of use. Underneath was a stereotypical keyhole. Tracing her fingers around the outline she gripped the knob with abject curiosity and tried to turn… but to no avail. It was as she expected: an old door in an old house that no one ever bothered to take out when renovating.
She yawned, stretching out her aching shoulders and back – it had been a long day’s drive from Providence. Her small 5’1″ frame held her stature nicely – that is – she never had any trouble with sizing out her clothes. It seemed as if clothing designers specifically had her in mind when fashioning out their wares. Or perhaps she was just lucky. Either way, it didn’t particularly matter. Throwing on her old sweatpants from Uni and a thermal shirt didn’t scream any sort of fashion sense, but it was comfortable – “the most important of all things,” she thought. Quickly her eyes looked up and down in the bathroom mirror as she replaced her contacts for glasses; letting her dirty blond hair fall behind her ears. She checked her phone again: 8:24. Remembering that the host was starting a fire she decided to head down to watch the flames and be amongst company. Plugging in her phone, Keira took her room key and headed out into the hallway.
“You know, for a photographer I didn’t see any camera.”
Keira’s eyes darted back from the flames. It had been some time since it was just the two of them – the matron host and her – as others headed up to their rooms for the evening. Breaking the silence was unexpected as the flickering coals gave off a trancelike appeal to all parties.
“…I-” began Keira, only for her present company to stop her with a raised hand.
“It’s alright, child. I was only confirming my suspicion. You are here because you are here. The why is of no import.” She laughed: “It’s almost fun to guess!”
Keira blushed slightly, out of politeness she knew it would be better to speak of the circumstances that brought her here, but the words weren’t coming out. The host continued:
“You remind me so much of my daughter. Young, thoughtful… lost, perhaps.”
Keira looked up at her company, but was met with eyes looking deep into the smoldering coals.
“Where is your daughter these days? What does she do?” She replied with a soft inquiry.
“Oh, heaven only knows. I haven’t spoken to her for some time. Goodness, it must have been years ago now. She sat in that very seat before she left…”
Keira shifted uncomfortably.
“As for what she does. Lot’s of things, last I knew. Wanted to travel the world, take a bunch of photos…” she said with a nod in Keira’s direction, “but, again, that was so long ago. Wherever she is, I know that what she is doing will make her happy…”
Amidst the dark of the single lamp at her side and the faint coals Keira thought she saw the shine of eyes that were starting to fill with tears.
“Anyway, you remind me of her, that’s all I wanted to say… I think I’ll head to bed now. Would you mind closing the gate against the fireplace when you go up?”
“Thank you, dear.”
Keira followed the woman with her eyes as she rounded the corner, hearing the thump, thump, thump, of her feet going up the staircase. Doors opening and shutting, then silence apart from the last few snaps of burning wood in front of her.
Keira noticed how heavy she felt rising from the chair. To her left she clicked the lamplight off as she moved toward the fireplace, shutting the grate as the last few bits of light and heat gave way to the dark. All was silent when she turned to face the room. The dark made her feel uneasy.
“It must be near midnight.” She thought to herself, folding her arms against her chest, ducking her chin as she started off for the staircase. As she did though something caught her eye. The chair – her chair, appeared to be weighed down – the impressions of use endowed into the fabric. For a moment she hesitated, remembering how firm it was for herself, as well as what the host had said. Shaking her head, she continued onward back to her room.
Shutting the door gently behind her Keira decided to leave the light off as she readied for bed – the light of the moon providing a soft luminance across the patterned blue walls. It was beautiful, really. She checked her phone. It didn’t turn on. She furrowed her brow and held the power button. Nothing.
Breathing a long sigh, she decided that it probably was for the best anyway. Maybe it was her charger, or a multitude of other things. Regardless, it wasn’t something she could solve tonight. With reluctance she set the dead lump of metal onto the nightstand.
The noise startled her, coming from out in the hall.
“Is that my door?” noticed Kiera.
She made her way to the door and asked, “Hello?”
She opened the door to the empty hallway. Silence. Whether it was cold or her own nerves Keira shivered. “Probably someone upstairs…” she muttered to herself, closing the door and locking it. Backing away, she kept her eyes on the door, fulling expecting another noise. She shook her hands.
“You’re psyching yourself out. It’s been a long, stressful day and the host put you on edge… Shit, I wish Alex was here.”
She turned, holding herself tighter. Cold permeated the room. “It’s Vermont in mid-November, what did you expect?” She told herself. Turning, Keira began to walk to the bathroom, looking at and hating the fact that the other door loomed over the room, so very out-of-place. She stopped, facing the window, and with it the emerald divan – her suitcase right where it was on one end, but the impression of weight upon the surface of the upholstery. Everything stopped. “Breathe!” Keira’s mind shouted at her after a moment of panic. Gasping, Keira steadied herself as she approached the divan. Leaning in, she touched the outline of the indentation.
“Perhaps it was like this earlier.” She thought, consoling herself. “Yes, it must’ve been like this earlier.“
Kiera turned on a small incandescent light, not enough to be bright, but enough to push the dark away and calm her nerves. Sitting on the edge of her bed she watched the divan closely, resolving after five minutes or so that it was indeed nothing. Shaking her head she stood and made her way into the bathroom. The light from the room gave it a faint hue of yellow-orange, enough to see, but not enough to prevent the shadows from looming large throughout it. Keira looked for a lightswitch, but to no avail. She breathed deep and splashed water on her face, looking up to brush her teeth. Bristles moved back and forth for a moment or two, and then she stopped.
In the mirror there reflected the smallest of shifts against the side of the shower curtain. Chills ran up Keira’s whole being as fingers wrapped around the side of the cloth. Frozen in terror, Keira could only help but watch as two eyes followed, piercing green, behind locks of auburn. Fight or Flight forced Keira around to see a shower curtain, still as stone. She ripped it back to an emptiness that brought tears to her eyes, she had to cover her mouth to hold in a scream. Turning back, those same eyes met her from the mirror, the apparition of a young woman, faded over her own reflection. Keira blinked and the image returned to her own visage, but it could not contain her scream.
No one came running. Nothing but silence filled the air as Keira hyperventilated on the bed, all the lights now on as she desperately tried to turn on her phone.
Keira stood, heart pounding as her eyes led her to the source of the sound – the old door in the corner of the room.
Keira gave no response.
As if commanded, Keira broke her trance and motioned to the door. Not knowing what to say or do she half expected it to open, but the knob remained still. But, as is the primal human instinct of curiosity, she had to know. Slowly she fell to her knees, trying to calm herself as she leaned in to try and peak through the keyhole – the light from the room bleeding through the small opening. Looking through she saw nothing… wait, no, not nothing. It was fabric. It was fabric that was moving, shifting, falling… Before she could realize it was a dress her gaze was met by the very same piercing emerald eye on the other side of the keyhole. Keira fell back, scrambling away from the door, too frightened to even scream. She grabbed the divan and shoved it in front of the door. For fear of the dark in the hallway she dared not leave the light, instead crawling up in bed and hugging herself as she watched the doorway.
For the rest of the night no thumps were heard, nor anything else that would’ve set Keira off as she watched the door for what felt like hours. The light of the morning sun broke out from behind the mountain range in the window. She jumped at the sound of her phone buzzing awake. Rushing to grab it she nearly cried when it woke out of sleep mode. She checked the time.
She thought perhaps her mind was playing tricks on her, but it didn’t matter. Quickly she packed her things and left the room, not saying a word as she made her way to the front desk.
“My dear, you’re so pale! Did you not sleep well enough?” said the matron host wit ha concerned look
Keira had no answer but only, “I’d… I’d like to check out early, please. My husband called… I need to go home.”
“Did you not enjoy your stay?”
Keira was about to start when the patron host walked around the corner: “She has her reasons, honey. It sounds like she needs to be with her family. Let her go.”
Keira could only nod as she set the key on the counter.
“Well, thank you for your business.” Replied the matron host in a somber tone.
Keira turned to leave, only just making it out the door before overhearing, “See? I told you that she had the same eyes as our Anna.” She felt the blood run from her face as she moved quickly towards her car, loading her suitcase and fumbling with her keys before adjusting the rear-view.
With no more energy to be fearful, all that transpired within Keira was ringing in her ears as she looked back through the mirror towards the window of the room she had stayed in that night – the faint appearance of a hand waving down to her against a pale face of auburn hair and unmistakable green eyes looking back at Keira’s… the very same shade. With a breath, Kiera turned from the visage and backed out, not looking in the mirror again as she turned and drove down the path back onto the main road.
“Goodbye… Anna.” She spoke ever so softly, tears streaming down her face – dead leaves kicking up from behind in the wake of her terror.