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“Pistols shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood
Cries out "My God they killed them all"
Here comes the story of the Hurricane!”
Abbey was proud of herself for knowing the lyrics of the man her daddy deemed “The Greatest of the Greats.” Bob Dylan was practically considered God in her house, and it wasn’t a disturbance to sing his songs as loud as you wanted to. As she showered, the sweet smells coming from the kitchen filled her nostrils. Dinner was almost ready.
“What’s on the menu tonight, Chef A La Mom?” Abbey walked into her large kitchen with wet hair and her most comfortable pajamas. Her mother was dressed in a fancy chef coat and hat. It was a tradition to pretend the dinner was at a five star restaurant in a different country every night. This particular night was Paris.
“Just your favorite! Soupe à L’oignon with sparkling grape juice for you and pinot grigio for the boys!” Abbey’s mother excitedly read off the menu items. “Oh, and don’t forget dessert—crème au caramel.”
“That sounds absolutely incredible, my sweets.” Abbey’s father waltzed in as if on cue. He gently wrapped his arms around his wife and kissed her on the cheek, then proceeded to rock her into a slow dance perfectly in step with the classic French music coming from the record player. Abbey watched and admired her parents’ romance and wondered if she would ever have such a wonderful relationship with another human. She opened the window curtains and stared at the layers of wood blocking her view of the outside world. All her life she was told it was for the better, that the barriers keeping her from going outside were for her own safety. That didn’t stop her curiosity. She wanted to know what Paris really looked like.
Abbey’s brothers, Tim and Roger, were not present when it was time to sit down and say grace. Abby’s mom tapped her fingers impatiently on the mahogany table after calling their names several times.
“Maybe they’re asleep?” Abbey wondered aloud and caressed her mother’s hand for comfort.
“Asleep or awake, it doesn’t matter. There’s no tardiness to dinner in this house. We put way too much effort into this meal for it to be taken lightly.” The tapping increased in speed. Abbey’s mother stood up abruptly just as a small door in the floor underneath a rug swung open. Tim and Roger climbed up into the living room, locking The Door underneath them with a key. They threw their large backpacks on the couch and made their way to the dining room with their heads down amidst the awkward silence. In Tim’s hand was a bottle of expensive white wine covered in dust. Abbey’s mother was frozen where she stood, her mouth wide open.
“Where the hell were you two?! You think this is a joke? You’re late to dinner and you broke the number one rule!!”
“Mom, calm down,” Tim replied in a soothing voice, “we knew it was a special meal so we wanted to contribute.” He blew the dust off the wine and sat it on the table next to the other drinks.
“I already got Pinot Grigio!! You two could have been killed out there!!! Our number one rule is to stay inside unless given permission to leave. And you never EVER leave for something so insignificant!”
“Boys, what in God’s name were you thinking?” Abbey’s father chimed in, “Risk your life for a bottle of wine?! She knows where The Door is now!”
“I’ve always known where it was.” The family swung their heads around and stared at a timid Abbey. “I’ve always known. I just never know what it’s for or where it leads to. All you guys do is tell me that it’s dangerous but you never say why. I’m tired of wondering. Why is it so dangerous? Why?!” Her shouts were followed by a moment of silence, everyone unsure of what to say.
“Ab, you know why we can’t tell you,” Roger said, “it’s dangerous and that’s all you need to know for now. When you get older, we can tell you more. You’re only 12, Abbey. If we tell you too much, you’ll be scared to sleep at night. Scared to use the bathroom by yourself. We need to wait until you’re mature enough to handle the truth. Then maybe one day you’ll get your own key to The Door.”
The tension eventually eased up and the dinner proceeded. Abbey’s mother was silent and shaky as she tried to eat her food. The humor from the boys helped the conversation to return to something less serious than what had occurred. Abbey seemed to have forgotten why she was upset before and returned to her normal self, but she looked forward to her plans for after dinner. She was finally going to get into the boys’ backpacks to see what they had kept hidden for so many years.
At sharply 9 PM every night, Abbey was locked into her room with one of the keys. Her parents did this to keep her from sneaking out, but she remembered watching a scene from a movie where someone used a bobby pin to unlock the door. Luckily, she had one lying on the floor under her bed. After the lock-in, Abbey lied in bed patiently waiting for everyone to fall asleep. Since her family members snored loudly, she could indicate when the coast was clear for her to unlock the door.
The time had come, and Abbey jiggled the bobby pin up and down in the key hole until she heard a click, like in the movie. The door creaked open and she had the sudden urge to run through the house like an escaped convict. Instead, she tiptoed to the chest near the windows where she knew the boys always kept their backpacks. As she crossed through the middle of their large living room, a sudden bang came from the ceiling, shaking the chandelier. Abbey froze for a minute, then continued tip toeing to the chest, telling herself it was probably just “the house adjusting.” This was something her father told her often when there were strange noises throughout the house.
Finally, Abbey stood over the chest and opened it slowly, staring at the backpacks. Jackpot. As she began to unzip one, something sharp poked through the zipper. She unzipped it completely and dumped out its contents: an axe, a gun, a knife, and a crossbow.
“Abbey, what are you doing?” Roger’s voice surprised her, causing her to whip her head around and gasp, frozen with fear. She dropped the backpack and stared at him with her eyes wide, unable to speak.
A loud bang came from the roof and knocked the chandelier out of its place, sending it crashing to the ground. Before Roger had time to get to his sister, the entire roof caved in.
Abbey froze. She stared into the red eyes and blood soaked teeth of a hungry, malevolent creature. The vile smell of rotted flesh filled her nostrils as she looked death in the eye. The creature took a step closer, closing any distance between them. A small whimper of fear escaped Abbey’s lips as she accepted her demise. The screams of her brother calling her name were quickly drowned out by the wave of shock. Her mind went blank as she directed her focus to to a tiny star in the black sky above her, shining down from the hole in the ceiling. It was the first star she'd ever seen in her life. Amid the grey clouds of pollution surrounding it, this star sat up in the sky alone. It had a certain kind of peacefulness to it, the way it seemed unaffected by the chaos all around.
The star was a reminder to Abbey that there were beautiful sights and sounds in the world she never had a chance to experience. With the creature still allowing her last minutes of life to linger, she laid down on the hard floor and pulled her knees against her chest. She shut her eyes and began to fantasize about what life might be like on the other side. Death was just the solution to being freed from the barriers she'd always known.
Sharp teeth grazed her legs and a warm, wet tongue tasted the flesh it was about to consume.
"Go ahead." She whispered.