Under the House

Stormhouse

This Weeks Prompt: 17. Doors found mysteriously open and shut etc.—excite terror.

Research: Things Unseen

The clouds gathered over Burgany at the dawning of the day. The great clouds whirled, spiraling serpents over woods and fields. The golden corn was almost gray in their shade, Lucas thought. Rain would come, as it always did with great clouds that slipped over the looming mountain tops. The rising sun barely speared through from the blue firmament.

“It’s going to rain hard today, I can feel it,” Mrs. Lavender said from the bed, her face faded like old paper.

“Certainly looks like it.” Lucas said, looking up from the breakfast tray. He’d been taking care fo Mrs. Lavender for the last year or so. The small isolated house, far from what Mrs. Lavender called “the infernal engines” of the city, had been an adjustment. As had Mrs. Lavender. She didn’t manage the farm anymore ,and he was here to see her off, not tend to the corn. It was remarkable that the fields were mostly intact with a few years of neglect only occasionally working up through the underbrush.

“It’s going to be the big one, I can tell. My knees haven’t ached this bad in ages. No, this is going to be one for the almanac, Lu.” Mrs. Lavender said, sitting up a bit, her bones groaning with effort. The windows clattered some as she spoke, applauding her efforts.

“It’ll be bad, but nothing that huge. Big storms can’t get over the hills.” Lucas said, turning back to the silver. The winds were whipping themselves into a fury, but it wouldn’t amount to much. There was another clatter down the stairs.

“What was that? Visitors?” Mrs. Lavender said, jumping a bit.

“No, just the wind, miss.” Lucas said with a chuckle, “I’ll go get it.”

The house creaked and the pots clattered as the air wrapped around them. The door was open only a jar, not unusual for the old and flimsy frame. Lucas pulled it shut with ease, securing it with the iron locks and fasts. Turning to clean up the cooking, however, Lucas saw something peculiar. The wall was jutting out some.

“Mrs. Lavender, looks like the paneling was damaged by the wind. Going to hammer it down real quick, okay?” Lucas shouted, digging through the cabinets for some nails and the hammer. As he rested the first nail, he felt the panel give more.Putting everything down, he gripped it. There was a hole behind it. Moving the paneling back and forth, he heard the scraping of hinges.

Furrowing his brow, Lucas pulled the panel open. On the other side was a hall, descending down someways before suddenly turning left. Biting his lip, Lucas left the door and went upstairs.

“Mrs. Lavender, how many basements do you have?” Lucas asked, packing up the tray. Mrs. Lavender looked at him, as if he had asked how many suns were in the sky.

“Just the one, Lu, just the one. Why?”

“I think I might have found an old closet or something then. Just a sec, Miss, going to see what’s down there –” Lucas said, cut off by the slam of a door. Blinking rapidly, Lucas ran down the stairs without another word. The panel was shut.

“It’s probably just the wind, Lucas.” Mrs. Lavender said. Lucas ran his fingers along the top of the top of the paneling. His fingers pushed and pulled until he found a seam. His nails gripping it as best they could, he slowly pried the door open again. A pair of sable shoes sat on the other side, neatly placed next to each other. Slowly, Lucas, backed away from the door. It was possible, he thought, that he hadn’t noticed the shoes before. It was possible, after all, for in a panic him to have missed something so innocous.

Opening the junk drawer, Lucas began looking for a flashlight. There were more chords than he thought he’d seen before though he might have become more perceptive lately. As he looked, he heard the pitter patter of rain dancing on the roof, the start of the storm. Grabbing the flashlight, Lucas headed down as thunder boomed over head.

The passage way was short, going down what felt like only ten or twenty feet. The room at the bottom was well lit, to Lucas’s suprise. A table was laid out, with silverware next to porcelain plates and candles lit. Book shelves lined the walls, and doors at every wall. A coat hanger was slumped next to it, and a dripping trench coat rested on it. Who ever lived here had been outside recently.

Lucas grabbed one of the silver candlesticks as he moved through the rooms. Down here, the storm couldn’t be heard, so with only his heart beat as company, Lucas slipped between doors. There was a bed room of sorts, with a hammock and a large lavish red chair, almost entirely cushion. A book lay open beside it, on a small wooden desk. Lucas drew near, hoping for a clue to the strangers identity, or at least their nature.

The book’s pages were neat and orderly, perfectly pale pieces of paper no dobut from a modern printer. Not a word of english was on their pages, nor any language that Lucas knew. Flicking through the pages, he saw writing that sprialed, that ran both left to right and right to left. Sometimes it seemed upside down, other times a rainbow of colors crossed the pages. As he skimmed, he heard the pitter patter of what he thought was rain, dismissing it as the new mystery pulled him closer. For at last he found something he recognized.

A sketch, by a swift and sure hand, of a woman. A number of them, actually, about twenty faces engraved in the book, with a silhouette and notes beside them. Lucas only dimly recognized Mrs. Lavender at first, as the initial faces were from her youth. But as the wind howled overhead, he found the latest drawing and the rough image of Mrs. Lavender, aged as she was, stared back at him. More notes in swirling script, punctuated by jagged arrows and what must have been punctuation marks.

And then he heard the door slam above him again. Lucas stood frozen, terrified now that a hundred eyes might spy from a hidden door somewhere. Blowing out the candle, he slowly snuck around to the entrance. A hunched over shadow moved across the floor of the dining hall, slowly like a cloud rolling over a field. The form coughed and mumbled to itself. There was a clang of a cup being overturned on the table. Lucas waited until the shadow hobbled away, only to hear another clattering sound.

A second shadow, tall and with long fingers came hopping down. Water dripped around it, as it’s owner tossed a long jacket on the rack.

“Rain keeps coming, don’t it?” one voice, tired and raspy said.

“It’ll be bad for the ladies crops it will.” the other, which judging from the shadows, was the second man, replied.

“To think we’ll finally get some peace and quiet down here then! I could hear her wheezing, and I swear the reaper was pacing the foot of her bed.”

“Might still be, Wort. Don’t know how long he takes.”

“Ah, maybe if we let the crows in again. They’d clean her out.”

“I still think there was no need for that. Its fine below. No need for fields down here, nice and cozy.”

“She’s stopped buying food, Lee! Got that youngin doing it instead, and he buys terrible meal. Ought to send the maggots after him, run him right out.”

Another slam of the door. Lucas glanced up, as the steps creaked again.

“Oh hush it with the both of you. It won’t wash her away, nothing to be done about it. We’ll just wait till until it’s clear, and leave her in the fields.”the new voice said irritably. The shadow he cast was wider than the other two, and his head was like a big dogs.

“Patience didn’t get us nothing.” the second voice said.

“It got us rain, and rain got us lots.” The first voice replied.

“Quiet! Both of you, want to wake the old wretch up? Come on, we needs to be praying around now. After that, with calmer minds, we’ll talk about it.”

And with that, they wondered off, their steeps squishing and sloshing as they went. Lucas slowly rose, and peaked around the wall at the room. The shadows had moved on, but there coats were long leathery things, with some odd stiching and the occasional potted hole. Slowly he climbed the stairs, now hearing every creak and feeling every crack in the steps. He opened and closed the door carefully, to best avoid the slamming sound.

Setting foot on the solid surface floor again, Lucas heard the howling wind. The pattering of the rain. And the occasional crack of thunder. It occurred to him then, that the wind did not sound like the howls he heard below, that the rain above pittered and pattered differently than it sounded below. And as he approached Mrs. Lavender’s room, it occurred to him how different the slam of the door sounded from the peal of thunder.

**

A bit pulpy and unfinished of a corpse it seems. I think we must return to the home of Mrs.Lavender some day. What about you? What did you dredge up?

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