The sun is too bright, the party is too loud, and Mipri has finally managed to slip away. She's made it to the shade under the eaves of the old house, and is walking along the wall as nonchalantly as possible, hoping to get around back and out of sight. She's almost at the far end of the house – rounding the corner – safe. She slumps against the wall and lets out a sigh of relief.
Mipri startles and squeaks, managing to cut herself off just before Spaji waves a frantic shushing hand.
"Oi, Paj, you scared me!" she whispers. "How'd you get here?"
Spaji shrugs. "Followed you. No one else did, though. We're safe."
"You sure about that?"
"'Course. So what're we doing?"
She narrows her eyes at him. "We?"
"I've got as much right to be here as you do."
"You said you followed me. You're not here for here, you're here for me. So if I don't want you here, you've got no reason to stay."
"Do you want me here?"
"If I say no, will you leave?"
He looks unhappy, but – "Yes, of course."
Spaji grins. "So what're we doing?"
"I am going to see what's inside. You are welcome to come along."
"Two separate statements, got it, invitation accepted. How're you gonna get in? It's been locked for years, and they'll hear you," – he waves vaguely in the direction of the party, the noise of which is clearly audible – "if you start smashing things."
Mipri smiles and takes a gleaming silver key from her pocket. Spaji's eyes go wide.
"Where's you get that?" he breathes in awe.
"Girl's gotta have her secrets."
"Yeah, all right. So?"
She grins wickedly, eyes shining. "Let's do this."
They shut the door carefully behind them before making their way down the narrow entry hall, Mipri in front and Spaji behind. Their footsteps stir up tiny clouds of dust, motes swirling through the muted sunlight that shines through the dirty glass of the high small window above the door.
The first door on the left is a tiny broom cupboard. Mipri turns on her flashlight, Spaji squeezes beside her, and they peer into the darkness together. A broom and a mop lean against one wall, and a bucket sits in the corner opposite; a single rusted tin shelf sits slightly above eye level. Mipri stands on her tiptoes to investigate.
On the shelf, as it turns out, is an old yellowing envelope, bearing only a single almost-legible name on the front. The letter inside appears to have been written on an old-fashioned mechanical typewriter.
My dearest Kormak:
I leave this letter where I will not see it, in the hope that it will find its way to you. Likewise do I never count the days, for I fear that in their numbers they will be always since and never until.
Still, I know that it has been too long, far too long, for my heart aches and my bones ache likewise; whether these are the symptoms of hours or of years I dare not speculate. Perhaps it does not matter; perhaps there is no true meaning in the question.
But this I know, this one certainty have I dared to permit myself: bitterly I regret our parting, and dearly do I wish to rejoin you under night. Is this an anchor, that the certainty of my pain prevents it from ending? Yet I dare not let it go, dare not let my love fade away – for if I have not the memory of you, then what have I, what am I? I exist for your sake – my apologies to the Queen, but I cannot deny the truth – and without that, then there can be only a greatly diminished sense in which I exist.
Perhaps, then, this is the final ambiguity: that I am not real without your regard, and my chapter in the story of your life has come to a close. If that is the case, then I am content to fade away. Better to be brief, if by that brevity I am briefly yours.
So I close in hope, and sign this letter —
"What." opines Spaji.
"This is so cool!" There's a fire in Mipri's eyes; she can't remember the last time she felt this alive.
"What does it mean?"
"I have no idea!"
Spaji rolls his eyes. "Right, of course not, why would you get excited about something you understand, that would make too much sense."
Mipri sticks her tongue out at him. "C'mon, let's keep exploring. Unless you want me to lock you in the broom closet until I get back?"
Spaji grins and raises his eyebrows, but shakes his head. "Let's go."
The end of the hall terminates in a heavy door as tall as the hallway's ceiling. The light trickling in from outside barely touches the knob, and when they push it groaningly open, there is only a short pool of light before the room fades to shadow. Mipri's flashlight casts dim shapes on the walls, furniture and architecture blending in the gloom.
"Stay close," Mipri whispers.
"You think I'm going to get lost? The house isn't that big."
"It's just a feeling."
"All right." A pause, then: "Why are we whispering?"
She just looks at him.
"Right, of course, sorry."
They reach the far side of the room, under a looming shape that might be either an empty doorway or a dark-painted wardrobe. Spaji reaches out towards it.
"Mip, can you shine your flashlight on this?"
He waves vaguely. "This – big black blocky thing."
"I am. And that's a doorway, see–" she puts out a hand demonstratively, and her knuckles strike wood. "No, never mind, it's a thing. Really dark, whatever it is."
"Don't you have fresh batteries?'
"They are fresh. Here, feel this wood. It's really smooth, like glass."
He reaches to touch. "...That's a doorway."
She runs her hand along the right side. "I can feel where it sticks out from the wall, like five or ten centimeters."
"I can feel the inside of the frame. There's a hole here. I could walk through it."
"Give me your hand–" she takes his hand and puts it where she was touching. "There."
"Yep, that's a thing. But here–" he places her hand on the left.
"That's a doorway. What's going on in the middle...?" Mipri places one hand on each side, the left in the doorway and the right on the blocky thing, and moves them toward each other. Somehow they fail to connect, and she's left waving her arms about vaguely.
"No, here, like this." Spaji starts on the right side and moves across the front of the wardrobe-or-whatever-it-is until he reaches the left edge, and follows around the corner back to the wall. "No, that's not right. Now it's a thing on the left side too."
Mipri reaches for the right side again and finds empty air. "And it's a doorway on the right."
They stare at each other in silence for a minute.
"...I think," Mipri says eventually, "that some of the things in the letter are starting to make more sense."
"I think we should go."
"I don't want to. ...But it might be. Um. Polite?"
"Sure, I'll go with that." He holds her hand tightly.
They make their way back down the long wide hall, and step out into the silence of the night.
(Posted for day 5 of the PICO Jam. 1269 words vs. 1250 words minimum.)