VIII

299 31 34

That night, Teddy entered the upstairs bedroom to find Isabelle sitting on her bed, stroking the fat black cat. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying, but she seemed soothed by the animal in her arms. Teddy watched as a large, black spider descended on an invisible rope from the ceiling above the bed, threatening to disrupt the tranquil scene.

"Isabelle, a spider!" Teddy called, announcing her presence in the room. She didn't want to yell, but the spider was descending fast.

Isabelle didn't jump at the little girl's sudden warning, nor did she panic at the sight of the hairy arachnid descending above her head. She gently caught the spider in the palm of her hand, bent down to the floor, and allowed the creature to skitter away on its many legs.

Teddy felt silly then for her own fright. Still, it had been the biggest spider she had ever seen outside of Animal Planet. But Isabelle's composure and graceful release of the spider put her at ease. Isabelle was very brave, she thought.

Teddy sat down next to the older girl on the bed. She was still stroking the purring cat gently.

"Isabelle," Teddy said shyly. "Why don't you kill the spiders? Grandma Rose told me not to, but I still don't really know why."

"Rose told you that?" Isabelle said with mild surprise. She continued, "It was originally Mr. Poole's odd rule. He's not just a butler, you know. He has strange interests, that one. Fancies himself some kind of alchemist. When his wife died, he spent much of his time, doing whatever it is he does in that basement of his. We all felt very bad for him, having lost his wife so suddenly. So when he told us to be kind to the spiders, we listened. Poor soul."

Teddy thought for a moment.

"Is that what Rose told you?" Isabelle said.

"No," Teddy said. "She said it was because... spiders remind her... of life?" Teddy struggled to recall her great-grandmother's exact words.

Isabelle furrowed her brow. "Strange bat, that one."

"There was more," Teddy resumed. "Something about how... spiders gave her another chance at life? Yes! That's what she said. But what does that mean?"

Isabelle looked suddenly angry.

"What is this nonsense?" she said, her voice rising. She sat up straight on the bed, jostling the sleepy cat onto its feet.

"Meow!" Snickers announced.

Isabelle gasped, eyeing the cat. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"What?" Teddy said.

Isabelle ignored her. She was focused on the cat.

"It can't be..." Isabelle whispered. Anger returned to her voice. "It's impossible."

Isabelle stood, slipped on her slippers and pulled a housecoat over her shoulders. She was moving fast. Her brow was furrowed, but no longer in confusion. Isabelle was furious.

"Where are you going?" Teddy said, feeling more confused than ever.

"Stay here," Isabelle said, and she stormed out of the room. Teddy could hear her footsteps descend the stairs to the floor-level.

"Meow!" Snickers called. The thought appeared in her mind: "FOLLOW."

With that, the cat leapt off the bed and ran out the room.

Though her fear was great, her curiosity was greater. Teddy got to her feet and followed the strange cat down the stairs. She knew where it would lead her, but Snickers wasn't taking chances. It waited for her to catch up before leaping off toward the basement again.

The Face in the HouseWhere stories live. Discover now