Chapter 2
by Kimberly Raiser

As Tara and Stephen explore the house, the storm arrives.

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



"Charlie! Steven?!" Tara was calling. "Sara, have you seen your brother?"

"No, Mommy, I've been sitting here with the kitties the whole time waiting for you to come back with a box, and some nice soft towels."

"Ok, stay right here, sweetheart. I'm going to take a look upstairs to see if your brother is hiding on us. Ok?"

"Ok, Mommy. I'll stay here with the kitties." Sara whispered just loud enough for her mom to hear her, "They're asleep anyway. I don't want to wake them."

Tara climbed the staircase while wiping cobwebs from the banister the whole way. They were plentiful and sticky. She shook her hand when she reached the top to knock off the ones that adhered themselves to her fingers.

"Charlie? Steven?"

There was only the sound of creaking beneath her feet as she slowly crept through the hallway.

Tara entered the large master suite. "Charlie, are you hiding in here?"

There was still some furniture left in the place. There was actually a large carved bed in the room where she was standing. She walked up to the bed and wiped away the dust from the massive headboard. She hadn't really noticed the detail when she was up there earlier. She was too busy running from room to room to really stop and examine everything.

There were strange symbols carved in a beautiful pattern. At first it just looked like some sort of vine, or flowers. Tara looked closer and blinked her eyes several times before it registered that this was indeed a pattern of symbols. She didn't recognize them.

The air in the room chilled. A breeze swept over the back of her neck and goose bumps formed over her entire body. She shivered, then looked up at the window.

It was closed.

Tara shook off her shiver, realizing she had probably done that to herself by reading a little more into the carved headboard than was necessary. She had a wild imagination, and sometimes she could fool herself, not unlike Steven. The carvings were definitely real though, and the wood grain on this bed was spectacular. She wanted to look over the entire bed, but knew she had to find Charlie and Steven.

Tara squatted to the floor to look under the bed. No eight-year-old there.

She went into the bathroom. "No place to hide in here," she thought out loud. The large claw-foot tub was just hollering for some company. It was beautiful. The entire bathroom, aside from the dust, was immaculate. Right down to the small black and white mosaic tiles on the floor, it was in perfect condition.

Alas, no Charlie.

Tara went through every room upstairs. Still nothing.

She returned to the closet door at the end of the hallway that had been previously locked, and checked it again, just in case.

The door opened without a hitch.

"Now that's really weird. This thing wouldn't budge earlier." She opened the door slowly.

It was not a closet after all.

"Ooh, the attic! Now if I were eight years old, where would I be? Hmm, would I be hiding in the secret attic that no one knew about? How very cool."

Slowly Tara crept her way up the squeaky attic stairway. The steps were steep and very narrow. There was no railing, so she kept her hands close to the walls. There hadn't been a light switch, but soon after the fourth step a small chain tapped Tara on the forehead and she stopped to pull on it. The narrow passageway was well lit, and very high.

"I don't remember the roof line looking so high from the outside," she thought to herself, but that did not slow her down. She reached the top step and was amazed at the size of the room she had just entered. It was actually quite large, and not quite as dusty as the rest of the house, which was strange.

There was a large wood carved desk with a matching chair, and a tall brass lamp alongside of the desk. It looked more like a lantern hanging from a stand, like perhaps the lantern was carried around and placed there when necessary. There was a small bed on the other side of the room. It was a strange size. Kind of halfway between adult and child size. It looked pretty perfect for one person. The bed was actually still made up, with a fluffy white blanket and a pillow knitted of blue and white checks. There was a little dust on the bed, but not as much as one would expect from an attic.

Alongside the bed was a small painted table. It was round, with three perfectly symmetrical legs. There was a small drawer with a little cut glass knob to open it with, and a shelf just below the drawer with a small clay pot. Tara walked over to the bed and sat down. She didn't stay seated for long; she just had to lay herself down and sprawl out.

She closed her eyes for a moment. "Perfect," she whispered.

* * *

Charlie knew he was in trouble. He had wandered off one too many times, and now he wasn't really sure where he was, or how to get back. He didn't have his flashlight, and he was scared. He had yelled for his mother and father until he couldn't yell any longer. He sat against the cold wall on the ground, pulled his legs close to his chest, and wrapped up in his oversized coat. After long enough, he fell asleep.

* * *

Alright, the door must be here somewhere. I ran my hands across the wall behind me. It was smooth rock or something, with a hairline crack I could feel that ran the length of what I thought was the doorway.

"Terrific," I thought to myself. The door must be hidden from this side by the wall. It must have closed behind me.

The tunnel seemed to have a curvature to it. Almost a flattened out U shape. That must have been why I got so disoriented when I turned around to look for the door. Well, now all I have to do is decide which way to go. I obviously cannot go out the same way I got in.

I decided to keep to the left side, so I could keep my right hand free. There was just enough light in the passageway from the bulbs above that I didn't need to use what was left of Charlie's flashlight. The ground was even enough, although every now and then my feet would catch on something. I'd like to believe it was just a rock or two. I couldn't see the ground very well and I was creeping along at a slow pace.

I was about fifty feet into the tunnel now. It had turned slightly two times already. I had no idea where I was. The ground seemed to be descending. I could feel the muscles in my legs straining against the earth like I was walking downhill.

"Where the hell is this going?"

I can't imagine what this was used for.

I could hear a faint humming sound. It continued to get louder the farther I went. I was still going downhill.

A bright light flashed and blinded me.

I can't see a thing. But I can hear the humming.

* * *

Tara decided it was time to get back downstairs to her daughter. She had found a wonderful secret upstairs, but it did not contain her son. She lifted herself from the splendid comfort of the bed, and headed toward the staircase.

"Mommy! Where are you?"

Tara could hear her daughter calling to her.

"I'm coming, sweetheart!"

Tara reached the bottom of the stairs and opened the door to the hallway. It was dark.

The light to the attic was still on, but the entire second floor was pitch dark.


She stood still at the attic doorway.

"Sara, are you up here?"

There was nothing but silence. Tara was becoming a little uneasy.

The light of the full moon was shining through one of the bedroom windows just enough to cast a small amount of light directly onto the staircase leading down to the first floor. She took advantage of the light, and headed back downstairs.

Tara reached the bottom of the stairs and looked over to where Sara had been sitting with the kittens. She wasn't there.

"Sara? Where are you, honey?" She began to search the first floor.


"Oh God!" Tara jumped and turned. Behind her was her little girl.

Sara was standing there as innocent as could be, rubbing her eyes and scratching her neck.

"You scared the life out of me! Goodness gracious, where were you? I heard you call for me, sweetheart, but when I came downstairs I couldn't find you."

"I was right here, Mommy."

"Have you seen Daddy or Charlie yet?"

"Nope. I've been sitting down here the whole time. I even fell asleep and had a dream about candy canes and dolphins."

Tara patted her quietly on the head and reached down to lift her up.

"Where are the kittens, sweetheart?"

"They went back to their mommy. I'm tired. Can we just sleep here tonight?"

"We really need to find your brother and daddy. I bet the two of them are hiding on us someplace."

A faint creaking sound could be heard from another room, like a door slowly opening.

Tara froze in her spot, listening.

She waited.

Footsteps could be heard over the deafening silence. They seemed to get closer.

Tara stiffened. "Steven?" The word came out of her mouth, but this time it was more of a question than an announcement, like it usually sounded. "Charlie?" she tried, but nothing. The footsteps stopped, but the tingle running down her spine would not. Nervously she began to walk with Sara held tight against her body, her head resting on her mother's shoulder. Sara's body went limp.

She couldn't believe her daughter could fall asleep against such a rigid thing.

The sound of thunder could be heard in the distance, and faint flashes of light filled the windows. A storm was coming, and now she didn't know where her son or husband were.

"They had better be together," was all she could think. She didn't know whether to be angry or worried. The feeling running through her entire body was not of anger, though, and Tara's senses were better than anyone she had ever known. And what she sensed…

* * *

The earth seemed to shake. The sound that followed the flash was almost deafening. The humming ceased. I stood there trying to focus my eyes, but the flash was too bright for me to get my bearings just yet. I kept my hand against the wall and moved forward slowly. There wasn't much choice in the matter. I could just sit here and do nothing, or move on and try to find a way out.

I could feel a breeze. I came upon a pretty sharp turn in the tunnel, and after I cleared it I could see light shining on the floor from above. Another flash of light. It was painfully bright, and this time the ground shook at the same time. I could hear the popping and hissing of electricity not a few feet away, it seemed. I was having a lot of trouble getting any kind of bearing. Then I heard it.

It was rain. It was coming in from an opening very close to me, but far above. I let out a deep breath. A deep deep sigh of relief.

It was lightning, and thunder. It wasn't the end of the world at all. At least I hoped not.

I moved to the edge of the light, the water dropping to my feet. I tried to look up, but the rain was coming in too heavily and the lightning was getting more frequent.

"It must be a way out."

I tried to remember exactly where the well was on the property, but I really had no idea where I was in relation to the well. I was so disoriented, and I had no idea how far down I was from the surface at this point, although it sounded like a fairly long drop from the sound of the rainfall and the thunder. That shudder must have been lightning hitting something just above me, though. And the electricity I heard could possibly have been spidering its way down a grate, or a ladder that came down from the surface (I hoped).

I tried to remember what the well looked like from above. I hadn't dared look down there when Tara and I were walking the grounds, though she got a fair look down. All I remember as a kid was looking down and seeing metal grating that would have stopped anything that would have fallen down there. I don't know how old it was, but as a kid I thought it was put there to stop things from coming out.

Wow. Now all kinds of thoughts were going through my head, like… I'M THE ONE that needs to GET OUT!

It was like a horrible epiphany.

The rain was letting up slowly. Enough for me to look at the wet ground below my feet, and just in front of me during the next flash of lightning.

My eyes widened. My throat constricted with what I saw. I lifted my foot as if to check to see if there was anything stuck to my shoe. All those things that I have been walking across. The things that have been catching at my feet.

I bent down and squinted my eyes. I turned on the flashlight that now had barely a glow to it.


At least, I think they were bones. I picked a piece up and held it up to eye level, waiting for another flash of light bright enough to see what it was. Charlie's flashlight was almost completely dead at this point.

I stood under the rain. I was frozen. Out of fear or chilled by the weather, I couldn't tell. The light flashed like a bulb bursting at a snapshot. Instamatic. The fractured piece of a skull flashed into view. The lightning was quick, and though it was gone, I could still see the skull.

It started coming in long bright bursts. I dropped the piece to the ground, and as I looked down, a slow-motion film ensued. The flashes created this surreal feeling of an old silent film, a macabre vision of death.

There were bone fragments all over the ground. Pebble shaped, dust, pieces that had become part of the path. I almost couldn't breathe. The rainwater was building up in a puddle, and pieces began to float. My head was floating.

I needed to get out of here.

* * *

Tara could feel her bones turning almost brittle. The thunder and lightning had become almost unbearable. It was the most violent storm she had ever seen or heard, and yet little Sara still slept. She walked to a large chair that was in the living room and pulled the sheet from it so she wouldn't sit in a pile of dust. She slowly collapsed into the chair and held her daughter tight, while the room filled with flashes of light and sound.

It was the only light in the room, since the power had now gone out. The clouds had covered any hint of moonlight. Sara was sound asleep in her mother's arms. Though Tara could not understand how anyone could sleep amidst the thundering, she was thankful that this little person could.

Tara faced the kitchen from where she was sitting. Another flash of lightning lit up the kitchen from every window.

There was someone there.

Tara froze and stopped breathing.

And then, upon the next flash, there was nothing. No one.

Her heart jumped into her throat.

"STEVEN! This isn't funny at all!"

There was no response. Not even a sound.

The storm had suddenly stopped.

"God, was I imagining things?" She knew it was possible, considering the odd circumstances.

Tara could feel something behind her, in the stillness, in the dark. Her eyes widened, as if somehow they could allow more light into them, though it was just the terror approaching.

No sooner than her mouth and nose were covered, was she out.

* * *

Tara opened her eyes slowly. Her head was pounding. She couldn't move. She was bound to a table or something. She was tied at the feet, with about two inches between each ankle. The rope was coarse and sliced into her skin as she moved. Her hands were strapped to her sides, and her throat bore a kerchief of leather and sweat that also kept her still.

She couldn't remember anything, and she couldn't scream because of the gag wrapped around her mouth. She tried to yell for Sara. "God, where is Sara? Where is Steven, and Charlie?" Tears were flowing steadily from her eyes. The stinging was terrible.

She couldn't tell where she was. It was dark and damp. There was only a small amount of light in the room, and she couldn't see where it was coming from. The room didn't feel very large; there was no air movement.

Tara tried to move her head sideways. She could turn from left to right, but could not lift her head. "This can't be happening." She closed her eyes. The words kept pounding through her mind, "This can't be happening," until she lost consciousness again.

* * *

The rain finally let up. The thunder and the lightning subsided. The clouds cleared within moments, enough to let the moonlight shine down through the opening. I looked up to see how high the actual opening was. It was very very high. I could see the top, the top of the well. It was the grating that gave it away. I couldn't tell how close to the top it actually was, or what shape it was in after all of these years. There was a ladder, but it didn't come down far enough for me to have even the slightest chance at it. I had always hated that well. I had to find a way out of here.

The humming sound started again. It was coming from farther down the tunnel. The lights came back on as well. It must be some kind of generator, but how did it get turned back on? I didn't know if I really wanted the answer to that question.

I pushed myself to go on.

My clothes were pretty well saturated at this point. Between the dampness, the rain, and just plain angst, I was wet any way you could cut it.

Well, at least I could see again. I kept my hand on the left side of the wall like before. The tunnel seemed to have gotten a bit narrower, and the walls were damp and slippery. They felt almost slimy. Something dropped onto my head. I flailed and waved my hands over my hair like a wild person. "My God, I've got to get a grip. It was probably a spider, or a drop of water."

I stopped to compose myself. I took a deep breath and focused. "I've got to get back to the house. There has to be another way." There was no delay in my step now. I moved on, and I went as fast as the light allowed. The tunnel suddenly ended with a sharp right turn. I almost walked flat into the wall ahead of me. I turned, and kept following for maybe twenty feet, when the tunnel ended. I felt the entirety of the walls with my hands. This part of the tunnel was very dark. I could easily miss something. As I turned to feel behind me, something tapped me lightly on the top of my head. I reached up slowly and felt a small metal loop that was hanging from a chain. I pulled carefully on the loop. Slowly the ceiling opened. It was a hatch, a doorway or something. As I pulled harder, the doorway came completely down. It was like a pull-down attic stairway.

Part of me was not pleased that there was another hidden pathway, but most of me was just happy to get out from the dankness of the tunnel. I pulled the ladder down to the floor and stepped on it until it felt firm enough to climb. I could only hope there was light up there.

I began to climb. The wood rungs were damp, like the walls, but still I managed to pull a shard from them into my hand. I ignored it.

Although it was dark, I could feel that I was in another chamber by the stillness of the air, and the smell. I tried to focus my eyes. There was nothing to focus on. I felt around for a switch or a chain. "This is ridiculous." I could feel my blood just starting to boil, like when I'd lost my car keys and I knew they were around somewhere close, but I couldn't find them anyway, and I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.

How could I climb up into whatever is up here, and not see anything?

I could hear a scratching sound scurry across the floor in front of me. It was small, must have been a rat or a mouse. It scurried off about ten feet to my left and suddenly the scurry was met with a squish sound.

I did not react well. I reacted so poorly, in fact, that I lost my footing and slid back down to the bottom of the ladder. I saw the Milky Way, then nothing.




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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