Art can be inspiring, thought-provoking, uplifting, protesting, and sometimes… downright strange. I stared at the painting hanging in the entryway of the mansion. I’d come here to do an inventory of the home’s contents for the daughter of the late owner. The estate had belonged to her mother, with whom she had a contentious relationship, and the daughter wanted to sell as much as she could, clear out the house, and then sell the house. My company, that would be me, had been hired to coordinate the estate sale.
The first thing I noticed when I walked through the main front door (there were at least three other entrances around the sides and at the back), was the very large painting depicting a mermaid rising out of the trunk of a sunken car.
“There’s a mermaid in the trunk,” I muttered.
“Yup,” a voice behind me said.
I glanced over my shoulder at my friend and sometime work partner, Geoff. “Well, it’s not what you expect to see,” I told him.
“True. But it’s kinda like when they sink ships to build a reef. Did the car become a new home for the mermaid?” Geoff asked.
“Huh. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But then, I don’t really stop to think about building homes for mythical creatures,” I said.
“Are you so certain they’re mythical?” he responded with a grin.
I rolled my eyes. “Okay, fine. Potentially existing creatures whose existence has yet to be thoroughly verified,” I replied.
Geoff nodded. “I’ll take that answer. So. Where do you want to start?”
I stepped further into the house and looked around. The hall we currently stood in stretched to the back of the house, presumably ending in the kitchen. We stood in front of an elaborate curving staircase with a formal living room off to our left, and what looked like a study or den to the right. A door under the stairs was open slightly and I could see a sink inside. That must be the half bath.
“How about we work our way down from the second floor?” I suggested. “Or the attic if there is one.”
“Sure thing, boss,” Geoff said. He grabbed his tablet and headed up the stairs. “I’ll take the west wing to start.”
I nodded and followed him upstairs. I had an inventory program that had about ninety percent of what one would find in an estate of this size. Believe it or not you could put a number of things in as generics, such as “antique dresser, Queen Anne style” and then simply add details later. It made the initial inventory go very quickly.
Heading to the east side of the second floor I noticed a number of paintings on the wall with more creatures out of myths and stories. The owner had certainly been fond of the old legends. I entered the last door on the right, expecting to see a bedroom.
It was and it wasn’t.
The usual furnishings were in the room – queen-sized bed, night stand on either side, the expected antique dresser (Victorian though, not Queen Anne), and small desk with a chair.
What I didn’t expect to see was the tree, with a door in the trunk, growing in the middle of the room. I shook my head and closed my eyes, but when I opened them, the tree with its door was still there. Taking a tentative step forward, I stretched out my hand and patted the trunk of the tree. Yep. Real. I backed out of the room, closing the door.
“Hey, Geoff? Can you come here a minute?” I called down the hall.
Geoff stuck his head out of the room at the opposite end of the hallway. “You okay, Gillian?”
“Yeah. Just come here a second, will you? I’d like you to verify something for me,” I said.
“Okay,” Geoff said, walking toward me.
When he reached me, I looked at him. “I’m going to open the door. Step into the room and then tell me what you see,” I said.
Geoff gave me a strange look but shrugged. “Okay.”
I opened the door and peered over his shoulder. Yep. The tree was still there. I felt Geoff freeze.
“Um, Gillian? There’s a tree with a door in it growing in the middle of the room,” he whispered.
“Okay, good. I’m not going crazy,” I said, stepping up beside him.
“Well, compared to me, no. But the rest of the world?” he replied with a small grin. “Why is there a real,” he reached out to the tree, “yeah, real tree growing in this room? What do we do now?”
“Well, I actually think the bigger question is how is there a tree growing in this room. Then we can get to the ‘why’ of it. For now though, I go back to my client, the late owner’s daughter, and get a little more information about her mother and this house. You go to the library, or internet, or town records and see what you can find out about the house. Previous owners, any rumors about it, that sort of thing,” I said. “I’m not setting up an estate sale until I know exactly what’s going on here. I don’t want to disturb anything that might still be living here.”
Geoff gave me a sideways glance. “I thought you didn’t buy into the existence of supernatural beings, creatures, whatever,” he said.
“I’m not willing to push the limits of what may or may not be real after seeing that painting downstairs, and then a tree growing in the middle of a second floor bedroom,” I told him. “There’s something going on here and I’m not walking in blind.”
We both backed out of the room, and I closed the door.
My challenge this week was delivered by ‘nother Mike: There was a mermaid in the trunk. Padre took on my prompt: The house looked like a herd of buffalo had gone through… oh, wait. They had. but it had been a herd of very small buffalo. If you go over to More Odds Than Ends you can see what Padre did with that one and what everybody else did with their prompts. Go on! It’s fun and gives you a little break in your day.