By Parker Meador
Sara listened as Mark’s truck pulled out of their driveway. She had been awake long before the alarm had gone off. Her sleep was sporadic and filled with nightmarish dreams of Mark trying to kill her and a little girl wearing a beautiful white dress.
The dreams didn’t surprise Sara after the events of the previous evening. It was their anniversary and nothing had worked out like Sara had planned.
Mark came stumbling in late from work, reeking of sweat and booze. Sara pretended to be asleep as Mark entered their bedroom, felt his way to their bedside and emptied his pockets onto the nightstand.
“Hey, you asleep?” asked Mark in his best whisper.
“Sara, you asleep” slurred Mark, a little louder this time.
“HEY! HEY! YOU ASLEEP!” he belted out.
“I was until you woke me. Why did you do that Mark?” asked Sara.
“Cause I felt like it. That’s why! I don’t need a reason in my own house!” was his answer.
“It’s my house to.” Sara mumbled into her pillow.
“What did you say?” asked Mark.
“Do you pay the bills? Do you work? Do you bust your ass 6 days a week?” He didn’t wait for an answer.
“Hell no you don’t!” He dropped hard onto the bed, almost sending Sara into the floor.
“You’d think after all these years you’d learn that.” Mark growled as he kicked off his work boots.
“13 years to be exact” said Sara. Mark’s elbow dug into Sara’s side sending a painful wave in all directions.
“I think that’s enough backtalk,” declared Mark.
Sara felt relief that Mark had left for work but her side still hurt and she felt sick at her stomach. With visions of her dream still filling her thoughts, Sara couldn’t remember the last time she had a good dream or one that felt so real. She thought, the young girl in the snow white dress must have been her. Her mother had made her one just like it for her 10th birthday. She loved that dress and the way it made her feel. It made her feel pretty and loved. She hadn’t felt those feelings in a very long time.
Sara felt like if she didn’t get up and do something she would die laying in that bed, going over every detail of one of the worst anniversaries in her often troubled marriage. What a sad thought that this wasn’t the worst. She had to get up and get moving now before the weight of the whole ordeal crushed her.
She didn’t feel much like breakfast so she decided to see if there was enough soiled laundry to start a load. What she found in the bathroom made her wish she was back in the bed. She was glad her nausea from before had passed.
There in the bathroom floor was a pile of Marks handiwork, a soaked bathroom towel on top of his putrid work clothes. She soon found out that he must have gotten up during the night and found the leftover ham, cheese and biscuits she had prepared for their dinner. All his favorites now discovered thrown up under his clothes. He had been a busy boy overnight. Sara slowly and carefully placed each vile item into the laundry basket. She soon discovered that things could always get worse as her left sock turned yellow. Just something else Mark couldn’t get in the toilet. This experience just took over first place on the all-time list. It would have been nice to compile a list of her favorite anniversaries and not the opposite.
After spraying the clothes down with a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water, she headed to the basement, never so eager to get a load of clothes going.
She felt the cool rush of air from the basement just seconds before she noticed the door was left wide open. She dropped the basket and started calling Miss Prissy as she hurried down the hall.
“Here kitty kitty, here Miss Prissy. Here Prissy!” She called out not expecting and answer.
Miss Prissy was a good cat, a smart cat but when she got a chance to head down stairs and chase mice, she was dead to the world for a couple of days.
Mark had left the door open but Sara couldn’t figure out why. He didn’t go in the basement unless he had no other choice. He called it the dungeon and sent Sara down whenever he needed something. The most popular excuses for not going were because if he fell, he couldn’t work and that they would lose everything and he didn’t want to breath in deadly mold spores. Sara knew those were just excuses to cover up the fact that for whatever reason he was scared. It was for that reason that Sara loved and cherished the basement. It was cool, quiet and most importantly Mark free.
She continued down the stairs hoping she would see Miss Prissy but not holding out hope for such a sighting. It was a large space filled with many feline hiding places.
Sara loaded the last of the contents of the basket and was reading a note from Mark’s pocket when she heard the floorboards above her head start to creak and moan. Thoughts of murderers, psychos and rapists filled her head. Mark would never come home from work without calling and he had the only other key to the house. She knew it wasn’t just the old house settling because this old girl was settled out.
She ran to the base of the stairs and carefully climbed to the top. She reached for the doorknob, trying to keep her hand from shaking but it was locked. She almost lost her balance but used the knob to steady herself. Someone was definitely here. This door didn’t lock automatically. It had to be locked using the key that was hanging on the wall at the end of the hallway.
Sara was locked in the basement by someone but at least she wasn’t alone. She heard Miss Prissy at the bottom of the stairs. The last 24 hours had been hell. Terror now filled Sara. She realized she had left her cell phone in the bathroom. Maybe Mark had tried to call. Maybe he was teaching her a lesson. He hated it when she didn’t answer her phone quickly. She tried to calm herself, hoping that Mark was up to this and not the axe rapist she had conjured up in her mind just seconds before. She didn’t know whether to call out to Mark or finish the laundry and hope that he would unlock the door before he left again. She could finish reading her romance novel that was getting quite good. Mark hated those kinds of books with a passion. He often said, “Why would you read that crap when you have me?”
“Why indeed?” she thought as she suppressed a small laugh. Not much too laugh at these days. She was a prisoner in her own home and now a prisoner in her own basement.
She wouldn’t let herself believe it could be anyone but him. That would be too much for her fragile mind to take, especially after the last few days. If she was going to be locked in the basement at least she had Miss Prissy to keep her company. Sadly Miss Prissy was her best friend and only source of love. She turned. She needed to see her face. She needed the calming effect, her cat had on her.
There was no Miss Prissy at the bottom of the steps. There stood a small child wearing the white dress from her dreams, her childhood. It hadn’t been her wearing the snowy dress in her dream. It was this little girl.
Sara was overcome, the stairwell spinning. She fell downward towards the little girl. Light turned to blackness. Isabelle had come back.