You told people you didn’t need a map. You said it would be a short journey from the city to the village. You did need a map. Hours of wandering have left you lost, very lost and what should be a country road is a thick forest, darkened in the midday sun. Stubbornly pushing ahead the forest starts to thin out, sunlight filtering through the leaf layers, revealing blue bells on the forest floor. Eventually the forest gives way. The tree and leaves are replaced by fields of grass. Pressing on you see a building, and realising that the original journey lies in ruins, and buoyed by a sense of curiosity you march onwards.
The building is a mansion. Before it lies a hedge maze, neglected and falling apart. Walking through the maze, pushing through the decaying gaps that make up a multitude of short cuts the mansion comes into focus. It appears to be old and derelict, its architecture weather-beaten, gargoyle fragments scattered in the dirt. You try to look through the windows but they are covered in dust and disused spider webs. The mansion has had you entranced and you have not noticed the clouds that have moved in. Rain begins to fall, forcing you to pound on the mansions monolithic door hoping that someone answers. They do not but the door drifts open and with the dirt beneath you turning to mud you enter the mansion.
Inside is a complete contrast to the outside. It is clean, wooden finishes supremely maintained, glass and ceramics glistening in well-lit halls and a stair case immaculate in appearance, wrought iron polished and wooden steps without any scuffs. Needing a rest from the journey and the shock from the inside/outside change you sit down on the bottom step. A small chair gallops past, clattering down the hall way. You wonder if that just happened or if you are just that tired. While trying to comprehend a moving chair you decide to go investigate the mansion and you open a door. It couldn’t have been a chair you tell to yourself. You repeat this for good measure. Thankfully it is an ordinary room with a table, chairs and bookcase all in good condition.
Feeling more sure of the house and your mental health you check out another room.
Skeletons sit at a table, books in hand. It’s a perplexing sight. You begin to leave the room when
“Can we help you?”
You turn around and see a skeletons jaws move.
“Can we help you?”
You try to speak but no words come.
“Well, can we? Help you that is?”
After what seemed like infinity the words come. You explain to the skeletons
about the journey, the getting lost and ending up at the mansion.
“Ah, I see. Well then, given that you can spend as long as you need here, or
want, your choice. If you feel the urge you can prepare yourself a meal. You
seem a little famished.”
The skeleton pauses and it dawns on it how this must be for you.
“You’ve never seen a talking skeleton before, have you?”
Shake of the head.
“Well this must be quite a shock for you and I apologise for that. We
skeletons have been talking amongst ourselves for so long it seems to be
second nature. To you however it must be quite surreal. Again, my apologies.”
It’s quite alright you say. Even if your brain is slowly dribbling out of your
ears. You ask the skeletons who they are and apologise if you are being to
“Oh not at all. We are the mansions last residents. Quite honestly we have
forgotten our identities but the portraits hanging on the walls are of who
we were. Now we wander the afterlife maintaining our old home. The inside
at least. The outside is left alone. We are a little lazy like that. Anyway
feel free to explore. Some rooms are normal. Some are…eccentric is the
word. Now we have a book club to attend to. I’m about to extol the virtues
of Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch while that skeleton is going to tell us of its
684th attempt to read Finnegans Wake. Are you content to wander the halls?”
“Well good then. Have fun.”
You do have one last question though, about the chair.
“Ah yes, we do have some feral furniture. It can’t hurt you but if you do see
some, just move out of its path. It can’t hurt you in any real way.”
You leave and shut the door thanking the skeletons. You listen after the door has snapped shut.
“What a pleasant young person.”
The skeletons have left you slightly rattled. Standing in the doorway you compose yourself and wonder about what other surprises exist within these walls. Opening other doors you encounter many normal rooms all looking prim and proper. Opening another door you reveal a cavernous room with two gaps that resemble fire places though they seem to be a little big for that function. They are on either side of the room, length ways. They seem to be rather hollow and very tall. About to wander down one of these “fireplaces” a faint tremor beings to shake the room, before turning into a full-blooded rumble. The room is now shaking violently and on the floor tracks phase into existence and link up the two fireplaces but it’s now plainly clear they are not fireplaces. The sound is unbearably loud and out of the its now clearly a tunnel a freight train screams forth rolling down the tracks. It’s an unexpected development. It comes to a stop.
“You getting on?” asks the driver.
A shake of the head.
“You sure? We’re going somewhere fun?!”
You are already lost as it is. Getting on a train in these circumstances
would be borderline insane. You do wish the driver well though.
“Thanks. Just a heads up. the next train coming through is a steam train.
It’ll get a little hazy in here.”
And with that the train departs and the tracks vanish, fragmenting into wisps of dust. You might need to sit down again. The last few moments of your life have been overwhelming and the senses have been blitzed.
In the next room you look into stands a single plant in full bloom. A fleet of butterflies circle around the plant sustaining themselves. This room pleases you, a calming influence after the previous rooms. Still your feet are weary and you would like to sit down. You think of a chair. The butterflies stir and an armada of colour and motion spirals through the room, fanning out before driving towards you. As the butterflies encircle you your mind feels overloaded unable to process anything. But the butterflies settle, in the form of a chair. It’s quite remarkable. The chair holds up under sitting. You stand and think of a table. Then a pyramid. And then a dinosaur. Each time the butterflies come together and form into each thought, the dinosaur impressing you the most. For now you decide to rest here, sitting on the floor, wrapped in a blanket of butterflies.
The rest has done you good. So good in fact you feel asleep. Awakening, you let the butterflies fly back to the plant. You recommence your wandering of the halls, stumbling across the kitchen. Feeding yourself is now a pressing concern and you begin to investigate the cupboards. In doing so, you come across two mice.
“Excuse me but we are trying to have a debate.”
Sorry you say.
The subject of the debate?
“Wittgenstein Vs Kant.”
“Yes, Wittgenstein’s ideas are obviously superior to Kant’s but this fool
won’t have any part of that.”
“Thats because you are wrong, you silly mouse.”
You leave them to it as a third mouse enters the cupboard, dressed in robes.
“Ah yes, your attempts to get us to believe zen.”
You shut the cupboard door. One sandwich later you begin to feel better and want to explore more of the house. But not before three mice exit the kitchen, dressed in robes.
“She was very persuasive.”
Upon exiting the kitchen you decide to open more doors. The first reveals another ordinary room. The next door reveals another door. And then another door. And another door. Each one decreasing in size. It seems the sequence is everlasting. But it does end with one tiny door. You open it and in a miniscule room sits a spider spinning a picture of the universe on the small walls of the room it inhabits. So engrossed in its work, the spider fails to notice you and rather than disturbing it you simply back away and close all of the doors one by one.
Rather than checking rooms one by one you have decided to open doors at random. Wandering halls and corridors opening doors on whims provides you with a surprise first up.
The door leads to a small porch which houses another door. Opening this door you push past overhanging leaves treading on grass sheathed in sunny day waterfalls. Theres light shining from somewhere pushing through the leaves fanned out against what you assume must be the sky. Across the room runs a creek with a solitary fisherman sitting on a rock, line drifting aimlessly in the gentle current. Hearing footsteps he turns towards you, wearing a long speckled beard.
“Care to join me?”
With time having lost meaning now you figure you have time to sit with an
“Fishing for trout. There not here right now but give em time.”
You would talk more but the with the sound of running water and what must be
sunlight filtering through the leaves, talking seems unnecessary so you and
the old man sit, watching out for trout.
Indefinite time passes. Then the old man stirs.
“In the water…look!”
And there flashing through clear blue , rainbow streaks, hundreds of them
surging down stream. The trout had arrived. And the line begin to quiver.
Waiting for a few seconds the fisherman watched the line before yanking it
from the water. And dangling in the air was a rainbow trout, resplendent in
“Knew they’d come.”
You congratulate the old man and tell him of your intent to explore the rest
of the mansion.
“Have fun. And if you find the time do come back here and tell me of your
adventures. I don’t set foot outside of this room much.”
And with that you exit, leaving the old man alone with his trout.
The following three rooms are normal, depressingly so. After the surreal rooms the normal ones are unnecessary distractions. The fourth room breaks this sequence.
The room is filled with plants, from vines to ferns to colossal trees. The air is humid, and misted. You assume that this is just a forest, possibly a rain forest. Standing there, admiring the scenery an animal stands next to you. You don’t even reach up to its knee. Looking upwards you see its head, towering above the forest canopy. A Brachiosaurus is standing next to you. In front of you a herd of Triceratops lumber past as pterosaurs fly up high. Just as you feel comfortable something rustles in the undergrowth. A pack of deinonychus burst forth, roaring, looking squarely at you. Deciding that staying alive would be a fun thing you bolt for the door.
The door slams shut, amidst the sound of screaming and scratching on the other side. Resting for a moment a pack of wild ottomans run past you followed by a skeleton on an aimless ramble.
“Ah, the dinosaur room. We prefer to keep that door shut lest anything gets
out. Anyway are you enjoying the mansion?”
You answer yes and ask about the upstairs.
“Yes you can go up the stairs. You will need a light though. When you are
ready just ask and one of us will assist you.”
You ask how the book group is going.
“Very well, much to enjoy. Particularly enjoyed learning about a writer called
Richard Brautigan. Makes me want to visit the trout room. I do have to be
getting back now. Remember to enjoy yourself and stay out-of-the-way of packs
There is one last room to check downstairs. The door creaks open. Inside the room is a series of shelves running all around the room in a spiral set up. On each shelf is a set of spinning tops all in constant motion. The floor is also full of spinning tops. All flowing with kinetic energy. Every top is kaleidoscopic painted in every imaginable colour all spinning in the same direction, seemingly spinning infinitely. It is a hypnotic sight and it takes all of your conceivable effort to pull yourself away.
Wondering how you pulled yourself away from such a sight you sit on the steps, getting ready to go up stairs. Beside you three mice sit in meditation. A small table scuttles past.
You inform the skeletons of your wish to go up stairs. Climbing the stairs, following one of the skeletons you realise the upper levels are very dark, almost pitch black. On the landing the skeleton clicks its fingers. From the blackened corridor a light bobs in the darkness. At first undecipherable, as it moves closer lines and slants come into focus. It’s a pagoda shaped lantern, floating through the ether. Light emanates from a glass compartment generated by a blue and black flame.
“This light will follow you as long as you are upstairs. It will be your only
guidance. Now if you’ll excuse me the reading group is continuing without
And with that the skeleton leaves you alone with the lantern. Hanging just behind you the lantern reveals new doors buried in the walls. After wandering for a while you decide to open a door. The lantern waits outside.
You step onto a small platform. The room appears to be painted sky blue. Clouds drift all around you. Sticking a hand out you run it through the loamy textures. These appear to be actual clouds. And you sit and watch them floating by. Here’s what you may or may not have seen in them:
Godzilla menacing Tokyo
Beavers riding motorcycles
Dragons attacking pirate ships
UFO’s visiting earth
Georgia O’Keeffe paintings
Bears pushing shopping trolleys
Griffins soaring at altitude
Armies of horseman colliding
Mothra trying to save Tokyo
A giant reaching out in the firmament
Armada’s of rafts floating by
Boba Fett and Slave II
A ship seeking new lands
A lonesome cloud
The azure room pleases you. But with other rooms to see the urge to explore overwhelms you and pulling yourself away from the clouds you resume your upstairs adventures, lantern in tow.
The lanterns presence is a welcome one. It alleviates any sense of loneliness and offers some reassurance, illuminating pathways in the darkness. Drifting beside you as well as making doors visible it reveals ornate wall carvings and gothic archways. But it is the doors you seek. And at random you open one up.
Inside the room is a mansion exactly like the one you are in. Opening the door on the scale mansion reveals another mansion, the exact same only smaller. And so it follows until the doors end, revealing a microscopic mansion perfectly formed. And wonder if it is inhabited by tiny skeletons and if there is a tiny version of you wandering its halls avoiding miniscule furniture. And with that one by one you shut the doors as the lantern peers over your shoulder.
The next room is actually a normal room. Chairs, table, bookcase and fireplace. And hundreds of magpies gathered on the table, perched on the bookcase and looking down from the fireplace. Upon entering the room all the magpies turn and face you, eyes glinting in lantern light. It is an intimidating atmosphere and you decide to leave. The room is then enveloped in a flurry of black and white movement, purple streaks flashing in the melee. Hovering in the centre of the room the magpies have formed into a face of feathers, beaks and claws.
“We’d prefer it if you’d knock.”
The face dissipates and the magpies return to their original stations. You exit the room, feeling that the magpies don’t want you there.
The lanterns faithful service helps you to bounce back from the magpie debacle. Meandering down the corridor you come to a dead-end with two doors facing each other. You open the left door.
The walls are bare. The floor is painted grey and is completely flat. The room is taken up by a network of scaffolding. It forms into a cube with a solitary bar horizontal on the top of it. Theres a figure on the bar dressed in rags and feathers, balancing. In the grey room the figure turns to face you, visage covered in rainbow feathers. You call to it but the figure turns away, maintaining its balance rocking back and forth. You call again but the figure ignores you. He just walks up and down the bar maintaining perfect balance. Absorbed in its game you leave to check out the last room.
The door opens leading to another door. What you assume to be the last room is dead of night black. You would bring the lantern in but you have shut both doors preventing its arrival. At that moment the room is lit by an almighty white flash. Momentarily blinded you turn away. When your sight returns the room houses a black empty space. Seconds later it becomes alight with stars, empty spaces filling with galaxies and nebula, planets establishing orbits as comets arc through the cosmos ice trails lingering. Supernovas rock the new-found universe and moments later it vanishes in a white-hot contraction. And then in the darkness the process begins a new. You sit for what seems like an eternity watching universes come and go. Some lasting for mere seconds, others enduring for hours.
Eventually the endless rebirth stalls and with that, you exit the room.
You make your way back to the landing the lantern showing the way. You appreciate the time spent with the lantern, it seemingly knowing your time together is ending. Affectionately patting the lantern, its rubs up against you before turning and leaving, bobbing down the hall way.
You go down stairs and knock on the door of the skeletons.
You enter and inform the skeletons that you are now leaving.
“Oh, okay then. Did you enjoy your time here?”
You say yes and thank the skeletons for the wonderful things you have seen.
“Oh no need to thank us. Twas a pleasure having you wander the halls. Nice to
hear footsteps other than our own.”
Appreciating the remark you ask if you are interrupting.
“Oh not at all. In fact we’ve just finished. In fact we’ll see you to the
And they all get up and shake your hand. It is a unique experience. You and
they head to the main doors but not before you say goodbye to the robed mice.
They nod in unison.
And with that you leave, waved away by a gaggle of skeletons.
“If you’re in the area, do come back.”
Its dark now and you really do have no idea where you are. You wonder if it is possible to spend the night.
(***) (Alternate ending)
You tell them you have one thing to do first.
“Very well. Come to us when you are done and we’ll show you out.”
You return to a particular door and go inside.
“Hello old friend” – it’s the trout fisherman’s voice.
You reply in kind and sit next to him, telling him of all the things you have
Written in the second person as you don’t often see that. Could change to first or no person view if need by.
Feedback wanted as I feel this could get a lot bigger and better. It is in its infancy right now.
Theres some tributes to some of my favourite surreal painters in there if you can find them.
Also the butterfly blanket was the idea of my friend Leanne so a shout out to her.