Three thin pale sisters welcome you in with melodious voices. It is warm and it smells of clean sheets, baked bread and burnished wood. They bid you to stay as long as needed, and rest and recover before venturing back into the wilderness outside.
They smile and they swirl and all of your wishes are fulfilled. Cream soup, a well-appointed library, good conversation and delightful entertainment every night, shadow puppets running through the walls with a fairy tale that puts you to sleep.
Some things you do notice.
There is a subtle whiff of something sour in the breath of the three sisters, of something rotten in the food that they serve you, of something crawling behind the florid wallpapers of their lounge, of something awful in the shadow puppets that stretch and linger over the walls.
Also, note that you have never seen these three sisters in the light of day. Wait. You haven’t seen the light of day since you arrived here. Wait. For how long have you been here?
Tonight (it’s always tonight) shadow puppets run over the walls, dangle acrobatically from the wrist of a sister around the neck of another, leap on the floor and scurry into the shadows where their little eyes glimmer luridly. They jump on your chest like cats made of mist, and stretch their paws around your throat.
As you start dozing off, they whisper a strange story.
About a house in the countryside and a God-fearing father, a silent mother and three daughters who liked to play in the forest behind the country-house. About the shadowy things they met in that forest and how the father didn’t like them.
About how he forbade them from playing with the shadows and what the sisters did about it. Blades in the night, a brief trial. Three ropes over the branch of an oak, their bodies so slight it barely creaked.
And then the house empty, save for the shadows. And then thin pairs of pale arms tearing a rend in the veil, crawling back into the house and its lonely limbo, waiting for visitors to keep them company in the shadows of a night that lasts forever.
The Coombe – Tierra Amarilla
Troller – Winter
The Knife – Without You My Life Would Be Boring
Cabaal – In Flux
Mayerling – La Mort n’en saura rien
You roam the shadows for an eternity. Eventually you find your bag, and strike a match. You slowly get your bearings.
Ahead of you, there is a tunnel dug in the rock that heads further down. Go there.
In the wall to the right there is a portal humming ever so slightly. Go there.
Image from book cover for Shirley Jackson’s ‘We have Always Lived in the Castle’.
We loved The Coombe’s parcel from A. Machen’s country, and Troller’s glaciar-like ballads. The lumbering beast that was The Knife’s album could perhaps have done with some light editing, but we nevertheless surrendered to its claustrophobic embrace (and loved the Margaret Atwood references).