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Mom and Dad have been in the basement for days. Sometimes there would be weird noises coming from down there. Someone would be walking around or knock on the walls. One time they stood right up against the locked door. I knew they were there because I heard them breathing.
I always hated the basement. Dad would lock me down there in the dark when I was bad. One time I walked on Mom’s fake Indonesian carpet with muddy boots on, and he threw me down there “with the other filth”.
They both worked at some lab. I thought they might be doing some kind of work together. Once they both spent three days in their lab with no explanation. They could have something going on in the basement that they had to work on together. Although, they never worked together.
Even though Dad was so defensive of Mom’s carpets, and always demanded equal respect for both of them, they were always yelling and screaming at each other, just like how they screamed at me. It made me mad. I always wanted to yell back at them. I always wanted to make the screaming stop.
I was on my own for those couple days. In any other circumstance, I would have bothered them. My dad would yell at me and my mom would run up to her room and watch some soap operas and stuff her face. That time, for some reason, I knew to keep that door shut and leave them be.
It was the fifth day I was alone, and I biked to the store. I took Maine down to Jefferson all the way to Washington and rode the downhill for awhile. The air was still haunted by the chill, damp night it hadn’t quite woken from. The grass was icy and the sky was grey and blank. This was a sleepy town, and this was a quiet street. Nobody was usually around, but that day, there were these people. They all looked like people who’d live here, but I knew they weren't. They all watched me.
I knew about how kids go missing all the time. All of them are usually killed, I presume. I thought about if the kidnapper would usually play with their victims a little bit. Maybe they would follow them, and give them that feeling of dread that haunted me while I rode my bike. I thought about what kind of people could do something like that, and if they'd find someone like myself a target.
My heart thumped, and my legs quivered. It became harder and harder to pedal. I tried to resist looking back at them. I felt all the pairs of eyes on me as I passed.
After I hastily bought some necessities, I took another route home on slightly busier streets. I expected to see only occasional cars and business people walking from the train, but then I saw the people again. First there was one, then two, then I felt like they were all around me. All their fidgeting eyes and similar, casual look sent chills down my spine.
I kept my head down and made my way home through the twisty turny route. Once I reached my small, decrepit home, I tossed my bike down and ran inside.
I neatly filed the eggs away into the filthy egg tray. The milk went on the far right on the top shelf of the stained fridge, always. Everything had a place.
My parents never enjoyed cleaning the house, so the responsibility fell onto me. Despite my best effort to keep it in order, it still developed moldy ceilings and dusty stairs. The big clock on the wall stopped ticking a long time ago, and the cabinet drawers that we never opened became framed with spider webs. The walls were pale yellow and beige. I remember they used to be brighter and happier, but now they seemed like the life has been drained from them. The blackened dome light on the low ceiling failed to illuminate the house half decently, so the large windows in the foyer and kitchen did the job for it. The natural light created dramatic shadows, and left some corners dark and desolate. Also, there was the smell. It was relatively new compared to the houses other faults. It was like old cheese and a public toilet. It began in only the first floor, but then it snaked its way up the house.
I wanted to forget about the people. There was nothing I could do about it, so why worry, right? Still, they were here, in this sleepy town for some reason. In the sleepy town on the quiet streets for some reason. Maybe they were here to hurt me. Maybe my mom or dad had done something wrong. It wouldn’t be out of character for them to have messed up bad. Maybe they let something out they shouldn’t have, and these men were here to get us.
I forced the thought out of my mind.
I made a nice dinner for myself, after that hectic day. I cleaned the dishes, and meticulously placed them in the dirty oak wood cabinets. I walked to the towering front window to close the blinds for the night. I peered out on winter night. I imagined the sweet tingle of the cold air outside in my lungs as I breathed in the stale, odor-ridden air that inhabited the inside.
First, I felt the eyes again. I didn’t necessarily see them, but I felt them staring at me from the parts of the yard completely hidden in shadow. Then, a flash outside, just past the snowy hedges that framed the large front yard, caught my attention. My eyes squinted and I found the source under the thick blanket of darkness that covered the outside. A piece of metal. A gun.
I slammed the curtain so fast I was surprised it didn’t rip off the loops. I ran to the back of the house to close the other curtains. Outside in the dark was another flash of a gun.
No… no… no… a voice repeated in my cluttered mind. My hands started shaking and the feeling of fear and helplessness and anger boiled up inside me and burned in my chest.
I’m a good person. I’m a good person. The voice started saying for a reason that was unknown to me.
The front door slammed open, and two heavy muddy boots stomped onto my mother's good carpet. He held the gun low and ready. I whipped back around the corner before he could see me.
I turned to the door to the basement which was right next to me, and swiftly unlocked it with the key I kept in my pocket. As the door swung open, the odor was more pungent. It seemed palpable as it slapped me in the face and I stumbled back. I charged through, though. I had to. Those men were going to kill me.
I turned to re-lock the door, then stumbled into the dank blackness. The dormant ceiling light above creaked and spat out puffs of dust as the men upstairs shuffled around. I didn’t think they saw me go down.
I had forgotten to flip the switch on the outside of the door, so a tiny window near the ceiling acted as my dim light source. The weak moonlight cast a small slice of visibility in the center of the room. The basement had no shelves, so the prickly cement walls were exposed.
I heard something scurrying around the edges of the room outside of the sliver of moonlight that crept in through the single tiny window. I became stiff as a board. My eyes darted around the room, but my head remained front facing. I didn't think I could move if I wanted to. My arms and legs shook and my chest and throat quivered. My breaths became short and forced. I closed my eyes and mumbled, “I’m a good person. I’m a good person...”
Suddenly the lights exploded to life. In front of me stood a 13 year old girl with fuzzy brown hair matted down to her scalp. She wore the bloody rags from that night, and on the floor in front of her was the red stained knife. She bent down and casually picked it up, and ran her finger across the blade. She was smiling. She was me.
“You don’t have to worry. I made the yelling stop,” she mumbled. “You did.” My own disheveled appearance flashed in my mind.
“Go away! That didn’t happen! That wasn’t me!” I wailed at her while stumbling backward. The voices upstairs shouted to each other. More big black boots started marching towards the top of the staircase. I suddenly felt the urge to fight back against them.
Right above me was the small window near the tall ceiling. It seemed more like a prison window than one you’d find in a family’s home. I reached up above my head to grab at the golden latch, but it was sealed with rust. My heart rose up into my throat and I yanked harder and harder but still the window wouldn’t let me go. My heart beating in my chest became so intense my whole body convulsed with each thump. The lights flickered and more dust rained down. The voices upstairs became louder. The bangs on the door became harder.
“You can’t ignore me. You can’t lock me away forever,” she called calmly.
Tears began welling up in my eyes. My jelly-like arms still tried to out muscle the latch on the window. My fingers fumbled to grasp it differently with desperation as my fuel. I could see the big clumps of snow that began falling outside the tiny window. In a weird moment of serenity, I could almost feel it against my own face.
Behind me, she stepped towards me and held the knife out. I looked in horror.
“Remember what you did?” she whispered in a mocking kind of way, and gestured subtly to the back left hand corner of the room that my eyes have been unconsciously avoiding.
My head unwillingly snapped to that corner, and there were Mom and Dad. I wasn’t surprised to see them sprawled in a bloody heap. There was a red handprint above my dad’s head on the cold concrete; above his mangled body. A warm feeling washed over me knowing that he had died slowly.
I looked down to see that the knife was in my hand. It had always been in my hand. Her ugly smile had always been plastered on my own face.
“Freeze!” bellowed the gruff voice from behind me. I turned to face the eight armed police officers in my basement. There were shouts but they sounded underwater, almost. My head craned to look at the black window again. Outside, the big soft clumps of snow were falling, and all I could do was stare and smile distantly.