I am honored to be included in a collection of short stories called Ode To Autumn – A season of Change. I have decided to post my story Through The Porthole, here for you to read. If you would like to read the others I have included the links at the end of the post.
Through The Porthole
Rhea had recovered from the passing of David; he had been her best friend as well as her lover. Although she had settled down into the daily routine of living, there was a part of her that was lost.
Her friend Kat had offered her some time out at her house in the mountains. She was looking forward to the solitude, time to think, to sort out what she wanted from life. To recharge and get herself ready to start life anew, instead of the mindless existence she had been drifting through.
She arrived at the cottage on a sunny November day, it was looked beautiful as she came up the drive, which was filled with gorgeous flowers, and the cottage looked warm and friendly.
She opened the door, and stood for a moment looking around; she had been here before with her friend and loved the peace and tranquility of the place. Walking into the kitchen with its oak furniture and pots hanging above the workbench, she discovered that the neighbor had been over and turned on the power and water, also she had left a basket of fruit and the essentials in the fridge such as milk, bread, butter, and eggs. They were such nice people, also in the fact that they would not come around uninvited.
The note with the food told Rhea if she needed anything, to call, otherwise she would not be bothered by anyone. They had been told she wanted quiet time and they understood. Over the next few days, Rhea slept late and took long walks, enjoying the fresh air and peace. She began to feel alive again, she could almost perceive of a new life.
One morning, she woke to the sound of rain on the roof, as she lay there listening, feeling in a sense, cleansed by the rain, she realized she could hear a window banging, so pulling on her slippers and bathrobe, she went upstairs to see where it was coming from.
At the top of the landing was Kat’s room, the sound was definitely coming from there and although she had not been in there before, she did not want anything to be damaged by the water. She went in and closed the window, checked there was no water damage, and as she scanned the room she thought how lovely it was. A big brass four-poster bed with a canopy draped in antique lace. Pillows of all sizes gave the bed a soft inviting look.
Rhea then turned back to the window; it seemed odd to be there. It was round like the window in a ship, a porthole, she stared at it for a while trying to decide why she was drawn to it, then noticed that the frame surrounding it was carved with intricate symbols. She had never seen anything like it, as she stood there; she reached out and traced her fingers over it. It was almost like a compulsion to do this, all of a sudden she pulled her hand away and stepped back, she thought she had seen somebody reflected in the glass. She spun around thinking there was someone in the house, but the room was empty.
Her heart was pounding; her mind was racing with all the possibilities of what it could have been. She was reluctant to focus on what she was really thinking could have happened. Could someone be looking through the glass at her? This seemed impossible as she was on the second floor, her analytical mind did not want to accept this. She knew her friend Kat was open to unusual phenomena, but not her. If you didn’t have a solid explanation for something, then it didn’t exist.
With her heart still pounding, she stepped in front of the window again; she was determined to discover the ‘logical’ explanation for it. So far, everything was normal, and then she put her hand up and once again traced the symbols.
There was a flickering, so steeling herself, she kept tracing them, suddenly the flickering stopped and she could see another room through the glass. There was a man standing there, he turned as though he sensed somebody, Rhea was stunned, standing there transfixed. Then he smiled, he had dark hair and deep brown eyes, which came alive when he smiled.
“Hello, don’t be frightened, my name is Jean-Claude, you must have traced the symbols, that could be the only way we are here like this.”
Where are you? How did you get here? I don’t understand this, it can’t be real, oh god, I must be having a breakdown.”
Jean-Claude saw how agitated Rhea was. He was afraid she would leave. “Please don’t go. Tell me your name, I won’t hurt you. I promise to answer any of your questions. I am as real as you are, you must know Kat, or I think you wouldn’t be here.”
“You can’t be real, this is not logical.” She lowered her head into her hands thinking that when she looked again it would all have been an illusion. However, when she looked up there he was looking out at her only this time she could see his hand on her side of the porthole.
“Please don’t be afraid, what is your name? I promise I am real, see you can touch me.”
Rhea stepped back in fear, no this cannot be true. She ran from the room and slammed the door. What should she do? If she phoned Kat, she would probably think she was going mad. All her friends were so worried about her and had wanted her to see a doctor, a shrink, but there was no need for that, she was perfectly sane. Or was she? She went to the kitchen to make coffee, maybe if she cleared her head it would all make sense to her. She sat with the steaming coffee in her hands thinking how much she wished that it was a glass of wine instead. She had been drinking far too much since David had passed and therefore one of her reasons for being here was to be away from that temptation.
She dressed and walked in the beautiful gardens. This was normal and how it should be. She spent most of the day outside and as the sun began to set she returned to the house. She turned on all the lights and prepared something to eat. She laughed nervously, this was so silly, and it had all been such a stressful time for her she must have been imagining it.
After her meal, she went upstairs and hesitated outside Kat’s room. Maybe she should just go look, and prove to herself it had been her imagination. She went up to the porthole and there were the symbols. They looked perfectly harmless, just a beautifully carved decoration. She couldn’t stop herself, she felt compelled as she stepped closer and once again trace her finger around the symbols. The same shimmering occurred and she could see the other side, although there seemed to be nobody there. She tentatively put her hand up to the glass, and her hand went straight through, as though it didn’t exist. Just as she was about to bring her hand back something grabbed her. She screamed and struggled to pull her hand out of the porthole, but something was pulling her in. Oh god, how was this happing to her? She fought harder, but the more she struggled the more she was pulled in, she thought her arm would be pulled from its socket. Then one last pull and she felt as though she was falling. She hit solid ground with a bang and quickly jumped up. Standing in front of her was Jean-Claude.
“How did I get here? I want to go back, you can’t keep me here.”
He laughed, and suddenly it sounded so sinister. “Oh but I can my dear. You are mine now; Kat promised she would send me a new toy to play with. We are going to have so much fun together you and I.”
Rhea threw back her head and screamed and screamed but no one came. Everyone was told to leave her in peace. A peace she would never know now.
Jean-Claude took her hand and she shivered in fear. “I think my dear, the moral of the story should be. Never put your hand where you think it should not go.” With that, he laughed loudly as she ran to the porthole and banged her hands on the glass; for once again it was solid. There was no escape.