The heavy oak paneled door was firmly closed, its shiny brass latch securely locked — until she had taken her eyes off it for a moment. She had turned away from the door to return the broom to its cupboard when a gust of wind blew a shower of rustling variegated yellow, orange, brown and red detritus at her back and into the hallway yet again. She turned and stared in open mouthed disbelief at the wide open door, helplessly watched the swirling leaves scatter across the floor of the poorly lit hallway. The single naked filament bulb hanging from the ceiling flickered uncertainly, as if it too were a victim of the autumnal gusts playing with the leaves. It had taken her ten minutes to sweep up the litter of the garden from the Italian marble tiles, push it over the granite doorstep and onto the grey flagstones of the yard. Closing the door against the wind with some difficulty, she had pushed it snugly back into its frame. It was heavy, she had locked it securely, yet now the open doorway gaped at her as if in mocking mimicry of her own daunted disbelief.
With the hallway floor cleared again, the door thumped shut again, its latch clunking as it fell heavily back in place. She pressed her palms flat against the smooth surface of the polished wood, listened to the sound of the wind outside, barely audible, its howl muffled and subdued to a distant groan. The flickering lamp painted dancers on the walls, all in black, capes flying like the wings of bats. There was a smell of damp, of moss and leaf mould and of decay, her nostrils flared at the affront. She tested the latch gain. Once again the door was secure, but when she turned away an icy leaf laden gust wrapped her skirt around the backs of her legs like footless stockings. The chill spreading up her spine had nothing to do with the arctic blast.
“I don’t think we are going to find much shelter here, Jenny.” He had slipped the haversack from his back and held it one handed, the beam of his flashlight cutting through the darkness and illuminating the cold grey stone walls of the ruined manse. The blue tinged beam had found only inky blackness where once had been a ceiling and a roof.
His companion, blonde hair pulled tightly back, purple knitted bobble hat pulled down over bright blue eyes, chuckled through unpainted lips. She was already rummaging through her own un-shouldered burden, dragging out a sleeping bag and looking around what must have once been a hallway. The Italian marble slabs under her feet were cracked and broken, many were missing. Sparse clumps of long dry grass sprouted between those that remained like dry and brittle hair on the wasted skin of a desiccated corpse.
She shook her head in mock disappointment. “Somehow I knew this wasn’t going to be a surprise five star hotel.” A sudden gust of wind threw a shower of autumn leaves into the air, into her face. She spluttered leaves from her mouth, waving her hands around like a demented windmill.
When he had finished laughing, when she had finished pouting, they hugged. He kissed the end of her upturned nose and smiled into her eyes.“This passageway is like a wind tunnel, I’ll see if that door will shut.” He nodded to indicate behind her. She turned to look.
But there was no door hanging there to shut, even its hinges had long gone. The frame was crumbling, varnish long flaked away. They watched in fascinated silence as the translucent figure of a woman, dressed like a maid, frantically swept at nothing through the empty doorway.…
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