"The Locked Door"

My name is Lisa McGarath and I was born in Eyesworth, in the county of Bedforshire, in 1932. My mother was a nurse and my father a soldier. They both served their country as the war begun and were in London during the bombings of 1940. My mother drowned in the subway while helping the wounded and my father was never found. I moved from our little town to my Aunts estate near Edge Hill village, Warwickshire in 1941, at the age of nine. My aunt was granted custody over me due to the fact that in the confusion of the war the court could not find any other relatives.

My Aunt's name was Mathilda and she was what you could define as a fine lady of high upbringing, washed out by life. She was grumpy and cold, leaving me to myself for most of the time. She could often be found sitting in her old, stuffy armchair, in the living room, gazing longingly at the framed picture of her first husband, for hours upon hours. I was only told that they'd lived together for a little over a year, before she miscarried his child and he himself died only weeks later.

Aunt Mathilda remarried a year later, causing much social uproar. She wed an old man, a former duke, with much estate and money to his name. It was said she did it only for his wealth. Whatever her reasons were she did inherit all his possessions after his death just under two years after their marriage.

We lived in an old manor d'Libellule on the hill overlooking the village of Edge Hill. Once housing the duke of the area it was a grand house, old and splendid. But with the turning of the cycle of life, it crumbled and aged and by the time I arrived was heading for ruin. Chips of paint and plaster were peeling off the fa├žade, the wind whistling in the corridors. It was cold all year round, but never more than in autumn and winter. I remember lying in my bed covered by my blanket and two extra quilts, which the old housekeeper Annabel kindly gave me, shivering till my teeth hurt from chattering.

There were a lot of locked doors in the d'Libellule. When I was not tutored by a private governess, my aunt hired, I'd go exploring. I imagined the manor was a grand castle and there was a treasure somewhere. I soon found out that the house did indeed have its own kind of treasures, in the form of old books, ancient paintings and tapestries and hidden passages. I soaked up the new knowledge like a sponge, my frequent trips the only light in my grey and boring life. It was an escape to a different world, one of intrigue and magic and fun. I never did have any friends during my whole stay there, my aunt firm in her believe that a young lady like me should not mingle with the 'bastards of peasants', as she called them. So I was left only to myself and the big house.

It was one cold autumn afternoon, when I was out exploring, that I found the Ever Locked Doors. I called them thus because, like a lot of the other entries in the manor, they were closed. Only these were closed always. My Aunt never even walked down the corridor they were on, snapping at me if I ever mentioned them. Annabel would go white when I asked her, saying there was evil behind those doors. I didn't believe them though. I always felt a strange kind of pull to them. I tried every method that was within my range to open them, including steeling the bunch of keys Annabel always had on her. To my surprise and despair, none of the big, iron keys fit. I was caught and got the biggest walloping that left me a crying mess for a whole evening. I didn't try opening the mysterious doors after that but never failed to pass them every day.

Exactly two years after my arrival I found the Ever Locked Doors open. I must have stood gapping at them for a good fifteen minutes before I finally gathered my wits about me. Glancing down the corridor, I made sure nobody was there, before stepping through the threshold. You can imagine my disappointment when I found the room on the other side was even more plain than most of the other chambers in the manor. Its walls were stone and bare, the only piece of furniture being an old, wooden table. I snooped around a bit and found nothing except dust and spider webs.

I was about to leave when I noticed a big piece of cloth flapping gently in the draught. It was pinned on the wall, almost the same color as its surrounding. I still found it strange I didn't notice it earlier. I stepped up to it and pulled it down in one confident stroke. It fell to the floor, stirring a great cloud of dust. When I finally stopped coughing and sneezing I looked at the wall before me and stilled in amazement.

The tapestry took up most of the wall space. Its colures were vibrant and fresh, as though it was weaven only last week. It depicted a strange scene of a forest filled with creatures that were stuff of legends and folk tale. Dragons, dwarfs, giants. They were all there dancing in a circle.

I stood gapping at it for what felt like an eternity. I was finally snapped out of my revive by the voice of Annabel calling me for dinner. I quickly hurried out of the room, closing the doors behind me.

That night I came back and found the doors were open again. Soft light was seeping out from the crack underneath them. I hesitated before pushing them open.

I was suddenly surrounded by a world of magic, the chamber green, the grass soft under my bare feet. The creatures form the tapestry were dancing in a circle, the sound of music clear and loud. They grinned and laughed at me, their faces twisting into strange masks. They pulled me gently into their midst, nudging me into their dance. After the initial shock wore off, instead of running in fright, I smiled a shy smile and moved with them in the moves of their strange dance. When morn came they bid me farewell and in a snap all was back to normal and I was standing in the cold, bare room on my own.

When I returned the next night the Ever Locked Doors were closed. I returned every night for a month. I went one last time exactly a month after our first encounter and found the door opened and the strange creatures dancing as though they never stopped. I smiled and danced and laughed with them through the night. After that I returned every month, finding a heaven of my own for one night in a month.

And then, on my sixteenth birthday, Aunt Mathilda died from Tuberculosis and I was moved to a distant relative of my mother in France. I cried and screamed and shouted when they took me away, knowing somewhere deep inside that if I left now I'd never see the magical creatures again or dance in their midst. Nothing I did mattered in the end. A month later I was introduced to Laurentia, my new guardian. She was a fair woman, with a husband and two sons. I can't say I was unhappy in their house. I got an education and they paid for my studies. The war ended and the world tried to pick up the pieces and rise from the ruble and death.

I returned to manor d'Libellule exactly twenty years later. I found the blackened remains of the foundations of the house. Apparently, right after I left, the manor was engulfed in a great fire that raised it to the ground. As I walked in the rubles of what was once my home I caught a glimpse of green and a grin twisting a strange face and then it was gone and I was alone in the blackened debris.

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