Ok, I did the workshop exercise and it went nowhere I thought it was going to go.
It is definitely longer, but that’s ok. It was a moment spent writing and that’s awesome.
Hope it’s a fun read and I hope you try it too.
The Wardrobe by DeAnna C. DeLeon-Lahman
I stood in what I thought was an entryway.
“This is very confusing,” I said out loud.
The space was grand, 14’ ceilings, decadent layers of ornate crown molding reminded me of a wedding cake. Almost as though if I reached out I could swipe a bit onto my finger and taste what would surely be a sugar shock if it were real.
The delicate wallpaper. A soft white background with muted gold birds on branches perched this way and that. The checkerboard pattern of white and cream marble alternating squares topped along the edges with a thick, heavy baseboard that anchored the lavish interior. A cold space really.
The only warmth emanating from the presence of an equally ornate wardrobe. Inset as to take up no floor space in the room. It had to be at least 7 feet tall. Despite the earthy comfort of the warm-hued wood, I felt to be standing in the shadow of its presence.
No other doorways but the one from the outside, two tall and narrow, multi paned-glass doors shone in their heavy wood frames. Divided they stood open at either side of the threshold like sentries when I had passed through.
Perhaps I would be greeted soon, told where to go from here.
“Oh!” I said out loud.
An unexpected echo chanting back at me. “Oh…oh…oh.”
“That was unnerving,” I spoke softer to myself, “this must be their…coat room?” A place like this had to have a coatroom. Right?
Like it comes the standard issue with the butler’s pantry, and servants’ quarters, and some stables maybe?
“Flipping Pemberley while Mr. Darcy’s away. Probably out on a fox hunt or something complete with bugle and the hounds.” I smirked. My attempt at levity to make the uncomfortableness of the situation dissipate. I did not work, as I wondered who opened the doors.
Maybe they were left open when they let the dogs out? I broke into song, “Who let the dogs out, Who, who?”
The echo finished the lyric “Who…who… who?
“Indeed who?” I responded to the chamber’s echo.
I settled down if only temporarily, my imagination and habit of amusing myself by muttering out loud my every retort to any given situation. I could and would comment on it, in nervous energy.
I sat in the only chair in the space. It was low and comfortable, a seamless extension of its surroundings. Pulling my clean flats from my coat pocket, setting them gently on the floor as if they could shatter the high gloss, glass-like polish of the marble floor. I slid off one cherry-red muck boot at a time.
I smiled at the memory of when I had bought them, at an end-of-season sale on a whim. They looked so happy, like summer days of ripened fruit, to be worn on wet, gray days of winter. I’d had to have them.
Setting them down beside me, their brightness in the pale room looked like a deep wound on perfectly pale flesh. I shivered at the thought.
My flats in place I stood and shrugged off my coat. Holding it over one arm, I looked about. Where could I put it? No hooks in sight, I began to drape it on the chair. It felt wrong. Like a lifeless body flopped in the immaculate room.
I scooped up my boots and headed to the wardrobe. Hoping to find an empty hanger or peg for my things. “It’s the only thing that makes sense,” I defended what felt like overstepping the boundaries of politeness, by opening a closed cupboard without express permission
“Permission is implied without a proper greeting,” I stated, “ and a house this spotless has to have all signs of life crammed into hideaway spaces or it would look like every other well lived-in house,” I muttered under my breath to avoid the echoes
“Who lives like this?” I surely couldn’t. “It’s like a tomb in here, all cold and lifeless.” Another shiver pricked my skin.
I took hold of the large wrought iron handle of the wardrobe door. Seemingly sinister in its rough cold metal against the smooth polished wood of the wardrobe. I hefted the weight of it in my hand.
“where’d they get this thing, circa 1500 Spanish inquisition? Looks like they snatched it right off the walls of a dungeon.” again I shivered. I was liking this place less and less.
“It’s all cake glamour until you get to the nuts and bolts of it” Like a lot of things in this life “no beauty without the beast.”
I continued talking to myself, it somehow felt reassuring. It lessened the uncomfortable feeling of appearing completely alone, while simultaneously like prey. With dozens of eyes upon me all at once.
I quickly looked back over my shoulder, and suspiciously scrutinized the birds on the wallpaper. They looked completely taken with their leaves and branches. No audience there.
Continuing to feel like a rude guest helping myself to a new acquaintances refrigerator without an invitation, I took a deep breath and pulled hard on the large handle.
I stumbled backward as the door swung open with the ease of balanced weight on well-oiled hinges. I caught myself a moment before gravity could land me on my bum.
I appraised the door realizing it was a much smaller opening than first anticipated. The door’s edges had been camouflaged by the detailed carvings. So lavish they might look perfectly at home in Versailles. ”Louis the XIII has got nothing on you.” I told the wardrobe.
“Clever design element.” I regarded as I swung the door a couple of times, just to be sure I hadn’t imagined its fluid motion. “Excellent engineering.” I wished my dresser drawers at home were half as efficient. They were always half-cocked sliding out with the ease of backing up an oil tanker. “What money won’t buy.”
Then I felt it, a slight wind, like a gasp. A vapor lock opening, breaking free to a faintly audible groan. I wasn’t sure I had heard that. Was I imagining?
“Where’s a damn echo when you need one for a playback?”
Then slowly the space beyond began to glow, a soft warm light slowly, ever so slowly growing larger. Now gaining traction until the whole room was ablaze with the warm flickering light of a large fire.
I saw it clearly now, the room beyond, warm and comfortable. The worn tartan chair by the hearth beckoning. There, by the fireside stood a coat rack.
“Talk about being in the closet, they’re so far in it they’ve expanded on the other side,” I said louder than I meant to in my astonishment.
Then I saw it, a new flicker, a flash really on the mantle, catching the shifting light like a mirrored ball sent spinning on a string. The room began to dazzle with the soft reflections of dancing illumination.
I approached, much bolder now, feeling an implied invitation to enter. Hung my coat, boots sat down on the floor beneath it, but never took my eyes from the box. I couldn’t. How was this dazzling display coming from something so small? I picked it up. The dancing lights ceased.
I cradled it in my hand, no larger than a credit card just a bit taller than a deck of cards but half the weight. Most likely sterling I thought. Ornately embossed with an old-world design.
And a jewel on the latch. I couldn’t help myself. I had to know what was inside. I lifted the lid.
I peered down into the velvet-lined box to see a fortune. No, no not as in money but a fortune, from one of those icky stale cookies you always get at the end of a great Chinese restaurant meal.
Like thanks for your business now piss off with this origami communion wafer the flavor of a cardboard toilet paper roll. Not that I had eaten many of those but you get my point.
The advice inside those things wasn’t worthy of a crazy 8 ball. Still, I picked it up from its little sarcophagus and read.
“You. You. You let the dogs out.” it read.
I shook my head in disbelief, “What the fu… Kind of fortune is that?”
“That’s not the fortune.” a voice, heavy on the base, said from the shadows.
I jumped. Almost dropping the box, I fumbled to recover it, fortune scissored tightly between my fingernails. “ You freaked me out,” I shouted at the stranger, “don’t sneak up on people like that.”
He moved forward from the shadows. “I live here.” he said “actually it is you that has snuck up on me as it were.
I could feel the resonance of his voice in my chest. I couldn’t imagine what his voice box was going through.
I started to speak to point out a few things about his lack of hospitality, but he cut me off.
“And that is not the fortune. Turn it over.” he directed me, motioning with his finger.
I did as he instructed. “Learn to read Chinese?” I asked doubtfully, knowing I couldn’t begin to decipher the characters’ pronunciation.
“No below that.” he crossed his arms, irritated.
“Lucky numbers: 6…14…32…” I recited from the tiny ticket.
“Yes!” he interrupted again. “It was how I made my fortune. I used those numbers for dozens of choices in finance. Buying only shares that came in those amounts. Betting on horses, athletes, and ball games using combinations of those numbers. I began to see them everywhere. The opportunities and I was there to cash in on them all.” His voice was thick and heavy like cold maple syrup, sickly sweet and satisfied with himself.
I just stared at him, willing myself not to say out loud “Crazy is as crazy does” in a mocking Forrest Gump impression.
He stared at me, his eyes narrowing slightly.
I held my face rigid to not burst out laughing. This was just too weird. Sure it’s plausible I suppose. If you’re a math wiz but this was all just getting weirder and weirder by the moment. I don’t like weird.
He stepped towards me. Plucked the fortune and box from my hand and replaced them on the mantle. His back to me I said, “Well, that’s all very informative, but perhaps we could get down to why it is that I’m here?”
He turned swiftly and said excitedly, closing the gap between us. “Isn’t that obvious Dear?” his smile leering ”You are my next play on those numbers…”