Lurking shadows might be more than Stephen can handle.
** Image ID #1922905 Unavailable **
It would have been better if the door had remained locked. That was an understatement. I tried to comfort Jamie, my terrified poodle, who was now curled into a tight ball in a corner of the damp concrete basement. The shadow was growing, I could see the sickening evil of it, fingering under the thick oak door atop the stairs. The single light that dangled above us, chain still swaying from my hasty pull, was already flickering. Jamie whined again, a pathetic terrified sound that spoke of impending horror. They say animals are much more perceptive of supernatural than humans are. If this was a testament of that, there was no hope. My heart and lungs, and bowels jumped into my throat and silently I cursed our fate.
Jamie and I had moved into the house two weeks ago, happy to run from my overly protective parents. The land-lady, Miss Arding, was a strange little woman with grey, scraggly hair that fell to her waist, and poorly fitted dentures that jumped precariously forward each time she spoke. Strangely she wouldn’t meet me at the property, just offered the key so I could go in and take a look around. I didn’t bother. The rent was cheap and since this was the only thing available, a drive-by was all I needed. She said the house belonged to her long departed parents, and needed some tender loving care. That was an understatement. She then ranted about a locked door in the house, telling me it was storage. Her demeanor seemed to darken and she turned to look directly at me.
“Don’t you ever unlock that door!” She spat her words as if I was insisting she allow me to open the door. She gave no explanation, just turned back to the tenancy papers. I didn’t ask questions, just reassured her that I would never unlock the door.
As I curl beside Jamie on the damp concrete floor, I wish that I had listened. The shadow was on the second step now, creeping slowly. I could feel the coldness of it and a shiver ran the length of my spine. I thought how much my parents will miss me, and remembered how upset my mother had been on the day I moved out. She had cried so hard; talk about a guilt trip! The tears carved along her face like little waterfalls, smearing black make-up under her eyes and adding to the horror. She wailed every minute or so, causing her face to contort. Even her short, cropped hair looked ruffled, as if the wailing electrified the ends and pushed them outward. It was quite a sight. I didn’t know what to do, so I got mad.
“Christ Mum!” I had yelled, minimizing her pain, “I’m only moving across town!”
My protest helped some, as she realized how overly dramatic she was being. Then, she busied herself collecting last minute odds and ends to stuff into my bag.
“Mum I don’t need Sierras pink baton! Please!”
“But you used to enjoy playing with it. It’s a keepsake.”
“That’s when I was five! Mum, guys don’t play with pink batons!” The ridiculousness caused all of us to laugh, including my dad. Strangely enough, that pink baton would offer me some comfort now.
The locked door was a heavy, decorated oak, just along the hallway leading to the basement stairs. It was on our first evening at the house when the scratching started, coming from the other side of the door. I went outside to see if a window was broken; maybe a critter had got into the room. There were no windows on that side of the house. Eventually the scratching stopped. I figured that whatever it was had either escaped or died.
I found the key at the back of a tall shelf in the upstairs closet. The old lady probably didn’t know it was there. At first I was going to call her and give it back, but then the scratching started again. It would be harmless to just unlock the door to let the critter out.
The key turned easily and as I pushed the door open a chill hit me. It was like liquid nitrogen, so sharp that I could instantly see my breath. Then the shadow of a hand reached around the door. It expanded and grew, falling over the door and reaching towards me. It flailed in the air and drips of vile green substance fell from it, hitting the floor and disappearing. I couldn’t run back into the living room without running into the shadow. The only place to go was the basement. Jamie beat me down there.
Another horrified yelp came from Jamie and drawing my fingers through her curly white fur, I offered comfort. Suddenly, the light went out and tears began falling down my cheeks. For the first time since my junior years in Sunday school, I said a prayer.
“Steven, are you down there? Hello? We came for tea.” The sweetest voice I had ever heard drifted towards me. Jamie’s ears perked.
“Mum! Mum! We’re down here! Help.”
I heard an upstairs door slam. “I thought Miss Arding told you not to unlock that door” I could hear mother talking as she opened the basement door. “What are you doing down here in the dark. You could trip and fall.”
Light filtered down from upstairs. The shadow was gone. Had I imagined it? Jamie bounded up the stairs as if the last hour hadn’t happened. I was still shivering and once out of the basement, I allowed mother to pull me into an oversized hug. Don’t let go I thought.
“Mum, is it ok if I move back home? I don’t think I like living on my own.” I asked, not wanting to spend another minute in this creepy house.
“Oh don’t be silly dear. You always were scared of your own shadow. You’ll be fine.”
991 words. Inspired by the "Once Upon A Time Workshop" .prompt.