The room was bleak.
Bleak was the only word Pia could conjure in her mind, and she knew that wouldn’t do. Bleak could mean any number of impressions for anyone to whom you speak the word. It could be a dark, narrow room with cement flooring and naked walls. It could be a room simply without windows. It could be a room abandoned for years because of war or disaster.
Bleak was not good enough. It did not take in to account the noticeable outlines on the timber floor-boards where a rug was once lain. It did not describe the delicate dust-motes floating through the rays of morning sun. It did not take note of the tattered curtains, which she could see were once vibrant shades of crimson and deep plum. It did not capture the sharp, dirty edges left behind on the wallpaper by memories once held aloft inside frames.
She was tasked with painting a vivid portrait for the readers all across her country, let alone the world.
Bleak. That’s all she could muster, with her honours degree in professional journalism.
“I think some shots looking in from that way would look great. I mean, if that’s what you’re going for – a kind of entry perspective” Lyall suggested. He was a new addition to the team, and Pia was still unsure of him.
“Sure, that sounds like a good idea” she responded flatly.
“Cool. So. Um, may I?” Lyall awkwardly motioned for Pia to stand aside from the doorway.
“Oh, right” she stumbled to the left as he took aim.
Pia noticed, having recovered from her stupor, that the wallpaper was not flat and simple; it was embossed. There were intricate patterns resembling classic flora with slender vines weaving over and under long petals. She ran her fingers over them, and the dust that had built up over years gone by felt almost like a layer of velvet. It wasn’t until she glanced up at the roof that she felt a keen sense of what she could only describe as ominous. It was a fascinating sensation, surrounding her like the cool fog she had become so familiar with on her early mornings; only this was not a familiar feeling, and Pia couldn’t help but panic.
She dared not give any of this away to Lyall, and quickly spat at him that she would be upstairs looking around if he needed her. She did not pay attention to his response as she slid out of the bleak room and up the antique staircase.
The first door Pia chose was locked, which she found to be extremely odd. She tried the handle several times, perhaps it was just old and rusted. Nothing availed, so she moved down the hallway to the very end, towards a door with wood so dark it was very nearly black. This was fascinating to her, as it did not have any signs of stain or gloss. Completely natural wood, and it was the colour of coal.
“I never said you had to like it, darling. I know you think it’s bleak, but we shall make it work.”
Pia’s heart stopped at the sound of this unfamiliar voice, seemingly a middle-aged woman with a distinctively regal accent. By the time she had swung round on her heels, Pia could not see anybody. No lingering smells or footsteps or the sound of a door closing. Silence. Her heart rate only heightened at this discovery, and she could not resist the urge to get out of the house as fast as her adrenalin carried her.