Jenny had stuck to the floor again. It was quite by accident, of course, though she took no issue with being there this time. The last incident had taught her the ways of the carpet, and she had every intention of making this a successful encounter. She pushed her nose into the fibres, spreading her arms before her.
“That’s my ankle,” someone said.
“I’m sorry,” Jenny said, “I mistook you for a chair.”
Someone joked that it was a fair mistake, and the room vibrated from laughter at the expense of the bony-legged person. Jenny, who hadn’t found the joke amusing, pursued an off-colour thread in the carpet, grabbing fistfuls of tuft and dragging herself forward. Her stomach burned from the friction, but the thread beckoned her on, glowing like a heated wire.
The room darkened, as if a great cloud had passed in front of the window. The party recessed into the shadows like a cluster of morning glories. The walls grew taller, and the window disappeared high above as the room descended.
“Ground floor,” Jenny said, knowing the instruction to be unnecessary.
Jenny continued toward the thread in the carpet, the luminescent rope that would take her out of the well. In a moment, it will all be over, she told herself. With a concentrated effort, Jenny grabbed the thread, which grew into a thick vine in her hands. She pressed the soles of her feet to the floor and erected herself, scaling the now vertical surface like a mountaineer.
The room erupted into applause, and Jenny waved her hand as a camera flash went off.
She felt a bony hand on her shoulder.
“Perhaps you’d better lie down,” someone said.
“I am lying down,” Jenny cried, and she was.
They were outside the window when I woke up, the tall woman and her little son, staggering around the field on bloated legs. I turned the large iron key and stepped out. They ceased their shuffling as I approached. It was the night after midsummer, and the blue light shone on the white eyes of my visitors.
“You killed my dog,” I said, knowing it to be true.
The woman responded with a voice like a rake through rotten leaves.
“Why is it that violins cannot sound underwater?” she said.
“I know you’ve come from the well,” I said, pointing to the broad pipe that protruded from the knoll.
“You’ve been lied to,” said the woman, “we came from the lake, and to the lake we shall return.”
The woman took her boy by the hand and walked down the knoll toward the road that separated my house from the lake. I followed, and we stepped onto a wooden pier. The small boy plunged into the water. The woman slid slowly into the lake, her white gown spreading on the surface.
“I know you want me to follow you,” I said, “but I won’t come.”
“It is not for you to choose,” she said, and her black veins protruded from her temples.
“It will have to be later.”
“Very well,” she said, “If you won’t come peacefully with us now, we will crawl out of the lake on your 98th birthday, and we will torture you, and then we will drown you.”
They vanished under the water.
I stood on the pier for a while, watching the mist roll off the hills and make their way through the pines. After some consideration, I congratulated myself on my bargaining skills and returned to bed.