The stairs

She paused at the bottom of the stairs, her bare feet sinking into the soft carpet. The illuminated bulb dangling precariously overhead cast a long, dark shadow up the wall. She gripped the rail with trembling fingers, eyes wide. Her ears strained to hear the sound again. Nothing. She pressed a foot upon the first step, then another. She strained her ears again. Still nothing. Had she imagined it? A deep sigh left her lips as she turned to descend the two steps, but. . .

Her stomach lurched—the sound again! Always when her back was turned. She braved two more steps, ignoring the urge to flee the house entirely. The lightbulb began to flicker. A phantom chill swept down the stairs, chilling her to the bone. Two more steps and the rickety attic door came into view. A breath caught in her lungs—a flickering light was visible beneath the door. She lived alone—who could possibly be in there?

Her foot raised, ready to traverse another step when a shiver of warm air lashed her neck. She turned instantly and the bulb blew like a flash of lightning, sending her into a pit or darkness. A hand on her throat, another over her mouth. A muffled scream as she was pinned against the body of someone unfamiliar. In no more than a heartbeat, the bulb ignited, swinging on its wire in the phantom breeze. The woman was gone—only the slight indent of footsteps on carpet remained.

The attic door swung open and slammed shut, the room within sinking into an abyss of darkness. Nothing. No one. Only the scent of fear lingered in the house. Gone forever was the woman who sold her soul to save her daughters life. If only she had been able to say goodbye. . .

 

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