Monday Stories: The House – Chapter 03

“What was that?”

Anthony looks up from his science homework. Chloe stares towards the hallway. Dani gives her sister a curious look.

“What was what?”

“I thought I heard a noise.”

“Probably a rat. Or the trees outside.”

Dani pulls the blind and looks out of the window. She turns her head back and shakes her head. Chloe gets to her feet.

“I’m sure it isn’t. Or it is Mike playing a joke.”

“Maybe.”

Bang!

The sound reverberates through the room. Anthony finds himself on his feet in an instance. Dani pales. A scraping noise fills the room.

“Alright.” Anthony yells out, “Quite that.”

“Not funny!” Chloe adds.

The only answer is a low moaning noise.

“Come on.” Anthony heads towards the hallway.

“Where are you going?”

“To find out who is making that racket.” The teen yells over his shoulder.

Dani and Chloe glance at each other then slowly follow him.

“How do you know?”

“Because there are thick, tall bushes all around the house. Bushes with lots of thorns. The only places where you can come up to the house is at the front and the back. Since Dani didn’t see anyone outside they have to be at the front of the house.”

“Wouldn’t they just run to the back then?”

“Maybe but if I hear noise at the back of the house, I would just send one of you to sound like we are going to the back and then wait here.”

His voice trails off as he comes to a stop. Curious, Chloe steps up next to him and glances to the left. She hears a sharp gasp from her sister. The once empty room has been filled with skulls and candles. A black pentagram decorates the floor while small bowls occupy each corner.

Chloe turns to her sister. She is backing away from the sight. Her skin pale and her hands trembling.

“Dani, Dani. Just someone’s bad idea of a joke. It’s okay.”

Anthony squats down and taps the edge of the pentagram. He stands back up with an angry scowl on his face. With a flick of his wrist he snaps out a knife.

“What are you doing?”

“Going to destroy it.”

“Oh come on.” Chloe mutters, “Just someone trying to scare us. I’ve seen those skulls.” She points to the pile, “I’ve used them! For theatre! Made of foam.”

She picks one up and gives it a twist. The skull resists at first but then splits, revealing white foam beneath a thick plaster.

“See? They’ve just props.”

“Maybe but there is a reality we can’t see. Even joking about it is dangerous.” He bends down and scrapes the paint, creating a gap in the design. He kicks over the bowls as well.

Without a word, Dani heads towards the door and tries to get it open. The door knob turns but it doesn’t open. She tries again with the same results. She slaps and kicks the door and tries to pull it open.

“Easy, easy.” Chloe wraps her arms around Dani and pulls her back, “Easy. It’s okay. It’s okay. Nothing is wrong.”

For a moment Dani struggles but she relaxes. Her breath comes in ragged gasps. A few seconds passes before her breathing returns to normal.

“Why don’t you wait in the living room.”

Dani walks away. Her shoulders slumped and her arms wrapped around her stomach. Chloe watches her until she disappears around the corner. With a deep breath, she turns to Anthony.

“You’re probably wondering what that is all about.”

“A little bit.” He raises a hand to stop her reply, “But it is not my business. We all have things that we don’t want to talk about or can easily explain.”

“Like your anger over some stupid arcane art joke?”

“Yes. Just like that.” He steps out of the room and over to the door, “I am, however, concern about this door.”

“Why?”

“Because it shouldn’t have gotten stuck.”

“Old house.”

“But the lock isn’t.”

Chloe raises an eyebrow.

Anthony gives her a weak smile, “Part of the reason why the tradition still goes on. The house, for the most part, is kept the same way. Except that the windows and doors are maintained. To ensure that kids on their initiation night can get out in an emergency. Ten years ago there was a kid who had to get to the hospital. Allergy or something. Anyway, the kid almost died because the door had gotten so badly warped and the lock was rusted that they couldn’t open the door. Luckily, the mayor at the time had arranged for the police to drive by every four hours. Just to check on the kids. The officer saw that they were in trouble and used an axe to break the door down.”

“Your town is so weird.” Chloe says as she gently kicks the wall, “So what is wrong now?”

“I don’t know.” He squats down and looks at the lock, “It worked fine when we got in.”

He tries the door and it swings open without effort. Only compliant is the creak of the hinges. They share an uneasy look.

“Maybe she wasn’t turning the knob all the way.”

Anthony winces at how weak the words sound. Both knew that Dani had turned the knob all the way. Practically tried ripping it off.

“Well. Door is working now.” He shuts it and reopens a couple of times, “Go on back. I’m going to finish cleaning this up.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am.”

Chloe walks away without another word. Anthony turns his attention back to the designs and sets about crushing the skull props and putting the little fires out. A groan echoes through the house. Anthony looks up at the ceiling and feels something cold crawl up his spine. It is low and seems to come from the walls.

“Please tell me that is not what I think it is.”

Bang! Bang! Bang!

The sudden sound makes him jump. He growls to himself and stomps over to the door. He waits a moment.

“Stop that!” Chloe yells!” He hears the window open from the living room. “Come on! That is getting annoying!”

The boy hears soft laughter on the other side of the door. He puts his hand on the doorknob but waits to open it.

He yanks the door open.

Two left legs appear in the doorway. The legs drop down as their owners stumble into the house. One of the owners ends up doing a poor splits. A groan fills the air as that particular owner rolls over onto his back.

Anthony shuts the door. He shines a light on them. They squint in the harsh white light. Both boys share dark hair and brown skin.

“Val and Jacob. I should have known. Does your mother know where you are?”

“Of course!” They answer. “We have thirty minutes until we have to go back home.”

“Hey Tony.” The leg-split boy mutters, “How are you doing?”

“Annoyed.” He extends a hand, “Why would you do that? You know how I don’t like witchcraft stuff.” He hauls to teen up.

The two new boys exchange looks.

“We didn’t. We were just making noise.”

“What?” Anthony looks between them, “Val. Look.”

Anthony shows the taller boys the living room with the broken skulls.

“Oh. Must have been Mike.”

“Mike?”

Val nods his head, “He wanted to do the whole scaring bit. But he said that we needed to keep you on the other side of the house while he sneaked in and set a prank up inside.”

“Well. That was stupid.”

“Not disagreeing with you.”

“And what about the door?” Anthony presses, “What was that for? And how did you do it?”

“The door?” Jacob asks, “We didn’t do anything with the door.”

“What’s going on out here?”

Chloe and Dani appear. Although Dani is still pale, she seems to be in better control of her emotions. Chloe, on the other hand, is clearly mad and ready to take someone’s head off. The two brothers step back and hide behind Anthony.

“Really guys?”

“What?” Val answers, “Nothing wrong with self-preservation.”

“Are you two chuckleheads the one messing with us? Putting up the witch stuff?”

“No!” They answer together.

Chloe glares at both of them.

“Look. We were told by Mike to keep you on the other side while he put a couple of pranks inside the house. We were supposed to keep you on the other side of the house to give him time to get in and set the jokes.”

“Where are the other jokes?” Anthony says,

“I don’t know.”

“Wait.” Jacob speaks up, “I think I might know.”

“You do?” Chloe, her voice laced with sarcasm.

“Yes. Like we said. We had to keep you busy. So we banged the side of the house to get you to investigate. To get you away from the back of the house.”

Anthony’s face lights up and he snaps his fingers, “Cellar.”

Jacob jabs a finger in his direction, “Bingo.”

“Cellar?” Dani’s voice shakes, she gives her sister a panicked look.

“You won’t have to go down there.”

“Right.” Anthony grabs Val by the back of the shirt, “Chuckle Brother One. You’re with me. Chuckle Brother Two. You stay here and finish up dismantling that room.” He shoves Val towards the back of the house, “Come on. We got to find out what Mike did.”

“Yes sir.”

“Sorry!” Jacob yells, “Just meant it as a joke.”

The two boys disappear down the hall. Jacob turns towards the two girls. A smile tugs at his face. He likes how the moonlight strikes Dani’s legs. His smile falters as his eyes reach the look on their faces.

“Hey.” He stammers, “We just wanted a little fun. Part of the tradition.”

Chloe snorts and spins away. Her sister glances behind Jacob. He sees her shoulders shiver before following her sister down the hall.

“Hey.” Jacob yells.

The brunette freezes in her steps. She turns towards him. Jacob is surprised to see the earlier fear missing. Replaced by He smiles uncertainly and holds out a hand.

“I’m sorry. We just wanted to have fun. You know. Scare you a little so you have something to laugh about later.”

“What makes you think I’m not laughing now?”

“Because you keep pulling your arms together. Like you’re cold. And since it is humid as all get, I take it you are nervous.”

“Maybe I am.” She says sharply before walking quickly away.

“Way to go Jacob.” He mutters to himself, “Way to go. Just. Keep your big mouth shut.”

Jacob quickly finishes cleaning up the room and rejoins the others in the living room. Dani is putting more firewood on while Chloe stares out of the window. From the kitchen he can hear the sounds of a conversation but cannot make out the words.

“So.” Jacob mutters.

Dani looks up at him then quickly away.

He would have missed it had he not been watching her.

“What are you doing here?” Chloe asks.

“Oh. Just like I said. Just trying to scare you.”

Chloe scoffs and turns away, “This was stupid.”

Jacob shrugs as his brother and Anthony returns. Val drops to the floor and sits Indian style. Dani and Chloe whisper quietly to each other in the corner.

“Well, we found a couple of practical jokes like a box full of spiders and some sticky mess that would have fallen on us had we not been looking for it.”

“Great, Anthony. Now what?”

“We cleaned it up.” He turns to the brothers, “And these guys go home.”

“Fine.” Val says with a smile, “We failed anyway.”

“How so?” Chloe asks.

“Didn’t scare you.” Jacob answers, “You got mad. Which was not our goal.”

Again, she scoffs.

“Anyway. You two have a great night. Uh, did you two want something to drink? We brought some beer. Or pop if you don’t want beer.”

“I’ll take a Doctor Pepper, if you have it.”

Val grins, “Of course I do you. You’re addicted to it, Tony.”

“Oh shut it. Your fault.”

Both brothers laugh. Val stands up as he says, “Fair enough. Come on Jake.”

“Right.” Jacob glances at Dani before following his brother down the hall.

“You three going to be okay?”

“We’re fine Val. Just trying to catch up on homework.”

“Already? This is why I don’t take those dual credit courses. You get homework all of the time. Even for spring break.”

“Maybe but it’ll help out later on.”

“With your grades?”

Anthony shrugs, “Having an easier time in academics doesn’t automatically mean an easier time in education. You still have to work hard at getting good grades.”

Val shrugs his shoulders, “Whatever.”

He turns the doorknob but the door refuses to open. The teen frowns and tries again. Finally he puts his foot on the door frame and pulls on the door as hard as he can.

“What the heck? Why isn’t the door opening?” He bangs on the door, “Mike! Come on man! The idea was for us to get out. Mike! We know you’re waiting to scare us as we go out the door!”

“Very funny.” Anthony says with a bit of annoyance creeping into his voice, “It’s late. Your mother is looking for you and you tried this before.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The door. We couldn’t get it open earlier.”

The brothers look at one another, “We never mess with the doors. Not what happened last time.”

“If you haven’t messed with the doors, then what did you?”

Without warning the curtains closest to the teens slide shut. Then the shutters slam close. Throughout the house they hear metallic clicks as window latches click shut.

“Oh this ain’t good.”

To Be Continued…

Monday Stories: The House – Chapter 02

The three teens slowly walk down the street. Chloe and Dani lead while Anthony follows behind with his own camera recording. The redhead glances over. Dani is nervous but not outright panicking. The teen decides it is a good thing.

“Hold up.”

“What now?” Chloe asks.

“I need to give you two your own cameras.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.” He smiles, “My dad said that when he did his tradition they had to keep a journal.”

The girls exchange surprised looks.

“What? You two really thought we were making it up when we said everyone in town had done this? The house has been built here before the town even got out here.”

“Well, we just thought Mike was pulling our leg. Being a jerk.”

“Oh he may be arrogant and little too in love with himself but he loves traditions and learning about them. I think it has something to do with his dad.”

“His dad?”

“Yeah, long time history professor.” He digs around in his bag, “Come on. I know I packed them.”

Again the two teens exchange surprised looks.

“I know, I know.” Anthony laughs, “The guy who goes to the football games in body paint and football jerseys holds a doctorate in history. I had asked him why he is so different when it comes to sport games and he said because of interests. He wants Mike to be interested in history. But he also wants to show Mike that he is interested in his life as well.”

“Interesting approach.”

Anthony shrugs as he hands them two small cameras. Although equipped similarly to his own camcorder, the devices are smaller and not as powerful.

“Thanks.”

“Your welcome. Let’s get this over with. We got a little over ten hours to watch mice scurry across floorboards.”

“What?”

“You don’t like mice?”

“Not particularly.”

“Well. We shouldn’t see too many.”

“How do you know?” Dani mutters as they get closer to the house.

“I’ve done some research. Talked to the adults that have done this as kids. Most of them say that they just sat around drinking pop.” He laughs, “I actually know a couple who did their homework.”

“Oh great. This is exciting.”

“It’s tradition!”

The three teens reach the end of the driveway. They stop at the same time without planning it.

To Chloe, the house looks old and broken down. Several windows are broken and the grass has not been cut in a very long time. The black windows give the house an empty, forlong feel and look to it.

To Anthony, the house is full of opportunity. Photographing an abandoned building is one of the things he always wanted to do. The age of the house can be seen in the worn steps and damaged siding. But it also holds a lot of history.

To Dani the house is familiar. A sad little building that fell from grace a long time ago.

“Well. Ladies first.”

Chloe glares at him.

“Joking.” He steps onto the small footpath. The two girls follow him.

A cold feeling flows over them. Chloe shivers and looks around. To her, it seems like the shadows have somehow deepened. The redhead glances back at the street. She rubs her eyes and looks again.

“Chloe? What’s wrong?” Dani calls.

She hadn’t realized she stopped walking.

“Chloe?”

“I… Just. For a moment it looked like the lamp post was further away.”

Anthony and Dani glance down the street. The small dim light source looks as it always has. Across the street, they can see Mike sitting in his car. He waves at them.

Chloe frowns and turns her attention back towards the house.

“Something wrong?”

“Your friend annoys me.”

“Oh. He’ll grow on you.”

“I doubt it.”

“Anyways. Shall we?”

“Right.”

The three teens stand on the porch. Anthony kneels and looks at the key. Dani looks around the front of the house. Chloe watches Anthony as he draws out a lock picking kit.

He glances up then smiles as he returns to picking the lot.

“You don’t seem to be surprised.”

“Should we be?”

“Well. Most people question why I am able to pick locks.”

She shrugs, “We can pick locks too.”

“Oh? YouTube?”

“Trial and practice.” She replies, “Dani? Where are you going?”

Anthony looks over and he sees the girl walking towards the edge of the porch. She is facing the woods. Her body stiffens and her hands balled into a fist.

“Dani?”

She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Dani turns back to them with a smile on her face.

“Sorry. My mind drifted. How are we? Can we even get in?”

“Almost…” Anthony murmurs. The lock clicks, “Got it.”

“Let the fun times roll tonight.” Chloe says as she pushes the door open.

It creaks. The teens flip on flashlights and walk into the house itself. The girls step into what appears to be an old hall. Off to the right is an empty room. To the left appears to be a dining hall. A wood table stands at the center, covered in dust.

“Cozy. A real fixer upper.”

Chloe scoffs, “Oh please.”

“Now what?”

“I don’t know. Just pick a room and chill for the night.”

“Great.”

The three teens walk further into the room. Anthony turns and shuts the door. It closes with a loud bang. Both girls jump at the show. They stare at him. He shrugs.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to do that.”

“Well, a lot of the kids like the living room.”

“Why is that?”

“Fireplace.”

“Oh. But it’s warm out.”

“True but at least that place will have a place where we can light and fire and save our batteries.”

“Don’t really care.” Chloe turns to her sister, “What do you think?”

Dani shrugs.

“Alright, Anthony. Lead us to the living room.”

The teen nods his head and walks down the hall. The floors creak and groan beneath their footsteps. Paint peels in long curls. The wall and ceiling are stained yellow with age. Here and there, a forgotten painting or photo hangs on the wall. Thick dust covers the images.

“How old is this place?” Chloe says quietly.

“I don’t know. Maybe fifty or a hundred years ago? I am not really sure.”

“Feels old.” Chloe takes a deep breath. The air is thick and musty smelling. A silence seems to weigh on the house, “Feels very old.”

“I don’t know about that.” Anthony replies as he turns a corner, “I do know that this is the living room. I’d avoid the kitchen though. Mice tend to go there.”

“What do we do about the bathroom?”

“Outhouse out back or the public restroom in the park. There is a path that leads from the backyard to the park.”

“How do you know so much?”

“I like to do my research before I get into things.”

“I see. That would explain the good grades.”

He grins, “Can’t help it. I am a book dragon.”

“Or a nerd.”

The teens laugh and a low creak echoes through the house. Their laughter dies as they listen to the house groan.

“Odd.”

“Yeah.” Chloe notices Anthony’s voice has lost its mirth.

“What is it?”

“Well. A few years ago something happened. No one really knows what went on. Just the mayor, the chief of police at the time, and the kids involved. I do know that it was the only time the police showed up to stop the tradition. The kids never talked about what happened. Neither did the parents. All we know is that two of the kids died and the house was covered in graffiti. Ever since the house has been strange.”

“Strange? How?” Dani asks quietly.

“Odd noises. Odd lights. Kids say that the house has a lot of noises.”

“How would they know?”

“Well. After everything went down, older kids wanted to go with their siblings. To make sure they stay safe through the tradition.”

“Oh, lovely.”

Anthony chuckles weakly, “I’m sure it was just bad luck and bad rumors. Sorry for bringing it up.”

“No worries.” Chloe pulls out a deck of Uno Cards, “Anyone up for a game?”

Dani and Anthony smile as they settle down on the floor.

Monday Short Stories: The House – Chapter 01

What if buildings had souls? What if they could tell us their stories? What then? It would be great? Wouldn’t it? To go to England and hear the tales of bygone ages. Or to hear the war stories of forts and camps. To hear how King George III plotted to rule the greatest empire. Or listen to one who witnessed Einstein genius at work?

But what if those souls witnessed terrible acts? Whose very walls were coated the blood of innocent? What if the acts we make, both innocent and evil, could change the way the building behaves? What then?

How would the buildings behave?

Would they be things of evil?

X

Two small girls slip out of a small bedroom window. The brick house is mostly dark save the living room. The flicker of white light is the hint of a television. A door opens and closes. The two girls freeze in place. After a moment, they continue to slip down the roof. They drop to the ground soundlessly. The girls keep to the shadows of a hedge until they reach the sidewalk.

They step into the light of a street lamp.

Both girls share identical small faces, slender bodies, and waist long hair. One has red hair while the other has light brown hair. Although both wear tank tops, the redhead wears a skirt. The other wears short shorts. The brunette climbs up a tree then drops two backpacks down to the second girl. Once they shoulder their packs, they begin to walk down the street.

The redhead girl glances back at the house.

“Dani? What’s wrong? Are you worried? Do you want to go back?”

“No.” She answers softly, “Let’s go.”

“Are you sure?”

She takes a deep breath, “No, Chloe. I need to do this. If I don’t do this, I am never going to be willing to venture back out.”

“Okay. Then let’s do this.”

The two girls quickly and quietly walk down the street. The air is thick with humidity and the sound of insects. The either side of the street is lined with small houses. Warm, friendly light shines out of the windows. Some are made of bricks. Others are made of siding. Street lamps stand at regular points. Young trees provide a warm, homey atmosphere.

Ten minutes later, the two girls step around the corner on Fifth and South West. Without saying a word, the children come to a stop.

There is only one lamp on this street. Its weak orange light is barely enough to shine at its base. The trees that line the street are much older and wilder than the other trees. A few houses can be seen through the thick brush. However, at the end of the street is a single house.

Three stories tall with large windows. Its front porch is lined with ornate pillars. A wide path stretches from the porch to the street. Once it was beautiful and stood with dignity. But now the paint is peeling and parts of the porch are sagging in places.

The two girls come to a stop underneath the lamp.

A few moments later, they are joined by three other teens. The biggest and largest teen flashes a smile at them. The second teen is a boy that is getting some recording gear. The second is a tall girl. All three wear letterman jackets. The weak orange light casts deep shadows.

“Hello, all of you!” The tall boy says, “Welcome to your challenge.”

“Mike.” The tall girl says, “Do we have to do this?”

“Everyone at the school has gone through it. Regardless if they are born her or not.”

“What are we doing.” Chloe says as she folds her arms, “What are we doing?”

“Fine. Anthony. You ready?”

“Almost.”

“Hurry up.”

“Hey, you are asking me to do the job of three people. Give me a second.” He lifts a camcorder fitted with an external mic and light source. “And we are ready to record.”

“Good evening! It is just past ten o’clock.” Mike says, “We are here to witness the night of terror! Where Chloe and Dani must stay the night at the old Miller’s House. Eight hours. Recording this adventure is Anthony. Who also has yet to do this.” He looks at the girls, “Are you ready?”

“Yeah.” Chloe squares her shoulders.

Dani shrugs.

“The rules are simple. One. You cannot leave the house until you can hear the town square clock. Two. You cannot call for help. Four. You can only use what you have in your bags. And lastly, you must be recording at all times.”

“Got it.” Chloe says, “We’re ready.”

“Okay then. Good luck.”

“Wait!” Chloe says, “How do we get in?”

“That is what you three need to figure out.”

The two girls look at each other and roll their eyes. The three teens head towards the house. Mike laughs while his friend glares at him.

“What?”

“This is such a stupid tradition.”

“Hey, our parents did this. Even the mayor did this.”

“Yeah…” She looks at the house, “but… something feels different now.”

“Oh, you have just been watching too many horror movies.” He grins at her, “Come on. Sonic is still open. I’ll buy you a lime aid.”

“Fine.”

To be continued…

X

Monday Stories: A Forrest Meeting

An owl’s cry echoes through the night. A man stirs slightly. Hidden in the shadow of three old trees, he watches the forest. Twin moons give enough light to move without the need for torchlight. Here a deer slowly moves through the woods. A pair of foxes moves swiftly through the gaps in the underbrush. Still, the man waits. All around him the buzz of insects and the croak of hidden frogs fill the still air.

The man takes quiet, even breathing. He remains still. His brown skin is marked by countless scars from past battles. His leather armor is equally worn.

Abruptly the night sounds fall silent.

He carefully tightens his grip on a pair of daggers.

His dark eyes scan the forest, seeking anything out of the ordinary. Anything unusual.

Then he sees a shadowy figure move.

The figure moves carefully, silently, from one tree to the next. His black cloak gives him a shadow-like quality. The figure is hunched over, pausing every now and then. Little by little, the figure moves closer to where the man hides. The man keeps track of how slow time is passing by the shadows of the trees. An hour passes before the figure reaches his hiding place.

The man tenses, his hands gripping the swords.

“I smell you.” The figure hisses.

He straightens and faces the man’s hiding place.

“I smell your hatred. Your fear.”

Slowly the man rises and steps forward. His swords remain drawn but at his side. The figure nods his head in understanding. He draws his hood back, revealing pale skin and an aristocratic face. The figure’s black hair is pulled back and tied in a single ponytail. Despite his handsome human features, his eyes are little more than solid black orbs.

“Who are you, hunter?”

“I am Kal, Son of Anon of the O’di Clan.” The man answers as he assumes a combat stance. “And you?”

The figure throws his black cloak aside, revealing black armor. A red hand print adorns the chest armor. “I am Krishna of the Line of Lucia.”

For a moment, they stand in the moonlight eyeing one another. It is clear both have lived the life of warriors. And it is clear that both are skilled and seasoned by long experience.

“Why do you wait for me in the dark?” Krishna asks.

The question catches him off guard.

“Why do you wait to murder me?”

“You are hunting.”

“Am I? Do you see any humans nearby? Do you see any others besides me? Do you see the so-called war paint upon my face? The blood of our victims as your kind claim we do? Do you see bloodlust or rage?”

“You are killers–”

“By those of you who hate my kind! You cannot listen to the words of those who hate us! Me! Their words are tainted. Look to your feelings and hear those who agree with us. That peace can exist between our kinds. That we can live beside one another.”

A warning in Kal’s heart gives him pause. He takes a deep breath and tightens his grip on the steel swords.

Krishna makes the first move. He becomes a little more than a black whirlwind. Red blades appear out of thin air. Kal barely has enough time to get his own steel blades in place to parry. In seconds, they are lost in the rhythm of the battle.

Silver blade against red sword.

Their blows strike hard enough to send sparks flying. Their clashes echo through the night. Back and forth, the two males battle. Back and forth they struggle. A monetary weakness gives the other the advantage but a mistake quickly shifts the balance of power back. They become black shadows. Faster than any human could possible dream of.

A heartbeat passes and the two combatants split apart.

For a moment they pause to catch their breath.

Kal’s left leg sports a deep wound and is barely able to hold his weight. A blow to his ribs has caused him pain with each breath. His arm and forehead bear lighter wounds. Sweat dampens his armpits and back. Fear dampens his palms.

Krishna is little better off. His chest is riddled with stabs wounds. His right arm bear several deep wounds while his left kneecap is askew.

“Why do you hunt us.” Krishna snarls, “What have we done to you?”

“You are an evil that must be destroyed.” Kal wheezes out. His vision is darkening around the corners. “That is reason enough.”

“Evil? We did not choose this. None of us did. We became this because another was forced to do what they must to survive.” Krishna stalks forward, “We do what we do to survive! We have the right to survive and live as we please! As do you and your kind!”

“You are murdering innocents!”

“What innocents?” Krishna snaps back, anger giving him strength, “Have you heard of a man disappearing or a family found slaughtered? Have you heard stories where children vanish from their beds or whole villages disappearing? No! We are not murders!”

“Your kind has preyed on us for ages. Only the War Clans have risen to stop you.”

The black armored figure scoffs, “You fool. You War Clans fight among yourself. Was it not just three days ago where two Clans destroyed each other? And what of our deeds? Have we not lived in peace beside you? Have we not killed or hunted the humans?”

Kal prepares to continue the fight.

“You cannot be serious! Put aside your blades and your hatred. Hear me and the truth I tell you. Please!”

“Why should I listen to you?” Kal answers. “Everything you have said and done?”

“Tell me! What have we done to harm you? Have you seen us killed? Or maim? Or have you seen my kind react to you as you hunt us in our own homelands. As your kind kill us in our villages and homes. Have we not the right to defend ourselves?”

For a moment, Kal hesitates.

“You cannot think of an instance? Can you? Where we have hunted and killed humans. None because we have not acted so.” Krishna takes a deep, labored breath, “We wish only to live beside you. I know you have heard our pleas and our cries for peace. We are not evil though we act out of defense. All that we have done we have done so because of your aggression. Your hatred towards us.”

Kal’s blades drop as the truth of Krishna’s words takes root.

For Krishna is right. No humans had been slaughtered. No lives had been consumed. Krishna and his kind were staying away from the humans.

Krishna strikes.

He crosses the distance like a black lightning bolt, sinking his blade deep into his gut. Kal groans as he drops his swords. The hit the ground with a metallic thud as he sinks towards the earth. Krishna stands over him with an evil grin.

“You fool. This is why we vampires will win. You let our words blind you. You let your own doubts slow you. Tonight I shall dine on the blood of children. Because of you.”

Kal watches the vampire stepped out of sight. Above him, two moons slowly pass out of sight.

As the world grows dark, Kal hears children screaming in the night.

Monday Stories: Dangerous Water – Chapter 8

Ash and Ellia stare in open shock. Remains line the length of the chamber. Some are fleshless skeletons. Others appear to be badly decayed mummies. However, all sport circular bite marks. A soft whimpering sound echoes through the chamber. The two teens turn and see a survivor and another one of the creatures.

Ash leaps forward.

Energy flows and explodes as a point of light. The creature howls in pain as the impact from Ash’s attack slams into the cavern’s wall. The teen struggles to keep her blade in place as the creature writhes in agony.

A few moments later, the creature grows still.

“Is it… dead?” Ellia asks from the chamber entrance.

“Yes.” Ash says as she kneels down next to the captive.

She gently pushes the captive’s hair back. The Fae is young, maybe fifteen or sixteen human years. There are a dozen fresh bite marks. Ash makes short work of the chains. Ellia kneels down next to the teen.

“So this is what a feeding looks like…”

Ash looks over at the second Fae. Ellia’s face is pale with a hint of green to it. She cannot judge too harshly though. Her own stomach is twisted at the thought of being fed on. With an effort, Ash shoves the feeling aside.

“Come on. Talon should be done with the Ta.” At that, Ash frowns. She glances at the now dead creature. “I thought there were only two.”

“So did I.”

“Come on.”

Ash and Ellia helps the unconscious Fae. Ash looks at the others. Her heart aches at the dozen or so dead.

The sounds of stones and chattering noise fill the cavern. Neither one says a word. The noise fades away.

“Something isn’t right.” Ellia says quietly as they work their way through the cavern, “That is what you are thinking.”

“Maybe. I am hoping that only one of them went up to deal with Talon and there other came down here.”

“To feed? When there is an enemy on the nest?” Ellia replies, “From everything I have read about…the Ta says that they group in pairs.”

The stench of burned and rotting flesh fills their nose. Ellia groans and steps back from the smells. Ash tightens her grip. She gives the younger Fae an encouraging smile. Ellia still looks as afraid as before, but she isn’t walking away like before.

Together the three of them walk forward, following the smells. Ahead of them, harsh white light casts long shadows. Stones gleam in the light. The three Fae come to a stop at the edge of the entrance. They wait until their eyes adjust. The Fae step forward into the cavern.

Ash feels her stomach drops into the ground.

Dozens of pods fill the immense cavern. Each one is a frame of six ribs with semi-transparent wall between the ribs. Inside the pods, more creatures are stirring. Their clawed limbs press against the clear membranes holding them trapped.

A shadow flies overhead and slams into the wall.

Ash throws up a defensive barrier as loosened stones fall from the wall. She readies herself for another fight but the creature falls lifeless to the ground.

“Ash? Are you hurt?”

She turns and sees Talon walking towards them.

“No. Are you?”

“Ten percent damage. But you need to go.”

“What is this?” She waves an arm.

“They are growing an army.” Talon says grimly, “I will destroy them.”

“Understood.”

The three girls leave the room and head towards the entrance of the cave. They can hear the crackle of energy exploding and the dying screeches of Ta.

The teens break into the open air. The fresh air is a relief compared to the horrid smell from inside the caves. Dawn is already breaking across the sky. The girls head towards the town. Their freed captive begins to stir. She jerks but Ash and Ellia hold her steady.

“Easy. You’re safe.” Ash says quietly, “You’re safe.”

The Fae sags with relief.

“They fed on me.” She moans in pain.

“We’re going to take you home.”

“Please. I want to go home.”

“We’ll get you home.” Ash says. She turns to Ellia, “Both of you. You’ll be drinking water drawn from the Mans River itself.”

The crunch of tires causes all three girls to look. A small car rolls to a stop. A man and a woman leap from the tires. The girls freeze. Ash’s mind races as she tries to come out with an answer. Two adults step out of the car.

“Ash?”

“Mr. Joseph. Miss Penny.”

“What happened?” Penny calls out as they run towards them, “Joseph, she’s bleeding! They’re bleeding!”

“I’ll get the medical kit!”

“Hurry, we can get her to the car.”

“No.” Ash says, “We need to go to our home.”

“But she’s hurt.”

A low rumble rolls through the ground. The trees tremble.

“What was that?”

“Talon at work.”

“What is going on?” Joseph notices the remains of the Ta. “And what is that?”

“A longtime enemy of the Fae. We thought they had passed after the great wars. Apparently they have been massing a force here.”

Another rumble and they can feel it through their feet.

Joseph and Penny exchange worried looks.

“Go.” Ash says, “Take them.”

“What is happening?”

“Trouble.”

“What is going on?”

“There is a force of enemies from our world. And Talon is in trouble.”

“Do we want to know?”

“Probably not.” She says with a smile. It fades after a moment after another shock wave rolls through the ground, “Take care of them. Please.”

“Wait, you said you were going to explain everything.”

Ash chuckles, “We were, weren’t we? I guess I’ll tell you afterwards.”

Ash turns and runs towards the cave entrance. The ground begins to split in several places as shockwaves roll through. Joseph helps the girl into the car. As Joseph gets in the car is pitched three feet into the air. He slams the car into reverse and starts driving backwards. He comes to a stop at the edge of the lake.

“We need to leave.” Ellia says, “Now.”

“Wait, why are they staying?”

“Because she is a soldier and he is a weapon.”

“Why are they fighting?”

“Because that is their duty.”

“But they’re just kids.”

She smiles weakly, “Who else is going to stop them?”

“But what are they fighting?” Penny asks.

Ellia sags in the seat, “They’re fighting something that should have disappeared a long time ago. But there are dozens here. And they’re feeding.”

“What does that mean?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Then what happened to my daughter?”

“Chloe?”

“Yes.”

The ground bucks and knocks the car into the air once again. Joseph glances at Penny. He turns around and drives away from the lake. He looks in the back and he sees that both girls sport deep wounds.

“What will you do?”

“I don’t know.”

The adults exchange worried glances.

“Our people.” She answers their question, “They would have closed the door on him.”

X

The End

Monday Stories: Dangerous Waters – Chapter 5

Penny stares dumbstruck at her husband then looks at the two teens. Her mind struggles between expecting a gunfight and two kids asking questions. The girl and the boy glances at each other. They turn their attention to her.

“Penny?” Joseph asks carefully.

“What is going on?”

“They want to know what happened when… with Chloe.”

Her heart squeezes tight. Penny’s eyes glance over at the photos on the nearby wall. A heartbeat later and she hears the gunfire again. Penny sees the Ty on the ground, blood surrounding his lifeless form.

“Penny!”

The woman looks up at her husband’s face. She doesn’t remember sitting down on the stairs. Joseph looks at her with concern.

“What?”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” She answers. “Just. Just bad memories. Now, why do you want to know about… About Chloe?”

“Maybe I should explain.” The girl says.

Joseph raises a hand, “Let’s get out of the doorway first.”

The boy nods his head. It is then that Penny notices neither teen have taken their focus off of her. The boy appears to be studying her while the girl seems to be mesmerized. Joseph guides them down the hall and into the kitchen. Without being asked, he begins boiling water for tea. The teens remain standing.

“You were saying?” Joseph asks quietly.

“Yes.” The girl finally turns her attention away, “We come here because we must.”

The utter vagueness of her answer drives Penny to the stool. She rubs her head as a headache begins to form.

The boy glances her and she flinches. Then she frowns and the boy shrugs. Finally, the teen turns back to Penny.

“We know something happened to she who you call Chloe. We came to discover what happened and to save her.”

“Save her? She is dead.”

“According to who?”

“The police.” Joseph answers, “They said they found her body among those in a bus crash. Badly burned but dental work…”

“Impossible.” Talon answers, “They would have no records to check against.”

Penny stares at him in shock. She stands up and takes a step forward. Beside her, Joseph stares at them in open shock.

“How did you know that.”

Again the two teens exchange a glance. But it is Ash who answers.

“We also know that Chloe has no medical records, no list of known allergies, and she has never, ever been sick. She doesn’t sunburn and cold weather affects her terribly.”

“We used to call our little reptile.” Joseph says, the water forgotten, “But we never told anyone that she didn’t get sick.”

“You.. how?”

For the third time, the teens look at one another. A furious exchange of changing facial expression. She looks back and forth. Finally, Penny looks to her husband. He is just as bewildered by the silent argument they are having.

Finally, Talon closes his eyes and nods his head.

Ash takes a deep breath and says slowly.

“Because she wasn’t human.”

X

Hannah stalks her office. Situated in the tallest building in town, she has the perfect view of the town she is in charge of. Not as famous as some other tourists destination, her small domain was slowly growing. Her father would have been proud.

The small woman flips the television on.

“In recent news, the disappearance of one Chloe Ziegler is still under investigation. The Mayor maintains that the young girl’s death was a tragedy but an accident. Penny Ziegler, mother of Chloe Ziegler, continues to seek answers. The town has become divided over the tragic accident. Many want to put the tragedy behind while others demand answers from the mayor about the accident.”

With an angry snarl, Hannah turns the television off.

But things were falling apart. Just when she finally had an handle. A knock on the door interrupts her thoughts. With a sigh, Hannah remembers the reason why she is at her office late at night. For a moment, she gathers her thoughts and to calm herself.

“Enter.”

An older man with a large pot belly enters the office. His eyes scan the office. Satisfied that there is no one else, the man drops into a chair. He stinks of sweat and cigarettes. Hannah’s nose wrinkles at the smell and sight.

“Make yourself at home.”

“Thanks. I will. Got anything to drink?”

“This isn’t a social call.”

“To business then.” He leans forward, barely able to prop himself on his elbows.

“Sal.”

“Hannah.” He says with a grin.

She suppresses the urge to shiver at that cold smile. It reminds her of a shark’s smile. It looks friendly but it is a lie.

“What news do you have?”

“You were right. The shooting definitely involved with the Chloe girl. And her husband has put out some feelers now. Asking questions through email to friends in the criminal history and other places that suffer from… disappearances.”

Hannah curses.

She turns from the man and stares out the window. Her little domain seems so perfect and peaceful during the night.

“What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to put a stop to this. It was bad enough that she was asking questions. Now I got her husband and those two kids asking questions as well.”

He raises an eyebrow, “That Talon and Ash? I backtracked them. They are just kids from the east coast. Got family and friendships going back ten, twelve years for sure. Why are you worried about them?”

“Don’t you worry about they why. Just worry about the fact you have to worry.”

“Hannah.” His voice changes, “What is going on? You brought me in three disappearances ago. I thought you were just some paranoid politician. One that either made those people disappear or were somehow involved.”

She laughs weakly, “You thought that, huh?”

Hannah turns back to him, “You are not wrong. I am involved but I am doing this to protect this town.”

“Which is why I am helping you.” He flexes his right hand, “I still can’t believe it.”

“Believe it.”

“What do you want me to do though?”

“I am not sure.” She sighs. For a moment she thinks about the events that have transpired, “I need to find out why things have changed. This year has changed and I need to know why if we are to head it off.”

“I understand.” He heaves himself out of the chair, “But no promises.”

“I understand.” Hannah replies.

Sal reaches the door to her office, “This isn’t going to end well. Is it?”

“No. I’m afraid not.”

With a nod, he leaves the office.

Hannah turns her attention once more to the window. The sleeping town has lost its peaceful feeling. To the mayor, every shadow was a deadly trap ready to swallow her up. If she wasn’t careful, and if she didn’t tie up the loose ends, she’ll be lost in those shadows.

A knock at the door interrupts her thoughts.

With a frown, Hannah glances at the door.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me. Sal.”

“Enter. What did you forget?”

The round man squeezes through the door. Hannah is surprised as an icy ball of fear settles into her stomach. Her skin crawls and she has a sudden urge to run. The man’s hands disappear into a pocket. His eyes are strangely blank and focused on her.

“Sal. What are you doing?”

Sal’s hand reappears, holding fast to the object held in his pocket.

“Sal. What is that?” Hannah retreats, her mind desperate to find a weapon, “Sal!”

Sak walks towards her with his arms outstretched, “This is done in the name of the contract. This is done in the name of peace.”

Hannah screams as Sal lunges towards her.

X

Penny steps back as her head reels from the statement. Joseph laughs lightly but it dies on his lips. Both teens stare intently at them.

“What do you mean she wasn’t human? She is as human as we are.”

“No.” Ash replies, “We’re not.”

At that, Talon holds out his right arm. For a moment, nothing happens. Then bright red lines begin to glow. Interlinking circles form along the length of his arm. Rings encircle his forearm. Red vapor begin to sheaths his arm on a glove of vapor.

A few seconds later, the light vanishes, leaving only the vapor. A moment later, the vapor vanishes all together.

“What was that?” Penny asks quietly.

“We are not human.” He answers, “We are Fae.”

Without missing a beat, Joseph says, “Aren’t you supposed to be short at at the north pole working on toys?”

The teens groan at the statement. Penny slaps Joseph’s arm. He winces. He offers an apologetic smile and shrug.

“Ignoring my husband, what?”

“We Fae avoid humanity. We do not live in this world, merely pass through it. However, we pass quietly and carefully. One such path through your world lies in this city. However, in recent years those traveling through this passage has come to a halt.”

“Travelers. Strangers.”

“What?” Joseph asks.

“Ty.” Penny answers, “He said that the people disappearing were strangers. People who would not be noticed if they disappeared. They were Fae?”

Ash nods her head, “We saw their bags. Though humans do not see it, our bags are marked. In case of emergency and we need aid from another. Those who have disappeared have all been Fae.”

“So why are they disappearing?”

“We don’t know.” Talon growls in frustration, “Which is why we were sent. To find out why and put a stop to it.”

“But what does this have to do with Chloe?” Joseph says, “She never just disappeared from us. We always knew where she was.”

“She is one of the few Fae who decided to stay here. However, recently she has ceased sending letters to us. And our people are not returning from this passage. And this is a critical passageway. And we suspect there is foul play.”

“Do you know who?”

“Yes.”

X

To Be Continued…

Monday Stories: Dangerous Waters – Chapter 4

Ash stirs. Her body aches and she feels cold to her bones. She gingerly gets to her feet. The teen finds herself in a small, dark room. Ash reaches and pushes on the walls. To her surprised the walls are made of stone. Very old stone.

She runs her hands across the surface. The rock is smooth save for narrow groove. Ash traces the path and begins imagining the markings. The young teen wonders what the carvings mean. Light burns to life overhead.

Ash winces in the sudden change of light.

A cold, mechanical voice emerges from the very walls.

“Identify yourself.”

“Why have you kidnapped me?” She yells.

Here eyes adjust to the light. She finds the grooves are runes carved into the surface of the stones. Something about them is strangely familiar.

“Identify yourself.”

“Tell me where my friend is!”

“Identify yourself.”

“I will not! Not until I know why I am here!”

The light pulses. Red energy crackles across the ceiling. The bolts of energy sweep down. Ash has just enough time to snarl before the field of energy hits. Darkness swallows her up as she falls to the ground.

X

Ash wakes again in darkness. Her body aches but nothing seems to be damaged. A low growl in her stomach tells her at least two days has passed. The fact that she had been unconscious for that long alarms her. The teen frowns and tries to think. She doesn’t recall a door but she assumes that there has to be one. Her mind turns to the runes.

In her mind’s eye, she retraces the design.

Again the design seems strangely familiar. As if something she passed by every day years ago but never really noticed.

A deep grinding noise rumbles from the walls. Slowly, the wall slides to the side. Harsh white light floods the halls. Ash raises her hand against the light. A shadowy figure cuts against the light. Ash struggles to her feet.

“Who are you?”

“Follow me.” A distinctly male voice says.

“And if I don’t?”

Red bolts of energy crackles in the ceiling above. Ash gets the hint and steps out of the prison cell. The man is dressed in black clothing. His military boots click against the floor. After a few minutes, Ash finds herself in a large room. A single lamp reveals a red circle on the floor. Her guide points towards the circle. The shrugs and walks forward. The man steps back to block the door. Ash strains to hear anything but the room is unusually quiet. Either the walls are sound proofed or she is in the middle of nowhere.

“You are Ash.”

The teen takes a step back out of surprise at the pleasantness of the woman’s voice. A second light flickers to life, revealing a table ladened with food and drinks. Her stomach rumbles again. With an effort, she fights the urge to eat the food.

“Please. Eat.”

Ash slowly approaches the table. Her eyes roam across the different items. There is a mixture of cheese, bread, and meat.

“What do you want from us? And where is my friend?”

“He will be joining us shortly.” There is a light laugh, “We have to convince him to leave the ventilation system first.”

Ash suppresses the urge to smile.

“And here he comes.”

Ash turns and sees Talon striding into the room. He joins the young girl next to the table. Like Ash, Talon scans the table of food and drinks.

“Welcome, Talon.” The woman says out of the darkness, “Please, eat.”

He looks up at the darkness. He casts a curious look at Ash.

“I was just as surprised.” Ash thinks.

“Has she said why we are here?” His voice, oddly soft, echoes quietly in her mind.

“No.”

“You must forgive me.” The woman continues, “Both in the manner of bringing you here and for not allowing you to see me.”

“Why are we here?” Talon asks.

“I must insist that you cease your investigation into the disappearance of one Chloe.”

“What makes you think that we are looking for this Chloe?”

“Your research. Although you have done an excellent job of hiding your true intentions with wide parameters and carefully chosen questions, I know that is who you are looking for. I have ample resources and time to discover that Chloe is the only area that overlaps. From your questions about the history of this town to your exploration of the lake area.”

“Do we admit?” Ash thinks.

“No. Look at the table.” Talon answers in her mind. Then out loud, “Why kidnap us? Are we your prisoners?”

Curious about the instructions, Ash takes another look at the food and drinks. Meanwhile, the bodiless voice continues to speak.

“Not at all. I merely wish to talk to you in private. Once we have concluded our meeting, you are free to leave.”

“Why is this Chloe such an important topic to you?” Talon presses on, “We do not know of any Chloe.”

“Perhaps but your research could complicate… sensitive matters. You are new to this town and have unfortunately been caught up in some squabbles. If you want, you may tell me what your project is about and I can send you the appropriate information.”

“Thank you but we must research it ourselves. Part of our assignment rules.”

“I see. Then I am afraid that you will fail your class. I cannot allow you to stir up trouble.”

Talon makes no answer.

“Please, take some food with you as you leave.”

“Thank you but no thank you.”

“Very well. Mr. Verda. Please take them home.”

The room abruptly brightens with a flash of light.

X

With a jolt, Ash sits upright. Immediately she realizes that she is in a park. A cooler sits next to the blanket on which the teen is lying on. A glance to the left and she finds Talon stirring. For all intents and purposes, a stranger would think he came across two teens taking a nap in the late afternoon sunshine. As he comes awake, Talon glances at his surroundings.

“Thoughts?” She asks.

“Bad dream.” He replies out loud, “Not now. They may be watching.”

“Come on. Let’s go home.” She glances uneasily at the parked cars, “How long do you think we’ve been unconscious?”

“I don’t know. We’ve been gone at least a day, maybe two.” He glances at her, “Did you notice the food?”

“Yes. And that worries me. Worries me considerably.”

The two teens make their way out of the park. They choose to leave behind the props used by their kidnappers.

“What do we do?” Ash asks. “Someone does not want us to continue. And they know what we look like.”

“Agreed. I think we need..to become more directly involved.”

“You mean start kicking down doors?”

“No. I mean we need to ask questions directly. We know we end our quest and they know we are seeking answers. It is a matter of time before they take measures to stop us. Just as they had done with… Chloe.”

Ash wrinkles her face, “But the humans will not react well.”

“True. But we just need one human to accept us.”

“Then I should ask first.”

He raises an eyebrow.

“Here, it would seem there is an expectation that females are tender and more innocent than the males.”

“Their belief is based on their own history.”

“For which we appear to be part of.”

“Agreed. Both in your arguments and in making contact.”

Talon glances at the setting sun, “If we hurry, we can reach her by nightfall.”

“If we wish to be obvious.”

“You suggest subtlety? Even they know what we are?”

“Agreed but I have noticed that among this world there are laws that tend to be followed. However loosely or badly bent those laws are taken in, they are still followed.”

“Agreed.” Talon watches as the last of the sunlight vanishes. “Now we shall find the answers directly.”

X

Verda watches the two teens leave the park. For a few moments, neither one speaks until the reach the street. At that point, they are out of his listening device. He sighs in frustration and puts the small technical wonder away. He pulls out his cell phone and hits the speed dial option.

“Hello.” His employer’s voice says. Business like.

“The subjects have left. No audio was recorded of their conversation.”

She sighs in frustration, “That was to be expected. If what our medical staff thinks is true then they can talk without words. Do not pursue.”

“What if they continue to ask questions?”

“I will have to take care of things. Please be prepared to bring their bodies back to our lab and arrange for our thorns to be taken care of.”

“As you wish, ma’am. Do you have a preference?”

“Bloodless if possible but we must hurry now. There is the… gunman approach.”

“I understand.”

“I expect our mess to be cleared up before midnight.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He hangs up the phone. With a smile, he begins to plan what needs to be done.

X

Penny wakes up with a jolt. Her breathing is rough and her flesh is damp with sweat. With an effort, she forces herself to calm down. Her nightmare slowly fades away like a bad after image. Penny feels the bed shift as Joseph stirs.

“Honey?”

“Sorry. Bad dream.”

Joseph sits up and pulls her into a gentle hug. Penny relaxes into it. For a moment neither speak. Only the muffled sounds of insects disturb the silence.

“Joseph.”

“Yes?” He tenses.

“Do you think I should let this go?”

She hears her husband sigh in the dark.

“Part of me thinks you should. You are too busy hunting answers to let go and let the healing begin. Someone out there is shooting people.”

“But why? What am I doing that is so terrible people must die?”

Before he can answer, there is a knock at the door downstairs. Penny’s body tenses and icy fear explodes into her gut.

“Stay here. Be ready to call the police.”

Joseph slips out of the room and draws a small box out of his nightstand. Two quiet clicks tell Penny that he has unlocked the gun box and flipped the safety off. Penny grabs her phone and prepares to dial the police. Her hands tremble in fear.

Her husband squeezes her shoulder before descending down the stairs.

Penny listens at the open door, waiting to hear what happens next. There is a creak in the floor as Joseph walks down the stairs. Her heart pounds away, making it seem like the night was too quiet and too noisy at the same time.

Penny waits for the gunshot to fire.

Her mind is filled with images of her husband being gun down. Of being torn apart because of her.

“Penny– it’s okay. You can come down.”

Keeping her hand on the call button, Penny walks to the stairwell. To her surprise, the lights are off. In the weak street light, she can see Joseph standing next to the door. In front of him are two teens.

“Joseph?”

“Penny, this is Talon and Ash. They’re here to ask some questions.” Joseph hesitates for a moment, “Questions about Chloe.”

To Be Continued…