Karina didn’t always hate her job, but today was an exception. She shivered as she climbed the broad front steps to Ronoke mansion. A storm thrashed threatening to rip the structure stone by stone.
The front doors slammed open against the wall. Karina gave a shriek and dropped her lantern which bounced down several steps behind. She took a few moments to compose her breath, leaning against one of the support pillars so her legs didn’t buckle under her. She licked her lips.
“It’s just the wind,” she whispered.
As she turned to pick up the lantern, a shadow up the stairs gave her pause. Karina was not much for ghost stories, but the Ronoke mansion gave her the creeps. There were many dark rumors and it didn’t help that the owners kept to themselves. In all her years of cleaning, she had never met the family, she had only seen pictures.
So she turned demurely toward the top knowing with all surety that ghosts were not real and no harm could come to her. In the dim light half blocked by her own body, Karina could only make out a small form of a child with extravagantly long hair. She squinted against the dark.
“And who might you be, dear? The owners are away…you are not perhaps a friend of Ayaka’s?”
The form didn’t move and didn’t say anything. Karina thought it odd. The family was out of town this weekend. She shrugged. Her Japanese was poor. She retrieved her lantern and began her way back up the stairs. The figure was gone.
“My old eyes are playing tricks,” she muttered as her legs groaned with the effort of the steps.
Behind her, the storm ravaged the black forest. She was about to enter when a streak of lightning lit up the front of the building. The figure she had seen before peered down at her from the tower on high. Karina stopped and stared. In the brief light reflected from the window, she saw a dainty form with golden shining hair that flowed down and out the open window.
“What beautiful hair you have, dear.”
It was so soft, Karina wasn’t sure she had heard correctly.
It was so lyrical, like the strum of a heavenly cord. Karina sat on the stairs, drenched, mesmerized. Something silky wrapped around her skin. Still, she did not move.
Karina felt her eyes go droopy. Her breath was shallow. She felt insubstantial.
Karina’s eyes widened momentarily, unable to register how she had come so close to the figure. A familiarity swept over her, her dull mind fighting hard to recognize the signal. But all she could see was a bloody Chesire smile and all she could feel was silk.
“Am I beautiful?”
Karina turned to look into the mirror.
“Rapunzel, rapunzel…” her lips moved.