This is a short narrative clip I whipped out the other day on a whim. It details what it’s like to step into a certain house known as the Playground, which has great significance in a certain story of mine.
You are standing on dark, moist, crumbly soil, with short golden blades of grass poking up around your ankles. To your left, there is a tall and abrupt drop-off, and beyond that, a vast vista rolls away, the hills billowing with more gold grass, out there tall enough to pass your knees. To your right, there are more such shimmering gilded hills, this time rising upward in a gradual, undulating slope, and at the top, you can see a towering purple wall, part of the one encircling the Kingdom. You can’t make out anything of the Kingdom beyond the wall, save for the pair of rocky spires sticking out a ways from each other, one containing the resplendent Royal House at its peak, the other one bare. Behind you, there is an old, crumbling well, which has not seen water for years, sitting beside a small, broad-topped tree. One of the tree’s branches seems to have a bit of old, broken rope tied around it, as if a swing had once hung from it. And in front of you stands the house.
The Playground is an ancient structure, huge and haunted-looking, made of damp, splintery wood planks, cracked stone, and half-shattered shingles. Its roof is many-tiered, with platforms of shingles ascending higher and higher almost like broad steps, but with no regularity. And highest of all is the thick stone tower at the side, which reaches up toward the sky, looking like the turret of a castle was somehow misplaced onto this old creaky house. It looms before you, engulfing you with its wide dark shadow, creaking as the wind blows through gaps in its wooden walls and crackly glass windows. It seems eerily to study you, its haunted creakings singing wordlessly of times too old for you to know.
You look down to the single door at the front, which is made thickly with old wood and adorned with a tarnished and old-fashioned handle. There is one small, shuttered window to the left of the door and several much larger ones lined up on the wall to the right of it, which are too dim and dusty for you to really make out anything through them. You head toward the door and, once before it, you take the cold metal handle into your hand and press the lever down. You push the door inward and, after what almost seems to be a moment of conscious hesitation and consideration of your worthiness to enter, the heavy slab of wood creaks open for you.
You step into a wide, dim room, your eyes adjusting slightly to the gloom after the bright sunlight outside. There is a wide window on the left wall overlooking the drop-off outside, and though the tattery dark curtains flanking it are not drawn, the light filtering through the glass is surprisingly dim. No one seems to be home at the moment. You step fully into the room, the floorboards creaking under your steps and a few small mice scuttling out of your way. You close the door behind you and the dimness is now absolute.
You glance a moment at the newly-closed door behind you and behold something etched into the inside wood of it. Names are carved there, and they read as follows:
‘Mysteria Gray’. This looks like the oldest carving of the lot.
‘Sol Windspell’, in a different hand.
‘Solen Gimpstrings’. The first of the two names is crossed out, with the second written in yet another hand.
‘Sage’, written in the same hand as the first name.
Then, below the lot, something that could have once been a fifth name, but which seems to have been rather viciously scratched out, well beyond readability. Beside this is instead a little symbol of sorts, looking like a short dash, a pair of slanting vertical nicks, and a circle. ~,,o
The overwhelming scent of this space is dust, and you can see why…_; it coats most surfaces. You hear a small, high sound coming from the corners of the ceiling and look up. There are ample spiderwebs up there and the spiders to go with them; the little fellows seem to be playing little melodies on their web-strands with their eight dexterous legs.
Despite the relative largeness of the room, there isn’t too much in it. Immediately to your left as you turn your back to the door is a tall coat-rack, empty of coats for the moment. Just beyond that is the shuttered window you’d seen from outside. To your right is a large wooden cabinet, its doors sealed shut by a few metal clasps. Under the single wide window with the dark curtains is a rickety bit of padded furniture, most resembling a couch, and an ancient one at that. It is, of course, dusty, and over its top is folded a tattered bit of material which looks just like the curtains, but seems to find its use as a makeshift blanket. After all, the resident of this house does tend to curl up there most nights.
At the far end of this couch-like bit of furniture is a small wood table needing repair, which is adorned only with an oil lamp. The lamp is of course not lit at the moment. Beyond that table, in front of the back wall, is another article of furniture more like a regular chair. And leaning upon that is a large musical instrument. You walk toward this instrument to inspect it more closely. It is a cello, big and stylishly asymmetrical, and definitely handmade. It looks rather old too, but unlike its surroundings, it appears to shine. Indeed, it seems to be the only object in this whole space that looks well-cared-for and not covered in dust and cobwebs. Its dense wood is colored deep gray with a purplish tinge and fetching swirls in its grain. The four silver strings, through of different thickness between them, all gleam with the same bright luster, almost in defiance of the dimness surrounding them. The instrument definitely seems to carry its own spirit. Beautiful as it is, the resident would probably prefer you did not mess with it.
On the wall opposite the single window is a door, smaller and lighter than the outside door, but with a similar old-fashioned handle. You walk over to this and peek into the room beyond it. There is the row of large windows you’d seen outside, now dimly glowing with dusty shafts of light from the wall to your right. The rest of the room is filled with a miscellaneous smattering of objects, from damp-warped wood dressers and tables to sealed trunks and crates and musty moth-bitten piles of quilts. This seems to be a storeroom from ages past. Atop one crate not far from you, you can make out another oil lamp like the one on the table behind you. And visible beyond this, beneath one of the windows, a table sits draped with a bit of cloth cradling another musical instrument. This time it’s a fiddle, a smaller counterpart to the cello behind you. The dusty light rays hit the strings, which, thought they twinkle, are clearly rusted and underused. This instrument seems a bit lonely, as though it is sitting in waiting for a player it has not seen in a long time.
You back out of this room and close the door. Looking to your left, you see a flight of wooden stairs, which incline upward for a rather short space before turning sharply to the left. You can’t see beyond this turn, but you can make an educated prediction of more dusty gloom on all upper levels of this house. You put your foot on the first step.
Don’t go upstairs.
Unless you feel up to gambling your life (and most likely losing), don’t go upstairs.
(c) Copyright to Sequoia the Storyteller, 2015.