Excerpt from Mez’s novel, A Manor of Mystery, Chapter 3: “In which Katie travels very far by accident.”
The first result of my touching the Green Man made me jump backward. The panel of wood on which both he was carved and Sophia’s portrait hung made the quietest creek and opened inward on an invisible hinge. I’d heard of trap doors in old houses before. Things like that are always turning up in mystery novels. I looked about me, one way and then the other. No one was in sight. I shrugged, then ducked down and stepped through the door.
I was in a small chamber with no other door than the one I’d come through. But there was one small window, more like an arrow slit, and a pale beam of light seeped through, catching centuries of ancient dust in its stream. The light glinted off the only other object in the sparse room – a rusty old chest – and lit up a single painting that covered a large portion of the wall to my right.
Something about that painting drew me in. It looked so very real, almost like a photograph rather than an oil painting. It was a landscape of Otterly Park with the Manor rising up in the background, and away in the distant hills was a tiny hunting party. A grove of trees grew near a river in the foreground, and under the trees a was a wagon, like the shepherd’s huts I’d seen at some of the country fairs Nan and Pop took us to. A man in a flat, cloth cap sat outside the wagon, smoking a pipe and dabbing paint onto a canvas while a young girl with strawberry coloured hair like mine watched over his shoulder. It was such a nice scene and made me feel a funny sort of hungry feeling in my stomach that wasn’t my appetite… it was longing to be a part of that picture…to have that girl’s adventurous life. What more could anyone wish for? The painter and the girl had a big, black horse for company and a lovely smoking fire.
I stepped back and blinked. Then stepped closer and squinted. I really need to get my eyes checked, I thought, for I could swear that smoke rings were actually rising up from the embers! I stood glued to the spot, my eyes squinting then opening then squinting again. But as much as I squinted and glared, the smoke rings did not stop rising! My heart began to pound a little harder, and my eyes grew wider, transfixed by the rings circling upwards. And then, like getting caught up in a whirlwind, several things happened at once. There was a creak and a slam. I looked back to see the door I’d come through shut behind me. I turned back to the painting. Thank goodness, it had stopped moving… until, ever so subtly, the gypsy painter’s turned towards mine… the fire’s smoldering embers lit up his dark eyes… and then, though I hardly believed my own senses, he winked! Before I could scream, run or faint, or any mixture of the three, I fell forward as if my whole body were being pulled straight into the painting!
You know that feeling you get when you’re nearly asleep and you think you’re falling? That’s a bit what it felt like falling into the painting, only there was no jolt to wake me up. The dream just kept going. I just kept falling through a swirling blur of colours spilling into each other. I heard a whistling in my ears, like the sound of traffic wishing past an open car window. At some point, the pull released me, and, for one instant, I was in free fall all on my own. But in the next second there was a flash of light. I felt wet, papery fingers whip across my face, then thud! The ground came up to meet me.
Hope you enjoyed that snippet. I’d love to hear any thoughts, comments, strokes of inspiration while reading, etc.. Leave me a wee comment below. We writers feed on feedback! 😉