Dreams I: Château Dumointe

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Booksie Classic

A traveler mysteriously comes across a Midwestern town with a bizarre store that seems stuck in a time warp.

In the course of some travel, I came across a small town in the Western prairies. It was nothing like the surrounding areas, immediately giving an unusual and old impression.

The consisted of a meager number of plain-sided wooden buildings scattered about randomly in a vague oval. They were constructed in the style matching that of the earlier history of the area, being completely made out of wood and jointed expertly in places. However, at the same time none of them were so worn to truly seem that old. Although the sun had bleached and browned the walls of the structures, they still had the dignified, dare I say fresh look of newer construction.

The sun beat down in a harsh but diffuse manner as I looked off in the distance, where shallow hills rolled on and on. The scale of nature felt alien. It seemed like it would take an eternity just to walk to the horizon even though there was scarcely anything between me and that distant asymptote dividing the ground and the heavens. The ground around the town consisted of dried-out, yellow fields that gave off a bit of a warm smell.

A sense of curiosity pushed me to enter the first and most important-looking building. It was set apart quite a distance from the others, and it was the first one a voyager might encounter. On its outside, at eye level, hung a hand-painted wooden sign done in dignified white capital letters, "Château Dumointe".

It seemed like a strange name, and I couldn't tell if it referred to the entire hamlet or simply the place I was about to explore. I hesitated a moment, feeling a sense of foreboding, but curiousity got the better of me as I grabbed the crude wooden door handle and entered the establishment.

Inside, it looked just as historical. A staircase hugged the right wall, winding up to an unseen second floor, and directly in front of me were the doors to two large rooms. Far on the left was an empty space with counter and a few chairs and a few more rooms hidden behind them, obscured by the storerooms in front of me.

Everything was made in the simplest fashion, completely befitting the pioneer days. It all invoked a curious sense of mystery.

My footsteps sounded unusally loud as I cautiously made my way to the storeroom door by the stairs. Opening it, I found myself in a large room full of table upon table of handmade stained glass pieces-- icons, stars, and trinkets produced in the most fascinating shades of sunlight yellow, electric purple, sage green, and rose. I had never seen anything like this; it was not the crude, metal-veined glasswork of other places, but much subtler, with variations in thickness, expertly etched patterns in subdued tones between layers of glass, and general charcteristics somewhere between glass and wax. On a round tray on one of the tables were some other small goods such as miniature metal statues and dice, but they did not feel as unique.

The quality and nature of the items invited me to pour over everything slowly. Then, I heard sound of footsteps approaching from behind, and an older man appeared at my side, watching me closely. He was bearded, attired in a blue vest, gray pants and suspenders, and wore an old felted hat.

It seemed we didn't belong in the same world, as his atmosphere was much more primeval, silent, and ancient than mine.

After looking at some small pewter statues of various people and animals, I selected a certain piece of honey-colored glass to purchase. It was a carefully depicted Byzantine portrait.

The man hovering beside me gave me an uneasy feeling, so I left the storeroom and headed towards the counter to the right. Now I noticed several other people around, all clothed in the drab and conservative style of the early settlers, and everything was eerily silent except for a few hushed words in a language I could not decipher.

I took out my wallet and paid the woman who seemed to handle the sales, although there was no cash register to be seen. Behind the counter, a young child walked around the part of the building I hadn't seen yet, past a few closed doors to unknown rooms. By the front window, where I realized someone could have been watching me when I was outside a few minutes ago, there was a young woman holding her baby.

I felt strangely calm from the slow-paced nature of the area and people, yet vaguely nervous as well. Something was tugging at my subconscious. Leaning against the wall, I ruminated silently as the others took occasional wary glances at me.

They continued the enigmatic patterns of their lives, and all seemed quiet outside. Taking a glance at the rest of the town, I saw nobody else around.

Then that quandary that was simmering in the back of my mind popped up clearly. The nature of the parched ground and the increasingly chaotic skies made it clear.

Is this place dangerous?

The man who had escorted me when I was browsing appeared from one of the storerooms, and I nervously walked up to him.

"Are there storms around here?" I asked.

He stared blankly and did not respond.

Feeling a sense of urgency, I walked back behind the counter and down the hallway behind the storerooms, towards the back door where the young child was now standing. Looking out the window of the door, I could see that my fears had been realized.

A dusty brown tornado was whipping up ominously at the farthest hill, a mile or two away. I was entranced for a moment by its titanic, ageless quality before I realized it was heading towards me.

Panicked, I froze for a moment before remembering what to do. Hurrying as fast as possible, I quickly opened the two nearby doors.

There was nothing inside but burlap sacks and a few bulk food supplies. No trapdoors or exits were to be seen. Back by the counter, I yelled for everyone to find the storm cellar and hide, but they barely noticed. After giving a cursory glance at the storerooms and realizing that there would never be a storm cellar upstairs, I ran out the front door, fear building as the storm was now only moments away.

Then, somehow, I realized that the locals had found safety at their leisurely, last-second pace. I joined them at the corner of the building, where they had opened up the entrance to the basement. I was the last one in as the wind in the area started to quickly pick up.

And in there, all was black.

A period of time passed that felt indescribable, holed up in a place with no sound, no light, and no sensation.

It was hard to tell how much time passed, a minute, an hour.

Abruptly, the entrance flew open again and light flooded underground.

I picked myself up and headed slowly back above ground, but as my eyes adjusted, it was evident that Château Dumointe had been completely reduced to rubble. It was simply a pile of splintered planks and only a small remmnant of the titular sign poked out.

Somehow, all the other buildings were completely unharmed.

All the villagers around me stared at the rubble and the town, unaffected.

It was as if all this had happened a hundred times before.

Submitted: January 19, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Azure James. All rights reserved.

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