Daniel placed his hands over his closed eyes and began to countdown from thirty. He heard his sister's little feet scamper off.
"Ready or not! Here I come!" Daniel shouted so that the whole house could hear.
He searched the obvious places first: Behind the couch, in the closet, the kitchen cabinets, and beneath the sink. He checked under the beds, the broom closet, and the bathtub.
"Where is she?"
An idea struck Daniel, but he didn't quite believe it. He ran to the basement.
She must have gone into the crawlspace.
Even Daniel, the boy who was brave, was a little scared of the crawlspace. It was an alternate world beneath the floor and above the basement. A place between rooms, not here nor there. Squat and dark and when you'd crawl through your hands would touch cobwebs and dust. There were exposed nails and creepy crawlies and old remnants from the ancient house's previous tenants: Boxes of rusted gardening tools, a filthy window with a paint chipped frame, moldy books. The footsteps above your head were thunderstorms and avalanches and giants.
Daniel removed the small square slotted panel that plugged the passage to the realm of the crawlspace and shouted, "Found you! Get out here!"
But she didn't call back. Rules are rules. In Hide and Go Seek you must see the hider to win. Daniel sighed, impressed with his little sister's courage.
The dirty tunnel felt awful on his hands and exposed beams hurt his knees when he crawled over them. "I'm going to find you," he called into the dark.
But he didn't find her.
He searched every inch of that crawlspace and she was nowhere to be found.
Daniel felt panic pull the strings of his gag reflex. His skin became ill fitting, the way a bunched T-shirt feels when you've outgrown it.
"Tanya!? Tanya!? You win! I give up."
Tanya still made no sound. The house was only floor creaks.
Daniel searched over and over and when he finally told his parents that he couldn't find Tanya, they joined in the game of Hide and Go Seek.
And with each failed pass around their home their search became faster and more frantic and they searched more improbable hiding places – Daniel's mother, in hysterics, even looked in a cookie jar.
When night came the police joined the game of Hide and Go Seek too. They search inside luggage bags. Kids will zip themselves into their parent's luggage and suffocate, one police officer said, "Happens more than you think," This was of no comfort to The Parkers. They checked the water heater and of course the crawlspace.
Tanya was either gone or hiding. Daniel knew she wouldn't leave the house. She may have found some bravery, but there's no way she'd leave the house on her own. Daniel decided she couldn't be gone. But, if she was still hiding, Daniel reasoned she would have come out by now. Tanya would hungry or bored. That only leaves this - She must be trapped hiding.
Just before the police sat The Parkers down for a delicate discussion, Daniel was sent to bed.
This was his fault. There was no denying it. His pillow was wet with salty tears. Daniel swore to himself that he'd find his little sister. He'd never stop looking.
He decided not to sleep. Instead he mapped the entire house in his mind, inch for inch, praying to come up with some place Tanya could have hid.
He'd been at it for hours and he was imagining the basement with all the storage boxes, trunks, and the passage to the crawlspace. His brain checked off little boxes when he could safely say this box is clear, this corner checked.
His mind was about to leave the basement when he heard tapping under his bed. A small fit of Morse code.
Daniel jump from his sheets and put his ear to the floor. The taps came and went and came again – each pattern a snowflake.
Daniel tapped the floor. The floor tapped back.
"Tanya?" He shouted through the hardwood.
He'd run downstairs and told his parents and the police officers what just occurred. The police checked the crawlspace again. They even removed all the junk.
The next night and the night after that the taps continued, always just before Daniel drifted off to sleep. At first he'd run to the crawlspace, trying to get to Tanya before she disappeared, but the crawlspace was always empty.
One night he discovered his father had nailed the slotted frame shut. The passageway forever closed.
They never had a funeral for Tanya.
The years moved on and eventually his parents had a little brother for Daniel. He loved him very much, but the world never felt the same. He knew Tanya was still hiding. Daniel never forgets or forgives himself for the words he said that afternoon: find a place I would never find you.
Every night the taps alerted him just before sleep, but he no longer searched. He was too frightened.
He grew into an anxious man with nervous eyes. He had a family of his own, but never let them out of his sight. He never took them to the zoo.
He still hears the taps that rob him of his sleep. The games not over until you find me.
He became an old man and his sister should have been an old woman, but Daniel knew the taps came from the finger of a six-year-old.
And still the taps tapped, asking to be found.
Be sure to let me know what you think of this latest yarn! Remember to Vote and Comment and be EVIL!
Also, one of my stories, The Ugly Creature is nominated for the Creature Feature - I'd love it if you voted. You can do that here.
But you got to do it before Friday.
I also wanted to take a moment to thank all'y'all for being so supportive of Strange Yarns. Writing for you yarnballs has been such and honour. I can't believe how lucky I am to be surrounded by such wonderful creeps. There's lots more to come!
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WATTY 2016 WINNER of the HQ Love Award! Strange Yarns is a ball of tangled tales. Twisted, knotted, and intertwined. Like Tales of the Crypt, the Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits. Strange Yarns is not just a collection of ghastly tales, these are...