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Hen Party

Reader’s Choice (Look Both Ways): The Otherside of Castle Dane

by Tim Alan White

1 Entrance Hall

Shadows in the dark. A floorboard creaks upstairs. The hollow doors inhale. ‘Hello?’ you call.

Go to Library (2) or Sitting Room (3)

2 Library

Tables, candles, walls of books—books hung from the ceiling. You stumble and fall. The floor is made of books, spines vertical, trampled like cobbles.

Go to Gallery (4) or Study (5)

3 Sitting Room

Varnished black floor. Cigar smoke. A wooden train on its side, wheels still turning. You blink and the room is dancing with fire. Then you’re back in the black room. It reeks of ash.

Go to Study (5) or Kitchen (6)

4 Gallery

A framed river. Water swells, fine brushwork lost to thick, blue oil. It swallows the canvas. It slicks the floor. It’s filling the room.

Go to Conservatory (7) or Bathroom (8)

5 Study

An unfinished essay on the table. A half-hearted history of Christianity begins, but drowns at the bottom of an upturned ink well.

Go to Bathroom (8) or Cellar (9)

6 Kitchen

A stove kettle whistles. Fruit turns to dust before your eyes. A tap drips, as night-time seasons pass outside the window.

Go to Cellar (9) or Dining Room (10)

7 Conservatory

Thick vines strangle empty window frames. But their colours aren’t right. Shards crack underfoot. You touch a vine—it’s plastic.

Go to Balcony (A) or Bedroom (B)

8 Bathroom

It shines like a glacier, but your reflection is sick and twisted. The wall is melting! You splash through the slush towards the door.

Go to Bedroom (B) or Attic (C)

9 Cellar

Bare walls. No floor. Darker still. Mouthy, mouldy breathing surrounds you, like the house wants to eat you.

Go to Attic (C) or Wing (D)

10 Dining Room

Hot radiators. Voluptuous lamps. A table neatly laid, a lidded platter in the centre. It rings like a bell—there’s something alive under there. Cooked, but alive.

Go to Wing (D) or Garden (E)

A Balcony

You’re cornered. There’s no way back and someone is crossing the landing. A cold wind rides over your skin. You jump.

Go to End

B Bedroom

Someone’s chained to the bed, beneath the sheet. His head lifts, still covered. His mouth opens; he’s eating the sheet. It recedes, but there’s only empty chains.

Go to End

C Attic

Moonlight shines through the skylight. A rocket races towards the sky. It explodes. There were people onboard, you know. The rich.

Go to End

D Wing

You shouldn’t be in this house. Most certainly not in this wing. Someone lives here. They want you to go. NOW!

Go to End

E Garden

Is it dusk or dawn? Summer or winter? What’s the difference when they all come back around? Just as all these paths lead back to the house. This is not the way out.

Go to End

You resume doomscrolling through Netflix. You should draw the curtains, but you can’t. You should go to bed, but you won’t.

Go to Entrance Hall (1)

Tim Alan White is a writer for video games. He has OCD, which he felt was relevant to this theme.

Our Reader said:

I really enjoyed the language in this and the atmosphere of hidden menace with a twist at the end.

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