As soon as Sarah reached the top of the stairs, she could tell something was wrong. The hall to the right was too short. The door to David’s room was across from the stairs, and there was nothing past it. It should have continued to Jason’s room. Why it stopped suddenly, she could only guess. However, speaking with Thomas took priority; this mystery would have to wait. So she turned left to make her way to the third floor.
After a few steps, it became obvious that she was in the long hallway. Checking her pockets, she found the blue infinity symbol. It should be impossible for her to have gotten here. Were Julia’s spells breaking down? If so, that needed immediate attention. Until she got out of the hallway, however, there wasn’t much she could do.
After walking for an interminably long time, she entered the central room, her own image staring back at her. “If you’ve found your way to this room . . .” The message began automatically.
Sarah tuned out her own voice and began looking for the secret exit that had been included in case a member of the house accidentally found their way here. Mostly for Jason. It should be on the wall to the right of the door that had brought her here, but knocking around didn’t reveal it.
Her automated message ended. Even though she knew the sound of a dire bear was coming, it still startled her. The auditory illusion was very convincing and she felt a little surge of pride when she heard it for the first time in awhile. The sound itself was frightening, perhaps even more effective because she hadn’t created an image to go with it. The door shaking, appearing to be under assault from the other side, had been a nice touch, she thought.
Just as she realized she hadn’t included that detail in the illusion, a real dire bear crashed through the door and into the room. Sarah barely had time to register that the creature shouldn’t be here before it lunged at her.
She just managed to avoid the attack. There wasn’t much in the room other than the chair her image projected onto and a small table that held a few candles. If she left the room, she probably wouldn’t be able to find her way back. Moving quickly to put the chair between herself and the bear, she cast an invisibility spell. The creature stopped momentarily and began sniffing the air. It found her almost immediately.
If she could buy a few moments, she could mask her scent, but it wasn’t going to give her that chance. It attacked again and again, missing only because it couldn’t see her. Each swipe of its claw got closer and closer, and Sarah could feel herself growing winded. If she couldn’t get away soon, it would catch her.
The next moment, she was on the floor outside the room. Looking around, she saw Thomas standing next to her. They were back in the house proper, at the foot of the stairs leading up to the third floor.
Thomas helped her to her feet. “I came in through the back entrance and stopped time long enough to get you out. How did you get in there?”
“My badge stopped working. I think Julia’s spells may be breaking down.”
“I don’t think so. I think Julia is actually changing the house, trying to get rid of us.”
“I think so. The hallways are fighting me. It’s taking some effort to stay out of the long hallway.”
“This is your fault.”
“I know.” He sounded resigned.
“What are you going to do about it?”
“I’m not sure. Let’s get back to my room and out of the hallways. We can discuss it there.”
“Stay close to me. I don’t want you to get lost again.”
“What about Rebecca and David?”
“Safe in Rebecca’s room. Now let’s hurry.”