The Root Cellar
Let’s go for a ride, they had said. Let’s do something different, something cool!
So that’s what they were doing. When asked to be the driver Susan had said sure with a smile, all the while thinking fuck you.
What was she, their chauffer?
She drove down the quiet road hitting ninety kilometers. All the windows were down, and the radio was blaring. It wasn’t that she was bitter . . . just a tad disgruntled. They always asked, because she was the only one with a license to drive.
At least they asked,
The sound of the rushing wind competed with the sounds of Fleetwood Mac. Their older songs, though. They were the best.
“Can you switch the song?” Mark whined.
“No,” said the others, two girls and a guy. Mark didn’t like most of Susan’s music, which was fine because she didn’t like most of his. They were evenly matched in that regard.
Susan caught Mark’s eyes roll into the back of his head. Drama queen! She thought. “Hey, I know what we can do tonight!” she said. “Let’s go to the old Clergue estate! Apparently they found the bones of children in the walls!”
“Oh gross!” Hanna wrinkled her nose. She was a bit squeamish, that one.
“Sweet!” That was Jake. “Its five minutes away, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty close by,” replied Susan. She scanned the fields. The house was hard to miss unless someone knew what to look for. She spotted it on the left. Susan carefully pulled into the unkempt driveway; partway through they had to get out and walk for the remainder of the trek.
Unkempt was an understatement.
The decrepit building loomed up like a giant, bathed in a warm orange light. The sun had already begun its descent. Twilight was fast approaching.
“I really don’t like this,” Hanna whispered.
“Why are you whispering?” Mark asked.
“I don’t know. You know how some people get a very bad feeling about a place?”
“I’m feeling it.”
“Sure.” Mark rolled his eyes.
“We’ve only been here for five minutes, Hanna,” Susan broke in. If they got into another fight she’d make them walk home … alone … in the dark.
“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Hanna. You don’t have to go inside, you know.”
They came to the old porch. Mosses and lichens covered it like a floral blight and where it had caved in tall thistles sprouted. Stepping around the weeds Susan went up the steps to the front door. The door handle had long since gone missing; she nudged the old wood. It fell right off the hinges with a dull thud. “Geez!” she jumped back a step.
“Maybe we shouldn’t go inside,” Jake began.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Susan agreed. “This place looks like it’ll fall. Where’s Mark?”
“I’m over here!” They all turned their heads in the direction of Mark’s voice. While Susan had gone onto the porch he had explored around the house. “I think I found the door to a cellar or something!”
“I’ll just stay here, thanks.” Hanna hugged herself for warmth. It was beginning to get cooler now that the sun was going down.
Susan went around the house. Jake remained with Hanna. “We’ll wait for you,” he said softly. Why was everyone whispering again?
Mark was crouching over something in the ground. When he looked up at her he said, “It’s hard to see at first, but this is definitely a door.” His voice was a whisper too as he traced the faint outline of the said door. Someone had taken the time to hide the entrance.
Now the question remained: what was it an entrance too?
“See if you can open it.” She was very curious. In the news articles Susan had read nothing about a secret cellar. Perhaps there were more bones waiting to be uncovered.
Mark had to dig in the sod, but he found the latch after five minutes. “Maybe the grass just grew over it?” he suggested. “People forget about these things all the time.” Mark sounded unsure of that explanation.
“I remember they used to teach us about the local history in grade school; no one ever thought that one of the city’s most influential families could do any wrong!”
“Yeah,” Mark nodded his head in agreement. “They won’t be teaching kids about this stuff anymore. At least, not the bad stuff.”
“I wonder who did it,” Susan asked. “Was it the parents, or one of their kids? Apparently their youngest son had committed himself in his forties . . .”
“He checked himself into an insanity ward. There’s got to be some trauma associated with this place.”
“What if it was somebody else stuffing the walls?” Here was a thought. “Maybe somebody was sneaking into the house through this secret cellar at night. They could’ve murdered the Clergues and tortured their kids!”
Susan grimaced. “That would be horrible.” Mark’s idea seemed far-fetched, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t possible. No one had been able to determine who or what had been the cause of death to those poor children.
Finally, Mark lifted the door.
A black, gaping hole stared at them from the ground. Some strange, faint smell wafted up to greet their noses. It wasn’t a bad smell . . . just an odd one. It was unrecognizable.
“Who’s first?” Mark hesitated.
“I’ll go. You found the door, so I’ll find the way.” Susan descended down into the dark cellar.
The air steadily became damp and cool. It looked as if no one had been down here for ages. It seemed as if no one had ever been down here at all. Layers of dust caked and clung to every surface. Thick layers of dust gripped every surface. Susan wrinkled her nose in disgust.
When she came upon a hallway Susan stopped.
At the end of the corridor was a strange orange glow.
“What the hell?” she murmured. Looking up she saw Mark coming down the stairs. He was surrounded by a square halo. She motioned for him to be quiet, and then indicated the light; his reaction was like her own. Could someone actually be down here?
They crept down the hallway. Once they reached the end they came to a room.
At its center was an antique table. It was in mint condition. It was also very old. There was dust everywhere else except on that table. A candle had been placed at the center of the table. The candle was the source of the orange glow a small flame consumed the wick, dancing strangely in the dark. It held an unnatural quality.
Susan put her hand on the table. It was a fine piece of work. Had someone put it there to be admired? It was a small room.
So who else was here?
Just beyond the candles glow she noticed it . . . a wingback chair.
“Huh.” Something drew her one step closer. Bending forward to investigate--
Mark poked her arm. “Hey! Are you all right?”
No. She was not all right.
Sitting in the chair was it! He . . . the dark shadow! It was not human.
It was too big, too skinny; too long . . . Everything about it was wrong. Leaning forward, as if to observe the observers . . . the thing cocked its head to one side. It turned to Susan. With a monstrously large hand it put something into its face.
It, he, the dark shadow, had put on his eyes. They shone white, colourless in the darkness, soulless.
Mark dragged the transfixed Susan past the table. In his frantic scrabble he bumped into the table, knocking the candle to the ground. Before Susan could blink everyone was thumping to the car like a herd of mad elephants, half carrying her in their arms. As the old house burst into a crackling blaze Jake was speeding away.
“Susan!” Hanna’s voice was muffled.
All she could see were those two white eyes.
What was happening to her?