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from A Crack in the Mirror (first draft) by Sibille Rose

Chapter 7

Nothing felt the same as he looked at the Lady’s house. The bricks and window slats were all the same as he remembered, but something about the sight set the hairs on the back of his neck up. The air around him felt heavy against his skin. His throat asked for water and the feeling of something watching him pricked at his mind. He was certain this street was as empty as all the others he had passed through, he had not seen another living soul since his escape, yet he couldn’t shake the feeling. Tension coiled along his neck and shoulders, pulling at his nerves and twitching his head to look after imagined sounds.

Claus rolled his head and shoulders, trying to dispel the irrational feeling. He quickly crossed to the house and slipped into the alley to enter the side door as he always did.

Claus rapped his knuckles against the door, matching the staccato knock that the Lady had taught to all of her house guests. He waited and then knocked again. Sometimes the door boy had been called off to an errand and a second knock would grab his attention.

But Claus waited further and still no one came to his call. He pushed against the door. It could only be opened from the inside, but maybe it hadn’t been latched. The door didn’t move.

Moving back into the street, Claus thought to chance the front door. The Lady would be mad at him for it. Only clients were permitted to use the front entrance, but if the boy had abandoned his post at the alley door then it couldn’t be helped. Here Claus knocked again. He didn’t remember the normal client knock and so repeated the house guest knock. When no one answered Claus pushed against this door as well, but it didn’t budge. It stood solid and gazed darkly at him as if asking what he thought he was doing here.

Muttering dark curses under his breath Claus went back into the alley. He looked up at the few windows that opened into the dark narrow space. They weren’t there for the view, but to let some air into the heavily used rooms. They were too high for Claus to jump and catch the sill, but Claus thought he might be able to shimmy up the two walls enough to reach the ledge.

The alley was wider than the spaces Claus normally tired such a maneuver in, but if all the doors were barred he didn’t see how he would otherwise gain access. If the streets remained deserted he didn’t think it likely that waiting around for someone to open the door would prove fruitful.

Claus positioned himself between the two walls, a bit away from the window sill, and took two quick...

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