Miniature House

An impossible ornament with fantastic detail... what secret does the miniature house hold? [Winner of the 'Finish the Story with Alex Scarrow' competition.]

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1. Miniature House

AN: This short story was the winner of the 'Finish the Story with Alex Scarrow' competition, hosted on the Spinebreakers website (http://www.spinebreakers.co.uk/). I'm very pleased to have had my story chosen by Alex Scarrow himself, the author of the TimeRiders series.

The emboldened paragraph is the section I was given as a starter. The rest is all my own work - please read, comment and critique to your heart's content. Any feedback is welcome.

*

It wasn't my bag. It was someone else’s. There’d obviously been some kind of mix-up at the airport. But when I opened that bag, I found the most curious little thing at the bottom of it.

The house was small – tiny; in fact it was no larger than my thumbnail. The miniscule dwelling was incredibly detailed, with singular roof tiles and individual bricks only just visible to the naked eye. It was wonderfully beautiful in the most mysterious sense. I assumed it to be an ornament from a land far away – what else could it be? It was too small to be practical, and seemed too delicate to do anything other than sit on the mantelpiece. I almost felt that it was calling me to gaze upon it, to feel it with my fingers. I was all too happy to oblige – I took the strange object from its tissue-lined box and turned it over in my hands.

The model was the singular most complex thing that I had ever seen. So much fine detail covered the miniature house. Even when my eye was mere centimetres from it, so much was there to see. The ivy at the gabled end was of the most exquisite emerald hue, clinging to bricks of the most subtle terracotta. Windows reflected light in a dazzling display, the apparently clear ‘glass’ a fantastic downsized replica of the real thing. In fact, if you looked really very closely indeed, you could almost see through the windows: past the panes of glass, over the sills, into the rooms beyond, where there-

A frown bent my brow. Could I have just seen what I suspected I had? Was it even possible? No, I decided firmly, it was quite impossible. Yet there it sat, before my eyes, a veritable impossible triangle in the physical world, its existence irrefutable yet quite unexplainable.

There, in the room, sat a person.

I pulled away from the tiny house, my forehead still flexed into that most doubtful of expressions. I blinked twice in a dazed fashion. I could not believe it! Was there truly a tiny man inside the house? I peered back through the window, back into the room. From my pocket I produced a magnifier, and with it I sought to shed some light upon the matter. Its thick lens brought everything into focus as I adjusted the distance, and then – there it was! Plain for all to see! A bedroom, complete with furniture and wallpapered walls if the most garish mauve. But no person.

The creasing of my face was now becoming difficult to continue, so I let the expression drop and adopted one of quizzical curiosity. What had just happened here? Had my eyes misinterpreted the light, played a cruel trick on me? Or had I actually seen a human being inside the house, perched on the end of the bed?

My eyes had never given me reason to doubt them before. I was given to believe practically anything that I saw through them. So here I was confronted with a difficult choice: whether to believe my eyes, or give in to reason and admit that perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me. But often things on this earth do not bend to reason. How does the bumblebee fly with such small, gossamer wings? How does the miracle of life occur? Yes, not everything can be explained by reason alone. Perhaps now was one of those times. Yes, I thought, now is one of those times.

What are humans if not adept at engineering their own destruction?

I refocused the magnifying glass on the door, its magnificently crafted woodwork a work of genius. It had a pinhead-size lock of what looked to be polished brass. A beautiful letterbox embellished the door, adding a flash of gold to the brown portal. I could even see the hinges, apparently nailed into the doorframe with tiny nails.

Something was very wrong with this house; I could feel it in my gut. How could any man be as meticulous and painstaking as to fashion anything with as much skill as he who had crafted the house? Also, how could a person have such a steady hand as to create a door of wood that appeared to have a grain to it and bricks with tiny pocks in them? No, I thought, I do not think this is possible. There is something not right here – and I intend to find out what it is.

There was only one way to be entirely sure as to whether a man or woman had created this masterpiece: look inside. No-one, not even a master craftsman, could fashion the outside with such skill as well as an interior. No, an interior would be quite impossible, indeed. But how was I to test it? There was no way in – the windows were all shut, and no chimney adorned the peaked roof. No, even the door wasn’t open.

The door.

The door! It was the answer: the door had hinges that made the door open inwards. If one could open it, then one could peer inside and determine whether it was indeed manmade. In fact, if the door even opened, it would achieve the same result.

I set the miniature house down on the bedside cabinet, careful not to break the delicate features, and reached back into my own luggage. From the dark depths of a bag I retrieved a matchbox – small the box was, the cardboard construction was at least ten times the size of the conundrum I was faced with. With excited fingers, I slid open the tiny drawer and removed from inside a tack. A bright orange plastic handle was home to the small metal needle, its miniscule point literally but the size of a pin’s head. The fine tip I could not see, despite being so close to the object.

I licked my lips in anticipation: this was exactly what I needed for my plan. I allowed myself a smile. “Let’s see if we can’t open you up,” I said, more to myself than to anyone else. I took the tack in one hand and the magnifier in the other and leant back down to take another close look at the house.

My amazement and sheer fascination remained unchanged as I again viewed that curious little ornament, its surface so delicately created by such skilled hands. Careful not to disturb anything, I lay flat on the bed and focused the magnifier upon the door. It truly was terribly tiny, the doorknob no larger than the tack’s tip. Slowly, carefully, I moved the tack into position. And slowly, carefully, I pushed the tack into the door.

I could have sworn that there was a nigh-on undetectable crack and squeak, but past that I could not tell you what happened, as the world all of a sudden flashed white, then black, and then white again. And then, most suddenly, I found myself on my back, in a hallway.

It took me a moment to collect my thoughts. It is, one finds, very much disorienting to be whisked from one location to another at little or no notice, and it was only to be expected that there was a certain dizziness about my head. Yet still, I sat up very quickly, and found my feet all the sooner.

My surroundings had taken a dramatic change, donning the guise of what seemed to be a hallway leading into a house. Once again, that impression of puzzlement found its way onto my forehead, manipulating eyebrows and skin. How could it be? One moment, I was poking at a tiny house, and the next, I was here. All I did was open the-

No, I thought. It could not be! Could I truly be where I thought I could be? Rational thought told me that no, it was quite impossible for me to be where I thought myself to be, but reason... Ah, reason and rationality are not one and the same thing. Often, they do not fit together, and often, they contradict each other. Now was one such time when ‘often’ occurred.

Where was I? Simple: I was inside the very same miniature house as the one that sat on my bedside cabinet.

Being a man of logic and reason, I did not panic immediately. I thought back – back to when I first made use of the magnifier. Did I not believe myself to have beheld a most puzzling spectacle – that of a tiny man residing in the upstairs bedroom? I did, yes I did, I told myself. And logic dictates that that person, whoever he or she may be, must still be here, in this weird place.

Where are the stairs? I wondered. But my eyes did answer that question nigh-on immediately, for they were there, right before me. With haste I took to those stairs, taking the carpeted steps two at a time in my quest to reach the landing. And reach the landing I did, in less than ten seconds. Though I may be described as elderly, I would attack any use of the term ‘arthritic’ used in conjunction with my age, for I am a spritely and fit man person (thought the back does twinge every now and again).

To my right was a door – a light, white-painted door of the IKEA persuasion. I pushed upon it, and swing open it did, responding quite nicely to my touch. Through the door I passed, over the threshold and into the room.

The room was simple, yet elegant as such: a basic queen-sized bed dominated the room, and the walls were tastelessly papered with a most garish mauve print. A writing desk sat in front of the window, and I crossed to this window. Through it I peered, past the panes of glass, over the sills and out into – my goodness!

Finally, it was confirmed for me: the view was that of an enormous hotel room. My hotel room, to be exact. And there was a person sitting on my bed, looking in.

He looked reasonably middle aged – forty, perhaps. But his eyes betrayed him as so much older. He had a sad, almost pitying expression on his face. And he was staring at me.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, but the sound was deafening to my ears. “You exchanged places with me. I’m grateful, in a way. But I was trapped in there for far too long. I don’t know this world anymore. I have to try and make a life for myself, though. But I promise that I’ll look after you, keep you safe on the mantelpiece. I’ll leave the telly on every now and then, and you can just take a look out the window. I’m sorry – I truly am. But you’re trapped now. You won’t get out until someone else lets you out.”

I all but collapsed. I was trapped in this miniature house.

Finally, I despaired.

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