When I was younger I had little fear. I suppose those who have little knowledge cannot truly appreciate why one should be afraid. So little of life has touched one in childhood, if one’s childhood and one’s parents are largely kind, as mine were, on both counts.
So I ranged freely around our rambling houses and the annexes and tunnel ways beneath such vast dimensions. I knew, vaguely, that my parents were very rich, and in that they had large dwellings they called homes for each season. The biggest and wildest and most fascinating of these being the Winter House.
The Winter House was oldest of all, and its tunnels and passageways were brick and solid, not like the rough-hewn rock and wood of the Summer and Spring dwellings. I never questioned why my parents had such a penchant for homes with extensive warrens underneath. It was just what my family wanted, and just what I knew.
I was a child much alone, but not lonely. Again, I had little chance to build friendships as we travelled so frequently. So did not know what I lacked in that regard. The homes and the tunnels were my kingdoms, not to be shared and certainly not to be feared.
But then, one winter, when I was seven years old, something shifted in my awareness. I suspect now something greater had shifted in my family, in the household, and something formerly hidden was about to be brought to the light in some strange, necessary way. In any case, almost overnight it seemed the tunnels beneath the Winter House felt sinister and dread. They felt this way to me, palpably, even before I saw the blood on the walls of the farthest reaches. They felt like death, a concept I could barely encompass, even before I saw my new childhood ‘friends’, locked down there, chained to the walls.
But still, I felt the fear before I saw them, and before I had any chance to understand. They mewed to me like kittens, asking for my help, but it was so frightening and so unexpected, all I could do was run away, back throughout the tunnels, back up to the house itself.
Then I told my parents, who laughed and said I’d imagined it. But I knew I hadn’t, and the tunnels and my innocence were lost to me then.
It would be many, many years before I realised why my parents were so rich, and why they travelled so much. By then, however, I understood much, and feared even more.
I never went down to the tunnels again.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2016