• • S I X T E E N • •

592 89 224

MY FLASHLIGHT CUT through the darkness like a knife. Specks of dust floated around wildly in the beam, disturbed by the sudden change in pressure as wind roared across the open cellar door. The first wooden step creaked under my weight as I descended, and for a second I worried it might break through, but it held. I took another step, shining the light ahead of myself and reaching my left hand to the side, running it along the cold, concrete wall for balance.

"Do you see anything?" Jeremey whispered from behind me.

"I can't tell. Looks like there is a hall or something at the bottom. I need to get farther down to see anything past that."

I continued, Jeremey following behind me. The combination of the wind against the house and the groaning of the steps made the whole staircase echo and scream. We were descending into the throat of some enormous snake. Any second its tongue would slink out, grab us by our ankles, and yank our bodies into its hungry belly.

The smell of damp, rotting wood and mildew grew more and more oppressive the deeper we went. I wasn't sure if it was just my imagination or not, but the air seemed to grow warmer as well, like we were approaching some distant, radiant sun.

Finally, I reached a step where I was far enough down that I could make out what was at the end of the short hall at the bottom—an open doorway, and metal rods glowing dully in the beam of light. But before I could examine the scene any further, something grabbed me by the shoulder. I choked back a scream, nearly dropping the flashlight.

"Don't just stop on the stairs like that," Jeremey whispered from behind me. "I almost ran into you."

"Sorry," I whispered back, trying to calm my nerves. My legs shook, weak beneath my body. I took a few heavy breaths as my heart raced in my chest.

"You going to keep going?"

"Hold on." I pointed the flashlight at the doorway. "Do you see that?"

Jeremey nudged my arm lightly, and I scooted to the side so he could stand on the same step. "What is it?" he asked, taking a second step down to get a bit closer. "Are those... bars?"

He continued on, but my feet froze in place, preventing me from moving any farther. My stomach dropped like I was going over the first hill on a rollercoaster, nausea clawing its way into my throat.

Jeremey turned to face me once he had reached the bottom. "Come on," he beckoned.

I swallowed, trying to flush the nausea from my system. Finally, my legs agreed to work again, and I continued down to the bottom of the stairs. At the end of the short corridor, an open doorway led to the main basement. Jeremey stood in front of it, his right hand still gripping the bat, and his left hand around one of the long metal rods that sealed off the space.

"Jesus," he whispered under his breath.

I walked up along side him, shining my light in.

"It's blocked off," Jeremey said lowly. "Why block it off? If you wanted to lock someone in—" He paused mid sentence. "The door to the cellar was already locked from the outside. There'd be no way for a person to break out." He paused again. "Why put up the bars?"

I didn't want to think about an answer.

Instead, I stared into the basement. It looked the same as it had the previous night. Dusty boxes covered the floor and filled the shelves. The table with a few small hand tools stood abandoned in the center of the room. The crate sat in the corner, open and empty like a gutted animal waiting to be stuffed. As I scanned the light over the space, I realized the basement went on farther than I had thought. There was a second room around the corner by the main set of stairs, but from our vantage point, I couldn't see into it.

Wind ✔️Read this story for FREE!