Hide and seek isn't fun when you get lost...
| "Why would anyone want to live here?" Felix asked, helping Aurora unpack her belongings.
They were sitting in a stuffy room, surrounded by cardboard boxes marked with her name and contents. Yellowed wallpaper hung like dead skin, while cobwebs clung to the corners.
Aurora shrugged. "Mom says it has good bones for a fixer upper."
She agreed with him though, the place was kind of a dump. Apparently it was years since anyone had set foot inside the old mansion.
Felix snatched a ragged pink elephant from the box and waved it in front of her. "Looks like she needs fixing as well, I can see her b-o-O-o-nes!" He mocked her in a sing-song voice.
She glared at him and grabbed at the toy. "Give Ellie back!"
Cackling, Felix ran away holding the stuffed animal aloft. He jumped over a pile of clothes and raced away, taunting her. "Come and get it!"
Aurora chased after him, squealing.
From down the hall, an irritated voice called out. "Please stop that racket, I'm trying to take a nap!"
Felix winced, handing back the elephant. "I forgot she was trying to sleep." He whispered hoarsely.
Hugging her prized possession, Aurora stuck her tongue out at him. "Ha! Serves you right for being a jerk."
Grinning, he cocked an eyebrow. "Well I bet you can't find this jerk! Let's go play hide and seek downstairs so we don't get in trouble."
Putting a finger to her lips, Aurora quietly walked back to her room as Felix followed suit.
After gently placing Ellie on the bed, she agreed to go first. Aurora covered her eyes and counted while Felix scurried off.
".... 98, 99, 100!"
Peeking through chubby fingers, she saw the room was empty. Aurora giggled as she crept downstairs, footsteps muffled by a red rug leading down the steps.
Two statues held a circular lamps on each side of the stairs, the porcelain orbs casting a soft glow over the decadent antechamber.
Frowning, Aurora tilted her head from side to side. Two hallways stretched out on either side, Felix could be hiding in either one.
Narrowing her indigo eyes, she considered the possibilities. A faint clatter came from the left, a whisper of sound drawing her attention.
"Got you." She smiled and trotted towards the source of the disturbance.
The hardwood floor made her shoes clack, echoing slightly. Blue eyes twinkled with delight, deciding which room to begin searching for her playmate.
"Ready or not, here I come!"
Bursting through a doorway, she paused. Scanning the surroundings, Aurora listened for a telltale rustle, some noise giving away the hiding spot. When no sound arose, she tiptoed into the center of the bedroom.
The corner was occupied by a weathered wardrobe, one of its doors hanging open. Beside it, grimy curtains covered the windows.
A fading painting looked down at her dismissively. A well-dressed man with a haughty expression hung above an ornate bed frame, iron flowers blooming around a mildewed mattress.
She lifted ragged sheets, peeking under the bed.
Dust bunnies rolled away as she sighed, finding nothing but disappointment.
While brushing filth off clothes, Aurora wrinkled her little nose. She didn't understand why her mother insisted on buying this house; it could certainly use a good cleaning.
The wardrobe rattled, startling her.
She jumped, wishing that Ellie was back in her grasp. Then the momentary fear passed and Aurora laughed for being tricked.
"Ha-ha, Felix. But now I know where you a-a-are." She said in a sing-song voice.
Approaching the wooden closet, Aurora saw it was still full of moth-eaten clothes. Gashes of emptiness scarred the threadbare fabric, antique garments falling apart at her touch.
There was nothing in the open half. Well, except for dead moths and tattered remnants. He must be in the other side, she was sure of it.
Aurora reached for the handle.
It turned easily, swinging open to reveal another assortment of shabby dresses. A cloud of dust smothered the girl, triggering a sneeze.
As she wiped her nose, something shifted within the wardrobe. Aurora blinked, leaning closer.
It burst out toward her, a grey creature with yellow fangs.
She screamed and fell backwards.
The rat scampered off, squeaking in fright as it vanished into a hole.
Aurora shuddered and sat up.
This game was quickly becoming less fun with each passing second. Heart pounding, she swallowed as the panic subsided.
After the shock wore off, she decided to continue despite the threat of hairy rodents. Felix wouldn't get the satisfaction of winning.
The thought of him dancing around in victory spurred Aurora on to find where the smug jerk was hiding.
Leaving the dusty bedroom, she roamed the hallway, ears pricked. Discolored paintings silently watched the girl softly tread down the corridor.
"Just you wait..." She muttered, head swiveling from room to room.
At the end of the foyer, an opening gaped. There was no door there, only a murky hole yawning into the void beyond.
Mom did say that the boiler room was off limits, but Aurora suspected Felix was using the forbidden area to his advantage.
The light switch didn't work at first. But then a naked bulb flickered to life, reluctantly illuminating the stone staircase.
A black spider skittered away, beady eyes observing the intruder.
Water dripped from a rusting pipe, each droplet echoing eerily. Aurora carefully placed a foot on the glistening step, making sure not to slip and tumble all the way down.
Drip, drip, drip. The sound followed her below.
Aurora hugged herself as the air grew colder, a wafting chill seeping through her thin clothes. The final step was cracked, encouraging the girl hop over it.
She landed with a thump, feet disturbing a thick layer of soot. Thump, thump, thump resounded back up the long stairway, each copy fading into a whisper.
Down here, there was an unpleasant smell.
Aurora put the glittery shirt over her nose, once again wishing for her stuffed elephant.
"Felix?" She asked nervously.
Felix? Felix? Felix? Her voice repeated, mocking in a twisted impersonation.
The corroding pipes converged on a hulking machine, blackened with grime. It sat at the light's edge, half smothered in gloom. Chunks of coal lay scattered around the massive mechanism.
Aurora timidly advanced towards the boiler.
For some reason the odor intensified, burning her nostrils. Eyes watering, she stopped before the archaic device, peering into the darkness behind it.
"Felix, this isn't funny."
Isn't funny, isn't funny... The echo replied gleefully.
Aurora felt her stomach wrench with dread. Whatever was lurking in the shadows was something she didn't want to meet.
Felix probably wasn't even down here. This was a mistake.
Biting her lip, she backed away from the boiler and turned towards the stone steps.
Something whispered her name.
The hushed sound repeated, sibilant hisses ringing within the chamber.
Quivering, Aurora had a squirming sensation that something was behind her. Screwing her eyes shut, she began to whimper.
"M-mommy..." A weak cry escaped, her plea multiplying.
During the clamor, she heard a sound behind her.
A dry crackling noise.
The fetid odor was overpowering, making Aurora gag. Begging shaking legs to move, she stood paralyzed as the entity drew nearer.
Then it brushed her shoulder.
She screamed, finding the will to move.
Racing up the steps, her howls echoed hideously as Aurora desperately ran towards safety.
Slipping on the wet stone, bashing knees and scrambling back to her feet, she finally burst out into the hallway.
Bleeding and weeping, Aurora limped up the other flight of stairs as she bawled.
Hearing the pandemonium, her mother shuffled out of her room, rubbing sleep from weary eyes.
Seeing the hysterical girl balled up on the landing, the woman quickly rushed to her side.
"Aurora! Oh my god, what happened?"
The only thing she could blubber out was Ellie.
Taking the battered girl in her arms, her mother set Aurora on her bed and looked for the pink toy.
But it was nowhere to be found.
After a brief search, the concerned parent sat beside her daughter.
"I don't know where Ellie is, sweetie. How did you hurt your knees? Are you okay?"
Calming down, Aurora managed to tell the story to her worried mother. When she finished, the woman stared at her with a frustrated expression.
"I told you not to go into the boiler room. Why didn't you listen?"
Shaking a filthy head, Aurora began to cry again. "F-Felix was down there so I-I went to find him."
Her mother frowned. "Felix? Who is Felix?"
When her father came home, the two parents searched the basement for answers. The strange smell led to a bricked up wall behind the rusting boiler.
Tearing it down revealed the grinning skeleton of a young boy. His fingers were worn, deep scratches scarring the red stones.
Nobody could explain the second discovery.
Within his withered arms lay the missing elephant, button eyes shining brightly.