The Bottom of the Stairs

Carol squatted on her haunches at the small door and played the flashlight's beam around the cellar. The steps leading down were painted concrete, they were chipped and cracked, and covered with dust. Carol ducked into the door and stood on the top step. The Maglite revealed there were no hand rails. With her back brushing against the wall she descended the stairs. Near the bottom the steps turned ninety degrees to the left, then several more stairs down before she reached the bottom step. My God, what is this? A half circle of wood fence closed off the stairs from the basement, but the fence was only waist high. It reminded her of a child-proof gate protecting a child from falling down the stairs, only this was backwards.

Carol easily climbed over the fence. The cellar was enormous, it looked to run the distance of the manor. In this section there were discarded cardboard boxes, empty wooden crates stained with something dark, clothes, papers, text books, and oddly, two very small paths on the dusty floor. Rats? She shivered. She walked over to a small pile of clothing, bending over, she picked up a child's shirt. She examined all the clothes, they were all children's clothing.

A noise from above, impelled her back to the bottom of the stairs, there she shined the flashlight up toward the kitchen door. A sigh of relief escaped her lips. The door above stood wide open. Get a hold of yourself, Carol. It's just old house noises.  Then she heard it again. She couldn't describe the sounds, almost a shuffling sound, but not quite. The rain, maybe? She turned her attention back to the cellar's content. The first door she came to was a heavy wooden door, a door made of ancient two by sixes. She pulled the door toward her, it swung open on silent hinges. Inside, the room was four feet wide and eight feet deep. On the far wall was a built-in floor to ceiling wine rack. The top two shelves contained several dusty bottles of wine. She smiled grimly. At least I won't die of thirst. Using the built-in ladder she retrieved two bottles of wine, these she placed by the door for  her return trip. She cautiously made her way deeper into the dark recesses. Several of the rooms she examined were the size and shape of the wine room, but were empty. Carol had never been inside of a prison, but the rooms reminded her of a cell room. 

Sweeping her flashlight from side to side she made her way down the long trash covered corridor. Then, suddenly, her light focused on another locked door, only this one had two padlocks on it. Finding nothing nearby to break a lock, Carol hurried back upstairs for the tenderizer hammer, and nut cracker.

It was still raining, with burst of lightning, but the claps of thunder were distant. The storm was moving out. Carol placed the two wine bottles on the counter, scooped up her tools and returned to the dank dark cellar. On her way back to the locked door she picked up medium sized cardboard box. Using this box to aim the flashlight, Carol hammered on, first one lock, then the second. By the time the second lock sprung open curls of hair on Carol's neck were damp with sweat.

The door complained loudly as she pulled it ajar. Sweeping the room with light Carol uncovered a large chest freezer. Maybe I get to eat tonight. Atop the freezer were several barbell weights. Carol removed the weights one at a time, stacking them in a corner. With the last one removed, Carol wiped her hands on her white pants, and lifted the freezer door. The freezer was full of single serving plastic baggies. Carol removed one. Shifting the cold packet from hand to hand, she tried to read what was written on the bag. Shirlee  What was a shirlee? Carol pried the baggie open, and removed the contents. As soon as she recognized what it was, she screamed and dropped the bag.

The End

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