Lizzie looked at the piece of paper in her hand. It had multiple spots across it from dried tears and she realized there were a few spots that held fresh tears. Her own that she hadn’t realized had fallen as she had read the note. She wished there was more written, but as it was, the page was filled front and back with the words spread to the edges. Some were even hard to read as they came so close to where it had been ripped from a spiral notebook and still held the remnants of the binding.
She folded it back the way it had been, trifolded as though it was a letter getting ready to be sent and put the paper back in the envelope addressed to her. Her uncle had never been around, but she scrambled for memories and barely caught them, thinking of times when he had been there. There was something, she barely remembered it, but as she struggled, she thought it was there. A few memories actually. She thought she had one of him and his wife as they had come to dinner and she had ran between his legs, laughing, only to have him chase her through their house.
There was another memory, one of her as a baby. She often had always had this one, but so many times thought it was more of a dream than a memory. Maybe it was, but it was still a fun dream. She was crawling, still a baby. She was in her grandmothers house and crawling as she though newly discovering some mythical ancient land. There was this large object, at the time she barely knew what it was, but in hindsight recognized it as a flowery fabric covered couch that her grandmother used to have that had become her parents couch for awhile.
She had made it to the edge and was about to go into a forbidden zone, not that she cared as she was an explorer off on adventure. Though when she had reached it, she had sat up for a moment to look back at her mom and dad sitting at the kitchen table, talking to her grandmother. None of them were paying attention to her as her mother held her grandmothers hand and were looking at each other. This was her chance, and she wasn’t sure if she really realized it or not, but in this dream memory, she knew she had to take it. She turned back around and got in the crawl position to make her escape around the corner.
That was when a pair of large hands grabbed her from under her arms and pulled her up. She saw his smiling face, his happy eyes, and heard that deep laugh as he exclaimed, “Caught ya.”
Was the memory real? Were any of them? Memories of her uncle always felt so surreal that she was never sure. So much time had passed since she had seen him.
She put the envelop on the kitchen table and stood there, looking at the rest of the garbage on it. This was her house now, it was her refuge. She was going to have to clean it, and she didn’t have much else to do. There were also things she might find when she did. It didn’t sound like her uncle had many of the answers she was hoping for, but maybe there had been things he had overlooked. He had all those years to research it, and he had found the talisman so he had learned some things.
That table, that damned dining room table, so full of junk. It was as good as a place to start as any, but did she have any garbage bags. When was garbage pick up, she should call the city and find out. He had said all the utilities were paid, which surprised her as she was surprised he was even on city lines. With how remote the house was, she would have expected to have a generator or something, though she supposed there had to be one for the winter. She would have to check the barn for that as well.
She looked over at the kitchen, the door was closed as it always was. That swing back door haunted her and she felt cold every time she looked at it. Just anyone could sneak in there and hide in waiting and she wouldn’t know it until she went in. It was how Sarah had died, next it would be her turn as she was now all alone.
She had to go in there to find garbage bags, mad at herself for not bringing any with her. That seemed like something she should have thought of at the convenience store. With how much garbage was scattered throughout the house, her uncle may not have any.
“Hey bitch!” Sarah screamed from outside. Lizzie closed her eyes, took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten. Sarah had been quite for the last hour or so. They all had been, but now as Lizzie looked at the kitchen door, it was like she had been able to read her mind to know Lizzie was thinking about her.
Lizzie walked away from the yelling dead and stepped into the kitchen, taking deep breaths as she did. No one was in there. The house still that disturbing quiet that she didn’t think she would ever be able to get used to. She would have to do something about that, maybe find her uncle’s laptop and stream music or something.
The kitchen was easily the cleanest room of the house. Part of that was probably from the cleaners, but the little bit she should remember from the last time she was the, it had been pretty clean then too. He had taken care of this room, no papers scattered about, but just a place that was kept well maintained so the food cooked there would be edible and not send anyone to the hospital for food poisoning. Though, thinking of what her uncle was going through, that may have had more to do with it than actually caring for the room itself. A trip to the hospital could spawn countless of new dead surrounding the house.
You had gone to the hospital and no one had died…
But there had been people who had died. They just hadn’t died while they were there. The shadow man had waited. Had waited and like her uncle had said in his note, had toyed with her until the right time to take their lives. How had the shadow man known when that would be? He couldn’t have. He just had to have been very patient.
She should lock that thought away, as she felt knowing he was extremely patient was good to remember. Though she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what he was patiently waiting for. It involved her, or her bloodline, that was obvious.
She stepped all the way into the little room and noticed for the first time the little slant to the room and how much of it looked newer than the rest of the house. This was an addition. Her uncle had mentioned something about the changes he had done to the house in his note. This room must be added on. She thought about that as she continued to looked around, letting the door go and whoosh shut behind her.
The house felt disturbing and alone again, that feeling of dread she had felt outside returning. It was deep in the pit of her stomach, and she looked back at the door to the rest of the house, wanting deeply to rush back to the otherside.
This was an addition, so maybe what made her feel calm and safe there, didn’t apply to the kitchen. The dead man had been in the kitchen, not the rest of the house. He hadn’t been able to…, but yet the dead outside couldn’t get in there.
“So whatever protected the house, didn’t protect the kitchen, but something else did.” She said it out loud, letting her thoughts out in the quiet place. They seemed louder than they should have. She definitely needed to start listening to music or something or else she was going to do a lot of talking to herself.
“What was it they said? It was okay to talk to yourself as long as you don’t talk back?” She said as she walked to the other side of the little island counter in the center of the room. “Sure that was it.” She said in response to herself, letting out a little cackle at her own inner joke.
She looked back to the door to the house again. Her eyes always kept coming back to it. With it closed, she would never know if another surprise waited for her out here. She doubted she would ever have issues in the house. The note made it sound very safe and she believed it. The kitchen didn’t feel like the rest of the house. She couldn’t rely on the same protection.
What was she going to do about the door.
She walked over to it and studied its hinges. The door swung both ways, but as she studied the hinges she wasn’t sure how the things worked. She understood how regular hinges did, but these were different and were alien to her. Regular hinges she could take a butter knife to and work the pin free to remove the door. The double hinges weren’t like that and she couldn’t see any access to the pin.
How could she get the door off? She would probably have to remove the whole hinge, using a screw driver to remove the hinges from the wall. Though, that seemed like it would be a project and she wasn’t ready to start modifying to house just yet. Instead she looked around for something heavy and found a block of kitchen knives, the base being made out of wood. She grabbed it and used it to prop open the door.
“Wa-la!” She said as she stepped back to admire her handy work.
“Proud of yourself in there?” She heard the voice, and turned to see who said it. She recognized it, but hadn’t heard it in a while. He had never been one to say much to her. She didn’t see anyone standing behind her, she was still alone in the room.
Chuck had to be outside, which made sense since he couldn’t come into the warded house, but still felt disconcerting that he would know she was in there. Could he somehow see inside? She was never sure what their deathly abilities were as they always seemed to be able to do more than what they let on.
“I am, a little.” She walked over the back door and opened the interior wooden one. She forgot that the screen door was still broken from its frame. It would probably always be broken as she was afraid to go out there to fix it, and afraid to call a handyman to the house. What if the man came to the house and was killed. She couldn’t call anyone to the house. Any time she did, she would be putting their lives in danger.
Chuck was standing at the door, and she looked down at him, nervous as there was no visible barrier between them. She thought he couldn’t get in to attack her, but it was hard to imagine something unseen keeping him away.
“You okay?” She said to him. They hadn’t really talked much since his death. He had always blamed her for it, and his anger had been obvious. Then when Josh had come along, Chuck’s role seemed to have become the protector for the other dead as Josh had been angry with all of them. What was his role now? As he was the first to talk to her since the talisman, had he become the peacemaker?
The anger she saw that darkened all of them since their time in the other realm was present on him too. No, he would attack her is he could, just like the rest of them. They all blamed her, as they should, but she hadn’t known what the talisman would do. She was sorry, but how do you apologize for sending someone to hell for nothing they had done.
“You shouldn’t have done that.”
She looked back at the door she had just propped open and back to Chuck.
“Not the door. You shouldn’t have done that us.”
“I didn’t know.”
“You shouldn’t have done that to us.” he repeated, his eyes digging into her own.
“I know. I didn’t know what it would do, I just wanted peace.”
“Peace! Peace! How do you get to want peace!” He screamed at her, his anger blazing as he rushed at her. She jumped, slamming her back into the refrigerator and feeling it rock.
It took a moment to calm her breathing. Any second, she expected to feel his hands on her throat, his teeth tearing into her flesh, and his…
She pushed the thoughts out of her mind as she looked back to where Chuck had been. He wasn’t there, but was on the ground a few yards back. His eyes were wide as he looked around in shock.
Slowly he stood, looked back to the door, and then ran towards it, again lunging after her. This time she watched, not worried about him getting in to her, and she saw as he hit the threshold, and with a white flash of light, he was thrown back across the yard.
This time when he got up, he kept his eyes locked on her, and she saw that fire burning hotter. He was slower to make his way to the back door, not lunging for it. He walked casually, his hands opening and closing into fists.
He reached the threshold and stopped there, studying the frame before looking back to her. Then he nodded, and stepped away from where she could see him. He didn’t say a word, didn’t make any threats, just studied the house and the frame until he was gone.
She didn’t know why, but that scared her more than if he had made the threats.
She looked at the path leading back to the barn. The letter had said she’d need to go there. She didn’t feel safe doing it, not yet. Instead she studied it from a distance. It wasn’t anything special. It just looked like a barn, maybe a little smaller than some she’d seen used for farm equipment, and it definitely needed some paint. Still from a distance it looked sturdy enough.
She turned away as she closed the back door and left the kitchen.