The old man trod slowly down the staircase, his shaky hand sliding along the polished wooden handrail. He paused halfway down to look at himself, he noticed that despite the fact he was wearing a full suit he wasn’t wearing any shoes, a frown of slight confusion deepened the lines on his forehead. He walked on, his cold feet slapping on the smooth marble; the sound echoed around the large entrance hall as he reached the foot of the stairs. A cold draught was creeping across the floor from under the front door, the man shivered, not from the cold but because he was suddenly aware that he could not hear a single thing except for his own breathing and the great house that usually smelt of must and open fires and wood polish was empty of any such smells. The old man walked slowly across the dark hall to an ornate door in the wall to his left, his slightly sweaty feet sticking to the smooth marble floor as he went. He put his hand on the round brass handle, turned it and pushed the door open just a crack; a warm-looking glow of light came from within. His curiosity aroused, he pushed on the door.

The man turned at the top of the staircase and began to walk down; as he did so a familiar smell rose up from below. He frowned suddenly and looked down to see that his feet were bare, and that he was wearing full evening dress despite it being morning, he shrugged his heavy shoulders and carried on down the staircase, his hand gliding along the smooth wooden handrail. As he stepped off of the stairs he felt a chill waft of air sweep over his feet, ‘must remember to get Edwards to pick up a draught excluder when he goes in to town tomorrow’ he thought to himself. The man strode towards a heavily carved door to his left and as he did so the familiar smell struck him again; this time he recognised it as pancakes ‘Cook must have made a batch for breakfast’, the man recalled the pleasant memories of pancakes on his birthdays when he was a boy. As he reached for the handle he knew that on the great dining table would be lemon juice and sugar, honey and maple syrup, butter and maybe even chocolate spread – ready to be slavered onto a steaming pancake. As he turned the handle it occurred to him that rather unusually he had not heard a single sound all morning. He pushed on the door.

The young man yawned and trod delicately down the staircase, his hand grasping the dusty handrail as he went. His feet recoiled slightly from the cold marble steps, and it was this that made him realise that he had nothing on his feet, yet he wore a shirt and linen trousers – he frowned at this as he could not recall taking his shoes off. The smell of pancakes that had woken him drifted up to him again and he continued down the stairs, his stomach making it known that it was empty. ‘Why hasn’t that blasted draught been fixed?’ he murmured to himself as he felt an icy chill play over his exposed feet at the bottom of the stairs. The young man sauntered over to a decorated oak door to his left, the delicious smell of pancakes grew stronger and as he reached for the brass doorknob the sound of plates being set on a table and a rustle of a newspaper came to his ears, he rolled his eyes and jokingly cursed that he was not the first down – if father was already there then he’d be lucky if there were any pancakes left. He pushed open the door.

There was a knocking in his head and someone from very far away called ‘Johnny!’ no, it was not in his head – the knocking came from outside. ‘Johnny time to get up!’ he creaked open his eyelids and two shafts of annoyingly bright light pierced into his brain, he emitted a muttering, gurgling noise and rolled over. ‘Johnny, breakfast is ready – I made your favourite: Pancakes, remember it’s your birthday!’ The words ‘pancakes’ and ‘birthday’ sliced through the thick duvet of sleep and before he knew he was awake the boy stood at the top of the stairs breathing in that familiar smell. The boy thudded down the stairs but stopped halfway; he had forgotten his slippers and his feet were cold on the exposed wooden steps. He remembered that his dad was laying a new carpet so the floor and stairs were bare; he thought the stairs looked better without soft beige pile all over it – grander somehow. He decided to carry on without his slippers and so leaped down the last few steps, the fresh morning air whistled in from the gap under the front door, the boy ignored it and walked over to the kitchen door. He could hear his sister talking and paper rustling which he presumed was the sound of his presents being arranged on the table. He grasped the door handle and paused – a frown crinkled his smooth forehead; he had the uncanny sensation that he had done this before – the feeling of déjà vu was remarkably strong, yet he could not fathom why. He turned the handle and pushed.

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