The building looked inviting, yet I didn’t know why it called to me. I was going to work, and would be late if I stopped for any length of time. However, I could not resist. The façade was convivial to my imagination. The architecture was obviously influenced by the Federal Era, blending the beauty of Victorian detail while incorporating the strong arches and columns of Roman architecture. There was an elaborate porch, as well as decorative eaves. There were corner quoins and arched cut-glass windows which were paired, regardless of their location. A lovely clock on the tower declared it was only eight a.m.
“I suppose,” I thought, “I still have some time, for I needed to be at work at nine. I rarely left home early, yet this particular morning I had felt a sense of wonder. I wanted to experience the loveliness of the morning, so I had decided to walk the half hour to my shop. There was an ugly “For Sale” sign placed smack middle in the yard, and it looked so out of place that I instantly hated its presence. I looked up at the one stained glass window and thought I saw a shadow watching, lurking, but the specter did not hinder me from opening the door to the screened porch. It squeaked but I thought nothing of it except perhaps it needed oiling.
“Hello,” I whispered, “is anybody here?”
Nothing, not a sound. All was silent. Perhaps, I had not spoken loud enough, “Hello!” I yelled out, “is anyone here?”
I knew I shouldn't venture further, but my curiousity pushed me, tempted me. I heard the screechy sound of a door opening somewhere within the interior, and so with little trepidation, I entered.
I walked into a large Great Hall with dark hardwood floors and three layered crown molding. It was a bright and cheery room as sun light filtered through the skylight from the tower nearly forty feet above me. I was overjoyed. I basked in the warmth, thinking my day was going to be full of happiness and joy. I had to tear myself away from the sun’s embrace, for I knew I had little time left to peruse this magnificent mansion.
As a literature professor, I had read many stories by Victorian writers, and I loved their descriptions of massive libraries with thousands of books, leather couches, and Turkish rugs. Usually, the library was the door directly opposite the entrance, so I ventured forth to the massive mahogany doors.
“Surely,” I thought, “this door must lead to the grand library.” As I placed my hand ever so delicately on the brass door knob, I heard a giggle. At first I thought it was my imagination, so soft it was, but then I heard the abrupt, loud slamming of the front door while at the same time the library doors opened as though through magic welcoming me into the womb of my demise.
I was truly anxious now. I no longer believed in coincidence. Too much had already occurred what with shadows, slamming of doors, and bone chilling giggles. I was beyond the belief that my imagination was playing tricks. I stood in the center of the beautiful library, decorated exactly as I would imagine a Victorian library to look. There were books from floor to ceiling, and directly in front of me, was the massive desk with the high backed leather chair facing the multitude of books. An ornate Turkish rug dressed the worn wooden floor. But the warmth of the hall was gone and in its place was darkness and cold. There was no sunlight streaming through the brocade draperies, nor was there any light coming through the octagonal stained glass window placed high above the organ that graced the outer wall of the room. That entire side of the room resembled the interior of a flamboyant church resplendent with religious icons on the walls as well as an immense crucifix just beneath the stained glass window. I looked at my watch and panicked at the time. I honestly thought I had been in the house perhaps ten to fifteen minutes, giving me plenty of time to get to work; however, my watch showed ten thirty!
“What the hell!” I exclaimed, “Where did the time go?” Well, I was late for my first class. My students were gone by now and my next class did not begin for another three hours, so I set out to leave the library, promising not to linger any longer. The library door was closed. I didn’t remember closing it, but I dismissed my confusion and promptly went to open it. It would not! It was stuck or locked, or someone was holding it closed from the other side, but it would not budge one iota. Then I heard the giggle, only this time it was not far in the distance, it was in the library enclosed with me!
“Where are you?” I asked, “Show yourself,” I demanded.
The giggles became louder, sharper and older than the timid giggles from before.
“Stop it,” I yelled, “If you’re trying to scare me, you’re doing a good job. I want to leave, now,” I said. I was beginning to fear for my life because the giggles became cackles, yet I could not find the source. Then it dawned on me, the chair with its back to me. How stupid could I have been? Of course, a child could hide behind the tall back without any chance of being seen. I immediately walked to it and swung it around to face me. What I saw next sent shivers down my spine and caused the hairs on my neck to stand out.
“Don’t stare so,” it demanded, “I’m not all that ugly. Why after a while you’ll get used to me and won’t think I’m ugly at all.”
I think I fainted because when I awoke I was lying on the velvet settee facing the desk.
“I’m sorry you fainted. You’re not the first. One visitor actually died of a heart attack upon seeing me. Imagine that?” it said.
“What are you?” I shook as I spoke. I had never seen anything like it. It was hairy from head to toe and its features resembled a huge flea, yet it stood on four legs and spoke as a human.
“I’m an anomaly, as you can see. No, my parents were not fleas; although, come to think of it they were annoying. They abandoned me the minute they laid eyes on me. I think they thought I was going to die from my ugliness, but Hector has taken good care of me. He’s the only one who has not fled from my hideous visage.”
“I really must leave,” I managed. Its voice had become gentle as it told its story, yet I could not and did not want to look at it any longer than I had to.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you go,” it said, “it would be much too dangerous to let you out now that you have seen me. The first person you tell will tell others and so on until they will all want to look at the monster.”
“I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” I pleaded but to no avail. It shook its head.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. Now, what book would you like to read?”
I watched it as it lumbered toward the book shelves. It removed two books from the shelf.
“Which do you want?” it asked.
Beauty and The Beast or the Hunchback of Notre Dame was my choice. I chose Quasimodo’s story for in the end he dies and Esmeralda survives.