Chapter 1
by Kimberly Raiser

Eager to escape suburban life, Steven and Tara take their two children to visit the home of Steven’s dead grandparents.

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E



The well on the back of the property always scared me as a child. It was so deep, and so completely absent of any light. The neighborhood kids used to tell me horrible stories about the old man who used to live there before my grandparents. How he used to drown cats deep in the well and how their bones would rise during a full moon to look for the old man that drowned them. Of course he was never found due to his sudden and mysterious disappearance. (As all urban legends go.) So now the cats' bones would search for a victim to justify their untimely deaths.

It was one of those horror stories kids tell each other just to make them freak out in the dark. This was the first time I'd been back here in a long, long time. I didn't realize the property was still in the family; I really hadn't thought about it. Granddad had passed away some years ago, and Grams had gone to a nursing home. A few weeks after her passing, I got a call from the estate attorney. The land was mine. Horror stories and all.

It really was a nice piece of property. The main house was a little run down, since no one had been there in years. Mostly cobwebs and rotting wood on the front porch. The roof needed some patching here and there, but all in all it was a nice place.

I brought my wife and kids to see the house and its property. One of the greatest attributes to the place was the fact that it was paid for. Of course there was lots of room for the kids to run around and play, unlike our current suburban life. The house was certainly big enough. It had three bedrooms upstairs with a bathroom, a wonderful study downstairs, a nice big eat-in kitchen, and a musky basement. My eight-year-old, Charlie, just loved the smell of a musky basement, and so did my wife. It was the first place they went.

“Hon, you want Charlie’s flashlight before you head down there?”

“That’s ok, the lights work!” she yelled.

I thought it was strange that the electricity was on, but the attorney knew we were coming out with the kids; he probably had it turned back on for us.

After a quick touring of the place, Tara thought it was absolutely charming, even though the house needed some work, and a good sweeping. The grounds were beautiful, and the air was as fresh as could be. It would get us away from the outskirts of the city, and the traffic. And, most of all, it was paid for.

On the other hand, I had my own reservations, but who can argue free?

It was while strolling around the back of the house, that Tara saw it.

"Steven, look! It's a wishing well!" Instantly she ran towards the well and started tearing the vines and weeds away from it. Crickets and grasshoppers were flying everywhere. She didn't care. She kept tearing until she got through.

I just stood there, frozen, watching.

"Come on, Steven!" she shouted.

Whether it was old childhood stories combined with paranoia, or a just a really bad feeling, I hesitated. "It's just an old well!" I shouted.

"Come on, help me clear the vines!" Tara yelled.

Slowly my feet began to move. Not an ounce of my body wanted anything to do with that well. It was like one of those dreams where you can't move your feet as fast as you want to, or one leg is longer than the other. I've had lots of those. Except, I was awake.

As I approached it, Tara had managed to clear a nice spot for herself to hang over the interior of the ring of damnation, the well.

Just as I neared, her balance failed and she began to lean quickly towards the abyss of its opening. My heart nearly stopped. I could feel my pores open to release what sweat I had left. I lunged forward to grab her. Suddenly she caught her balance, turned to me, and smiled.

"Almost had you," she slipped from her lips.

"Evil woman," I thought out loud, then I smiled.

Tara smiled.

Her face was this frightening glassy eyed cat, and the teeth, sharp and dripping with blood. I screamed and fell backwards.

"What is it?!" she screamed in reaction.

I looked at my darling wife. She looked—beautiful. She looked like Tara.

"Nothing." I hesitated. Was I going mad? I shook my head and wiped my face with my hands, as if to cleanse away the fright. I was quaking inside.

"Sweetie, are you ok? You scared the crap out of me!"

"Yeah, I'm all right. Got you back, didn't I?" I chuckled nervously as she helped me up from the ground.

"You bastard," she said with her special bastard voice. We called each other that when one of us did something slightly evil to the other.

"Come on, let's go take a peek at the back porch!" And off Tara ran to the back of the house, her pretty white gauze dress flowing with every step, following her like wisps of smoke from a freshly blown out candle. It was bewitching.

I needed to get a grip on myself. This place was already affecting my brain. And my imagination needed no help when it came to creepy. I could write stories about my dreams that would make a person's skin peel from their bones.

When I was a kid, my friends would sneak up behind me constantly to scare me. They would peek around corners meowing and rustling leaves. I could hardly sleep at night. I so looked forward to my visits here, but I'd also forgotten how much I hated this place—and that well. I loved visiting, and yet the place gave me the willies.

"Wow, honey! Look at this deck, it's incredible!"

The deck did look beautiful. There were benches built all the way around it, and there was a trellis roof filled with confederate jasmine that completely shaded the entire deck. The wood was in pretty good shape, nothing was really rotted, and it smelled like heaven. I took a deep breath. It was incredible. I almost relaxed.


I heard it from the field. I snapped my head around to look for the cat. Tara was so busy twirling around in circles on the deck, watching her own dress twirl in concert with her movement, she couldn't have noticed anything.


"Did you hear that?"

Tara stopped twirling. "Hear what, honey?"

"A cat... I heard a cat."

"I didn't hear anything. It’s probably just your imagination.”

“No, I heard a cat.”

“Well, maybe a neighbor has a cat, and it's out here because it knows how much you hate cats.”

"I don't hate cats."

“Yes you do.”

“Come on, I don’t really hate them.”

"Oh come on, yes you do. Every time you see one, you pick up your pretend shotgun, and you shoot 'em." She mocked me, right down to the exact motion of the shotgun; she mocked me.

Ok, she was close to being right. I did have a thing about cats. And I didn't particularly have a good reason for feeling that way, it was as if it was simply innate. Tara on the other hand had this freakish affinity towards them, or should I say they towards her. It was like she had the fresh scent of salmon that only cats could smell. It was endearing, and a little creepy.

"I want to go inside and look around some more!" and off she went into the house. I watched through the porch window as she explored the kitchen. She looked so happy, so content, so beautiful. Her long brown curls swept around her face at every turn. I loved the way she would always get a strand of hair caught just over her nose so she would have to brush it away with her fingers.

"Daddy, Daddy!"

Little Sara came running from the back yard. She was the image of her mother, only in a pint. She came running towards me, the front of her dress held up in a ball, covering something.

"Whatcha got there, sweetie?"

"Look Daddy, look!" She slowed to a careful stop just in front of me. Her big blue eyes looked like they were going to pop out of her head. Slowly she unfolded her dress.

There they were. The bane of my existence.


Five of them!

"Can we keep them, Daddy? Can we keep them?"

"Where did you find them, sweetie?" I didn't want to touch them. I didn't want to see them, and I knew their momma must be somewhere nearby.

Tara overheard the commotion and walked over to us. "Oh Steven, they're so cute. We can't just leave them outside by themselves." She was already in love with them. God help me.

"Sweetheart, that meow I heard earlier was probably the mother of these little fledglings looking for them. You should probably put them back where you found them."

Tara flashed a "look" at me. It was one of those looks you give to the town idiot. I didn't like it very much. It made me feel—small.

I cowered my head in shame. "Well, we weren't planning on staying here tonight. We don't exactly have anything to sleep on, anything clean, that is. I wiped some cobwebs off the wall next to me. I guess we could find a box or something and some towels for them."

"Oh Daddy, can't I bring them home?"

"We don't have room for them, sweetheart, and I'm sure their mommy is probably looking for them right now." (Which was something I didn't really care to think about.) The girls were so enthralled with the cute furry little things in Sara’s lap that I don’t think they heard a word I said, or noticed the fact that Charlie was nowhere to be found.

“Where is your brother, Sara?”

“I don’t know.” She and her mother kept coddling the kittens.

“He’s probably down in the basement," Tara said without taking her attention from the kittens. "Why don’t you go look for him, sweetheart? It's getting a bit late. I’ll find something to put the kittens in.”

I rolled my eyes and grumbled.

I walked through the kitchen to the cellar door. The door was open, but the light was not on. “Charlie!” I called. “Charlie, are you down there?” The smell of the basement crept up my nostrils like water would if I was drowning in a pool. I covered my face and shook my head. A breeze swept in from the kitchen window; it seemed to help a bit. “Charlie!” I tried one more time. Still no answer.

I hadn’t been in that basement for a really long time. It had always creeped me out just a bit too much to be playing down there. Besides, Pop forbid me to go down at all, so sneaking down there was not on my agenda. I reached into my pocket for a flashlight.

Ordinarily I didn’t carry one, but Charlie had shoved it into my pocket when we got out of the car because he had a hole in his pocket. He wanted me to keep it safe for him. I pulled the flashlight out of my pocket and flicked it on. The stairs were covered in dust and cobwebs, and footprints. I was about halfway down when I found the pull chain for the light. I couldn’t believe the bulb still worked after all of these years. Thank goodness.

I reached the bottom of the stairs and looked around. I had forgotten how large the basement was. It was the size of the entire first floor, and it was filled with dusty antiques and odds and ends from all over, most of which I didn't recognize at all.

The air was damp and cold. It was like walking into a cave, or perhaps a lion's den. I was about twenty feet from the stairway when the light suddenly went out. It actually made a popping sound when it went out, like it had filled with gas and just exploded outwards. Scared the crap out of me. Fortunately, I still had the flashlight on.

There must be another light down here somewhere. I fumbled through a few things on a shelf. Spider webs and dust clinged to my fingers like chewed up taffy that had fallen in the dirt. My fingers found a switch. I flicked it to what I thought was an on position, but nothing happened. I flicked it on and off a few more times, just in case. Still nothing. For a few moments I had forgotten what I was doing down here in the first place.

“Charlie? Are you down here?”

Still nothing. I seemed to remember an entrance from the outside to the cellar. It was a set of those storm doors that lay almost flat. I didn’t remember seeing it while walking the property, though. I’m sure I just missed it. It was probably covered with overgrown weeds. There had to be another staircase down here. I kept shuffling my feet along the floor with Charlie’s flashlight ahead of me. My eyes were curiously fixed on all of the dusty objects on the shelves and pieces of furniture that crowded the walls.

My foot caught on something. At first I thought maybe I stepped on some old debris, or a box. The flashlight was aiming straight ahead, but I hadn’t noticed a staircase, just an emptiness in front of me. I turned the flashlight to the floor, except there was no floor; it was open. It was a ledge that led to a staircase, except the staircase went down, not up. I could feel the panic beating in my chest. My nose filled with the muskiness in the air. It felt colder. I flashed my light down to the bottom. I didn’t count, but it looked like at least twenty steps down, and some sort of doorway at the bottom. Ok, now I was officially creeped out, and I really hoped that my son did not find this staircase and go exploring. Half of me just wanted to get the hell out, while the other half could not walk away. That half is the half that always gets me in trouble. That half is the part of me that pushed my feet down those stairs. I closed my eyes for a moment and actually said out loud, “What the hell am I doing?” I kept going. The staircase was very steep. It seemed as old as the house itself. The steps were a mix of cobblestone and concrete. Every now and then my feet kicked a loose pebble or clump of dust. I took my time. Of course, it seemed like an eternity by the time I got to the bottom. But I finally did.

I was standing there in the basement, facing a large wooden door with no doorknob. As I looked up and down for a way to open the door, I noticed a metal latch at the top. It was a crude iron latch, looked to be made by hand, not machined. I reached for it. The latch was stiff. The door obviously hadn’t been opened in a while, so there was no way that Charlie got in here. He would have had to have grown at least a foot to reach the lever. My imagination was going wild, and that troublesome part of me didn’t care—it wanted to get in.

I fiddled with the latch until it freed itself from years of rest. The door gave way to the pressure that had been forced on it over so much time. It was as if the room exhaled, and the door relaxed to an opening about a half-inch in space. Air rushed through the opening. At first the smell was of dust; then it was something else. I can’t say it was terrible, or pleasant. I couldn’t identify it. It was a sort of a metallic smell. Like a rusty penny. “That’s ridiculous,” I thought.

I placed my hand at chest level and pushed the door inwards. The hinges groaned and creaked as the door slowly opened. The sounds of years of stillness made a popping sound as the door freed itself from the doorframe. It was almost deafening in the state I was in. I had only opened the door a few inches. There was no light, except the now dimming and flickering flashlight I held in my free hand. I knew that it wouldn’t last much longer. I pushed the door a bit further. It was still stiff, but was willing to move. I directed what light I had left in through the opening and instinctively reached to the interior wall. There was a switch, an actual light-switch. I tried it. A dim light flickered on ahead of me; another followed further away, and another. What the hell is down here? I pushed the door completely open to reveal the corridor that was illuminated by just the right amount of light. The bulbs in the fixtures above looked very old, like antiques. If that was true, that explains why they still worked. That means this place has been here a very long time. The large filament in the light-bulb just ahead reached its maximum brightness and was a glowing swirl of light. It burned its image in my retinas. I had to close my eyes for a moment to readjust. I still had a faint line that blocked part of my vision, but for the most part I could see clear enough.


Did I really expect someone to answer me? No. I guess I just wanted to hear something familiar, and to see if my voice echoed. “Hello!” This time I said it a little louder.

My voice carried, which indicated to me that this passageway went a lot further than I could see.

I reached back around for the doorway, but when I extended my arm, I got nothing but air. I turned around to check the door.

There was nothing but corridor.

“What the hell?”

My heart began beating just a little bit faster. I held the flashlight up in both directions, back and forth, but the lights on the ceiling gave me more light at this point than the flashlight did.

Corridors in both directions!

But how could that be? I just…

I slowly turned a complete circle in my place without blinking, just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind.

There was no door. I was standing in the middle of a tunnel.

“Hello!” I yelled it in both directions this time, my voice carrying in each direction.

“Alright, this is not funny.”

Who did I think I was saying that to? Did I really expect an answer?





Copyright © 2008 Kimberly Raiser

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Kimberly Raiser has been a longtime contributor to the Silverthought community and considers it one of her finest accomplishments. Currently a collection of her works is published in one volume titled Stranded. It may be purchased through Amazon and its affiliates. Kimberly is currently working on a thriller novel expected to be released in 2009.

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