My mother was not dead, I knew that much. One day, when I was 5, my mother and aunt just disappeared. My neighbors think they are dead, but I know my dad is still looking for them in the back of the house. Our house is bigger than what the neighbors think. Sometimes at night, when I am supposed to be asleep, I can hear him prowling around some deserted corridor, searching for a clue as to which room they are being kept captive.
I can vividly remember the night they were taken, I was playing puppy when the strange men burst into the room we were exploring. Mom quickly tied her key around my collar and then threw a tennis ball, which I didn't know she had, across a small stream. My instincts took over, I guess if I had been older I would have been aggressive and defended them, but being a puppy, I was quite playful. I jumped the water and got the ball. I turned around and saw they were dragging both my aunt and mother away, out the door.
She screamed, "They can't cross the water, go to your dad." I would wake up some nights, wondering why they never jumped over the stream and saved themselves. I would ask my dad, but he never answered.
Anyway, I was scared to find him, he had never seen me as a puppy and I didn't know who was going to turn me back to a boy. I knew either my mom or aunt could do it, but I never thought he knew how. I ran through the halls, ignoring the scent of the strangers. When I found him, I sensed he knew they were gone. I tried to lead him back to the room, so that I could track them down for him, but he just shook his head, pulled off my collar, and held me as I shook and cried all night. That was the last time I ever cried. I thought he would take her key away from me, but he never asked for it.
I know he doesn't have to work and that we don't have to stay in this town, but he keeps up the pretense that we are like the others. He works his forty hour week and spends the rest of his time roaming the back halls. I think he just works enough to feed us, pay taxes, and to afford a housekeeper. Mrs. Murtle is nice, she minds after me as well as her own kids, but she knows better than to try and go past the second set of halls. She also never wonders, at least out loud, exactly where that set of halls is in relationship to the back yard. The first housekeeper couldn't mind her own business. Now everyone in town thinks she ran away to Mexico with the mailman, but I know better - they are in the third set of halls. I visit her every now and then, but she never notices. I don't visit the mailman, he was never nice to me.
Every start of summer, he gives Mrs. Murtle 2 weeks off and makes a big production of the two of us piling the car with gear to go camping. In the morning, the car is gone and the neighbors always think we got an early start. I never can figure out exactly what he has done with the car, but I know better than to think I will see him in the next two weeks. I never go into the front of the house, I don't want a neighbor seeing me, but I have food enough stored in the second set of halls. I can always feel someone, or something, watching over me. But I know it is not Mrs. Murtle and it is definitely not him. I can hear him, in the back halls, battling the rooms and their inhabitants, desparately searching for some clue. I know in normal times, he would give those unexplored rooms a wide berth. Sometimes, when you get past the 4th set of halls, a room will change on you. Once, an entire hall mutated into one I had never seen before or after.
After the two weeks of vacation is up, we spend an hour unloading the car, once it reappears, and then I wonder where the camping gear goes. It is a more mundane question, because there is plenty of storage space in the house. Mrs. Murtle doesn't know it, but the hall closet is bigger than her house. If you don't know what to expect in our
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