Cain didn’t need the lamps he carried into Angel Currie’s room. The lights in here worked just fine. The ceiling lamp lit up with a flick of the switch. The horse head lamp on the nightstand clicked on with the twist of a knob.
It was very pink indeed. Surrounded by four pink walls, and pink trinkets splashed elsewhere through the room, Cain felt as though he’d fallen into a bottle of Pepto Bismol.
He sat on the foot of the small bed marveling at the incongruity of the room. The pink room did not belong in the Currie house. It was too bright and soft. It was too warm and vaguely soothing. The room felt as though many happy years had been spent here, though Cain knew it was not so.
The trip up to the pink room had been a horror. The staircase to the top of the turret was narrow and twisting. Cain had been expecting a more modern ascent, but instead felt like he was climbing inside a fairy tale castle. There was a single light fixture on the wall half way up the stairs. The light did not work, even with a fresh bulb. Cain was resigned to climbing in darkness.
Halfway up, there was a thunderous sound from a floor below him. Cain’s heart at first seemed to stop and then began to jackhammer. He tried to spin around and only twisted into the wall beside him. His hands and feet went numb and he nearly dropped the box filled with lamps and bulbs. He froze and waited for another deafening thud. It would be closer this time. It would be at the foot of this claustrophobic staircase as the terror from the second floor lumbered toward the intruder...
There was no follow up noise. There was no echo. Just one, nasty thump and then a dreadful silence.
The telescope. The fucker fell over again and this time, the lens probably shattered into a thousand pieces.
Cain was not convinced, but forced his feet to move again. He would ignore the sound for now and continue to the pink room.
And now he was here. Inside the room that had called him out on this strange adventure. A place he had first heard about from his publisher and then from Olivia Currie, herself. The pink room. The place where the loved and lost might be seduced back from the shadow.
He stood and began to take inventory. He reached up behind the bed and rubbed his hands over a wall clock in the shape of a flower. Dust coated his fingertips and he absently wiped them on his jeans.
He touched the nightstand next to the bed, the square, pink knobs cold and slick. He did not open the drawers. The idea felt both disturbing and perverse.
The name “Bobby” was scribbled in crayon on the white surface of the stand. It looked as though the letters had been written by a child. Cain knew it had not.
A white, cartoon horse with a pink mane was displayed in a poster on the wall over the bed. Part of the horse’s face was hidden behind a corner of the poster, which had pulled free from the wall and curled down.
The curtains over the window beyond the bed were white. Behind them, a square patch of black that Cain knew would be the northern sky. There would be a terrific view of the stars from up here, unobstructed by treetops which the turret towered over.
He stepped around the edge of the bed and almost tripped over a pink bean bag. He caught himself and then spied his reflection in the full length mirror on the back of the closet door. In it, Cain looked pale and afraid. He examined his face a moment and then noticed that the closet door was slightly ajar.
He felt suddenly cold. It was a sensation he got when he wrote a particularly spooky scene in one of his novels. When that happened, he normally savored it, enveloping himself in the crawling chill to work it into a zesty piece of narrative.
He did not savor the feeling tonight. Stepping past the beanbag, he reached out for the closet door. His hand moved comically slow, inching toward the door knob. He was aware of this underwater speed yet he could not correct it. The house was so silent, it buzzed. The crevice of darkness beyond the closet door was sinister, the ultimate representation of a man’s fear of things that lie just out of view.
Jesus. Just open the goddamn door.
He grabbed the knob and pulled the door open. The hinges creaked, high and loud, and he jumped. Beyond the door, a whirl of motion, like floating fairies. Something stark white flapped toward him. Cain stopped breathing but stood his ground, watching as a dozen dresses, blouses and shirts adjusted to the draft of air that had invaded the closet. There was a tinkle of clothes hangers clanging against each other. To Cain, it sounded like whispering.
Breathing again, he reached out and ran his hands over a row of red dresses and skirts. He twirled red corduroy between his fingers, examining the texture. He studied a row of shoes, most of them black, lined neatly on the floor beneath the hanging clothes. A little girl’s closet with little girl things. No stunning revelations. No gruesome clues into the last days of Theodore Currie.
Cain was grateful for the latter.
He stepped back, decided nothing was going to lunge from the darkest depths of the closet, and shut the door. He pressed it until he heard the latch snap closed. He turned to continue the inspection of the rest of the room.
The dollhouse sat perfectly centered on a table next to the doorway. It was a disorienting thing to look at because, Cain knew, it was a perfect replica of the house in which he stood. And the recreation was almost eerie. The main doorway looked as though it might open with a tug. The mansard roofs were topped by what appeared to be real bits of shingle, and the rails around the turret were black metal.
He bent and examined the turret. Such a good imitation. He imagined seeing a little Jonathan Cain staring out from the window at the top.
That thought made him shudder. His imagination was grinding away again and that would not serve him well tonight. Imagine, he thought, seeing that little Jonathan Cain standing in the window, an alternate me in a wee, little place. What a wonder. And imagine, then, seeing a shadowy, disfigured shape creeping up behind him...
He turned away from the dollhouse and shook the thought. He walked to a bureau and examined a snow globe sitting on top of it. Again, his hand seemed to move freakishly slow as he reached out to it. He watched his fingers grasp the glass orb and pick it up. He reached beneath to twist the winding key. Yet, when tiny snowflakes began to shower the globe world and the music began to play, Cain jumped and almost dropped it to the floor.
It was Beethoven’s Fur Elise, a tune that was both beautiful and deranged. Cain imagined it was a melody a lunatic might hum under his breath while mowing down a schoolyard full of children with an assault rifle.
The smiling, elfin girl inside sat among the snowflakes and the music played at a slow clip. Cain stood mesmerized, watching and waiting as the tinny music wound down. The flurries were ending. The agonized music struggled for life, coming one feeble note at a time. There was a final ping and the music died, as though a very tiny man had collapsed on a very tiny piano. The pink room was humming with silence again. Cain gently set the globe down and moved away from the bureau.
Except for the small ripple he had left on the foot of the bed, it was neatly made. There was no sign Currie had slept here in his final days, weeping into the pillows and murmuring his daughter’s name. There was no sign anything unusual had happened here at all. It was a little girl’s room and nothing more. A little girl who had been reduced to ashes in an urn and buried in the ground nearly a thousand miles south of here.
Cain switched off the bedside lamp. With his foot, he shoved the box full of lamps into the hall. His hand on the wall switch, he took one last look around the pink room. He imagined how it would look in a week or so with its décor completely changed. There would be a bigger bed with a quilted spread. There would be bamboo blinds and deep, blue curtains. There would be paintings and books and a battered old trunk at the foot of the bed. There would be a papasan in a corner and a bottle of massage oil in a nightstand. There would be a tattered notebook full of musings and aborted poetry.
This will be our room, with all the things she cherished. I won’t forget a single thing.
He shut the light and pulled the door closed, bracing for the descent down the weird, winding staircase.