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Ell

By Ben Chatfield All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Horror

Prologue

She was half-dead from hunger and thirst, crumpled in a corner as far from the light as she could get. Her black hair hung in sweat-soaked strands, clinging to her pale face. It had been two days at least . Two days in the White Room, where time had no meaning, where day and night became a maddening twilight limbo.

Many decades ago, the room had been a wine cellar, and had remained more or less intact through the various renovations the old house had undergone. Now, painted an off-white color and stripped of its furnishings, the room had been re-purposed as something far more sinister; a torture cell.

The only illumination came from a naked bulb, swinging gently from its cord. The girl tried to ignore the light, squeezing her eyes shut, but the brilliance was unrelenting, glowing crimson through her eyelids. The thick concrete walls deadened sound, leaving only the low hum of the burning filament and the soft sobbing of the room's sole occupant.

Earlier, she had considered smashing the bulb, putting an end to the tormenting brightness, but she had long ago lost the strength to move. Her arms hung loosely at her sides, red and raw from numerous cuts and abrasions, fine lines of blood discoloring her shirt. In the end, the light didn't matter. Without it, the blackness would come.

And the blackness was worse. Much, much worse.

Despite the bleakness, despite the pain, still she felt the faintest glimmer of hope. Daddy was coming for her, she knew it. He wouldn't leave his daughter to die here. He would rescue her from this place, and take her to her favorite restaurant, and buy her a milkshake like he always did, and everything would be all right. She just had to wait... and wait...

She gritted her teeth and bore on.

The memories of the days gone by remained hidden in the swirling heat and pain. She remembered being dragged down a steep flight of stairs, the wooden planks slamming against her heels. A rough voice in her ear, rasping filthy words through broken teeth, blood and saliva flecking her cheek. Then came the concrete floor, rough and uneven. She had broken free then, swinging with every ounce of her strength, cracking his jawbone. The floor had rushed up to knock the wind from her, only to recede again as she was yanked back up amid a barrage of curses.

He had dragged her the rest of the way by her hair.

The White Room was becoming unbearably hot, a seven-foot by seven-foot box of hell with one little girl packed up inside it. She tried to breathe, coughed out the air, forced her lungs to draw it in, to take the oxygen even as it burned her. Had she been here months? Years? Time didn't matter any more. Everything was pain. The heat, the wounds and the bruises, the horrible stretching in her mind as rational thought slowly, slowly gave way...

The door was open. She had forgotten there was a door at all. It blended perfectly with the walls, the same stark white, the same maddening chalk tone as the rest of the room. And now it was hanging open, a crack in the unbreakable hurt that was White Room.

A breath of cool, damp air swirled lazily through the haze, sending goosebumps up and down her arms. Slowly, very slowly, she dragged herself to her feet, wobbling a bit as she stood. The darkness seemed to call to her, a reprieve from the searing light. A way out, a way back...

A way back to Daddy.

Before she knew it, she was outside, in the blackness, and with the darkness came sudden fear, an absolute terror that sent her reeling back in shock. The chill, the deadly stillness, the feeling that something was watching her... or perhaps a multitude of somethings, grinning with razor teeth as they drew nearer...

She fell backwards, but the White Room was gone, consumed by the emptiness and the Things. The Things creeping around her, long fingers brushing past her face, skittering across her ankles like enormous insects. And she could hear them, too. Whispering, whistling, rustling in the dark. They spoke words too soft for her to catch, giggling and hissing, growing ever closer.

Her hand, groping in the dark, found a small, rectangular object; a metal cigarette lighter, from the feel of it. She didn't know how or why it was there, and it didn't matter. She had to have light, however small. The thought of what she might see made her hand shake, and she almost dropped the lighter, but in the end, the darkness scared her more.

The gear turned once in a spray of sparks, but the wick didn't catch. The whispers rose in alarm, and she panicked, clicking the igniter over and over until, finally, it caught. A tiny flame flickered into existence, and she held it up before her, desperate to see...

A mutilated face grinned at her, inches away.

She couldn't move, couldn't cry out. The thing remained still as well, and for a brief second she hoped beyond hope that it would stay where it was, silent and menacing, for eternity...

Then it screamed, its cheeks ripping apart as its mouth opened impossibly wide, and it swallowed her whole.


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