the stairs

The doorknob was cold when Kim grabbed it. But nighttime in Minnesota makes anything cold, and she didn’t have any other expectations.

“Can we hurry up and just finish this, please?”  Darla’s whines grated on Kim’s ears, but after two years of being “roomies”, it wasn’t as bad as it used to be.

Kim jiggled the knob again, shaking the door as she did it. A small rain of termite dust came down in a small fine cloud before the door budged and opened into the dark room beyond.

“Doesn’t look like they took their time, does it?” It was either whining or nonstop useless speech that came from Darla’s mouth, but Kim felt that if she didn’t put up with it, at least for a little while, no one would. The girl’s history of solitude wasn’t a happy one, and she knew she appreciated Kim’s friendship.

“Yeah well, murder does that to people.” Kim’s voice was a whisper compared to Darla’s. Did the girl have any concept of respect for the spirits of a massacre?

Lazy creaks moaned under their leather soles. As far as they knew, the house had not hosted the living since the incident, and that was coming up on 20 years ago.

“Okay, okay, enough spooky shit. Where is this thing?” Frustration and anxiety had fastened tightly to Darla’s limbs, and the unseen marionette was delighting in his craft of her.

“In the back, Scaredy Kitten; relax. We’ll be out of here in a jiff. It’s just a picture.” Kim’s words seemed no comfort to Darla, who was throwing her bag about, all but upending it, before extracting the small silver cube by its cheap wrist strap.

“I know, but …..” She stopped, ceasing motion in her panicked squat. Her eyes were wide when she looked back up at Kim. “Did you hear that?”

Kim’s reaction was a cocked head and a wry smile. “Really? Oh my gosh, can you freaking chill –“

“No, shhh! Listen.” Darla’s eyes, unblinking, panned from Kim’s lackadaisical whatever expression to a hollow case of stairs by the front door. She traced the steps and scanned the ceiling. Her eyes came back to Kim’s. There’s something up there, she mouthed and pointed upwards.

Kim followed Darla’s air-probing index finger to a ceiling of dried wooden slats, almost appearing as a field of charred grey wood. A large roughly bored hole in the center suggested the subtle swing of some old-time chandelier. Maybe if fell, or was removed. Maybe stolen. But before any other rational option would come to her mind, she heard the creak. It was something that never crossed her mind of hearing, but there it was, slow, steady, extant.

She found Darla again, this time wearing a different expression.

“Let’s go!” Darla yelled, and rushed to the staircase and disappeared into the second floor – a destination completely outside of their original plan.

“Darla, what about the photo?!” Kim heard only the echo of her reverberating question as an answer. The dark room stared back at her as if inquiring what her next move would be. Kim’s reaction was swift, but bold. She ran to the stairs and stomped up the old wooden slats, both to remove Darla from her swift spell of madness, and to escape her own loneliness in this place.


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