The Room
Rachel Simon

A simple mahogany door with a crystal doorknob, slightly worn with age.
In front of the simple door, on the bare wood floor, sat a pile of girl and dress, the girl being small, about 7-years-old, the dress being taffeta and adorned with various frills and bows. The girl sat in a manner any respectable girl of her age would sit. She stared at the door—only stared—with the intensity of a young child that stares at something, staring past it.
She stood and walked to her right, coming to a stop in front of a small table that sported a tall antique mirror. To the left of this table was a long, dark hallway where cobwebs hung, built by dainty spiders. In her reflection inside the mirror, the girl would say that she simply saw herself, but others would see more. They would see a girl with a face as soft and sweet as a cherub. They would say that they saw silver doll-like hair held up in wide, cascading pigtails. They would see her wide eyes, green circles of young bliss.
On the table, before which she stood, a ceramic toy tea set waited patiently. The mother of the set, a tea pot with intricately-painted blue roses and swirls, three children tea cups, a creamer uncle, and sugar cup aunt bided their time on a genuine silver tray. With an eagerly playful small hand, the girl picked up the tea pot by the handle and poured imaginary tea into each cup, as if what she was pouring were real yet unseen.
As she was pouring the invisible tea into the third cup, a hand placed itself onto her right shoulder. This hand wore a black lace-up fingerless glove, and red harpy-nails ended each finger.
The girl looked into the mirror, eyes finding the figure behind her, and she could not control her mouth as it slid into a long smile.
“Have you listened well to Mama Gossamer?” the woman cooed in a candy-sweet voice, which translated into, “Have you behaved yourself and stayed out of the room?”
This woman’s skin seemed to be porcelain: smooth, white, cold, and without a single blemish. Her hair was blood red, made up in the same style as the girl’s. On her face, which bore an ever-loving expression, she wore a pair of small sunglasses, the frames circular and the lenses opaque, black. As for the attire, she wore tight black pants over her slender legs, a red corset that covered a ruffled gray shirt, a pair of heels, and a flowing jacket with a tall collar that circled her feminine neck.
“Yes, Mama Gossamer,” said the child, answering the woman’s question as always.
Mama Gossamer looked to the tea set, and then to the reflecting child’s face. “How would you like some real tea?” Her teeth shined in the light of a candle that took its position next to the silver tray.
“Oh, I would like that very much,” said the little doll of a girl eagerly, lovingly. The girl’s hand, the hand of an infant, floated its way into Mama Gossamer’s hand. Mama Gossamer then closed her own talon around the girl’s, gently blew the candle out, and led the girl away from the dresser and past the simple door.
As they turned the corner and walked down the stairs, the elderly wood complaining about their steps, the girl inquired, “Why must I not go into that room?”
They entered the quaint kitchen at the bottom of the stairs and the girl was led to the circular table—clothed with a cloud-white tablecloth and waiting patiently—where she immediately sat. A candelabrum stood proudly in the middle of the table, the long candles burning unevenly.
Mama Gossamer placed her hands on her hips. “You know exactly why, darling.” Her tone was ever so patient and kind.
“Yes, but can you please tell me again?”
The left corner of Mama Gossamer’s mouth lifted skyward in a partial grin, and she crossed her arms in front of her chest. Playful sigh. “All right.” As she searched through one dark wooden cabinet after another—which circled all the way around the kitchen and were too high for the girl to reach—she continued: “Sweetheart, you know quite well that your brother is in there, has been for years, and cannot come out. He is not suited for the world anymore.”
“That’s it?”
“That’s all I shall say on the matter—Oh, fiddlesticks . . . No tea.” She paused for a moment, and then addressed the girl again: “I need to go to the market. I’ll be back.” Mama Gossamer kissed the girl on the forehead, leaving a faint red smudge. “Listen well to Mama Gossamer.” Still meaning “stay out of the room.”
“Yes, Mama Gossamer. Goodbye.”

A small hand slowly, cautiously slid itself along the faded keys of the upright piano. Maybe a few of the once-ivory keys should be pressed, just for fun? Maybe a G or a D or even a B flat? The hand—the girl’s hand—removed its position from the keys to the top of the piano. A picture frame was propped there, with a photograph of the girl and Mama Gossamer nestled cozily inside. The girl wore a pale blue dress, and her hair flaunted a dramatic white bow. Mama Gossamer, on the other hand, wore a dress the color of her blood-red hair. A black hat tilted lazily on her head, long black fingerless gloves hugging her forearms, and her signature sunglasses shielding her eyes. She had explained to the girl that that was the outfit she always wore for important photographs.
This precious picture had one neighbor, a similar picture. It was the same size, housed by a similar frame, and Mama Gossamer looked exactly the same. In place of the girl, though, there was a boy who wore a three-piece pinstripe suit, the silver chain of a pocket watch perpetually glinting in the light of the camera flash. His hair was feathery black. In the photograph, he looked the same age as the girl and was, in fact, the girl’s older brother. That was a few years ago.
These were the only photographs in the whole house, to the girl’s knowledge.

Mama Gossamer took a single strand of her flawless hair and quickly plucked it from her head. She stuck an inch of the end in her mouth and pulled it out with pursed lips. The wetted end became straight, sharp, like a needle, while the untampered end remained limp and coiling, like Medusa’s own hair.
A rag doll lay on the dresser in her room. It was so beautifully crafted that it could have been mistaken for a porcelain doll. It was absolutely perfect, except for a few incomplete components: It was lacking a smile or frown or any sort of mouth, and it stared upward blankly with only one back button eye. She picked up the doll, cradling it, and began its completion with her red thread and needle.
Instinctively, she lifted her head and listened. She heard neither creaks nor sounds of small footsteps. She had left the girl downstairs to finish her tea and play with her toys, and she had instructed the girl to stay downstairs.
She continued to work on the doll, stitching in and out of its cloth skin. It was nearly finished.

The girl continued to play with blocks and jacks and various dolls, but she could no longer ignore the curiosity that gnawed on her brain like a lazy dog chewing on a bone. She returned to the piano, to the photograph of her brother. Not so very long ago, she had found something inside the frame, behind the photograph, and the frame was the perfect size to accommodate this object. The girl suppressed her will to use it since then, but her cracked will finally broke. She turned the frame around and pried open the back. She sighed, relieved that it was still there. Against the white of the photograph’s back, a bronze antique key stood upright, leaning against a side of the frame. The handle of the key framed a design similar to a fleur-de-lis, except that it was rounder and swirls tentacled from the symbol. She greedily snatched the key and closed the picture frame, returning it innocently to its original position.
The nosy creature of a girl crept up the stairs, ignoring the areas that creaked and moaned in argument to her footsteps. Around the corner she strode, with feet as quiet as a hummingbird. She halted, turned, and faced the looming mahogany door. Without consciously thinking about it, she squeezed the key that she held in her hand. Her grip loosened, and her hand flowered open. Revealed were the now-warm key and the imprint made by the key, which left part of her palm white. She turned the key around in her hand so that she was pinching the embellished end between her forefinger and thumb and the head of the key pointed accusingly at the keyhole—trembling, but only slightly.
This felt all too surreal to the girl. Her hand was, at this point, numb from the dream-like state in which her mind continued to wallow. If she weren’t staring unbelievably at it, she wouldn’t have realized that her hand was slowly gliding toward the lock, key poised to attack.
Curiosity is an unquenchable beast. The girl was so possessed by this unforgiving creature that, as the key made its home in the keyhole and began to rotate, the only reason she could remember for wanting to open this door was pure curiosity. Her own childishness had temporarily pushed to the depths of her now-unfeeling mind any thoughts of her brother.
The glimmering doorknob, which the girl eagerly grabbed with her small hand, matched the sparkle evident in the girl’s eyes. This was the moment she had been anticipating for so long. She gave the door a little shove, and as it stood wide open—unfastened and free—she could only stare. As she attempted to fully absorb everything she saw, her brain prevented her from gasping, moving, or even dropping her jaw.
Everywhere there were pictures. They crowded the floor, and nightstand and armoires were overflowing with framed pictures. On closer inspection of the pictures, she noticed that all of them had something in common: Mama Gossamer appeared in every picture, and standing (or sometimes sitting) next to her in every picture was a different child. The pictures ranged from what seemed to be fairly recent to impossibly antique, and some were small portraits instead of photographs. The children were dressed in attire dating from different periods of time, and Mama Gossamer wore her standard portrait outfit (with slight variations in accordance with the evident time periods), the same that she wore in the picture with the girl.
On the farther side of the room was situated a tall, very comfortable-looking bed, which surprised her the most. It wasn’t the bed which surprised her, though, but what was on the bed (and, to further build upon my previous point, there were still more pictures stashed underneath the bed). The covers were drawn up to his chest, and he merely looked as if he were sleeping. His face was blank—neither serene nor pained—and the sheets around his chest moved up as he breathed in and down as he breathed out, slow and painfully even. But there was something more to it, thought the girl. People don’t just go to sleep for a few years without there being something more to it.
A hand gently placed itself on her right shoulder, but it did not startle her; she was still in a confused, disbelieving daze. The hand was neither angry nor demeaning. Rather, it seemed almost frightened, for it was quivering on her shoulder in spasms.
The girl felt the numbing sensation again. She did not move, and her words did not seem like her own when she asked, “What . . . ?” and then, “Why . . . ?” and finally a little sigh of “Uhhh . . .” which dwindled down into a small squeak.
“Listen well to Mama Gossamer,” this woman—now a stranger to the little girl—said in a trembling voice. “I have been alive for many, many years. Longer than you can count. Longer than I can count anymore. As you are my mock daughter, I have had many mock children. Yet not one has yet decided to live eternally with me. Sometimes I even deemed a child impossible to live eternity with. These photographs reveal all who once lived with me as my children. Your brother, lying on that bed in a state of perpetual slumber, came across his current fate through an accident.”
Mama Gossamer spun the little girl around and knelt in front of her. In her left hand was a simple, yet undeniably perfect doll, whose eyes glistened in a way that matched its perpetually-wide, sewed-on smile. She held it limply, showing it to the girl, and said, “With every child, I make a doll and offer it. This object is the key to your eternity with me. Your brother, in the adventurous spirit that all boys possess, happened upon his doll before its completion and touched it, attempting to examine it.” From behind her black sunglasses, tears migrated down her cheeks, some continuing down her neck, some jumping off her chin. The girl was taken aback slightly, for she had never seen Mama Gossamer cry. “I’m so very sorry,” Mama Gossamer sighed in distress. “I never meant to take your brother away from you. I never anticipated what would occur. I love you, and all I have ever looked for was the love of mother and child. All I want is love.”
She threw her arms around the girl and embraced her tightly, but briefly. When both looked each other in the face once more, the girl reached her hand toward Mama Gossamer’s head and slid her sunglasses away from her face. Mama Gossamer’s eyes were wide and youthful, her irises were a shade of scarlet that matched the rest of her ensemble, and the whites of her eyes were ruddy from weeping.
The little girl whispered, “I love you, too.” With as much care as if it were a baby, she took the doll from Mama Gossamer’s hand and, with a child’s warmth and compassion, hugged Mama Gossamer back.