Chapter 1a [Jennifer]

I was the last one through the door. I thought that the tophat man was coming in behind me, but as soon as I stepped through the door shut, and it was just the five of us. Edward turned around as soon as it shut and tried to turn the handle, but it didn't open. "Damn it," he said, "What's going on?"

"Why don't we just wait," said Perdita.

"Yeah," said Kadin. "If we take it easy, I'm sure we'll be able to figure this out."

"This door's locked, too," said Sola. At the opposite end of the entryway, only about seven feet away, there was another door. It was the same charred black as the front door, but the rest of the hall was actually pretty homey. There were two open doorways, one on either side, and the thresholds were a normal brown wood. There weren't doors blocking them.

"Where do you think it leads?" Said Kadin.

"I don't know," said Sola. "Why don't we look around, maybe there are clues."

"There's a kitchen in here," said Perdita. She had stepped through the doorway on the left.

"I'll check this way," said Edward, pointing towards, then walking through, the doorway on the right. "It looks like a living room," he said, "There are two couches, some windows, and a door at the back."

I didn't move from near the front door while they were looking, but I did ask, "Is it the same kind of door?"

"No," he said. "It's just regular wood."

"Same as in here," said Perdita, not quite shouting but loud enough for everyone to hear. "I'm going to open it, okay?"

"Yeah, we're coming now," said Kadin. He stepped through the lefthand doorway, and Sola followed.

"Wait," said Edward, who strode across into the kitchen, as well. I managed to pry myself away from the entry hall and step off into the kitchen, but I didn't let go of the wall. I stayed close to the way out.

The kitchen was mostly white, with some yellow tiles on the wall behind the sink. There was a refridgerator, and a microwave, and a stove with a tea pot and a frying pan on it. There was also a table, with tall chairs, and the door, at the back of the room and made of the same wood as the door frame. It was open, and Perdita was standing in it.

"It's just beds," she said. "Bunk beds."

"Come on," said Kadin, softly. "Let's stay together." He stepped forward into the room, and Sola followed him. Edward beckoned me, with a hand gesture, so I went in, and we entered the bedroom.

The carpet and the blankets were brown. The sheets were white, and there were two bunk beds, four beds. There was a window between them, but it just looked out into that blackness that was outside the house. There was a window like that in the kitchen, too.

"Well, there's nothing symbolic about this room," said Edward.

"Really?" Said Perdita. "You don't see any symbolism here? All the brown? The bunk beds? The fact that there are only four?"

"It's just some weird house," said Edward. "Why would the number of beds matter?"

"Because there are five of us," I said.

"You know, in Japanese culture, the number four means death," said Sola. She was leaning against a ladder, and had one foot on the bottom rung.  Perdita looked at her funny, and she inched further up the ladder away from her and said, "Sorry."

"There's another door through here," said Kadin. He was pointing just behind where the door into the bedroom had opened, so I stepped out of the doorway and he gently pushed the open door aside.

It was a small door, with an angled notch taken out of a side.

"It's a closet," said Perdita. "Under the stairs. Do you think those are stairs, behind the black door in the hall?"

"Must be," said Kadin. He opened the door, and there were boxes stacked inside, but enough space was left to walk through the closet, and out the identical door on the other side. He crouched down and walked through, pushing the door open.

"In here is just a tub," he said.

I followed him through, past the stacks of batteries and long-lasting protein bars. The room on the other side was white, but not the homey white that the kitchen was. It was clean. Sterile. The tiled floor was scrubbed to a reflective shine, and the porcelan tub in the center of the room looked like a shrine. Copper pipes rose out of the floor and arched over it, but nothing touched the tub. It just rested, pristine and continuous, on the floor.

"No mirrors," said Kadin. The others were coming through, now. I ran my hand along the edge of the tub.

"There are mirrors everywhere," I said.

Kadin opened the door just past the closet door. "Edward," he said, "Is this the room with the chairs you were describing?"

He walked over and looked. "Yes. So, it looks like we have four rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room and a bedroom. And there's food, at least in the closet, we should check the cabinets in the kitchen. And it looks like we should have water."

He strode over to the tub and turned on one of the taps. It hissed for a moment, then a good stream of clear water gushed out of it.

"Why did you do that?" I said.

"Now we know. We've got food, water, and a place to sleep."

"Speaking of sleep," said Sola, "Am I the only one who's exhausted? Dibs on a top bunk."

"I got the other one," said Kadin. They, and Edward, left for the bedroom. Perdita came forward, and put her hand on my arm, and said, "Are you coming?"

"I'll catch up," she said. "Or maybe sleep in here."

Are you sure, honey? It could be cold."

"I could run the hot water. Besides, there weren't enough beds anyway."

Chapter 1b →

Acknowledgments: Observant reader Caitlin McGuire caught a typo on this page.  It has now been corrected.