"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate” was carved in ornate script and painted in crimson above the door.
“Dante Alighieri. Nice. I suppose this is something like the Divine Comedy,” she muttered, pushing those ancient heavy doors open.
Sarah gave up hope of ever finding her sister alive again long ago. She looked out of habit now rather than any real hope of success. That, and she couldn’t bear to tell her mother the truth. Her mother still lived in a delusional world where happy endings still existed. Sarah didn’t have the heart to destroy that.
Her latest clues led her to this antique house in the middle of nowhere Maryland. The four acre lot looked just as well tended as the house, which puzzled Sarah. Everything she found prior to coming said it had been abandoned for longer than she’d been alive.
Inside, Sarah paused to let her eyes adjust to the dim light. She also wanted to get a sense of the house and its occupants through what she could see. The house was not deserted, of that Sarah was sure. There was a sense of life, of care and of energy the house had that screamed louder than any Las Vegas casino sign telling her people lived there.
She made her way through the first floor of the house, careful not to disturb anything. In each room she saw more and more signs of habitation. Ten minutes later, Sarah’d been through the whole house and hadn’t found any of its occupants. Taking a deep breath, she made her way out to the backyard. Four steps from the back porch Sarah stopped when she saw movement in the trees along the edge of the property.
“We’ve been waiting for you. Do you truly wish to continue your quest?” a deep baritone called out from the shadowed tree line.
“Who the hell are you?” she shouted back, not sure if she was more startled by the voice itself or the fact that its owner seemed to know what she wanted.
“I am the one with the answers you seek. But, be forewarned, Dante’s words are above the entrance for a reason.”
“Nice. How does abandoning hope help me here? Are you taking me to her grave or something equally creepy?”
“No. But it is not what you expect. You must be prepared to accept what you see and not attempt to change it. Do you understand?”
“Not really but it doesn’t seem like I have much of a choice. What do you want me to do?”
“Stand still,” Sarah found herself blindfolded with no notion of how it happened, “Now, follow the one next to you.”
Someone took her by the hand, a male perhaps, due to the size and roughness of the hand in hers. They made their way into the woods for several minutes before stopping. When Sarah’s blindfold was removed, her first sight was of her sister looking alive and well in the middle of the clearing.