Hey guys it’s Cole. We came back on Sunday for food and water (Dee writes about that below) and I just came back for a minute to post this.
Dee has been there since we left last Thursday (for the most part, long story.) She doesn’t want to come back yet. She wrote up this entry so you’d know what was going on.
I just finished typing it up, sorry for any mistakes…
The tunnel is an overnight trip. We slept under a bit of broken ceiling, watching the Neithernorian stars, which move around the sky. It’s like you’re looking down from a window, watching children play with torches in a dark yard. I love this place.
The tunnel empties into a small courtyard’s empty pool. High walled, but open to the sky, the courtyard’s at the base of what could be a castle of some kind. It was hard to see just how massive it was from the pool. There was an open doorway in that was choked by vines. I was loathe to cut them away (I’ve read enough fantasy books to know a character almost always goes to cut or pinch or pull something and then finds out it’s alive and terribly cross.) We crawled through, and down a maze of stone halls we found the room they all empty into. To call it a room would be a terrible understatement.
It’s a vault. Immense and tall, lit by candles that burst into flame when we arrived and never melted away. Every corner is filled with odd and shiny objects, piles of golden coins of different sizes and languages and shapes, statues and locked chests that have just been stacked on top of each other.
And the books. Thousands of books. Many written in the same strange language, a language I don’t think exists on Earth (not that I know much about languages.) There are dozens upon dozens of shelves and cases, stacks of books, piles of books, and bookcases that have toppled over, the wood rotting away, scattering books all over the floor. Nothing in order, covered in dust (Neithernorian dust is like a very fine, translucent glitter. It looks and moves almost like dew. And it’s sweet. I know because we’ve inhaled about five tonnes of it.)
There’s even an absolutely massive golden bell sitting in the middle of the vault. At first I thought maybe it fell from a bell tower because there’s a light coming from the long tunnel leading up through the ceiling, but the bell’s intact, unbent. As if it were brought here.
There are pillows littered about, deep and fluffy and relaxing, like people came here, not to study, but maybe meditate?
It’s dim and cool and quiet, and though it might seem eerie, I find it peaceful. Almost restorative. There is a universe of story and knowledge and history inside the vault. I could live here.
If there was food of course. There is an apple tree growing here. Not by accident. It was planted. The stones were pulled away and little spot was made for it. And it grows beautiful grass-green apples, even in the dim light of the vault. Cole urged me not to eat one (very Genesis) because, well, magiq. But by Sunday we were nearly out of food and water and Cole wanted to take the tunnel back to the brownstone, restock, and come back to explore after a few days break, but I couldn’t leave. I wasn’t sure why, but I needed to stay. To thumb through the books, sit against the pillows, listen to the echo of wind from somewhere outside.
But then I had an idea…
The entrance to the vault once had a door hanging in its arch. There were broken hinges still bolted to the wall, and we’d found a stack of heavy, ornate doors in a corner of the vault. Using carved nails we found in a pile we rehung one of the doors in the arch.
Now we’d never tried returning through a different door than the one either of us came from, but it was worth a try to save Cole the day and a half trip it would take to get back. And it took a while but together we got it to knock.
I was the one who knocked here so I knocked back…
And we opened a door to the brownstone!
The vault side of the door was gold and jeweled, and the brownstone side was… door-looking. We propped it open with a cabinet and walked through. The kitchen is pretty bare in the brownstone so I was going to run to the market while Cole grabbed a few changes of clothes and more camping equipment from his apartment, figuring it would take an hour, ninety-minutes at the most.
Cole headed for the train but I checked the door again before running out and found that it was pushing hard against the cabinet we’d wedged it open with and it was also blazing hot! There were scorch marks already appearing on the wallpaper, and within minutes it had started to smoke. I couldn’t leave the door open or I’d eventually burn down the brownstone, and possibly everything in the vault.
I called Cole and we agreed I’d go back through and he’d restock and meet me in two days time. By agreed of course, I mean very reluctantly. He wanted me to stay, to wait. But I couldn’t. I had to get back.
The truth is… I had to get back because something was happening. I was remembering something. Something about this place. And it’s not that Cole was a distraction, even if I didn’t love him with all my heart he would still be the absolute first person you’d want with you in a situation like this. He’s clear-headed, good-humoured, and happy to rough it for the sake of adventure. Honestly, I was the problem. I needed time to not explore or look-at-this and look-at-that. I wanted to just sit and quietly soak this place in, which seems rude to do when you’ve brought someone along with you.
I should tell you that the entry that unlocked in the vault was all about the red house. It was short and disjointed. Rambling. To be honest it’s heartbreaking to read, to see his decline, so I’ll paraphrase all that matters instead of transcribing. It feels kinder. He said seeing what’s inside the house changes you and how you see everything. You see the world opened up. What it could be. The house and what’s waiting inside is the key to all of this.
And to see it I’d have to break a powerful spell that my father himself created to keep everyone out. A spell only I would know how to break. A figuration that I would learn here, in the place at the end of the tunnel.
Then he ended the journal entry with, “Remember my dearest girl, imagination is nothing more than memory, transposed.”
The next morning I crawled out of my sleeping bag, cold and achy. I thought at least the tunnel had a view of the stars to look at while you tossed and turned against the stone floor. And then… it happened. I remembered something. The tunnel. My dream. It was my dream. The one with my father carrying me. I’d always imagined it was a hallway in a house, perhaps the apartment where I lived with mum. But could it have been the tunnel instead?
Could I have been here before?
I could now imagine looking up from my father’s arms, past his beard, seeing the stars spinning across the sky, through the broken patches of the tunnel ceiling. Was I trying to fit the pieces together or had he brought me here? And if so, when?
Maybe I’d made it a hallway in the years that followed. To make sense of it. Maybe I’d conflated it with the time he came back and tried to take me? I don’t know. But what if this place felt so warm, so welcoming, even in its dim and drafty clutter, because I was here. With him. The echoes of that time somehow calling back to me. I say somehow, but I know how. Magiq.
I spent the next few hours wandering, listening, trying to remember. Something was there, at the edge of my mind, the tip of my tongue.
I don’t know if it was luck or providence or some lost memory guiding me, but after hours of exploring I found a stack of books as tall as me and took the book from the top. It was clothbound in green and plain with no title. A collection of stories. I opened it to a random page—
My soul’s providence.
Something had led me to that book. The faded memory I’d come to believe was just a dream, and was now guiding me to the truth.
I had opened the book to The Myth of Elainnor.