My mother once told me that if something didn’t make sense I should sit down and write about it. I should write the whole thing down, and then I would be able to make perfect sense of the matter. I fear my dear mother shall be proved well and truly wrong in this particular instance, but as I am under constant observation and have nothing else to do in this place, I suppose an attempt to make sense of the last twenty-four hours might be of some value. It cannot do any more harm—that much is certain.

So, to begin. Yesterday morning began like any other in my rather mundane existence. I now find myself longing for my boring little life… I never thought I would miss my dreary little seaside cottage… ahh, but I digress.

Anyway, I awoke early, and brewed my usual pot of tea, and toasted my two slices of bread. I ate them with butter and lemon curd, as usual, while my cat, Tobias, looked on with his normal jaundiced eye. I let Tobias out into the back garden while I finished getting ready for work. All was according to schedule, and I was quite satisfied. I glanced out my side window at my next-door neighbor’s cottage. Miss Crisp was a kindly woman of uncertain years. She seemed to have been in the neighborhood forever, and no one would dare try to guess her age. I winced as I realized that if I were to follow my normal routine and drop by to check on her I would be late for work.

I had never once been late since I had started as a Junior Clerk at Atchison-Keller five years ago. I had recently been promoted to Head Clerk, and I had no desire to give my employers any reason to become cross with me. I sighed as I spied the tin of Pumpkin Spice tea that resided on the corner of my table. I had bought it for Miss Crisp yesterday, as I knew of her especial fondness for the brew. Perhaps I could make a very fast sally over next door, and simply drop off the tea. I could promise a longer visit tomorrow. She would understand. We’d been visiting this way for nearly five years…

I went out into my back garden and called for Tobias. It took me a while to find him, as he was being a bit stubborn. Finally, I spied his sleek, black body as he lay stretched insolently under a rosebush. Oddly, he refused to come to me, and I had to resort to dragging him, hissing and spitting out from under the bush. I received a few thorns and a couple of scratches courtesy of Master Tobias for my trouble, and both of us were decidedly out of sorts by the time we got back inside the house. I looked askance at my recalcitrant roommate. “What’s got into you, mate?”

As I expected, I received no answer other than a disdainful glare as I searched out the cotton wool and some iodine and treated my injuries. Tobias watched, seeming a bit amused, as if to tell me justice had been well served. He stretched out a long elegant leg and began licking it delicately. I rolled my eyes at him and left him to his washing up. I gathered my things, pulled on my coat and picked up the packet of tea. I tossed a despairing glance at the clock and knew I was going to be terribly late. But there was nothing for it. I would just have to talk fast to Miss Crisp, toss her the tea and run for my train.

I practically ran out the door, barely remembering to lock it. I scurried over the garden path that separates my property from that of Miss Crisp. I had to be careful because the path on her side is not as well kept as on mine, and I had to mind the ridges and ruts. I have been meaning to fix them for her, but she never seemed bothered by them, and so I’ve never gotten around to it. I rushed up to her door and knocked loudly. I was not being rude. Miss Crisp is a trifle deaf and doesn’t hear the door otherwise.

As I waited, I thought about the contrast between our two cottages. I am what you might consider austere. I prefer simple furnishings and clean lines. Not Miss Crisp. She loves antiques and frills. Her house is beautiful… full of the finest paintings and Victorian furnishings. It is a mystery to me how she manages to keep such a fussy sort of a house so spotless, but she does it. I sometimes wonder if she employs a live-out maid to come in and help her. It’s quite possible. She could be very wealthy for all I know. She even dresses very stylishly, but in a somewhat old-fashioned manner… not that I would dare say such a thing to her. She would not hesitate to box my ears.

I realized with a start that I have been wool-gathering, and that quite some time has passed since I knocked. This is not normal, and so, worried, I knocked again. I heard movement beyond the door, and was relieved. The door opened wide, and I felt my body go numb with shock. A barrel-chested man in grubby coveralls was standing there staring at me. The stub of a cigar hung out of his mouth, a workman’s cap perched on the back of his head. “Yeah, Mac. whattya want?”

But it was the house that had caused my condition…

I gazed over the workman’s shoulder. The interior of the house looked as if… well, as if no one had lived there for at least a hundred years. There were cobwebs everywhere, the wallpaper was peeling off the walls, and the place smelled of mold and decay. It was dismal and frightening and… completely impossible!

I turned to the workman, and even I could hear the panic rising in my voice. “Where is she?”

“Where’s who, Mister?” He was eyeing me suspiciously.

“Miss Crisp! The lady who owns this cottage!”

His eyes grew large and he shook his head. “Are you daft? Her? She’s been dead for over ten years now! Her nephew finally decided to have this place torn down.”

I shuddered helplessly as I felt reality shift. “NO! No… I, I talked to her just yesterday. I brought her some clover honey. It-It’s one of her favorites.” I held up the tea. “You see… I have her favorite tea here. I’m late for work, but I want to drop it off for her. Please, let me go into her kitchen… I shan’t be but a moment. I shouldn’t like to break a promise to a friend…”

I noticed another man speaking on his mobile, but I paid him no mind. I focused on the first man. “Please, let me in.” I looked around the room and realized I had been mistaken. The room was once again as lovely as it had always been. “Miss Crisp is likely in the kitchen waiting for me.”

I stepped around the man blocking my way and as I did, he reached out and I felt a heavy blow. My world went black, and I woke up here—“here” being “St. Agnew’s Sanitorium.” I am apparently a guest here for an undetermined length of time. I have read and re-read my notes, and I can only hope that Miss Crisp will consent to feeding Master Tobias. They never did take well to one another.

~The End~


October 31, 2019 00:04

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