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Karen cried, softly and alone, clutching herself protectively on the great wicker chair that creaked quietly under her gently rocking weight. She was cold, it was after dusk, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. She found her misery couldn’t sustain itself, outside and alone, so she stood, uncertain, and hobbled to the door. She had no strength left, no will to stand, like a balloon animal slowly losing air. But she had nowhere else to go.
She reached for the handle, paused, and knocked on the door. The door had not latched; it creaked open when she touched it. She stepped inside, hesitant and timid, and stood in the doorway, not seeing her mysterious companion but instead soaking in the strange house she had just entered.
The interior was beautiful, though sparsely furnished and poorly maintained. Ornately carved bookshelves lined the walls, even the windowsills seemed custom made. The woodwork was stained with dark cherry tones, which seemed oddly rich against the egg white walls. Two unmatched couches faced the only other piece of furniture, an old-fashioned television in a great decorative frame buzzing with static. The rabbit ears hung loosely from the back of the television, but it was not tuned to any discernible channel – horizontal lines danced up and down the screen across the snowy, indistinct images. The sound was turned up to an unpleasant volume – the television hissed and moaned with a ghostly warble, the noise fading and fluctuating in a disorienting chorus of indeterminate sound.
“Hello?” she called, but she could barely hear herself over the noise. Karen walked across the room, her heels clicking on the wood floor, and she clicked off the power. The room fell completely still, and Karen considered turning the television back on just to dispel the silence, the eerie sense of despair that seemed to fill the empty air.
“Hello?’she tried again, but she heard no one. “I was… I just… It’s cold outside.”
She stepped farther inside the room. To her right a hallway stretched into what was perhaps a bedroom, or a couple of bedrooms, and to her left an archway led into a dining room, with presumably a kitchen behind it. Books – hundreds of books – lined the walls. She noted books on Philosophy, books on Psychology, books on Human Sexuality, a great number of books on Geography and American History. Miles was clearly a well-read man, alone in this empty house. The Holy Bible, the Torah, the Koran… she found herself inexplicably smiling. This house was occupied by someone searching for something, delving deep for answers. A small voice in her head warned her that she was in a strange man’s house, rummaging through a strange man’s things – she could be in danger. She shook that voice away – the man was twice her size, if he was going to hurt her, he would have outside while she was attacking him. He was more afraid of her than she of him. She looked around the room again, but stopped herself before creeping down the back hallway, into the shadows. Something was hidden back there, in the dark corners of the house, of that she was certain.