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,,,Your car rumbles on a dirt road. Trees loom overhead, watching you navigate the overgrowth. The shadows eat away at what was once a bright, warm sky. It won't be much longer now.
Your head feels foggy and your gut twists, but you have only one place to go. [[You keep driving.]]A gate comes into view. The doors look heavy and grimy, like they haven't moved in years. Padlocked chains hang off of it like decorations on a cast iron Christmas Tree. The connected stone wall snakes off into the trees, and nearby, a greasy man leers at you.
[[Talk to the man.]]
[[Turn around and leave.]]
He lumbers up to the window of your car and scowls.
"What do you want?" he asks.
You fumble for words, but you tell him about the letter. Doctor Montague invited you. There will be others. You must enter.
[[You must.]]Your hand sinks down to shift gears, but your feet don't move. You sit in silence, frozen. You have come so far. There are no more possibilities but this one. Journeys end in lovers meeting. So why leave?
[[Talk to the man.]] The greasy man, Dudley, claims to be the grounds caretaker. He undresses the gate and leaves the chains in a mountain to your right. You drive past them. Hill House gapes at you, lopsided and curious. If it stood up straight it might look majestic, but it leans against the darkness. A tower creeps out on your right.
[[You park your car and approach the heavy doors.]]A stick-thin woman, gray and severe, stands before you, welcoming you to Hill House. She wears an apron and glares at you. Her hair is aggressively tied back, and despite her neatness, you feel mildly disgusted. You tell her why you are here, and wordlessly, she steps aside. She must be Dudley's wife. No one else seems to be in the House.
[[You want to rest.]]Mrs. Dudley turns sharply away and leads you straight down a dusty, suffocating hall. Hill House is vile. You want to leave, but there is nowhere to go. You should stay at least until the others arrive. You want to speak to Doctor Montague.
The gray woman climbs up a winding staircase and crosses another hall. The air is thick and musty, and you hope your room will have a window. She opens a door, perhaps at random.
[[The blue room.]]Blue curtains. Blue rug. Tiny blue flowers on the wall. It is tolerable. Perhaps it is simply hilarity to be swallowed whole by a demon dressed in blue.
Outside, you hear the slam of a car door. Footsteps patter up to Hill House. [[You are relieved to not be alone.]]The new woman is Theodora. She is bright and singsongy. She agrees that Hill House has something left to be desired. You follow her to a room next to yours. It is green.
[[Talk to her.]]
Theodora does not mind your silence. She talks at you. She wants to go outside, and you follow. She is pretty, and you stare at her hair as it casually frames her face in the evening sun.
For a moment, she looks uneasy, and yelps when a rabbit appears. You let out a breath, and laugh.
It is getting dark.
[[Go back to Hill House.]]She is happy to speak to someone, but you can tell that Hill House has unsettled her. You suggest the two of you go outside, and she follows you. Her smile is radiant. The fresh air fills your lungs. For a moment, you feel watched, but it is only a rabbit.
You notice it is getting dark.
[[Go back to Hill House.]] The sun seems to eagerly sink below the hills as you hurry back to Hill House. Theodora takes the lead when she sees a distant figure by the mansion.
"It seems someone else is here," she exclaims, hopeful and slightly relieved.
You share her delight.
[[Approach the person.]]He introduces himself as Luke, and Theodora's face drops.
"You mean you are an owner of Hill House?" She is startled.
He affirms it, and looks at you. You say you are Eleanor. As Theodora giggles, you think: Journeys end in lovers meeting.
"Doctor Montague is inside," Luke says. Almost on cue, the heavy front door swings open, where an older, bearded man is perched.
[[Go back into Hill House.]]Doctor Montague sits with a martini in his hand, telling the story of Hill House. He believes it is a house of Hades--leprous and sick. Insane, even. You wonder how a house can possibly be insane; it does not live. But the Doctor continues.
The man who built Hill House saw his new wife brought into it--lifeless. His name was [[Hugh Crain.]]You wake up. Although everything in your room is blue, the clouds outside color it a flat gray. The morning rain taps insistently on your window. Your mind groggily fumbles for the events of yesterday, and on instinct you feel a twinge of embarrassment for being so childish--for wearing so much red. But it's such a foolish thing to worry about, so you push it away. You sit up. You feel rested, but a little out of place.
[[Look for the others.]]Doctor Montague is unsettled for all of breakfast. He glances at the doors, as if waiting for something to appear behind them. Luke explains that they left the doors open this morning, but they were somehow closed when Theodora woke up. You shrug, and they laugh. Theodora smiles at you and winks, taking a bite of bread. You smile shyly, then look down at your plate. Doctor Montague wipes his mouth with a napkin and leans back.
"So," he booms, "where should the tour begin?"
[[The Nursery.]]As you all approach the library, something washes over you. A sickly sweeth smell of death. You gag and your eyes water.
"I can't go in there," you say.
But, unfazed, the others pass by the wrought iron staircase, walking into the library. They leave you behind, and you hear their muffled voices on the other side.
You taste sour bile in your throat, and another wave of the decaying stench hits you. Thankfully, the group returns soon, and you don't have to be there for very long.
[[The Tower.]]To the side of the library, there is the narrow staircase that leads into the tower. You open your mouth to speak as you point at it, but Doctor Montague quickly shakes his head.
"It's much too dangerous," he says. "The staircase is weak and falling [[apart.]]"Theodora grabs your hand and pulls you out onto the veranda, laughing breathlessly. Her dress billows behind her and you willingly follow.
You run up to the edge of the veranda and lean over, looking for the tower.
Nothing is there.
You furrow your brows and look lower, and notice the front door is strangely close. You glance at the ground, and it looks sideways, and your head spins, and your feet give way.
Luke catches you, smiling and shaking his head. Doctor Montague tells you not to trust your balance here.
You shake your head vigorously, and slowly the floor evens out beneath your feet.
You nod, and hesitantly glance at the library again. Just the memory of the sickening, decaying, smell makes you feel dizzy. You lean against the wall for support and ask Doctor Montague if everyone can take a break. He nods. "To dinner," he says. You gratefully agree, but when you turn back to walk with Theodora, you see that she and Luke are talking quietly together, trailing behind. You turn around again, and silently follow Doctor Montague.
[[Rest.]]Luke sighs. The more time he spends in Hill House, the more bleak he seems. Doctor Montague leads everyone upstairs, glancing over his shoulder every few seconds as if one of you will suddenly disappear.
"Stay close," he says.
You enter the upstairs hall, and your lungs seem to feel heavier, like they're hardening with the thick, dusty air. It is still, but chilly. You walk up to the nursery, and shudder. Something cold and wet reaches up your leg and crawls up your spine. It settles in your belly and writhes like it's alive. You purse your lips together and push down the feeling that you're going to throw up. Doctor Montague looks at you, alarmed.
"You felt that too, right?" He asks. Theodora and Luke, passing under the doorway of the nursery, yelp and agree.
Dinner ends quickly, and after some coffee, everyone trickles into the bedroom hall.
Night falls, and you sink slowly into the darkest, emptiest sleep you've ever felt.
[[Eleanor.]]Your name echoes in your ears. Slowly, you gain consciousness. Someone is knocking on your door. You hear your mother nagging from outside, and for a moment you wonder what she needs. And how is she at your door?
You stumble across the room, and suddenly remember as you open your door to a shivering Theodora. You rub your eyes at the lamp in the corner, and walk into her room. She is sitting upright on her own bed, eyes wide and blanket drawn around herself.
It is cold. Terribly cold. You sit with her, your own blanket around the both of you, but the biting chill seeps through the blankets and into your [[flesh.]]The morning is cold and surreal. No one slept last night. Doctor Montague and Luke say that while you and Theodora were alone together, they were chasing what must have been a dog passing through the halls. As loud as the banging was, the two men claim they heard nothing. But as breakfast stretches on into late morning, you feel safer. Theodora is smiling, and maybe the both of you were a little dramatic about what happened. Maybe you just need thicker blankets and some earplugs.
Theodora and Luke talk and laugh with you, and maybe you can spend more time here, eating good food and being with [[friends.]]Breakfast is over, and relaxed and smiling, Doctor Montague stands up to leave the dining room.
Luke approaches the hallway as you and Theodora begin to stand too, but he stops. Turning, you see a strange smile crawl accross his face.
"Come look at [[this,]]" he says.On the wall, written in white chalk:
[["HELP ELEANOR COME HOME"]]Theodora wrote it. She must have. But when you ask her, she frowns. Doctor Montague tells you to calm down, but if no one wrote it, then Hill House knows your name. Someone wrote your name, and if it wasn't Theodora, then it was one of the men.
You ask Luke hopefully, but he stares. He sits on an armchair and brings his hand up to his face. "You want me to go write your name everywhere? Carve it into trees? Write 'Eleanor, Eleanor' on little scraps of paper?" He tugs your hair gently. "I've got more sense than that. Behave yourself."
"Maybe you wrote it," Theodora laughs.
You whirl. You did not. You did not, but they did not, and there is no one else to write it. Your hands shake. "How could you think I wrote it?" You ask. "How could you? How dare you?"
Then you notice Luke stifling a laugh. He and Theodora smugly exchange looks. You stare at them. Theodora and Luke just look at each other.
"Calm down," they say. "You're just [[frightened.]]"You decide to go back to your room to recollect yourself.
Theodora grins at you, and you want to roll your eyes, but you do nothing. You are smart enough to hide your thoughts from them. They think you've forgiven them for accusing you of writing on the wall. But you know better.
Still laughing and sighing, Theodora follows you up to the bedrooms.
[["Eleanor!"]]You rush to Theodora and look into her room.
"What is it?" You ask.
"What is it? What is it? What does it look like? You fool!" She cries. "I don't know how you did it."
You stiffen. You didn't do it. But you summon Doctor Montague and Luke.
They gawk at the smears of red trickling down Theodora's bedroom walls.
"HELP ELEANOR COME HOME ELEANOR"
The red paint reeks. It looks like blood. But it couldn't be blood. Could it? The smell fills the room, metallic and old, the colors splattered across the bed and soaking Theodora's clothes.
Theodora cries over her pretty [[clothes.]]After that, the day passes uneventfully. Theodora re-emerges, wearing clothes she borrowed from you. "Maybe it's my fault," you say to Luke and Doctor Montague.
Luke glances at you, bewildered.
"There's only one of me," you say. "Maybe I need to find a way to-well, I just hate seeing this, but it's like there's two halves of me--and one half is so frantic, you know--but maybe if I could find a way to, well, surrender--"
"Surrender?" Luke repeats. He lets out a humorless laugh. "She's done this before, you know," He says to the Doctor. Doctor Montague shakes his head, laughing, and leans over to you, bending down a little so your faces are level.
"Stop trying to be the center of attention," he says.
"Vanity." Luke says.
The evening darkens. You loathe that you will need to share your bed with Theodora.
[[Go to your bedroom.]]A child is laughing.
The sound gurgles from the walls.
It babbles and rises and falls, and you grip Theodora's hand in fear.
It speaks but forms no words, saying nothing until it cries. It begs. It whines, it is so infinitely sad and afraid. With a strangled, tearful voice, it says: "go away, go away, please don't hurt me. Let me go home," it sobs.
You hold Theodora's hand tighter, trembling.
It whispers to you.
It cries for you.
You can barely stand it, it is so heavy and pulling at you, until you can't take it any longer. "STOP IT," you yell.
Theodora jumps up and turns on the lamp. You fall out of bed, scrambling backwards.
"God, God--whose hand was I holding??" You say, shuddering in the [[corner.]]Your mind feels groggy and slow. When daylight finally breaks, you rush outside for air, taking Theodora and Luke with you. You run ahead, but see people in the hills, even though it isn't possible. You see a family having a picnic. You stumble back to Hill House, wild, only for Doctor Montague to scold you for disappearing. Theodora and Luke whisper to each other, looking at you.
After that, you see no point in saying anything to [[them.]]Doctor Montague's wife, a self-proclaimed psychic, arrives at Hill House.
You look at her. She looks down her nose at you.
She disappears into the library to speak to spirits.
Theodora talks about going home, dotes on her lovely apartment.
"I'll go with you," you say.
She wrinkles her nose. "Don't you know not to go where you're not wanted?"
"I'm never wanted anywhere," you [[smile.]]"Journeys end in lovers meeting," Luke smiles at [[you.]]The evening comes. Everyone relaxes by the fire. Luke plays chess; Mrs. Montague talks at Theodora.
Go walking through the valley...
Someone is singing.
Go walking through the valley...
Go walking through the valley...
As we have done before...
You smile. A [[child]] is in the room."Come along," it says.
You wake up. "Mother?" You whisper. Theodora is still fast asleep by your side.
[[Stay.]]It is so warm. Luxuriously warm. How fun, how playful it is. The voice laughs, distant and merry. You dance across the soft carpet, you leave your room, light and quiet.
Mrs. Montague calls out, "Spirit! Come speak to me. I mean you no harm."
You laugh quietly to yourself. How funny.
[[Doctor Montague.]]"Come along," it says again.
[[Stay.]] You whisper sweet nothings to Mrs. Montague's door. You speak gibberish, quiet and just enough like English for Mrs. Montague to say, "Excuse me?"
[[Dance.]]You bang on Doctor Montague's door and hear him abruptly gasp as he awakes. How funny.
[[Dance.]] You prance down the hallway. Now you know exactly where to go. Every strange twist and awkward staircase leads to everywhere, even if nowhere.
You don't need Doctor Montague to lead anymore. You don't need pretty reds or Theodora's shiny hair.
[[Luke.]]Theodora loves her clothes. As you run right by your own room, you hear her cry out, "Eleanor...? Eleanor? Doctor Montague! Eleanor's not here!"
You hear people fumbling and jumping out of bed as you run into the parlor to find [[Theodora's scarf.]] It is hanging off of an armchair.You shuffle by Luke's door, but something takes you flying right past it and into the parlor. You are so free. Who needs Luke, too?
On the armchair by the flickering fire, a scarf. [[Theodora's scarf.]]You seize it, giggling, and bite down on it. Then, with an effortless yank, you tear it, listening to its satisfying 'rip' as it comes apart.
You hear the voice again. Mother.
[[You follow.]]Whispering to yourself, you sing the song:
[[Go walking through the valley...]]
You've left everyone else behind, Luke and Theodora, the Montagues--you run into the conservatory and dance under the window, by a statue that watches you. Hugh Crain is watching you dance.
You can hear them in the distance, calling, "Eleanor, where are you?"
[["Where are you?"]] You fly through Hill House, dancing in front of grave, solemn pictures on the wall, just ahead of everyone else behind you.
"Eleanor!" They cry. "Eleanor, where are you?"
[[Go in and out the windows...]]To your dismay, you hear their voices getting closer.
"Oh Mother," you think to yourself.
"Please don't let them catch me," and you run, without stopping, into the library.
[[Go forth and meet your lover...]]You dash into the library, emerging on the other side of the doorway a bright, fresh-faced, wild creature. You run your hands through your hair and your breath playfully dances across your lips. The stone floor is deliciously warm under your feet, and you spin, laughing happily, "I am home, I am home, [[I am home!]]"The stairs take you out into midnight, and you see that strong, silent tower standing before you. You look down and think of that soft green grass and the rolling hills, and you are flying, flying over the world.
[["Eleanor!" a voice cries.]]Who is that?
[["Eleanor, for God's sake, be careful!"]]"Luke," you say quietly. You remember. This is Hill House. The voices, once far away and urgent, rush into your ears, and the once tantalizing tower now looms once again.
"Eleanor, turn around-carefully!--and come back down the stairs," Doctor Montague calls.
[[Ignore him.]]You obediently turn around. Luke is close to you, his arms out. Your mind stumbles, but you let him take your hand. You notice that his hand is trembling and his face is wet.
You go with him. Your feet move on their own, and the staircase groans, barely staying intact. You wonder how you flew up it so easily before.
You [[creep]] to the bottom of the staircase.You latch your hands onto the door to the tower, but it doesn't budge. Helplessly, you call to Theodora.
"I can't open it, Theo," you cry. "It's been nailed shut."
"Yes, it is, and good for you, too!" She yells. "Turn around!"
[[Turn.]]You reach the bottom of the stairs. Almost to himself, Luke says, "it's alright...it's alright."
Theodora looks at him as the both of you approach, and says to you--accusingly, "He was scared, Eleanor. Luke was scared."
Luke agrees. "He was most certainly scared. Eleanor, what an imbecile you are."
"You just HAD to do it, didn't you?" Theodora says.
You blink. "I came down to the library to get a [[book.]]"Hill House is silent. You know, it must be disastrous. No one mentions it at breakfast--in fact, they act like it never happened. The Doctor says good morning to you, Luke passes you the marmalade, and Theodora even smiles at you.
What are they thinking?
Doctor Montague tells you that Luke will bring your car to the front door, and Theodora will pack your things. You giggle. She has had to wear your clothes since the bloody words appeared on her wall. She would have nothing.
You can't LEAVE.
"I want to stay," you say.
"The red writing is gone. My clothes are fine," Theodora says.
You tilt your head. It's gone, the blood is gone. Hill House is happy now.
You can't go. You have nowhere else to go. You laugh. "Walled up alive," you say, chuckling to yourself like it's an inside joke. "Walled up alive."
[["I want to stay here."]]You stand outside, your car packed, the group standing around you, all looking at you. All but Theodora, who doesn't know what to look at, whose eyes travel around you from a distance--but never look AT you.
You look at Doctor Montague.
"You can't just MAKE me go," you say. "You brought me here."
"I am sending you away," he says.
You run up to him and clutch him. "Doctor. Doctor," you say.
"I'm sorry. Goodbye," he says.
[[Talk to Luke.]]"Drive carefully," he says politely.
[[Talk to Mrs. Montague.]] She finally looks at you and runs into you, holding you close.
"We'll write each other about all the crazy and fun things that happened here--Oh, Nell, I thought you wouldn't say goodbye to me. I'll visit you all the time! We'll have a picnic by the brook," she says [[hopefully.]]She looks at you, then grasps your hand in a firm handshake.
"Goodbye," she says.
[[Talk to Theodora.]]Yes, they'd like you to leave. But you won't. They say, "Go away, Eleanor, go away, go away."
You say it to yourself, to hear how funny and ridiculous it sounds. "Go away. Go away. Go away, Eleanor."
But you CAN stay. They say you can't--but you can.
You stretch your leg out, pressing down on the accelerator of your car, laughing. They can't catch you. "Look at me," you think. "I'm leaving Hill House. Goodbye, [[everyone]]!"You spin once more and run up the wrought iron staircase. It's intoxicating. Climbing higher and higher, passing dizzying dimensions that make perfect sense only to you--going around and around and around until you're up in the [[air.]]The car flies forward, it hurls and lurches. You fly towards a tree, coming at you as quickly as if you were falling down.
"Why are they doing this, really?" You think. "Why haven't they stopped me yet--begged me to stay?"This is funny. You're getting into it now. All the acting and the tearful goodbyes. Of course.
"Goodbye," you say to Doctor Montague.
"Goodbye," Mrs. Montague.
Goodbye Luke. Goodbye Theodora.
Yes and of course, Goodbye Hill House. You are leaving Hill House.
Of course, you won't REALLY leave, but you're saying you will.
You get in your car.
"Goodbye, everyone. Goodbye, [[Goodbye.]]"[[Thunk.]]Your face snaps to Theodora's, who is already looking at you, her lips trying to smile but unable to.
"Someone is knocking on the door," she whispers.
Something clatters outside.
Or something falls and shatters.
It fumbles for the doorknob and tries to [[peek]] in through the slit under the door.For a moment, there is silence, and suddenly, a loud bang. Theodora yelps and covers her mouth, and you grab onto her as what sounds like a storm of boulders crashes into the door, wanting to get in. The door strains against its hinges and you squeeze your eyes shut. And then, wildly, Theodora screams, "Go away. Go away!"
"You can't get in!" You cry.
And just like that, it stops. The silence rings in your ears.
The cold is almost all gone, but for a [[reminiscent tendril]] caressing your face.He took two more wives--that both died as well--as his two daughters grew up, and after his death, his children fought [[maliciously]] for ownership of Hill House. Eventually, Crain's oldest daughter died. But her companion continued to fight for [[Hill House]] in her name.The companion won the trial, to the anger and revulsion of the younger sister and her husband. Outside of the courthouse, feuds continued--people whispered in disgust, and the companion lived in Hill House [[alone.]]Eventually, she [[hung]] herself in the Tower.Theodora shudders. Death must veil Hill House. But you are not quite as aware. After all, you are wearing red shoes, and you never wear red. Red is loud, red is pretty. Theodora smiles up at you with red lips and the fireplace deepens the room around you.
Doctor Montague takes a deep breath. He says you and the others should retire to your rooms. Tomorrow is a [[beginning.]]Go in and out the windows...
Go in and out the windows...
Go in and out the windows...
As we have done before...
The voice is sweet and thin, singing on the [[barest]] breath.Go forth and face your lover...
Go forth and face your lover...
Go forth and face your lover...
As we have done before...
You feel the child approach you, invisible but heavily present. You notice the slightest breeze by your foot. The melody fades. The child leaves.
You smile some more, and bury your face in your hand.
No one else heard that. Only you. [[Just you.]]