by Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik
I woke up. My eyes tired fatigued and weary, though I knew I had slept for hours. I was laying on the ground, face down in my lace white night dress. The ground felt oddly crisp beneath my form and it was not long before it came to me that I could not be in my bed anymore. There was no light streaming in from the cracks between the threadbare midnight blue curtains and he was no longer beside me so it could not be my bed; our bed. Perhaps he had awoken early if it was dawn to have a cigarette or if it was still the middle of the night, perhaps he hadn’t yet joined me in bed. But then it came it to me that it certainly didn’t seem like either dawn or the middle of the night, in fact, the light that swam into view around me was neither light or dark; it was an odd grey. Opening my eyes wider, I realised that the floor beneath me was cold and crisp in a way I had never felt before and was in fact comprised of bones. Old bones which, though not decayed and pearly white, were evidently ancient by how filthy and dry they were. I gingerly rose to my bare feet. It took me a moment to fully understand my surrounds; tall trees unlike any I had ever seen before; a yellowish grey sky which somewhat resembled a sunset; and it did not take me long to notice that the flooring of bones stretched for miles around. What a perplexing place to find myself. I stepped on the unsteady ground carefully, fearful it’d fall in at any moment towards the largest of the leafless trees which stood, stretching to the heavens before me. Then it dawned on me: was I dead? Was this the afterlife? Had I been taken in the night?
Wiping these thoughts from my mind, I reached out a shaking hand to touch the tree, wondering if it felt as it did in the garden of The House of the Rising Sun. Oddly, it did. The twisting bark was cold beneath my finger tips and gnarled up and up for dearth than I could see with my tired eyes. It was then that I realised there was no sound until this moment as the call of a raven shattered the cold silence with the pieces laying on the floor. Though I could not see the bird it’d emanated from. As I ran my hand over the tree trunk, I noticed a change in the wood, from the wood of the tree to a different lighter wood with a soft finish that glistened in the light. It was a door, with a bronzed lock and raven’s head knocker. What was it doing in a tree? If this was a tree. I reached to pull the door open but found it was locked. I then knocked on the door with the ring hanging from the raven’s mouth sharply three times and to my surprise, the tree which held it stooped down and cast a branched hand over the lock. The door opened towards me without a human touch and possibly against my better judgement, I stepped through it and onto a crimson carpeted floor. My glance fleeted across the carpet and I realised as I looked up the ceiling was high and the corridor stretched, as the bones had, forever. I couldn’t be inside the tree. Turning back, I noted that the door had vanished and in its place was a black and white photograph with faded blurred edges of a young woman in a long dress and hat outside a small chapel with a sign marked Little Woods Lafayette Chapel. Her hair seemed to blow in the wind, frozen in time. She reminded me of someone and as I looked at her smile, I realised it was my mother. She must have been young in that photograph. I hadn’t seen her in so long and I wondered if I ever would again.
Did she keep her smile or did I take it with me?
Looking back to the corridor, I realised that there were many wooden doors with raven knockers all along the cream walls. The wall paper was familiar, it was the same as in The House of the Rising Sun. Looking closer, I realised the carpet was the same as the carpet of the staircase. I tiptoed along the corridor. “Hello? Is anybody here?” I called into the nothingness. There was no response. I edged along the corridor until I came to the first door. Rapping on the door nervously, it opened before me at once and I saw my mother, older now than she had been in the photograph brushing the dark hair of a little girl beside a sewing machine. Me. Her first daughter. She looked happy. I closed the door and the room faded away and the door vanished from view. Second door opened to revile her holding a baby who was crying. I was nowhere to be seen. Behind the third door was a girl, older then the little brunette in the first room studying quietly. Alone. She looked sad though she was clearly engrossed in her work, thinking it best not to disturb her, I closed the door quietly and preceded to look behind the next door, perplexed as to the purpose of it all. It was a rather more upsetting image of my father leaving the apartment. He never came back, I didn’t need a door to tell me that. Assuming that was behind the fourth door, I passed it. Opening the fifth door, I saw myself as a teenager in shorts and an old shirt beside a big top at the Willows Carnival. I knew when this was, it was the day I met him. And sure enough, he walked into the image with Alex and Parker beside him in their leather jackets. He was seventeen. Not that it mattered. As the vision moved I saw as talking alone and him telling me his address so we could write to each other. I smiled to myself. I didn’t want to leave this vision. But it disappeared regardless. The next door held a bedroom with me hurriedly writing letters. This couldn’t have been long before I had come to The House for I saw my school rucksack packed to leave under the bed.
Was I here for a reason or just to look back through the strange memories and broken fantasies?
If this was someone’s idea of a joke, I’d like them to stop now. It wasn’t remotely funny. I didn’t want to continue along the corridor as I could be sure of the events that followed but some unknown force compelled me. Perhaps it was the same unknown force that silently blew the leafless trees. Continuing down the path, I opened the next door and was in no way surprised by what I saw: myself in my school uniform on the train to The House. I looked happy and dewy eyed, my rucksack on top of my lap. A new vision swam into view as the train chugged out of view; him. Picking me up from the station. Hair slicked back and dressed in his suit, though he didn’t have his blazer because it was May. The car drove him and me to The House. I remember the first time I saw the house; gothic and eerie yet oddly comforting, it represented a dream of love and adventure. The gates were always open and this was the first time I had passed through them. I wanted to join that vision, it was perfect. It was the first time in my life for a very long time that I had been happy. Truly happy. But as I began to step towards the gates, the force pushed me away and the door slammed. The next vision was of a wonderful party with twinkling lights and a carousel in the gardens of The House. The moths – guests- came and went from the sparkling champagne tables and desks lined with canopies and cocktails in brightly coloured outfits and there was me, drinking quietly as he played cards at one of the circular tables. He had a cigarette in his hand as he always did. The loud sounds of music and of idol gossip tore through the air and I had found myself needing him to protect me from the night. I didn’t want to see this anymore. I slammed the door shut. The next was of me and Him intertwined in a passionate embrace. That was one of my favourite visions.
Unfortunately from this vision on, the scene turned much more sour with Grace fighting with Alex and Parker telling me of all the things that have happened in The House of the Rising Sun. I was so disbelieving when Parker had told me of the gambling and drinking that’d happened there and I was almost brought to tears as he told me of how Alex had ruined the old curtains fighting with Grace after he found out about what she’d do with Jordan and I began to wonder if the monsters that live in The House were really Gods at all. As the scene changed again I saw myself staring blankly into the future. Grace hung there. Motionless. In a small clearing a few minutes away from The House of the Rising Sun. she was suspended into the nothingness and it did not take me long to realise that she was dead. Daniela-Gracie was dead. Or she was going it die. At seventeen. I shook this vision from my head and it changed to Him holding my still and the rest of the scene was too awful to detail. I screamed. I screamed again but no help came and suddenly, everything was gone. I was back in my bedroom. With Him. Alone. He was sleeping. It had all been a dream. But then it was clear why I had visited the kingdom with the bones and the doors and the trees. It was instructions. I must leave The House of the Rising Sun. Put one foot on the train and go back to my mother in New Orleans to wear that ball and chain.