In a state of total panic and scarcely able to believe the sight which met his eyes, Max hadn’t a clue what he should do. A strange cloud, glowing with a mysterious inner light, filled the middle of the room and through the mist he saw what seemed to be the shadowy image of an ancient city. It was rather like the mirage of an oasis floating before the eyes of a traveller in a desert and, in the same way that a mirage seems real, but shimmers in the heat haze before gradually fading from view, so the fuzzy outline of the town flickered and began to disappear.
Suddenly a hand reached out through the mist, clawing desperately at the bare floorboards of the attic as though trying to grab hold of something, while faint, panic-stricken voices cried out from within the cloud.
‘Where’s the key?’
‘I don’t know. I can’t find the wretched thing. I must have left it on the floor next to the book.’
‘We’re stuck without the key, Isabel. We won’t be able to get back.’
‘But we have to get back. Oh no, this is awful! What are we going to do?’
Eventually the anguished cries grew fainter as the image of the city continued to fade and the searching hand withdrew from sight. Then all was quiet once more.
Max cocked his head on one side and focused his aquamarine eyes on the last shreds of mist, but there was no longer any sign of the outstretched arm. The desperate voices had ceased and only the rasping of his own breath broke the silence as he gasped in horror. Alone and afraid, he remained rooted to the spot and rubbed a paw over his eyes, staring at the empty space where the vision had been. He settled down to wait for them to come back, but the gateway to the past had now closed and they’d vanished.
In the middle of the floor a carved wooden chest, its open lid revealing a threadbare blue velvet lining, sat beside an old book whose leather cover bore an intricate design. Next to the book and the chest lay Isabel’s favourite gold necklace on which hung an unusual charm. It was the only evidence of the weird event which had just taken place.
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