As she moved, the widow seemed to swirl darkness around her but the dress that she wore had no train. It was tempting to pretend that it was simply a trick of the light as she walked, her movements meaningful and slow. It seemed wrong, though. Like around her, the shadows didn’t conform to what she did. Dolly was starting to get nervous and with her worries about why the widow was here and how she became a widow, she was concerned that maybe their little visitor was bringing something less than welcome with her.
“Is it rude to ask how you got here? I mean, technically speaking, you shouldn’t really be able to be here at all so, you know, I feel like it’s worth it to ask,” Will said, clearing his throat. They all watched for her reaction but she gave none as she wandered, pacing before the fire that glowed ever more green. If she heard the question, she made no indication of it as she continued to pace, her concentration somewhere far away.
By now the viscous shadows were moving a lot more and Dolly was chilled inside to see that instead of one shape moving around them, there were lots. The Haven looked very foreign to her now. She could still see Toby’s frosted webs around them everywhere but they were attached to bookshelves that she had never seen and trinkets that she couldn’t place. She was confused that the books were mostly in a different language and most of the decorations on the shelves were things that looked like they belonged in an antique store. The shadows moved through the spaces, slithering around surfaces but never staying in place for very long. Sometimes they moved as one but mostly they moved independently like cockroaches, scuttling away from the light as the widow moved about.
Dolly caught sight of Will out of the corner of her eye and she knew by the look on his face that he was just as uncomfortable as she was. Lydia scurried closer to Matt and Stuart’s eyes were moving about the room too so she knew they had seen it as well. This wasn’t just her eyes playing these tricks. It was clear that they were in a space that was like the Haven but something was allowing these dark creatures to move around in here. Since the lady in black was the first to appear, it was impossible to know if she was the one who had done it or if she was just trying to find solace here. It was too hard to read her expression from the veil covering her face. She looked solemn but it was like her voice didn’t match. Still, she spoke around each question they had and Dolly sometimes wondered if she could hear them at all. She seemed like she knew they were there because she was sort of speaking like she was answering but it was impossible to tell from her answers.
“This night is a special one,” the widow began. “If all goes well, we might yet see daylight again and this darkness will be a home again. If only you knew. It’s not the darkness that haunts but the bleakness of winter and the sun that never rises. The hope that can never find its way through the winter trees and the rain that never stops. We wait. We know that it doesn’t last forever but that reassurance doesn’t soothe the soul when it waits for so very long. One begins to lose faith. Ah, but hope does some strange things to people. Even when it fails to appear, I suppose we all are content to believe that sun will rise for us eventually.”
“Is she talking to herself?” Matt finally said quietly.
“I can’t tell,” Will sighed, keeping his voice low as well. “Do you think she knows about the shadows around us?”
“Are they like the one that attacked us before?” Dolly asked, still keeping an eye on their visitor. She seemed to pause every now and again but did not come out of her thoughts to speak to them.
“These shadows seem like they could be like the one we saw but they don’t have even any sense of a body,” Will replied, not bothering to speak softer anymore. “I’ve never seen a swarm of Shadows clump together like that before. If they did attack in a formation like that, they could do some serious damage but I can’t tell why they aren’t. It’s true that not all Shadows are as bad as the one that we found but they all tend to want something. These ones are acting funny. Almost like they’re avoiding-”
“The night,” the widow interrupted, a vague sound of impatience in her tone. “How it lingers and how it will continue its slow drip into the darkest hours. We only have so much time. The clock is not to be trusted, for it always runs differently when it is not being watched.”
“She’s brought up time more than once now,” Will commented.
“And there’s still a clock here that we hadn’t seen before,” Stuart finally added. “I’m guessing that this is kind of important.”
“Not to mention that everything she’s wearing is from the 1920s,” Lydia replied. “It looks very nice and it’s like the real fashion from the era, even. She doesn’t even have any of the fake things like the high heels or the feather thing that you see on Halloween costumes. I think she might actually be from that time period.”
“Maybe she’s a ghost from that time,” Stuart offered, watching her pace back and forth. Occasionally it looked as though she might say something but would only sigh and continue to move in front of the green glow of the fire. “Maybe she’s lost and needs some help.”
“I guess that could be,” Will replied, rubbing the paw on one of his spider legs to keep it warm. “I wish Toby were here. He usually makes me web mitts so that these stupid legs don’t get as cold.”
“I could make you a more permanent pair,” Lydia offered. “I just don’t know where my fabric is here. I can’t see where it used to be and I’m not sure if it’s still there.”
“I still have my jacket on so I won’t get as cold if I leave you guys,” Dolly said, breathing into her hands to keep them from freezing. “I’ll see if I can’t open a door and see if Toby wandered off to find somewhere to keep warm or if I see the fabric. After that we can get to the bottom of what’s going on here.”
Dolly pulled her jacket tighter around her as she made her way from the group. She felt the bite of the cold immediately and didn’t get too far before she felt the frost under her feet making her slip as she went. The first door closest to them was one she didn’t recognize but it was a large set of double doors that seemed like they would enter to either a bigger room or a main stairway. Even though this was the Haven still, as far as she could tell, something else was trying to change it and she could almost feel the pull to make it look different. She couldn’t hear anything but it was like there was a part of her inner voice that was trying very hard to tell her things that she wasn’t entirely certain were coming from her. She wondered if once she was out of the room, if maybe she would still see the changed space or if it was only in here. As she came to the door, already she could see the heavy layer of ice that was keeping it locked in place. Dolly had a sneaking suspicion that whatever was behind this change had decided to leave Toby out of it and keep them trapped here. Why and for how long, she couldn’t tell yet but she also becoming certain that their widow guest would know at least something about it.
“Is something wrong?” Matt asked, his teeth chattering.
“We’re stuck,” Dolly said, carefully making her way back to them. “The floor has turned to ice, the door is frozen shut and I’m guessing the other ones will be too.”
“What are we going to do?” Lydia asked, curling more into her sweater.
“I’m not sure,” Dolly sighed. “But I’m going to guess that we have to figure out who our widow is and what her story is before we can get out of here.”
Suddenly the fireplace crackled to life, giving a small burst of heat before it glowed even more vibrant green. The lady in black looked at them now, smiling wickedly.
“Finally,” she purred, contentedly. “It’s about time we woke from this dreary setting, no?”