This time, there wasn’t a dark creepy round tunnel beyond it. The tunnel now was square, carved evenly and straight, lined on walls, ceiling and floor with white grey-flecked marble tiles. There was no echoing bellow, of air and something else disturbed flooding down the tunnel towards me. This one was also well-lit, with a small cage holding a candle hanging from the ceiling every few metres. It stretched as far as I could see.
I took one step forward then something iron and ice cold clamped my ankle. I kicked out and Miss Stake’s grip was loosened. I wriggled free and launched myself into the corridor, slamming the door. It wouldn’t hold her back at all. But if what had happened to Charlotte was anything to go by, it would take her a few minutes to heal enough for her to be able to chase me.
I set off at a sprint down the tunnel, not caring that my footsteps echoed wildly. After what seemed like an eternity but was only a few minutes the tunnel began to feel claustrophobic. The door had long since disappeared behind me. Not once had the tunnel curved or turned or branched off into others. It was just one long straight corridor leading to nowhere, it seemed.
Almost as soon as I had thought that, my mind was full of terrifying thoughts of running for ever and never reaching the end, and the vampire behind streaking after me and tearing me to pieces. These thoughts were both stupid and irrational but of course they seemed to make me freeze. I forced myself to keep on going.
You’ll get to the end soon, I promised myself. And then you’ll find what you want to find.
And then, there was an archway ahead, and relief washed over me as I raced through it into… nothing.
I was falling, down through nothing. It was just me and the darkness. My insides seemed to clench and twist as I fell through the air for what seemed an eternal stretch of time.
As soon as I remembered what I was even here for, I found myself standing on a floor made from black marble with flecks of white this time. Ahead of me was a long hall, the roof supported by carved pillars of the same marble.
I had figured out the secret of the passage. It kept on going for as long as you dreaded it doing so, until you thought of what you needed to get to the end for. The same for the shaft which had led me to this place.
Feeling slightly more confident, I set off under the arches formed by the pillars. I was aware that by now there was no doubt that Miss Stake would be after me, and she probably already knew how to get through the obstacles straight away without wasting any time for running or falling.
My footsteps rang out as I quickened my pace and approached a set of wide marble stairs. The muscles in the backs of my legs strained as I took the steps two at a time in an effort to reach the top more quickly. The stairs flew by under me and I lost count after thirty six. Finally the stairs flattened off into a small floor area, and straight ahead was a set of giant black lacquered doors. Thankfully these didn’t seem to require an offering of blood, and I shoved them open with my shoulder. Because they were so tall they were extremely heavy. They grated over the floor of the room beyond until the gap was wide enough for me to dash through.
Stupidly, I slowed myself down by looking back over my shoulder. At the end of the dark hall, a black shape was landing like a bat as if it had just fallen out of the shaft. The black cloak settled around it and then it was off, streaking towards me. Even from all that distance away, the sound of the high-pitched shriek carried across the hall to me. It didn’t take me any persuading to dive through the gap and shove the doors back across the floor, which I now discovered was made of flags of smooth pale grey stone.
The doors ground shut and to my utmost relief I discovered a thick bright silver chain on the back of the right door. I hurriedly wrapped it tightly around both handles and secured it, giving it a rattle to test. I heard a loud insistent ringing and realised that the vampire on the other side of those doors was now racing up the stairs.
I turned, poised to run, and then froze.