The Umbrella Room - Chap 3
I took a breath and stepped inside, the others followed. After a few steps in, the door behind us closed. Henry pulled on the door knob. “It’s not locked. We can get back out if we want.”
“That’s a relief,” Danielle said.
The room we were in was massive. Far bigger than any room that Jasper High could have. It looked like something that belonged in a castle, not a small town high school. Stone floors and pillars. The room was lit by torches, but was still dim somehow and in some areas completely dark. And then there were the shelves. Rows and rows of large wooden shelves. The shelves were filled with all sorts of items: weapons, armors, literature. The six of us stood there for a moment taking it all in. It was incredible.
“Holy shit,” Henry said.
We started walking down the row of shelves. It was hard not to shake the feeling that we were being watched. Of all the things I imagined that were in this room, this was not it.
“What is all of this?” Jack asked.
“Some kind of armory, from the looks of it,” Isaac said. “No, but there’s more than weapons. There’s books and what looks like medical equipment. I can’t believe this room is here in the basement of Jasper High. It’s incredible.”
“It doesn’t feel real,” Danielle said nervously. “I can’t believe this is real.”
“There’s so much,” I said. “I wonder if there’s a spot on one of these shelves for this Umbrella?”
“Well, we just have to find the Umbrella section,” Henry said. “Wonder if there’s a sign. Let’s see torture devices aisle 1. Scary cursed objects aisle 3…Umbrella umbrella. Hmm, no umbrella aisle!”
“Knock it off, this isn’t a grocery store,” Isaac said. “Doesn’t look like there’s any labeling on any of these shelves.”
Henry frowned. “Then where do we bring the Umbrella? Can’t we just put it on one of these shelves? Maybe that would be enough to stop The Umbrella Man?”
“There isn’t any room. The shelves are packed.” I said. “And I doubt it’s that simple.”
“Well, I’ll just make some room.” Henry moved toward one of the shelves and made to take one of the items off. It was a sword with a green hilt.
“No! Don’t touch anything guys,” Jack said. “We have no idea what will happen if we take something off the shelf.”
Henry retracted his arm, looking ashamed. “Shit, good call Jack.”
“Lets keep looking,” Jack said.
We walked further along, and while the others gazed at all the incredible items, I walked along with Elizabeth.
“Your sister Judith really came in here four years ago?” I asked. Elizabeth nodded.
“When she went missing. It almost broke my family,” Elizabeth said quietly. It was the first time I heard her speak so softly. “No, it did break my family. My parents are still together, but they hardly talk to each other. If she’s here…if she’s here and we can bring her home. Maybe…maybe it could fix things. And to hell if it does or not. I just want to see my big sis again.”
“We’ll find her,” I said. I thought of my own family. My mom and dad use to be happy. Now I feel like I hardly ever see my dad, and my mom…I thought of my mother sitting alone in the kitchen smoking a cigarette. And then of the monster that was in her attic. I suddenly got a very uneasy feeling. The room was astounding, but I kept thinking of those dark areas where there was no torchlight.
“Guys…” It was Jack. We were coming up to the end of the row and into what was a small clearing in the room. There was a chair in the middle of the clearing and in the chair was a person. At least I thought it was a person at first, but as I got closer I saw that her skin was too white and it was cracked. She wore a black dress and had perfect shiny black hair. And her eyes were wide.
They were doll eyes.
We got as close to the doll in the chair as we dared.
“It’s a doll,” I said. The doll was as big as a person. It sat with it’s head looking slightly off to the side.
And then it’s head turned towards us.
We jumped back. The doll had spoken. It’s mouth did not move, but the voice definitely came from the doll. It was a young woman’s voice. But it was an eerie and hollow voice. The doll leaned forward in it’s chair.
“I am Asterella, one of the Keepers of this Vault.”
We looked at each other nervously, and then I stepped forward and spoke. “What is this place?”
The doll -Asteralla, cocked her head to the side. Although her face was expressionless I got the sense she was regarding me as if I had just asked her a very stupid question.
“This is one of the Vault’s of Agathellan,” she said in that hollow voice.
“Who made it?” I asked.
“Agathellan,” the doll said.
“Who is Agathellan?”
“He is Agathellan.” There was a definitiveness to the way she said this. I got the feeling I would not get anymore answers about Agathellan, so I moved on.
“What are all these things in the room? What is the purpose of this room?” I asked.
Again the doll cocked her head to the side as if I had asked her a very stupid question.
“The Vault of Agathella holds many Celestial Items. That is it’s purpose.”
“Celestial Items?” It was Isaac who spoke up now.
“Yes,” Asteralla continued in that eerie voice. “Such as the Laegethian Umbrella you are carrying.” She pointed a perfectly dead white and cracked porcelain finger at the Umbrella.
“This Umbrella is a Celestial Item? What does it do?” I said.
“The Laegethian Umbrellas serve many purposes.” The doll said.
“Such as keeping rain off one’s head,” the doll said in that dead voice.
“This doll is fucking with us,” Henry said angrily.
“Just wait,” I said to Henry. He wasn’t wrong. Despite the doll’s empty voice, I got the sense that she was enjoying her vagueness. And I couldn’t get over her eyes. They were hard to look into. Still, I turned back to Asterella. “This Umbrella was in my closet last night. It was tapping on the inside of my closet door. We believe that in our town anyone who sees the Umbrella symbol on the door that lead us here will get one of these Umbrellas. And then someone, a man we think, will show up days later and take them. Do you know anything about that?”
The doll was silent for a moment, regarding us with those cold non-blinking eyes.
“How unfortunate,” the doll said eventually. I thought I heard pity in her hollow voice.
“Unfortunate? Why?” I asked.
“It seems you have you have fallen pray to a scheme by Barronell Hardgrave.” The doll said. And I heard resentment in the edges of her empty voice.
“Who is he? What does he want with me? Why did he give me this?” I said thrusting out the Umbrella. “What does he want with the people of Jasper?”
The doll put one of it’s porcelain fingers to it’s cracked lips in a hushing gesture. “You ask many questions, child. As one of the Keepers of this Vault, it’s my duty to assist, but know this. I will speak of Barronell Hardgrave this one time. Should we meet again, I will not speak of him. Is that understood?” It was the most emotion I heard in the doll’s voice so far.
“He is one of the more troubling Celestials of The Court,” the doll began. “Disliked by many for his schemes and cruelty. Any Celestial can create a door to one of the Vault’s and put that door anywhere, though most do not put doors in areas mortals would frequent. Most mortals do not have the ability to Open these doors and would never know there was a door there. But some mortals do possess the ability to Open these doors.
“Barronell Hardgrave created the door that brought you here. He then used the Laegethian Umbrella to put an enchantment on the door so that if any mortal with the ability to Open the door should come close to it, he would be notified of their existence. Only a mortal with the ability to Open the door would see the enchantment symbol on the door.
“The Umbrella coming to you is apart of the enchantment. Something to make you feel unease. That is his way. Barronell Hardgrave has many of these enchanted doors set up all over your mortal world, to help him find mortals with the ability to Open.”
We stood there in silence. Taking in everything she was saying. The Umbrella Man…Or was it Barronell Hardgrave? Celestials. Enchanted doors. Schemes. There was so much I still didn’t understand.
It was Jack who spoke up. “Why does he want to find mortals who can open these doors?”
“Presumably they taste better than the mortals who cannot.” There was no hint of amusement in the hollow voice. It was just a pure fact.
“You mean this guy wants to eat Ash, all because he can open a fucking door?” Henry exclaimed.
The doll said nothing. Elizabeth stepped forward.
“Four years ago a girl named Judith came in here. She believed that if she returned the Umbrella to where it came from that would stop the Umbrella Man…this Hardgrave, from coming for her. Is that true? Was she here?” Elizabeth spoke sternly, but I could tell there was desperation behind her voice. She needed to know what happened to her sister.
The doll turned it’s head toward Elizabeth. Although her face was expressionless, I once again thought I could sense what the doll was feeling. I felt like she was looking at Elizabeth with…pity.
“I will no longer speak of Barronell Hardgrave and his schemes.”
“What?” Elizabeth said angrily. “Just tell me if my sister was here!”
The doll said nothing. Elizabeth grabbed the doll and began shaking her. “Just. Fucking. Tell. Me.”
I put a hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder, “Elizabeth stop!”
She shook the doll more violently, causing the doll’s dress to rip and her face to crack more, and then the doll thrust out her porcelain hand and sent Elizabeth and I falling back. She was strong. Much stronger then she looked. Henry and Jack helped us to our feet. The doll looked at it’s torn clothing and then sat up from it’s chair. She was taller then I thought. Taller than all of us. Her arms were incredibly lanky.
“I have answered your questions and while doing so, I neglected to tell you a rule. Mortals are not allowed into the Vaults of Agathellan. While some Keepers may be more forgiving and allow any mortal that dares to enter the right to leave…”
The doll held up a white hand to her cracked face. “I am not as forgiving.”
Asterella The Doll then held her head back and let out a terrible blood curdling scream. It echoed all across the vast room. At first there was silence, but then in the distance another scream answered.
Asteralla sat back down in the chair. “As I said, I am one of the Keepers of this Vault.” The other scream again, only this time closer. In the distance I saw a figure running towards us. It was lanky as well.
“Guys…” Henry said.
“Right,” Jack said. “Come on lets go!”
“No, we can’t just leave!” Elizabeth said. “Not yet-”
I grabbed her by the arm. “Come on! We have to go”. We started running with the others back the way we came.
“Farewell, mortals,” Asterella the Doll said.
I didn’t turn around, but I knew the doll was behind us and it was getting closer. I wanted to know more about the Vault, about Barronnell Hardgrave, but there was no time now. Whatever was after us was not going to answer our questions like Asterella.
To make matters worse the torches all around us were going out. Soon we would be left in total darkness making the way back to the door even harder to find. And I prayed the door was still unlocked.
The scream was even closer now. I could hear the sound of the doll’s footsteps as it ran after us. It was gaining fast. Then I saw the door in the distance and hoped we would make it before the doll caught us. The torches were going out all around us. Darkness was closing in, but still I could see the door.
Then Isaac tripped causing Danielle to stumble after him. I turned around to help them both up, but before I could….It was on top of them.
This doll was male, and just like Asteralla it’s porcelain skin was dead white and cracked. It had the same cold eyes, but it’s mouth was turned up in a horrible permanent smile. It was unbelievably tall. It lifted Isaac and Danielle by the back of their necks.
“Naughty, naughty mortals,” the doll chuckled. “Two should pay the penance just fine.”
The torches all around us were going out.
“Let them go!” I yelled.
The doll looked at me. I’ll never forget the look on Isaac and Danielle’s faces. It was a look of pure fear. A look that said, please help us. Please fucking help us.
The doll looked at me and chuckled, “No.”
The doll jumped back into the air, back into the dark as the torches all around us were going out. I heard Danielle and Isaac scream, but their screams faded as the doll recessed into the darkness. They were gone. The final torch went out.
We were left in the dark.