The door was closed; had always been closed.
In fact, looking back, Ida was never sure that there had been a door in the first place. Not in her earliest childhood. She vaguely remembered it cropping up some time around her teens, and then it had been locked.
Besides, who wanted to go up into a dusty old attic room like this? Ida was certain, beyond any measure of doubt, that this kind of room had to be full of spiders and who knew what else.
So she’d never tried. But now her grandmother was dead, and the house was hers somehow, and the door and the dusty attic room were hers too. So if she was going to clean the house out for sale, she was going to have to go inside.
The problem, though, was the doorknob.
It was jammed shut, in some kind of way, though she couldn’t see any particular reason why it should be. The handle just wouldn’t turn.
“Seb,” she called out, over her shoulder.
Seb yelled a response up the stairs, but she stayed silent until he clambered up to see her. She didn’t like yelling around the house. Much preferred that he would recognise her call for help and come, rather than holding a whole conversation on different floors.
“What is it?” he asked wearily, wiping the back of a grimy hand across his brow. He was stripping the antique, peeling wallpaper from the second bedroom.
“This door,” she said. “I can’t get it open, it’s jammed or something.”
He tried the doorknob, attempting to brute force it, but it still wouldn’t budge. He grunted; he was still holding the putty knife from the wallpaper, and he quickly set about wiggling it between the door and the frame.
“There’s something in here,” he muttered.
Ida stood beside him, peering over his shoulder to see what was holding the doorknob in place. Something was flaking away onto the floor as he worked — a yellowing substance, hitting the wooden boards with a pattering noise. Suddenly there was a crack, the sound of something hitting the floor on the other side of the door. Seb stopped.
He reached for the doorknob, and turned it.
This time, it went all the way round — but when he pulled, the door as a whole did not budge. It didn’t move when he pushed, either.
“That’s weird,” Ida said.
“Must just be locked,” Seb shrugged, stepping away.
“There’s no keyhole,” Ida pointed out. “And what is that stuff?”
Seb picked up a small piece from the floor, rubbing it between finger and thumb. “Wax, I think.”
They cleared the rest of the house of furniture, Granny’s old belongings shipped off to charity shops or other relatives, wherever they were wanted. But still there was that problem of the attic room.
Seb tried throwing his whole weight against the door, but it didn’t budge. In the end, they decided to call someone in. Seb went downstairs to find the number, and Ida stood, looking uselessly at the door.
She could feel something in there. Something calling to her. No matter what, she knew that she had to get that door open as soon as possible.
“Locksmith says he can’t come out unless there’s actually a lock,” Seb said, coming up the stairs behind her with weary footsteps.
“So what are we supposed to do?” Ida asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, and they stared at the door for a while together.
Eventually he had the idea of going up the outside of the house on a ladder and seeing if the windows would open from the other side. On closer inspection, though they were locked, he found that the wood was crumbling and rotten in the frames. He suggested knocking them out and having them replaced. The cost would be worth the added value to the house. Ida agreed.
She watched from down below as he carefully knocked a chisel against the wood, sending flakes spiralling down to the ground below, then removed the whole frame once it was loose enough. He pushed it through into the room, to the sound of shattering glass, and then started to climb through himself.
Ida ran into the house and up the stairs, and stood by the door, waiting. She waited and waited for him to open the door.
“Seb?” she called out, wondering why he was taking so long. “Are you going to get the door?”
After a moment, with no reply, she pushed her ear against the door. Curiously, she could hear nothing from inside the room — not even any movement. She waited a few beats longer, then drew away, frowning with concern.
Back outside the house, she circled round to the side, where the ladder was propped up against the roof. But there was no window beside the ladder, nor any hole in the wall where the window had been. There was just smooth masonry, as if nothing had ever happened before.
Ida searched through every room in the house, but whatever secret it held had gone with her grandmother to the grave. Seb was gone now too, and slowly Ida began to forget that he had ever existed.
She sold the house in the spring and moved overseas, and in time, stopped thinking about the house altogether.
Rhiannon D’Averc is writing short fiction for Patreon followers. Click here to view rewards such as recorded readings, story process snippets, and more.