The minutes stole away in secrecy without a clock to track them, stealing away without a purpose or value, giving no change to the dim lit room where the reflections floated beneath the floor like ghosts.
The children had ceased to panic, their teary eyes now closed as they lay on the cold floor, trying to escape their prison if only in spirit. But their dreams were stilted and stained, with reminders of their plight in every delirious fantasy their minds had the spirit to create.
Sam sniffled and groped at the floor as if looking for something soft to bury his little hands in. Betty was silent, her face red and her arms tight within the folds of her dress. They waited for something without a hope for anything.
If only they knew the fortunate safety their prison lent them, they would not be so desperate to escape. But if they knew, then they would also realize the terrors that were raging through the corridors of their home, and they would then feel far worse than they could scarcely imagine even now in their overwhelming despair.
A glimpse of the Great Hall would show them more than they could handle...The doors that had been open for generations were beginning to slam shut as war began to rip through the community. Too many keys had been claimed by the invaders, and the world was being split as families retreated into their personal rooms, shutting themselves away from the threat...They knew not when, if ever, their doors could be reopened. So they would live in isolation, whole families enclosed in single rooms, living off the fruits of a single cupboard.
But Sam and Betty had no cupboard. They had no supplies. Their room was bare and empty. They would die if not released. And the keys to both doors were gone, their owners dead. Their chances were slim, for they were prisoners of the universe itself. And the universe moved in strange ways.
Sam awoke with a start, and it didn't help his shaky senses to see another face staring back out of the floor as soon as his eyes had flashed open. His young cry awoke Betty and she groaned. Then Sam sat up, a queer sensation in his muddled mind. He had awoken for a reason.
He gave his surroundings a close look. The room was bare, dark, and empty, the floor reflecting their pale faces with a mocking glare. And yet, something was different. He shivered.
"You notice anything strange?" he mumured.
Betty wrinkled her nose. "No," she whimpered.
Sam turned slowly on his bottom, his feet leaving scuffs on the mirrored floor as he rotated. All appeared to be normal. But then his hearing was abruptly triggered, and he held his breath with acute attentiveness.
"There's nothin' else in the room with us," said Betty. "But I just heard something."
Sam turned. "I heard it too," he said.
It was a low sound, the type that is felt more than heard. It was long and deep and seemed to hum from the walls itself. Sound did not pass through walls. That was a well known fact. When a door is shut, all sound is shut within it.
"The walls are making sounds," Sam breathed.
"Don't be silly," chided Betty. "They can't."
But Sam wasn't sure. He knew he had heard something. He searched the ceiling and then the floor. Perhaps the sound had come from a hidden trap door they had not yet noticed. The walls were seamless. And yet...a shadow moved in the corner and then vanished.
"Betty!" yelped Sam. "Something moved over there!"
Betty backed away, still on her bottom, her feet pedaling frantically against the floor. Soon she was pressed against the far wall. "I saw it too," she said. "Was it a rat?"
"No, it was on the wall. It was like a shadow."
Then Sam saw another movement. It was a rectangle. It was a rectangle on the wall that was a different shade from the rest...and it was moving. It was gently sliding along the wall. They stared at it, mesmerized by the peculiarity of such a sight. Then their eyes suddenly focused and they realized with a jolt what was happening.
"The whole wall is moving!" cried Sam.
And then Betty screamed and scrambled into the center of the room; the wall had begun moving behind her back!
"Sam!" she cried. "What's happening?"
Sam did not know, and he remained silent, cowering in the center of the room, gripping his lucky key for safety, and holding Betty close.
After a moment, a black gap suddenly appeared in the corner and began to grow larger as it slid towards the center of the wall. It was soon seen to be an entranceway, and it stopped when it reached the center.
Sam and Betty climbed hesitantly to their feet when they noticed that all was still. Sam took a step and Betty gulped.
"Sam," she whispered. "We have to go in there."
Sam regarded the gaping black entranceway with wide eyes. Then he nodded. "We have to," he agreed, though it pained him to admit such a thing.
They stood for nearly a minute, contemplating their only option for longer than necessary. Then finally, with a mutual understanding, they gripped hands and walked into the dark passageway.