The drive back to the city was quiet.
Steven wanted to share what happened to him but was reluctant,
just as Tara was. They were both deep in thought the entire
way home, eyefully watching the children in the rear view
mirror. Sara had finally managed to fall asleep next to her
brother. Charlie just peered out the window, not saying a
Sweetheart, do you mind if we
stop to buy some aspirin? Im getting a terrible headache,
Steven said as he rubbed his temple.
Not at all, I could use some
myself. The 7-Eleven should have some. Thats the closest
at this point. Tara stared out the window while Steven
drove. Would you like me to drive the rest of the way
home after we stop?
If you dont mind. Its
getting difficult to concentrate on the road. Steven
pulled into the gas station.
Ill go in; Ive got
to use the ladies' room anyway. Just jump in the passenger
seat and rest your head. Ill be right back.
Tara went into the store and Steven
walked around and got into the passenger seat. His head was
Tara found the restroom and went in,
flicked the lights on and just slumped against the wall. Her
ankles were itching, and she finally acknowledged the fact
that they were really bothering her, so she looked under her
long gauze skirt.
The rope burns on her skin were not
imaginarythey were very real. She looked closer, then
looked at her wrists. No marks there, but they were tender.
She checked her neck for scratches or bruisesnothing.
She looked in the mirror, afraid she
was losing her mind. As she stared into the mirror, she watched
as her skin began to melt from her face, blood starting to
trickle everywhere. She screamed at the top of her lungs.
A woman was standing outside patiently waiting to use the
restroom and heard her. She ran in to help.
Whats wrong? Are you ok?
My face! Oh my God, the blood!
Theres no blood. What
are you talking about, miss? Whats wrong with your face?
Tara turned and looked into the mirror.
She looked fine. Tired, but fine. There was no blood, no running
flesh. She was seeing things.
Tara composed herself. Im
sorry. There was a spider. I have to go. She ran out
of the restroom and out of the store. She had forgotten the
aspirin. She turned, composed herself and walked back into
the store to the counter.
Could I have a bottle of aspirin,
What kind, maam?
It doesnt matter. That
one. She pointed.
She paid the young man and ran to
the car. Steven was sound asleep in the passenger seat.
You ok, Mom? asked Charlie.
Fine. Im just really tired.
I just want to get home, sweetie. A bead of sweat trickled
down the side of her face. She felt the tickle and slapped
at her face as if it were a bug. She realized it was only
her own perspiration. She took a deep breath, then exhaled.
Sara was still sound asleep against
her brother. Tara just wanted to get home, and get into her
familiar bed and pass out.
In just a short while they pulled
into the busy development of townhouses where they lived.
This was one time Tara didnt mind the traffic so much.
Too many people around was actually a comfort for now.
Steven opened his eyes and rubbed
his face. Were home. That was faster than I expected.
Hows your head?
Tara was still shaken but composed enough to ask. Steven didnt
notice either way.
Feels better. I dont feel
very well, though.
Cmon Sara, time to get
up. Were home now. Charlie was tapping Sara on
her leg, and trying to push her dead weight from his body.
Mom, can you get her off of me?
Cmon, sweetie. Tara
got out of the car and walked to the back. She opened the
door and reached in for Sara. Cmon, time to get
up. Were home, honey.
Sara moved ever so slightly, and groaned.
Im tired, Mommy.
Tara picked her up and decided to
carry her into the house. She was too tired to even try to
wake her up. They all dragged themselves inside.
Charlie was probably the most unaffected
out of all of them. He headed straight for his room and his
Steven didnt even make it to
the bedroom. He collapsed on the sofa and pulled up the throw
blanket that lay on the arm. He was out.
Tara carried Sara to her bedroom and
laid her under her covers with her little stuffed doggie.
Sara had barely awoken during the entire ride or the trip
back into the house.
Once Sara was settled in, Tara decided
to take a nice long hot bath. She dropped all of her clothes
at the doorway to the bathroom and filled the tub to its limit.
She added some green tea extract to the water to help relax
her. The air was warm from the steam of the bath.
Once the tub was filled, she stepped
in carefully and submerged her entire body, up to her nose.
The bath was already helping.
Charlie was busy playing with his
computer game, and had the sound effects way up, blasting
from his speakers. Steven and Sara were still sound asleep.
Tara had almost fallen asleep in the
tub when she felt a small tug on her feet. Her eyes opened
wide and she tried to reach to her feet, but she could not
get a bearing on her own body. She slipped under the water,
her head completely submerged. Panic claimed her consciousness
and she flailed around in the tub trying to surface. Her eyes
were wide open, yet she could see nothing else in the room,
only the light refracting through the water. She was splashing
and kicking violently, down to her last ounce of strength,
keeping the water from filling her lungs.
Something crashed in the living room.
It woke Steven and Sara up. Steven could hear something from
the bathroom that didnt sound right, but then it was
quiet. He snapped out of his sleep and went into the bedroom.
Daddy? In came a dreary
Where is your mother, honey?
A thump came from the bathroom. He
ran in, and there was Tara slumped over the side of the tub,
Oh my God! What happened in
She couldnt speak; she could
barely lift her head.
Be careful! Give me your hand.
Steven grabbed the bathrobe that hung from the back of the
door, and helped Tara out of the tub, wrapping her in the
robe. She was shivering and gasping. The terror was still
in her eyes.
Steven, something was keeping
me under the water. I couldnt get out.
He had never seen a look like this
in her eyes; it was unfamiliar and frightening.
What do you mean? No one else
was in here. Honey, theres nobody else in the house.
He held her tight.
As Tara lay slumped in Stevens
arms, Sara stood watching silently at the doorway of the bathroom.
Her face showed no expression. Tara wasnt sure what
to make of it; it was such a blank look
Its ok, Mommy, Sara
stated very simply, then walked off with her little stuffed
animal and went into the living room.
Steven. You believe me, dont
you? Please tell me I didnt imagine that someone was
holding my head under the water. She sat erect, grabbed
his arms. I could feel hands on my head. Someone was
trying to drown me.
Ok. Its going to be ok.
Steven put his arms around her and held her head close to
his. He stared up at the ceiling. What is happening to
us? he thought to himself.
Steven poured Tara a glass of brandy.
Here, honey. Maybe this will help.
They were seated on the bed together,
Tara wrapped in her robe, still shivering.
Tara grabbed the glass and poured
it down her throat like a shot of tequila, then grabbed the
bottle for another one.
Ok, you can choose to ignore
all the weird shit that is happening, but Steven, since we
have been to that house... She paused. Its
like something came back with us.
Steven stood from the bed and paced
around the room for a moment. He stopped and turned to Tara.
He told her about what happened in the tunnels, and the bones,
and the passageway to another level. Tara shared her horrifying
Im telling you, it couldnt
have all been a bad dream. Tara covered her face with
Where is the other pendant,
Steven, look at my ankles. Do
you think I did that to myself?
Steven looked at her ankles; he traced
the wounds with his hands without touching them. You
know, you could have done this catching a briar around the
Ok. Maybe the place had a weird
effect on us, made us dream things. I mean, the kids seemed
just fine. Sara even wanted to stay. I mean, for me, I have
enough bad things in my head about the place from when I was
a kid. Drowning cats and an evil old man lurking the grounds.
Thats enough to give me bad dreams if I were to fall
and bump my head. And honey, you knew all about those stories.
You did say that bed was really comfortable. Maybe we just
let our imagination get the best of us. Uncle Ben and Jack
seemed harmless enough, and hes been there for years.
You didnt seem to sense anything. Usually I know when
you pick up on something, and you seemed just fine.
Tara started to feel the effect of
the brandy. Maybe you're right. It did only seem to
bother us, and not the kids. Maybe we just need a good
night's sleep. With five Benadryl and another shot. Im
not taking any chances. She looked at Steven. It
seemed so real, she said quietly and lay down.
Steven finally got Sara back to her
room and then proceeded to tuck Charlie in after he was tired
of playing his video games. Everyone seemed perfectly willing
to climb under familiar covers and pass out.
And that they did.