Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ghost Stories: The Cellar...a short story.

While I'm between manuscripts or if a project is with beta readers I try and stay fluid by writing short stories. 

The Cellar is the first in a collection I'm currently revising. All the tales take place in a room or "space" of some sort. And while I wait for news I hope to announce very soon, I'll entertain myself writing 1k shorts. My novel needs more head space. I have ten of these to revise: The department store, an alley, the computer, etc., trying to create something a little shifted.  

                                     The Cellar

“Momma. What’s that sound?”
“Must be the skis in the cellar. . . . .again." Uneasy, Mrs. Halloman stood up from the couch, leaving her ten-year-old daughter to watch TV. Reassured her that it was nothing, once again, then moved to find out for sure.
She went to the basement door. Held the handle, and waited. She turned the knob. Darkness was before her. She switched the light on and proceeded down the steps.
“What is it, momma?” Kaitlin stood at the top.
“I’m sure it’s nothing. I’ll see if the skis fell and make sure they didn’t fall on the rabbits.
“Can I come?”
“Just wait here, and switch the light on if it goes out.”
Kaitlin’s breath was heavy behind her. The humidity had brought on her daughter’s asthma. She labored for each breath. Mrs. Halloman continued and walked the fifteen steps to the bottom.
The light went out. “Kaitlin!”
“Got it!”
They were back on.
Ever since the Halloman family moved into Essex 105, the blackouts were frequent. Not unheard of in the windy mountains of Western Pennsylvania, but on some days, even if it wasn’t windy the lights went out. And no amount of fuse flipping brought them back. On two occasions while the neighbor’s lights went out during a storm, the lights at 105 Essex would be on. And vise versa. As if 105 Essex had its own energy supply.
At the bottom, Mrs. Halloman walked around the hidden corner and could hear the rabbits munching. Not sure why she kept them in the basement instead of the art shack out back. It was warmer there. The rabbits looked up at her with their usual nervous twitches, one finishing a carrot and not the least bit disturbed about anything unnatural.
She jumped. “Kaitlin, are you all right?”
“Yes, momma. Are Pinkie and Peppy, OK?” Looking around for the piece of furniture or athletic accessory that had fallen, and satisfied all was fine she reached into the pen and picked up Pinkie, the white rabbit with brown patches.
“Can I see the bunnies?” Kaitlin called down. “Please?”
“Sure, come on, just watch your step.”
Kaitlin was next to her before she turned and put Pinkie back in his corral.
“I’ve got, Pinkie.” She hugged, his neck stretching away from her, a leg far separated from the others.
“Not too long. Your asthma’s already kicking up.”
Kaitlin nodded. “And Peppy, I don’t want you to get jealous.” She replaced Pinkie in favor of Peppy.
Mrs. Halloman moved away from the pen, and over to where the recent sound of falling objects came. 
Not only did their new house enjoy its own light display it seemed to try its hand at redecorating. Favoring the basement for its antics. As suspected, the line-up of skis had fallen on top of the hockey equipment set aside for the season. Her husband and son were out for the evening enjoying a ballgame. With the unexpected storm coming, they could be home soon. She almost wished they were.
Something caught her eye. Movement?
But it was nothing, only her imagination.
She lifted the skis; glad to have moved the rabbits days ago. From where she stood she couldn’t see the rabbits or Kaitlin. She finished and moved toward the tiny dark window at the farthest wall of the cellar. It was open. She shook her head. “Must have been a raccoon,” she whispered, turning the knob until the window squeaked shut. “There.”
She went back to Kaitlin.
I wonder if raccoons would hurt the rabbits? She made a mental note to take the bunnies out of the basement tomorrow morning.
Where were the rabbits?
“Kaitlin, you can’t take the rabbits upstairs,” she called, walking up the steps. “Not now, please. I didn’t put Edgar away. Can you get the leash . . .” As she reached the second to the top step. 
The basement door shut.
 “Kaitlin, the door!” She twisted and turned the knob. It was locked. “Kaitlin!”
The lights in the basement flickered. “Not again,” she groaned.
 “Kaitlin! Open this door right now!”  She knocked, knocking harder and harder.
No answer.
Mrs. Halloman raced down the steps and over to the back exit when she noticed the small window open. Again?
 Her first thought: a raccoon is in the basement. “Ridiculous, a raccoon could not swivel the window open — in ten minutes at that.” Her heart raced. She tried to swallow, but her throat closed, dry. She coughed, almost choking.
She reached basement exit. Lifted the metal bar up and over and unlocked the bolt, but she could not push the door open. She banged. Who could hear her outside with only the woods for miles? And Kaitlin? Wasn’t answering her calls. Not unusual if she went to her bedroom with the rabbits. Sweat rose over her lip. The air siphoned away. There was no exit from the back door. She turned and ran up the staircase entrance.
The blender was on. Or was it the juicer? “Kaitlin!” she yelled.
She pounded on the door until her knuckles cracked and splintered in red. She knocked until her hand numbed. She kept knocking. 
And she stopped; slid her back down the cellar door, exasperated, and listened to each and every electrical appliance grind and whirl. 
The basement lights popped. Darkness folded into every crease and crevice. Grinding motors grew deafening. 
 “Kaitlin . . . ,” she whispered. Her watch read 9:00. Her husband would be home soon. Kaitlin was playing in her bedroom with the rabbits, two flights up, and being a very bad girl. No excuse for this, even if Kaitlin wasn’t feeling well. “Kaitlin,” she whispered, knocking, a last time. Her head fell against the door. The whirling and grinding continued.
Suddenly the house became silent. Halted.
Mrs. Halloman looked at her watch: 9:30.
Something rattled at the foot of the steps under the newspapers. She made her way toward the sound feeling along the wall. The rabbits must be here. The crackling papers became louder. “Kaitlin?”
The lights went on.
A willowy shadow wavered before her.
She screamed and turned, running up the steps.
The door flew open. 
“What are you doing down there?”
“Harold!” They half-embraced. “Shut the door”
“Where’s Kaitlin?”
“She isn’t with you?”
“In her room!” Mrs. Halloman ran up the second level. “Kaitlin?”
“Hi mom.” It was Jack.
“Where’s Kate?”
“You didn’t see her?”
She raced from room to room calling her daughter’s name. Kaitlin’s room was empty. The lights off. She hadn’t been there at all. Perspiration rose, encasing her in heat. A sickening malaise gripped her throat. Confused, she couldn’t breath. Harold looked under the furniture saying, “She’s only hiding somewhere.”
Mrs. Halloman passed the large bay window facing the woods and caught a glimpse of pink. She ran outside. “Kaitlin!” 
Ran down the deck side. Her daughter was walking into the woods and didn’t take notice of her calls. “Kaitlin!” she kept calling until she was beside her. 
She put a hand on her shoulder. “What are you doing?”
Kaitlin turned around, covered in mud and twigs. “What’s going on?” she asked her daughter. looking into her distant eyes. 
“He told me to set the rabbits free. . . In the woods.”
She pulled her daughter close to her heart and began to cry. “Is that where they are now? In the woods?”
Kaitlin nodded, hidden under her embrace.
Mrs. Halloman let out a breath and looked for her husband standing on the deck. She could see the cellar’s back door. The lights were on. 
And a dark silhouette stood there as if it waited. Waited for its next request to be fulfilled.