The bed went first.
She woke to find herself floating a couple of feet off the ground, with the curious sensation of her hair hanging down below her. Carefully she lowered herself to the floor, and sat up. The walls were bare, and the angles kept on changing slightly, but never when she looked directly at them. Only out of the corner of her eye did she ever see the floor move. But when she shut her eyes, she could feel that the room was as still and square as it ever was. Just another trick, then.
She silently cursed the house, and got to her feet. She nearly fell over when the floor rocked violently, so she closed her eyes again. It’s not moving. It’s as still as it was before, she told herself over and over again.
The bed was still gone when she turned round at the door and looked back at her room. She found herself wondering briefly where it had got to this time, then dismissed the thought as out of hand. She would find out sooner or later, and it would be back when she returned to the room. She opened the door - which bent under her touch and skewed out into the hallway. She knew though, that if her eyes were closed, she would feel it opening properly, like the solid wooden door that it was.
Or is it? She thought, then rebuked herself almost immediately. “Real is real.” she repeated quietly. “Real is real. What you see is not real. What your eyes tell you is there is not there.” That was what they had told her at the beginning, when the house first began playing tricks on her. She couldn’t remember who ‘they’ were now, though, that was the strangest thing. Shadowy figures somewhere in the distant past, but she’d been old enough to know what they were talking about.
She walked down the hallway, running her fingers along the carved wooden panelling. It was strange, her fingers telling her one thing, and her eyes telling her that the vines were growing, creeping out over the floor, and trying to trip her up. Once or twice she even caught herself lifting her feet up higher so that she could step over a more enthusiastic tendril. “Stop it!” she said, half to the house and half for her own benefit. “What you see is not real. What you see is not real...” she was muttering as she opened the door to the library.
The library was her retreat. She could hide away in here; the books did her no harm. They never moved without letting her know. They never vanished like the furniture, or sidled away like the carved faces in the walls that watched and then moved away before she could quite focus on them.
She went over to the window and opened the curtains wide, so that sunlight flooded in. It was, obviously, very late at night - her body clock told her that she’d only been in bed for a couple of hours; but the house was never a victim to the rules of time like anywhere else. Time was its own master, but the house ruled itself as well. There was a constant battle between the two, and sometimes the house won, and sometimes time won. She was never sure quite which had the upper hand, but at this moment in time, the house was playing its own little games.
She was quite glad that the sun was shining, because it meant that she could sit in the window seat and read a book - or rather, watch the pictures on the cover and the colour plates inside. She hadn’t read a book for a long time now, because she’d soon found out that watching the pictures and little people move about was far more fun and interesting. You could pick up the same book over and over again, and never have the same story twice.
Her current favourite, which she went to find now, was a romance novel set sometime in the nineteenth century. The author’s name always scurried off to the other side of the cover, so she was never sure what it was she was looking at, but that didn’t bother her too much. She supposed it was someone like Jane Austen, or possibly a Brönte - the women were all frills and dark curly hair, and constantly falling in love with what seemed like the most inappropriate men.
She picked the brown leather covered novel off the shelf and walked over to the window seat and looked out at the gardens before opening the cover and flipping through to a page she hadn’t seen yet. Two voices, both female and both well educated, suddenly filled the room.
“But really my dear, you must get married to him!”
“Why, Mother? He’s crude and arrogant, and I’ve heard he treats women in the most appalling ways imagined!”
“He has money though, and a house, and Rose, he has the most divine parties that you could ever wish to go to…”
“I don’t care, I’m not going. I tell you straight, I will not go with him anywhere, with those ridiculous friends of his.”