They walked in silence for most of the hour. Only the occasional flutter of a bird in a nearby tree broke the silence here and there. No one felt like talking. What was there to be said. Their much needed family vacation had turned into a horror scene.
“This is your fault.” The accusational words shattered through Nellie’s teeth and onto Ivor.
Ivor shot Nellie a look. He knew something was wrong, but panicking only made things worse.
Nellie, knew that too but that didn’t stop her from chewing raw the skin around her nails or continuously looking behind them. She was clearly afraid and pissed off at Ivor for not panicking with her, but more for bringing them to this damned place.
It’s like a perfect plot for a horror movie, she thought. The house, the creepy old lady, and the blood. We’re going to fucking die.
“Nellie what does the map say?” interrupted Ivor.
Nellie looked down at black lines traced around a white paper in her hands. It was the only paper left inside the black folder on the table by the old lady. Just a simple map from here to the main town. A small square indicating the house was marked as morsomt hus, whatever that meant, followed by a windy road with occasional sightseeing stopping points, just off the main road, marked with waterfalls, trees, and cliffs. At the end of the windy road was a split. The road to the right led to several squares cluttered together to form a town-like sketch meanwhile the road to the left led to a riverbed marked with wavy lines.
“Once we pass the bridge, we should be close to the fork”
“I don’t remember a bridge”
You’d think they’d remember the road, but GPS made paying attention to the route unnecessary. I mean why bother taking mental notes when going up a windy forest road in a different country when you have a smart phone telling you when to turn or warning you about that damn possum up the road. What could possibly go wrong? It’s not like your phone could die, break, or get stolen by some creepy old thief who’s obviously a serial killer. Of course not.
Ivor shuffled along with Finn sitting on his shoulders for the next mile not saying or thinking another word. He didn’t dare let his mind race with made up thoughts about what if’s. Now is not the time to be weak.
The bridge was just a small old nailed together pile of wooden planks someone threw together with no love or thought. A small stream ran beneath it, although more mud than water. Their tired boot covered feet crossed it making the old bridge creak from the weight just like it did when they drove past it a few hours before though no one had noticed. Four hours to be exact.
So much time and hope was lost in that house leaving Nellie and Ivor still trying to make sense of what they saw.
After they had realized what was in the trunk of the old lady’s car they ran inside the house to find it quiet and empty.
“Ruthie! Finn?” she repeated as she walked into and out of each room in the glass house.
“Okay guys come out, we have to go,” Ivor called out.
They checked both rooms, the closets, under the beds. Nothing. The kitchen, the family room, the piano room, still no Ruthie or Finn. They ran outside and checked along the house. Maybe they had gone exploring, though they knew better. Still nothing.
Nellie was the first to panic. She ran into the house, “Ruthie Finn!”
Ivor dragged his sweaty right hand over his face. Minutes swarmed by feeding off daylight. He looked around at the house trying to make sense of what was happening.
Nellie now in tears, “Ruthie please! Finn!” She began to recklessly open kitchen cupboards as if they could still fit in small hiding places as they did when they were 2 or 3, but she didn’t bother with being realistic. She was desperate and horrible thoughts intruded into her head hacking away at her ability to reason. She threw open the pantry door. It was full of food. Like someone had just gone grocery shopping a few days ago and just left it there for them. Half picked half untouched. Cereal boxes, a sack of apples, potato chips, granola bars, pasta boxes, Ragu sauce, canned soup, tea, coffee, water bottles. Why is there food? She closed the door more confused and more helpless. Nothing made sense in this house.
She turned to Ivor with desperation seeping through her face “Ivor?”
He avoided making eye contact with her. She was lost in panic and he was far from ready to accept that something had happened to the kids in the ten minutes they had been outside.
The kids are okay, they’re fine, they’re just hiding, Ivor convinced himself.
He paused, “I’m giving away Toby if you don’t get out here now!”
Confused eyes glared at Ivor.
A drop of sweat trickled down Nellie’s right temple and down along her cheek, God I hope he’s right.
Please answer me, Ivor thought, as fear lurked over his broad shoulders.
They never wait till three, they know better, she sighed. “Ivor someone took…”
Another pause, “FOUR!”
That sweet sound of giggles broke the walls of the fear that had morphed itself around them. A bump in the wall came from the kitchen and muffled little voices grew closer. The pantry door flew open and out tumbled Ruthie and Finn roaring with laughter. Relief swept through Nellie and Ivor, but was quickly replaced by anger, and for Nellie: confusion.
“How…” she started. She had just opened the pantry door.
“Mommy, Pa look! We found the best hiding spot ever!
The back of the pantry wall was completely pushed open like a door. Dim lights twinkled beyond the opened wall giving only a small glimpse into the secret room. The visual presentation of the this hiding spot terrified Nellie, and for a moment, she refused to explore it while pondering how her children carelessly entered it without knowing what dangers prowled in there. Ivor, on the other hand, allowed his anger to fade away as quickly as it came by this curiosity and excitement to explore this hidden nook and happily walked in.
“You really scared us you know”
“We were just playing Mommy”
“Pa it’s just a empty room”
“It’s never just an empty room Ruthie.” His hands slid along the cool cement walls. He pressed up against each wall with his all his weight, but there was not even the slightest movement or change in the four walls. Maybe it is just an empty room.
“How did you guys even open this?”
Finn pointed to the bottom of the door. Just a foot above the ground was a clear glass door knob.
Finn had been stuffing his mouth with Oreo cookies once he and Ruthie discovered the pantry was full of food. Half a cookie had broken off from his little mouth and fell onto floor rolling just a few inches beneath the bottom shelf. Five second rule, he thought as he bent down and peeked below the bottom shelf. He found the cookie, but his eyes also caught the faint sparkle coming from the glass knob. Not a second thought dashed through his head before curious fingers curled around the knob. Ruthie was reaching for a bag of chips that were just above her reach. She was heavily leaning on the shelf parallel to her chest while straining her right arm up when Finn had turned the knob. The door flew open and Ruthie fell to the ground of the secret room. There was nothing special or creepy about the room so Ruthie suggested they hide from Mommy and Pa. That was all, just an innocent child’s prank.
Ivor pulled the door to close it when he noticed a small hinge behind the door. At first, it was just a small metal piece hanging there. He pulled the door more till the light lit the outline of a square around it. For a moment, he hesitated. What else is this fucking old woman hiding?
The little door swung down revealing a overly wrinkled manilla folder. Nellie walked in just as Ivor opened the flap. Photos, dozens of them, maybe hundreds. Women, men, kids, infants, families, couples, friends.
Some looked as old as their parent’s childhood photos. Some were from the 60s, the 80s, some were as new and fresh as yesterday, and they were all the same photo. There, sitting, posing, smiling on that burgundy leather couch in the family room always with that majestic view in the behind them.
“What the hell is this?”
“Ivor, I’m fucking scared, please let’s go now!”
He shoved the photos back in the door and closed it, “Take some food and let’s go.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the town”
“But we just came from the town”
Ivor put his hands on Ruthie’s shoulders, “Look, someone stole our car and this house isn’t safe”
“Why isn’t it safe?”
“Ruthie, please don’t ask one hundred questions, just listen”
“Okay Pa. C’mon Finn let’s get some chips”
They fattened the pockets of their jackets and pants with anything they could fit. Before walking out the living room Nellie remembered the folder and opened it to find nothing but a poorly scribbled map.
Now, over an hour of walking later, they found themselves at the fork in the road and orange was crawling over their only light.
“The map says turn right”
“Yeah, but I remember coming from this way,” Ivor said pointing to the left.
“The map says right Ivor”
“Yeah, and where did that map come from Nellie?”
He’s right. What if it’s a trick.
“I know Ruthie,” Nellie said as she rubbed her temples.
“Why does Finn get to be carried?”
“Because he’s smaller”
“Well my feet hurt too! It’s not fa-”
“Ruthie shut up!” snapped Nellie.
The sound of an engine broke over their bickering. It was getting closer.
“Maybe they can give us a ride, Pa”
Nellie and Ivor looked at each other. Their eyes met and they knew something was wrong.
“Now! Run!” Nellie yanked Ruthie off the ground and somehow managed to carry her and run right behind Ivor. Four hearts pounded heavily through the thin trees racing against the roaring of the car that drew closer and closer.
“Here, get down!”
They dropped to the ground behind some thick shrubs just as the car came into view. It crept by, yellow, old, and there, the white cross sticker.
Tires spun along the road. Behind the wheel, a dark figure, now too dark to make out, but the car had come from the house. They had not been alone.
Chapter 3 coming October 8, 2017