The House of the Twelve Keys
Part 3. The Gruesome Gallery
Raj’s eyes adjusted to the gloom. “The eyes aren’t real. I think they’re painted.”
Pat breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, there must be a light somewhere here.” She ran her hands around the damp and clammy walls and flicked a switch.
A dim yellow light flickered on, revealing four walls of framed images.
Raj was right. The eyes were just paint. But the paintings were of monsters so hideously gruesome that Pat regretted finding the light.
That lizard in modern clothes seemed to wiggle. Was it…breathing?
The giant fangs on a snow monster in some weird frilly collar gleamed. Did that monster drool like it was expecting a meal?
A cyclops in a toga…winked?
Every image was of a different beast in a different outfit. There were twelve in all. Some looked like a kid drew them. Some were incredibly realistic.
And no matter where Pat and Raj moved, the eyes followed them.
“It’s just an optical illusion,” Raj said.
“Maybe.” Pat wasn’t convinced. “Let’s see if they follow us OUT OF HERE.”
But there was no door.
“This makes no sense,” Pat said. “Why are they all dressed differently?”
“Hey, I have an idea,” Raj said. But before he could explain, there was a BOOM and the ceiling of the room began to slide down.
“That dragon in the dress definitely smacked its lips!” Pat said, leaping to her feet.
“Quick!” Raj said. “Grab that carnivorous rabbit and switch it with the cyclops!”
“I’ll explain later!” Raj switched the lizard with a shark creature dressed in a long flowing gown and top hat.
The ceiling was now right above the frames. In just a few more seconds they’d all be crushed.
“One last move!” Raj said. He took down a crudely painted spikey-antlered deer thing and swapped it with the rabbit.
The ceiling stopped and then began to rise again, slowly. Raj sat down on the floor and let out a long breath.
“What was the key?” Pat asked, still not totally sure what had just happened.
“Remember that art history book we read last week?”
“Yeah. Well, a little,” Pat said. She’d liked the pictures. Raj had soaked up all the other stuff.
“It’s art history,” Raj said pointing to the images. “Look at all the clothes. Each painting is from a different era. The lizard is wearing a suit, so that’s modern. The rabbit is from the Renaissance, and that cyclops is from ancient Greece.”
“And that deer thing is like a pre-historic cave painting,” Pat said. “So we put it all in order?”
“Yup. Oldest to newest.”
“Cool! The paintings seem disappointed,” Pat said. “That rabbit is actually frowning now.”
“They don’t look so scary anymore either,” Raj said.
The ceiling clicked back into place. A door appeared in the wall between the deer thing and the rabbit.
It creaked open. The floor suddenly tilted and Pat and Raj were tossed into another room. It smelled like hay and manure.
Can you guess what happens next?