Wednesday Workshop: Wardrobe Writing Prompt

Pick up your pen (or open up your Google Doc).

Imagine you are in a room, and there is a wardrobe in front of you.

Describe that wardrobe.

Now open the wardrobe. Inside there is a box. How does it feel in your hands?

Go on and open that box. Anything could be inside. What’s the weirdest thing that comes to mind?

Finally, someone else has entered the room. They see what is in the box, and you there, holding it. Include a little snippet of dialogue, as they discover you, caught in the act.

Remember to include sensory details: what can you smell, feel, hear, see or taste?

If you feel comfortable, share what you’ve written here - or even just a line or two that you love!

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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…”

I slipped into the attic. The sunlight that slanted through the window showed the dust that covered everything and hung in the air. It also showed the cobwebs.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I saw old-fashioned furniture scattered about. I tried a trunk, but it was locked.

Then, I saw a huge wardrobe in the corner. It was more ornate and in better condition than most of the stuff. It looked as if it should have belonged to someone richer than my ancestors.

I hurried over to for a better look. Even in the dim light, I could make out the handsome carvings.

I tried the door, and it opened. Inside were some long old-fashioned dresses that looked too fragile to touch.

Below the dresses was a box. A box like the one I’d bought yesterday. Not even dusty.

I dropped to my knees and pulled the box out from under the dresses. What was this doing here?

I opened the box. Inside was the necklace I’d lost the other day. Somebody had some explaining to do.

A creaking door startled me. I looked over my shoulder. My uncle was coming in.

I was caught. Ashamed of having been so bold in prying through the attic. How could I explain this.

He glared at me. “What are you doing up here? And looking in there?”

In a flash of inspiration, I stood tall. “Finding the necklace I lost.”

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I searched the entire house, finding little of value, finding few possessions of any kind.

Yet another incomer, clearing out of the capitol, buying up whatever they wanted, leaving our people feeling rich for a few weeks or a few months until the coin ran out and left them with nothing. I had no guilt about forcing the door.

Aside from some cutlery and some plates, there was nothing worth taking. Even this incomer’s clothes were worthless; city fashion too distincitve to sell, too worn to keep.

The only thing left was the tall cupboard in a corner of the kitchen, under the stairs. What the rich folk call an armoire. The only thing in the whole house with a clasp and padlock on it. I hefted it, deciding whether to pick it or break it.

The voice startled me.

“I don’t have any money.”

Behind me stood a man in his fifties, his voice accented from somewhere far to the South. He looked reasonably fit, despite the thinning hair running to silver.

I hadn’t heard him enter. It takes a thief to sneak up on a thief. Or maybe a hunter.

He was far too comfortable, finding me in his house. It was unsettling.

I stood too long, weighing up what to do.

Incomer. Meddler. Thief.

I drew the skinning knife from my belt and pointed it at the armoire.

“You don’t have any money? What’s in this?”

He regarded the skinning knife in my hand, unpertubed.

“Six arming swords, two longswords, two sideswords, eight daggers, three shortswords, a court sword and several spare blades.”

‘Silver’ reeled off his inventory, calm as you like. I pointed the skinning knife at him.

“That all?”

Silver took a key from around his neck, tossed it to me.

“Some odds and ends besides. See for yourself.”

I fumbled the key in the padlock, one-handed, keeping an eye on the old man, in case he decided to rush me while I was distracted.

The padlock clattered to the flagstones. I flipped the clasp and opened the doors.

Neatly racked, I found the contents as he said, and more besides. All of it clean and frighteningly sharp, enough to start a war. Or finish one. A set of arrows lay in the bottom, square-cut bodkin tips like the soldiers used, able to punch through just about anything.

Peering into the corners, I saw no boxes or hidden panels.

“Satisfied?”

Silver hadn’t moved an inch. I first thought I could outrun him if I needed to. He was so calm, so… balanced. He had a faded scar at his temple, another from his jaw line down his neck. Old wounds from old battles.

He reached under his long coat and pulled two of the longest knives I’d ever seen. Well maintained, well used, their edges finely sharpened to wicked dropped-points. The steel glittered as he spun them in his hands from habit.

Silver’s steady gray eyes regarded the skinning knife in my hand without concern.

I realised entering the house had been a huge mistake.

Here was a hunter from the South, an old rebel with an armoire full of weapons to take care of enemies more numerous and more capable than me. An incomer moving West to a village where he could quietly disappear.

“Like I said, I don’t have any money. But I do have certain skills.”

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Although this is a genre piece, the wardrobe exists. It’s in the corner of my kitchen under the stairs. It holds all the training weapons I use for my classes…

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I love when y’all participate like this, it warms my souls to see you’re ideas take form and to hear the back story or fun facts is just that much cooler.

Brilliant and well written @rtcatling and @ReLane, i loved the visuals you each conjured. You took me there.