It's your turn, I heard. The words weren't spoken, so much as they were conveyed into the fabric of the world. I was being listened to. "She's been there for weeks," I said. "Doing nothing. Just sulking."
Does it bother you?
"Well, yeah. I get that everything that happened had to, you know, for the story. But shouldn't she, at least, get a happy ending?"
She's looking hard enough for one. Have you been watching what she's reading?
"Yeah, I got that. Fairy tales and pulp action stories. The heroes win, and everyone lives happily ever after."
She thinks she's the hero, then.
"Fuck if I know. You picked her."
Are you angry?
"You know how I feel."
Do you want to do something about it?
"What could I possibly do?"
There's a secret panel, on the top floor. Pull it down, and behind it is a sixth door. Behind that door is a ladder.
"So, there's more story for her?"
It's up to you whether to open the door.
I smiled. And I dropped into the house.
"Sola!" I shouted.
"Kadin?" I heard her yell. But the silence after that shout suggested that she realized my voice wasn't anything like his. Iwent downstairs, to the library.
"I have good news," I said, when I stepped into her line of sight.
She threw a hardcover copy of The Eyre Affair at me.
Tell her not to throw that book.
"The author says not to throw books."
No, not that book.
"Why just that book?"
It's not worth the trouble it could cause.
I decided to tune out the non-sound.
"Follow me," I said.
"You're crazy," said Sola. "You're a crazy, sadistic asshole."
"No, it's not me," I said. "It's the author. Just please, follow me."
"Fine. Just, come upstairs whenever you're ready. To the top floor."
She stood up, crossed over to the book she threw at me, picked it up, and threw it at me again. It hurt. A lot.
I waited a moment longer while she glared, then she bended down to pick the book up again, and I ran up the stairs.
I went all the way to the top room, and started searching, until I found a loose board in the wall and pulled it free. I could see part of the door behind it, so I kept pulling away planks until there was a closed door before me.
I twisted the knob and pulled it open.
Behind it was a thin, weak-looking ladder made of charred wood.
It's not yours to climb.
I stepped back out of the house, and watched.
It took Sola an impressive three chapters to succumb to curiosity and go upstairs. I watched her stare at the ladder, and my heart rate quickened as I waited for that beautiful, cathartic moment where she'd climb up and we'd both find out what was above it.
She picked up the copies of No Exit and The Myth of Sisyphus, threw them into the ladder's tiny room, and slammed the door. Then she marched back downstairs.
Afterword → [forthcoming]