This story is by Mitze Wakefield and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Here I am standing in this house again. Looking around I get the old familiar feeling that I had once lived here. Everything was in its proper place and right where I remember it. Dusty dishes circled the table with their pink and blue flowers circling the gold trimmed edges. They were the same ones I remember so well, the ones that were mom’s dream set since she was a kid. The very same dishes she had taken out only on special occasions throughout my childhood.
Moving into the living room the furniture was placed in the same way, never to be moved as the worn carpet explained in clear view. The standing lamp carried the cobwebs of the flycatchers that were all about the room. Glancing around to take in the pictures on the wall, I noticed how the dust made their faces unclear. I walked towards the stairway and felt that familiar feeling of home as I gazed towards the upper floor. As my hand glided up the stair rail, it removed the dust as I ascended. I brushed my dirty hand off on my jeans as I continued towards the master bedroom where my mother had been for most of my life. Feeling the anticipation caused me to shiver.
I noticed the rumpled bedding as I walked into the room as if someone had been laying there only a few nights ago. The dresser had a drawer partly opened with a shirt tail hanging out giving you the idea that someone had been in a hurry to leave. The closet door was ajar, and my curiosity pulled me towards it. Slowly I felt a tingling of sorts, that told me to run. The hair raised on the back of my neck was screaming at me to run. But I couldn’t stop, I had to see. Slowly I made another sweep of the room, listening intently for any noise. Quiet. Dead quiet. Moving forward, I slowly reached out for the door latch, and pulled the closet door wider. There sitting slumped against the back wall was a small mummified body of a child. Gasping I stepped back, with my hand automatically covering my mouth. Glaring into the closet, my mind raced to figure out what might have happened.
Was this child, lost and starved to death?
Had someone taken the child from someone else and left here to die?
Staring at the small body, the skeleton barely held the clothes that were torn and hanging loosely showing they didn’t fit the child well. The shorts hung loosely with the T-shirt hanging sloppily on the boney shoulders with no signs of shoes of any kind. I assumed the child must have been a girl, maybe, for the long hair dangled like icicles down the front of the body.
It was strange how there was not much stench, but to my conclusion, there was nothing left to smell. Insects of all kinds must have been enjoying a good meal for days, or maybe even weeks or months.
What was my first step? Was the person who left the body here, still watching the house? I don’t really think I ever lived here, but everything was so familiar? Why do I remember everything so well? Here I was exploring this old house to find that I felt like I had been here before? Looking around I wondered why the bed had looked liked it had been slept in only days before.
At least I hadn’t touched anything. O, wait. I brushed the dust off the railing. My prints were there and on the door knob coming into the house. Why was the door unlocked? How did I end up here at this particular house? Making my way back to the hallway, I walked into the other two bedrooms, where the furniture was still in them as well. But nothing had been touched. The rooms looked liked the ones downstairs. No one had been in them for years.
So, what kind of nut case would bring a child to this old abandoned house? Maybe he is still watching? I started to feel the prickles crawling up my body. The tension between my shoulders began to ache.
“Well, that is dumb, Karen,” I told myself out loud. This would be the perfect place, no one’s been here in years, and probably the police wouldn’t be looking here either. Checking my pockets, I found that I didn’t have a phone or keys, wallet or anything on me. Maybe the nut case is still here? No. Couldn’t be. Looking around, I let my thoughts try to calm me. There is no one here. There would have been more tracks in the dusty floor and fewer cobwebs, wouldn’t there be? Racing down the stairs, I moved to the porch outside to look around. The tall grass had no trace that indicated that a vehicle had been here as of late. The only track had been from me walking up through the tall grass from the bridge.
To the right had been an old well, where I knew had real tasty water to drink. How did I know that? There was a wooden fence behind the barn that you couldn’t see from the house porch, that held horses. Many horses, where the person or persons that had lived here were training them. Again, how did I know that? There had been a dog and a few chickens in the penned chicken house off to the left of the barn. Where the remains of a small chicken door swayed in the breeze.
Ok. What do I do about the child upstairs? Why do I keep thinking about the house and yard, like I have been here before? I need to tell someone. I should get the police out here and explain to the officers why I had been snooping around. Why had I been snooping around? This feels weird. Something, isn’t right? Why does this house feel so familiar? Why did I know where everything was if I hadn’t been here before? I don’t get it? I need to get out of here. Should I tell someone or not? If I don’t, then the child might not be found for more years? The person that owns the child wouldn’t be at peace? Not that they were going to be anyway? I don’t seem to feel bad about the child? Why is that? So, I guess I don’t know the child? I don’t feel any attraction to her or the body. So, I suppose I don’t know her.
Looking around again, I decided to make my way back the way I had come. Walking towards the bridge, I looked back at the house and seen a figure move the cream colored curtains in the living room. I stopped to watch again. Nothing. Shaking my head, I looked at the front door to check if I had shut it. Which I had. Funny that I checked. Am I losing my mind? Was there really a child in the house? Do I need to check it?
No. I have that funny, creepy feeling again as if someone is watching me. I will just get the police to come out here and look things over, then if they come back and ask me if I was in the house and what I touched, then I’ll tell them. But what will I tell them why I want them to check it out? Do I really want to get involved? It’s too late, I am involved. The child needs peace and so do the parents, wherever they are. That is my duty. Right?
Walking towards the bridge, it felt like I wasn’t getting any closer. I seemed to have been walking for awhile and through the same tall grass, letting my hands brush the tops of the blades. I looked back again at the house and saw the same figure again in the upstairs window. A Silhouetted figure moved away from sight as the sun came around to half blind me. I rubbed my eyes and looked towards the house again to see nothing. The goosebumps appeared on my arms, I felt chilled in the warm sun. I tried to move faster as if the grass was drowning me with my legs going at a dead run towards the bridge. I couldn’t seem to get to the bridge, I panicked.
Jumping, I sat upright. I looked around. Sighing, I laughed to myself. That same old dream that I had been having since I was a kid. Finding a child in an old house. I don’t think I was ever in that old two-story house, but as the dream is repeated, I have become very familiar with it.