- Erica Stevens
- My name is not really Erica Stevens, it is a pen name that I chose in memory of two amazing friends lost too soon.I was born in New York and moved to Mass as a child. I spent my time growing up between NY and Mass so I have some interesting times when sports games roll around. I was fortunate enough to marry my best friend over two years ago and I don't know what I'd do without him. I have a large, crazy, fun loving family that just loves to laugh. My parents are the strongest people I know. I have an older brother and sister, and a younger sister, who have blessed me with many nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews. I am nowhere near as old as the great nieces and nephews make me sound. I love to read and have wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
Riley found her feet planted in place as she gazed in awe at the books lining the shelves. Some of them were so old that she wouldn’t dare touch them, even if she’d had gloves on. “I think that’s a first edition Grapes of Wrath,” she whispered. “And look at how old that Merchant of Venice appears to be. I don’t even want to breathe on one of them.”
“Well we can be concerned about breathing on them after we check the house,” Xander said.
She couldn’t turn her head to look at him as her gaze remained riveted upon the books before her. “I wonder if those Harry Potter books are signed,” she pondered as her fingers twitched to take one of them down from the shelf. She’d spent hours with Carol reading through that series, discussing what was going to happen. They’d both spilled more than a few tears over those pages.
“We’ll find out later,” Xander assured her.
Al lingered beside her, his gaze traveled longingly over the spines as Bobby and Xander left the library and walked to the French doors on the other side of the cavernous front hall. Riley threw one last glance over her shoulder before hurrying to join the others.
Xander and Bobby got ready to open the other set of doors. Riley and Al lifted their guns and prepared to take on anything that might leap out at them. Bobby and Xander simultaneously pulled the doors open and stepped to the side. Nothing moved in the room beyond but they proceeded cautiously as they crept closer to the doors.
Riley poked her head in to find ten chairs set around a rectangular dining room table. Three white candles still sat in their silver candlesticks. Without thinking, she ran her hand over the oak table. It was grainy beneath her fingertips; she could feel the dips and swirls within the wood as she walked down the length of it.
“Beautiful home,” she murmured as she glanced over the paintings hanging on the dark wood paneled walls. “Outdated, but beautiful.”
A massive stone fireplace took up most of the right hand wall. She’d never seen one so big before and she could almost picture a woman standing over it, cooking dinner for her family. Riley tore her attention away from the beautiful room as they approached another room in the back. They stepped into a small den with a computer and papers scattered across the top of the desk. A telescope was set up in front of the bay window. Curiosity caused her to bend down and place her eyes against the eyepiece; she was greeted with a view of the reddened sky.
“At least they weren’t spying on their neighbors,” she said as she took a step back.
She followed the others back into the dining room and through another set of open doors. They stepped into a yellow kitchen that was so cheerful she was certain Big Bird would blend in with the background. “It looks like a daisy threw up in here,” Bobby muttered and Riley couldn’t help but agree.
Riley studied the ceiling but there was nowhere someone could be lurking above them. She leaned over the black marble countertop and opened one of the white cabinets. She’d been hoping for some food, instead she was greeted with shelves full of cookbooks. She closed the cabinet and moved on to the next one. There were even more cookbooks in that one.
“What is going on?” she muttered but as she focused on the spines, she realized they were all written by a Darla Bates. Riley had never heard of the author before but judging by the sheer number of books, she’d been popular.
“Apparently she only wrote the recipes but didn’t practice cooking them,” Xander said.
Most of the cookbooks were for baking and as Riley closed the cabinet doors, she understood what was going on. “She most likely had her own bakery somewhere else where she tested the recipes and sold them. Is there a pantry?”
“I don’t see one,” Bobby answered from the other side of the kitchen. “But we do have some boxes of spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, canned veggies, and potato chips.”
She turned to find Bobby standing in front of a floor to ceiling cabinet with Lazy Susan-like shelves inside. “We also have some flour, sugar, vanilla, and anything else you need to bake with,” Xander said as he shut a cabinet like Bobby’s but on the opposite side of the fridge.
“We’ll grab the spaghetti and stuff later,” Al said as he moved on toward a room off of the kitchen.
Riley followed behind him and wasn’t at all surprised to find a few tables pushed against the walls and covered with assorted pots and pans. The small rectangle room ran across the back of the library but there was no doorway to get into the library from here. It’s an addition, she realized as Xander walked to the glass door at the end of the room. He peered through the door before pulling it open.
She stepped into the greenhouse behind him. It had once been a thriving world of plants, and judging by the scent that was causing her stomach to rumble, herbs. Her nose twitched at the scent of chives as she was drawn to one of the brown plants dangling over the sides of their pots. She lifted the wilted chive and let it drop down before turning to inspect the rest of the ruined plants. A few cactuses were still alive but for the most part everything within the room had died.
Beyond the glass was a garden with even more flowers and plants wilting along the white seashell pathways. For one brief second she was back on her porch as her mother sang while deadheading her roses and weeding her perennials. Her mother had possessed an amazing green thumb; she probably could have even saved these plants if she’d been given enough time. The memory was so intense that she could almost feel the mug of coffee in her hands and smell the heady scent of the roses. Her mother may have had a way with plants but her singing could scare away even the bravest of people, it had never scared Riley or her father away though. It had been their joke that her mother was tone deaf but they were going to go deaf after years of listening to her.
Riley hadn’t realized her fingers were pressed against the glass of the building until the memory full of color and love faded away and she was left with the brownness of the plants surrounding her. She dropped her hand away before the tears burning her eyes could fall. Turning away from the garden, she stepped out of the greenhouse and back into the room with all the pots and pans.
Leaning against one of the tables, she tapped her foot as she waited for the others to join her. Xander stepped beside her and wrapped his arm around her waist; she went willingly into his arms and rested her head against his chest. Inhaling deeply, she took in the scent of sweat, dirt, and earth that clung to him. Just a short time ago it wouldn’t have been a pleasant scent, but right now she thought it was the best one in the world.
“I love you,” she whispered.
His hands tightened on her arms, his breath tickled her ear as his lips brushed against her skin. “I love you too.”
Her fingers curled into his back before she took a step away from him and examined the room again. Xander’s hand slid into hers as he walked with her through the kitchen, dining room, and into the main hallway once more. She released his hand as he approached the door tucked against the side of the staircase. He opened the door and peered inside the closet before closing it again.
Riley adjusted her hold on her gun and kept her back against the railing as they made their way cautiously up the stairs to the second floor. Xander stayed in front of her while Al and Bobby brought up the rear.
The sun was sinking lower in the sky when they stepped off the stairs and into the hallway that ran the length of the second floor. Three of the seven doors were open and across the way she could see a bubblegum colored bathroom that made her nose wrinkle. The woman may have been a successful baker but she’d had no taste in colors.
Xander nudged the door open with the toe of his shoe; it didn’t get any better when the nearly neon pink shower curtain, and cotton candy toilet seat cover, were exposed. “Dear Lord,” Bobby muttered and shook his head. “I don’t want to know what this woman’s bedroom looks like.”
Neither did Riley as she turned away from the room and looked up and down the hall. She moved onto the next room and pushed the door open. The walls of the room beyond were lined with mirrors that reflected the exercise bike, elliptical machine, yoga mat, and weights lined against the back wall.
“Wow,” Al said in a low whisper.
That about summed it up, Riley decided as she closed the door. Bobby stopped in front of the next room; it was the first closed door that they had come across. He took hold of the knob and pushed the door open. At first Riley thought the room had been painted robin’s egg blue and then splashed with red and black paint, and then the smell hit her. She took a step back as her gag reflex kicked in.
Her brain was still trying to process what it was that she was seeing, when something burst from the room with a shrieking sound that could have shattered glass. Riley already had her gun raised but she didn’t have time to pull the trigger before the screeching thing slammed into her and knocked her into the railing. Shouts filled the hall but Riley barely heard them as she battled to keep the woman that had erupted from the room off of her. Fetid breath washed over her as hands slapped and tore at her. Fingers curled into her hair, her scalp screamed in protest as strands of her hair were torn free.
The banister pressed against her back, she was nearly bent over it as the woman continued to beat at her. Riley caught a glimpse of the floor of the main hall beneath her, panic slammed into her at the thought of plummeting to the hardwood floor below. The woman’s screaming abruptly cut off as her fingers curled into the flesh of Riley’s upper arms. The noises coming from the woman made Riley think of apes in the zoo and she suddenly understood the theory of evolution in a whole new way.
The woman’s face was covered in blood but Riley didn’t think any of it was actually the woman’s as her teeth snapped with a loud clacking that caused Riley to wince. She was certain the woman’s teeth were going to shatter from the force of her biting. Terror caused her to fight the woman with more strength than she’d thought she could possess, but even still, the muscles in her arms were beginning to protest having to hold the weight of the woman off.
It had probably only been seconds since the woman had burst from the room but it seemed an eternity had passed before a sickening thud resonated within the hall. The woman released a loud grunt, her eyes rolled back in her head before her weight eased from Riley and she slumped to the floor. Riley’s eyes met Xander’s, he was holding his gun by the barrel, the butt of it was covered in the woman’s blood as he twisted it within his hand and slid it into the waistband of his jeans.
“Are you ok?” he demanded as he stepped over the woman and took hold of her brutalized arms.
“I’m fine,” she murmured as she strived to catch her breath. His hazel eyes burned into hers as he leaned closer and examined her from under his curling, dark blonde lashes. “She didn’t hurt me.”
The muscles in his forearms and biceps flexed as he turned her hands over before him and examined the scratches and gashes on her arms. His thumb stroked briefly over her skin before he released her and took a step back. “Is she dead?” she asked as Xander knelt by the woman’s side and pressed his fingers against her throat.
“Yes,” he said flatly.
Kill or be killed, she reminded herself as she looked down at the scratches marring her arms. Blood trickled down them and dripped from her fingertips onto the floor. It wouldn’t be the last time any of them would kill; she knew that. She would be more upset if she stopped feeling any regret over it, she wouldn’t be able to recognize the person she would be if that ever happened.
Xander rose and gently took hold of her hand. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
“We should finish checking the rest of the house first. Where there’s one…” Her voice trailed off, there was no reason to finish the sentence, they already knew.
Xander nodded but he took hold of her wrist as he turned back to the bedroom the woman had emerged from. She took a cautious step inside but didn’t make it far as the blood and bones littering the room were overwhelming. Her foot brushed against something that she assumed was a femur judging by the size of it. She was beginning to feel like she’d just ridden on the spinning teacups for two hours straight.
“She must have been bringing people back here,” Bobby said as he took a couple of steps to the side.
Riley spotted three skulls in the corner, one of which was far too small for her liking. “I’ve seen enough,” she said as she took a step out of the room.
She didn’t look at the woman lying in the hall as she made her way onto the next room. They went through the rest of the rooms quickly but no one commented on the neon green bathroom or black bedroom. Riley had ceased to find any humor in the woman’s color choices. Xander led her into the green bathroom and sat her on the toilet cover while Al and Bobby remained outside the door.
Xander opened and closed the medicine cabinet before bending down to look under the sink. He pulled out a bottle of peroxide and some bandages. “How does your leg feel?” she inquired.
He glanced up at her as he placed the peroxide on the sink. “Fine.” Her gaze slid to the scratches on her arms as she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “How are you?”
“Good. I’m good.”
He dropped a couple of towels next to her and turned her arms over to pour some peroxide on the scratches. The bubbles fizzed as the liquid ran over her skin. He wet a towel before wiping the blood and peroxide away.
“Xander.” At first he didn’t look at her but when she said his name again his attention turned to her. “Thank you.”
He clasped her cheeks in his hands as he rose up and pressed a kiss against her forehead. She thought he was going to pull away from her but instead his mouth brushed over her cheek before settling over hers. A small sigh escaped Riley as she wrapped her hands around his forearms and melted into the heat his mouth created against hers.
There was a minute when the rest of the world slid away and she was filled with him and only him. A minute when everything was right and she had found where she belonged. A groan of regret escaped her when Xander pulled away and rested his forehead against hers.
“There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you,” he whispered against her mouth.
A smile tugged at her lips as she kissed him again. “I could say the same to you.”
He sat back on his heels again and took hold of her wrists. “Good.”
He finished wiping the scratches off but when he reached for the bandages she seized hold of his hand. “I don’t think those are necessary.”
“Are you sure?”
She nodded and released his arm. “The scratches aren’t that deep and I’m ready to get out of this freak show of a bathroom.”
“Green not your color?”
“I don’t even think the Muppets would like this color.”
“Probably not,” Xander agreed and helped pull her to her feet.
Al and Bobby turned to look at them when they exited the room. “We’ll get the food and find the others,” Al said.
Riley didn’t look at the woman again as she stepped over the body and made her way downstairs. She glanced at the library but she didn’t return to it, the room had lost all the luster it had held for her upon first entering the house. Stepping back into the kitchen, she searched through the cabinets under the sink for some garbage bags.
She heard a door open and turned as Bobby looked into the basement. “Found them,” he said and pulled a box of trash bags from the top step.
Al took a bag from him and opened it up for Xander to drop the spaghetti, sauce, canned food and chips into it. Riley stepped next to Bobby and peered down the stairs to the basement. “Should we go down there?” she asked.
“I don’t think there’s anything down there we have to see,” Bobby answered.
“There could be supplies down there,” Xander said.
She knew that was doubtful but if there was even a small chance that there was something useful in the basement then they couldn’t leave here without looking first. She pulled her flashlight free and clicked it on as she took the first step down.
Shining the beam around the room, she searched for any hint of danger but all it revealed were stacks of boxes against the wall. Riley crept down the rest of the stairs and turned to search underneath them. Bobby remained close by her side as they moved through the shadows hugging the walls and boxes. She didn’t bother to open the boxes as they were all labeled, most of them with the words pots and pans, Christmas, or photos. A jumble of stuffed animals in the corner caught and held her attention; she’d had the same exact pink Care Bear sitting in her closet at home.
It was a disconcerting realization but she didn’t feel a pang of homesickness with it. There was no home to return to, she’d accepted that fact now. She would grieve her losses for the rest of her days, but she had to move on. She simply didn’t have any other choice if she was going to keep on living.
“Riley.” She turned to find Xander standing at the bottom of the stairs.
“It’s all clear down here,” she told him.
“We’re ready to go.”
She and Bobby followed him up the stairs and into the kitchen. Stepping out of the stairwell, Riley froze as she spotted Al standing by the kitchen sink. The color had vanished from Al’s lined face; he appeared to have aged ten years as he turned to look at them. The feeling of a trap door opening beneath her feet descended over her as all the blood seemed to drain from her head. She had the disconcerting feeling that she was falling as the world around her focused on one central thing…
The four hideous faces within the doorway that led to the room with all the pots and pans.
It was impossible to tell what sex the people were as their blisters and sores had caused their skin to peel off of their distorted features. She didn’t know how they had managed to get in here, but she wasn’t about to investigate it either. Her gaze slid to Al, only four feet away from where the intruders stood in the doorway.
“Run,” Xander said as he grabbed hold of her arm and pushed her toward the dining room.
“No,” she refused as she pulled her arm free of his grasp.
Lifting her gun, she aimed at the one closest to Al as it lurched toward the older man. The other three creatures rushed at them. Al tried to scramble out of the way but he wasn’t fast enough to escape the creature lunging at him. Though she knew she was supposed to avoid firing the gun, she had no other choice as the first creature seized hold of Al’s arms and opened its mouth wide.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
The winners for the giveaway have been chosen! The grand prize winner is Tyleigha Collins! Tina, Rory Lampley, Cindy Williams, and Tia Rouse have all won gift cards! Thank you all for participating and don't forget there's another locket for Redemption so there will be another giveaway soon! Congratulations!
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
I'm going to keep this giveaway simple! All you have to do to enter is tell me who your favorite character is out of ALL of the series!
The grand prize winner will receive the locket and a $10 gift card to Amazon, Apple, or B&N. Four runners up will also receive a $10 gift card! You can use the rafflecopter link on the side in order to receive a bonus entry into the contest! The giveaway will end Sunday 4/13/2014 at 10:00 am EST time. Winners will be chosen at random. Good luck everyone!
The grand prize winner will receive the locket and a $10 gift card to Amazon, Apple, or B&N. Four runners up will also receive a $10 gift card! You can use the rafflecopter link on the side in order to receive a bonus entry into the contest! The giveaway will end Sunday 4/13/2014 at 10:00 am EST time. Winners will be chosen at random. Good luck everyone!
Monday, April 7, 2014
Mary Ellen cast one last glance at Rochelle before stepping into the house behind Peter. She silently prayed that she had made the right choice by staying with this group instead of joining her daughter. Carl and John would keep her safe, she was certain of that but she still wished they were together. She didn’t want Rochelle around Peter though, and she wasn’t ready to walk away yet.
Maybe she was being stubborn, maybe she was being stupid, but she was staying with this group for now. Peter was not Larry, the man she would truly like to stand up to was already dead, but she was beginning to feel a growing strength within her that she’d never experienced before. She should be afraid of the man she thought may be a walking time bomb across from her, she’d always been on edge around Larry, but she had no fear of Peter. She didn’t know what she was going to do if Peter did explode, she wasn’t going to shoot the man, but for once in her life she would stand up to someone.
Her gaze ran over the shadowed and confined hall they’d entered. Given the size of the home, the hall had a surprisingly claustrophobic feel to it. Furniture had been crammed into every available space, so much so that some tables were actually stacked on top of others. She had to turn sideways in order to maneuver through what should have been a space about twenty feet wide in each direction.
“Crap,” Donald muttered as he bumped into a table. The dozen or so china bells sitting on the table released a tinkling noise that set her teeth on edge. The last thing she liked hearing was any kind of bell tolling right now. Donald grabbed the table and steadied it before continuing past the boxes stacked against the wall.
“They must have been in the process of moving,” Josh muttered.
Mary Ellen didn’t know what they had been doing but she didn’t want to be here right now. Peter stopped in front of a set of sliding doors and pushed them open. Her mouth dropped when she spotted the thousands of newspapers stacked in ten-foot high rows throughout the entire room. The musty smell of the old newspapers drifted over her but it wasn’t an entirely unpleasant odor.
“Holy crap,” Donald breathed as he took a step away from the newspaper room.
“Hoarder,” Mary Ellen muttered. Her gaze flitted over the stacks before she turned toward the stairs that led to the second floor. There were boxes on the stairs but she didn’t see as much clutter on the second floor as there was down here. It didn’t matter though; this place was a mammoth deathtrap just waiting to bury them beneath the mounds of stuff filling it. Never mind what could be lurking within the assorted mess. “Maybe we should go to a different house.”
“We’re already in here,” Peter responded but she couldn’t see him as he’d turned a corner in the elaborate maze that had been created through the newspapers. She eyed the stacks surrounding her as she stepped cautiously into the room. The stacks appeared sturdy enough but even so, she didn’t trust them. Some of these newspapers probably go back thirty or forty years, she realized. “Plus, if they kept all this junk they probably kept food and lots of it.”
“I don’t know,” Donald said from ahead of her. “I’ve seen those hoarding shows; I’m not so sure we should eat the food they may have here.”
Mary Ellen had watched ten minutes of one of those hoarding shows, once, before her stomach had threatened to revolt and she had quickly changed the channel. She thought Donald was probably right about the food situation.
Turning to the side, she was able to avoid knocking one of the piles over. There was something almost intricate about the design of the stacks, something deliberate. Had the owners come in here to get lost in the labyrinth they’d created? Had this been some kind of escape for them? She wondered as she tried not to touch anything, she was frightened she would set the stacks off like giant dominoes that would bury them beneath their crushing depths. The sick humans wouldn’t be able to climb over top of the stacks toward them as most of the newspapers were crammed up against the ceiling, but they would never escape here if those things fell on them.
She heard another door sliding open, but she still couldn’t see Peter as she edged her way around a sharp turn. She almost bumped into Donald as she rounded the corner but she caught herself before she plowed into him. Holding her hand back, she was able to keep Josh from walking into her back. Donald shook his head and muttered a curse as he peered into the room beyond. Mary Ellen still didn’t smell anything overly unpleasant but she was worried they’d just encountered the room where these people had kept all of their cats, or every bit of garbage they’d ever encountered.
“What is it?” she asked nervously.
Donald glanced over his shoulder at her. “My version of Hell.”
Her eyebrows shot up as she tried to see around his back but it was impossible with all of the papers in the way. She glanced back at Josh, it was just as impossible to see behind him as it was to see in front of Donald. Claustrophobia had never been a thing for her but she was finding it increasingly difficult to breathe in the stifling house. She could feel the beat of her pulse in her temples and had to fight the urge to rub them as her head began to throb.
She started, and nearly screamed, as she caught the shifting black robes of what she swore was the Grim Reaper amongst the stacks. There were people that had stared down the throats of lions that hadn’t felt as frightened as she did in that instant. She shook her head in order to clear it of the image of the reaper stalking them with his scythe at the ready. She thought she heard the rattle of his bones as an ominous laugh escaped him. They were trapped within this room, unable to flee from the steady pursuit of death.
When she opened her eyes and looked at the area again she realized the robes were only a piece of a mostly buried curtain blowing in a breeze created by an open window. Mary Ellen pressed her fingers briefly against her forehead as she tried to calm the thunderous beat of her heart.
Grabbing hold of Josh’s arm, she was able to step aside enough to maneuver the young boy in front of her. If those sick people did get into the house, or were already in here, they might not be able to climb over the stacks to get at them, but they could most certainly move through the stacks toward them. She wasn’t going to let them get at the boy first. She nudged Josh forward when the curtain billowed forth again.
Josh’s step faltered as he stepped into the room beyond. Mary Ellen braced herself for rotten food, feces, dead animals or some other horror. Even prepared for all of those awful things, she still stopped dead when she stepped into the next room. She almost bolted across the room and out the opposite door at the same time that she fought the urge to spin and flee back into the maze. Her paralysis broke, the step she took back nearly made her bump against one of the hundreds of porcelain dolls filling every inch of the dozens of shelves, tables, and curio cabinets in the room.
Eyes, there were eyes everywhere and every one of them was following her as she turned to shut the doors behind her. They may not be able to see if those sick humans were coming up behind them but they’d be able to hear them opening the doors at least. She tried not to look at the dolls but her gaze was irresistibly drawn to them over and over again.
She swore the dolls heads swiveled to watch them as they looped their way through the tables and shelves holding them. There were Victorian dolls, china dolls, some dressed in vivid colors, and others with plumes in their hair and sticking up from their outfits. Others were in costumes such as chefs, astronauts, racecar drivers, artists, pilots, and clowns. There were hundreds of clowns all smiling at them.
Mary Ellen shuddered as the black, blue, green, brown and yellow eyes watched her walk through the room. She almost believed that they were silently communicating a plan with each other to get up and attack them. Dolls had never bothered her before, but now they creeped her out worse than those pictures she’d seen where some kind of ghostly figure or strange face was lurking unsuspectedly in the background. Those pictures had never failed to make her skin crawl and she was certain there was something lurking within this room.
She hated those dolls, but she couldn’t tear her gaze away from them as she searched for a human face within the mass, just trying to blend in until they could rise and pounce upon her back. She felt as jumpy as a cat on a pound of catnip as her eyes bounced around the room but everything remained still.
She heard another set of doors slide open and then a muffled curse from Peter. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know what waited ahead. So far, everything had been crowded but astonishingly clean for the amount of things within the house. She couldn’t help but think it was only a matter of time before they came across something worse.
Please no bugs, she pleaded silently as she followed Josh into another room. It wasn’t until she spotted the oven beneath the containers piled on top of it that she realized they were in the kitchen. Taking a deep breath, she turned to close the doors before she really began to inspect the room they’d just entered.
Thankfully, there were no bugs but she doubted there was any food either as the large Tupperware containers sitting on the floor were stacked all the way to the counters. More of the containers were on top of the counters and stacked all the way to the ceiling. Looking through the clear containers, she could see that they were filled with an assortment of collectibles from small silver spoons to beer steins. Colorful vases were stacked within at least five other containers, and though she couldn’t be certain, they appeared to be antiques. She spotted some Precious Moments figurines mingled in with what appeared to be the entire Hummel collection. Face after smiling face stared out at her from behind the clear plastic of the bins they had been stored in. She was beginning to agree with Donald’s assessment of this place as she became certain that they’d just entered another circle of Hell.
She couldn’t begin to imagine how much money was stored within these containers, within this house. She’d never seen anything like it and she was certain there were museums that would have liked to get their hands on some of the things being held here. Moving around the island that was packed with more containers, she spotted a trashcan by the backdoor. Empty Chinese food containers poked out the top of it, pizza boxes were wedged against the wall behind it.
“That doesn’t bode well for food,” Mary Ellen muttered as she looked toward what she assumed was the pantry. She wasn’t even going to bother looking in the cabinets; she doubted any of the containers sitting in front of them had moved much since they’d been placed there.
Peter pulled open the pantry door and they all craned their heads to peer into it. Containers were stacked so completely inside that they reached the ceiling and were only an inch away from the door. Cobwebs danced in the breeze the opening of the door had created. It was the first sign of uncleanliness she’d seen in the house.
“Couldn’t they have hoarded food?” Donald muttered as Peter shut the door. “Or at least something useful.”
Mary Ellen didn’t think they were going to find anything useful in this place but she followed them through the kitchen to another set of sliding doors. Though she knew nothing could be behind her, she still glanced nervously back as she waited to see what the next room would reveal. Peter’s breath hissed out of him on a harsh curse. Donald said something unintelligible but the tone of his voice caught her attention.
Mary Ellen froze when she stepped through the next door. She’d thought the doll room had been bad but it was nothing compared to this room. No matter how hard she tried to stabilize them, her hands were trembling when she turned to close the doors again.
Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to turn back to what she could only describe as a trophy room. A trophy room that she had never thought she would see unless it was in a nightmare or haunted house. Dead and stuffed animals covered nearly every inch of the walls, there were so many in fact that she couldn’t even tell what color the walls had been. Deer, elks, moose, bears, wolves, marlins, and swordfish all stared at her as she took a step forward. Mixed in with the larger animals were squirrels, raccoons, crows, hawks, fox, coyote, and turkeys decorating the floor and branches from the fake trees placed around the room. The musky scent of wild animals filled the room and caused her nose to wrinkle.
There was a cat perched on the armrest of a sofa; the sofa was the first place in the house that she’d seen to sit on. Across from the sofa was a TV with two ravens perched on each end of it. She’d thought the dolls eyes had been following her, but she couldn’t shake the irrational conviction that the gold, brown, black, and hazel eyes surrounding her now knew exactly where she was. Even though all the animals were now missing their bellies she was convinced that they were hungry.
“Dear God,” she whispered. She stepped to the side as she tried to avoid a beaver perched on a log as she rounded the back of the sofa. The coffee table came into view, sitting on top of it was a small plate. There was nothing on the plate but the glass sitting next to it was still half filled with water. “This is the room they spent most of their time in.”
“That’s even more disturbing than the fact that they actually collected all these things,” Donald said as he stopped beside the sofa. His fingers brushed over a book that was open and lying face down on the cushion. “I think they lived here alone.”
“Would you live with this nut job?” Josh inquired.
Mary Ellen didn’t like calling anyone a nut job but she had to admit that no, she would not live with this person. She turned her head away from the eyes of a colorful pheasant and came face to face with the substantial fangs of a snarling wolf. There was no winning in this room, even when she kept her head down she was still confronted with stuffed animal after stuffed animal lining the dark hardwood floor.
“I can’t believe they were able to keep this place so clean,” Mary Ellen said. "I can’t even begin to imagine how much time it would take to dust this place without all this stuff in it, but at least there wasn’t much vacuuming.”
“That’s looking on the bright side,” Donald agreed.
Peter had made it to another set of sliding doors. Mary Ellen braced herself for whatever lay beyond but the doors slid open to reveal the cramped main hall. They shuffled back into the foyer and she slid the doors closed again.
“I don’t see any reason to check upstairs,” Peter said. “I imagine it’s only more of the same.”
“I certainly don’t plan on spending the night here. If those things find us and decide to come in here we would be sitting ducks,” Josh said. “It appears whoever lived here survived on take-out so I doubt there’s any food up there anyway.”
“What about weapons?” Mary Ellen suggested though the last thing she wanted was to spend another minute in this suffocating place. “Perhaps they have a room full of them stashed somewhere. Something had to kill all of those animals.”
It wasn’t an overwhelming possibility, but even still, she wouldn’t feel right walking out of here without looking first. “Maybe they weren’t the hunter,” Josh suggested.
“Most likely they weren’t,” Mary Ellen agreed. “I doubt whoever lived here got out much, but we should still look.”
“Let’s go quickly,” Peter said.
Mary Ellen wasn’t going to argue with that. She found herself able to breathe easier as the clutter within the house eased by the time they hit the top of the stairs. They went through two bedrooms and two bathrooms rapidly. The rooms had little to nothing within them, including furniture.
“Strangest place I’ve ever been in,” Donald muttered beside her as he ran a hand through his disordered hair.
She had to agree as they stopped in front of the last door. Peter grabbed hold of the handle and thrust it open. Mary Ellen’s hand flew to her nose; she took an abrupt step back. The stench that wafted out of the room caused her eyes to water and her throat to burn. Josh turned and wretched in the hall but Mary Ellen found her gaze riveted upon the set of legs poking out from beneath the covers on the bed. The image of the wicked witch of the east’s feet poking out from beneath Dorothy’s house blazed through her mind at the sight of those legs.
She didn’t know if it was the events that had just transpired that had killed the person within, or if they had passed away before the quakes had hit. She suspected they had died before the quakes but that no one had come looking for them. Her heart ached for the loneliness this house, and the body, represented and she turned quickly away from the room.
Peter’s face was expressionless as he closed the door. An uneasy feeling settled in the pit of her stomach at the hollow look within his eyes. There seemed to be nothing behind them, not anymore. She exchanged a pointed glance with Donald but Josh didn’t seem to have noticed as he leaned against the wall and wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand.
“We should go,” Mary Ellen said.
She was halfway down the stairs, almost caught up to Peter, when the first gunshot shattered the tranquil day.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
New prize for a week long giveaway I'm going to start next Tuesday! It's a locket for the Captive Series with charms that represent the series inside. I have another locket for Redemption, with some different charms, that will be for a late...r giveaway! I'll give details for the giveaway on Tuesday! I'd like to thank my friend Kristine for her help and continued support (she also designed my webpage)! If you'd like to make your own locket you can check out her site http://www.kacelorier.origamiowl.com/parties/KristineCelorier262818