CHAPTER IV

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The hall beyond the door was different than the rest of the house.

The ceiling was higher, it was not flat but arched, and for once, the walls to my side were not covered in a gapless mass of frames.

I walked deeper into the hall, looking only at what lay before me. It was not only a new place, and a different one, but also the only way to go. All of the other doors had been locked... except for this one.

It didn't take long to see that the hallway came to an end. There was an arch a few feet ahead of me, and beyond it was the darkness of a room. I almost approached it without hesitation, but a strange sound rang in my ears. It was sharp and right below me.

I looked down. The floor at my feet was no longer wood- it was metal, an opaque and brown metal. When I lowered my lamp, the light that reflected off the floor was only a shy, almost embarrassed glare.

I turned around and looked at the short distance I'd walked. A few steps before me, the wood had ended and given way to what seemed to be plates of metal. It didn't stop all at once, but rather in squares- like the segments in a chessboard. The segments were small, just about the size of my hand.

I wasn't sure if the metal had been placed over the wood... or the other way around.

I turned back to look at the arch; it was the only way to go. As I got closer, I noticed that the arch itself was also made of the brown metal. It blended in with the wood, to the point where I had to stare at it to notice they were two and not the same.

I gathered a little more courage and walked through the arch. The darkness rolled back, revealing the features of the room.

The floor, the ceiling, and the walls were all made of that brown metal. There was not a single piece of wood around me. Even the round table and chairs were made of metal. I held my lamp higher and noticed that beyond the table, the walls farthest from me had counters with drawers above and below them. Next to them, I could see the arch of another hallway off to the side, identical to the one I stood under. Everything seemed to be made of that brown metal, except a few things that had accents of a more brilliant, yellow metal.

I felt a sting in my nose and began to look around the room.

I smelled... something spicy and meaty. It smelled like bacon or sausages.

I turned to my left, and saw that just off to the side there was a small room, like a pantry. I stepped in and saw it was full of little cabinets. I reached with my free hand and pulled the nearest yellow knob. Inside, I could see rows upon rows of what looked to be miniature hams and other cured meats. I stood on my tip toes and reached for one; it was heavier than it looked and barely fit inside my hand, but the thing that stood out the most was that it seemed to be covered in a smooth sheet of... glass. Or at least it looked like glass. The light of my lamp reflected off the surface and bounced off tiny rays of light inside the pantry. I pressed my fingers against the ham. The material it was covered with looked like glass, but it was soft and flexible like, a see-through cheesecloth.

I put the small ham back in the cabinet and closed it. I turned around and opened one of the other cabinets on the opposite side. That one was filled with tin cans. I grabbed one. It was also heavier than it looked, and it lacked any labeling. Actually, none of the cans had anything on them.

I'd begun to wonder about the contents of the tin can when I heard a noise. It sounded multiple times from outside the kitchen. It was a flat and heavy noise, like what I thought the footsteps of elephants sounded like.

Clang, clang. Clang, clang.

They happened in pairs, always one after the other in quick succession.

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