The sound came from upstairs; at least I thought it did. It was hard to tell with the dryer thumping and the washer filling with water. I moved to the foot of the wooden steps that led up to the main level of the house and cocked my head to one side. Holding my breath I listened closely. It sounded as though the floorboards were creaking above my head but the house was so old it was difficult to tell if it was imagination or someone moving stealthily through the rooms. Lifting my eyes to the wooden floorboards I followed what seemed to be movement from the hall through to the living room. The naked yellowed bulb cast very little light into the corners of the basement and I shivered involuntarily. Cursing under my breath I moved beneath the groaning floorboards as the almost imperceptible footsteps crossed from the living room into the dining room. My breathing was shallow and trying to keep quiet was making my throat ache. The pounding of my heart was almost drowning out any other sound. Suddenly the washer began to swish and roll and the noise of the two machines made me strain even harder to hear what might be happening upstairs. Desperately I tried to convince myself it was my imagination. No one was upstairs. It was only the creaking of the wood. The footsteps began moving again and I realized they were in the kitchen. Suddenly I heard the sound of the back door being pulled but I knew it wouldn’t open. I had locked it from the inside using the key that had been hidden behind the fire extinguisher.
As I ran up the stairs I heard the extinguisher being pulled from the wall next to the back door. Reaching the basement door I burst through and raced to the kitchen almost tripping over the cocktail table in the living room and then one of the dining room chairs that had been pulled away from the table. Rushing into the kitchen I saw her crouched by the back door, the dim shine of the night light casting shadows on her face. Her scream pierced the night as she threw her bloodstained hands up to hide her eyes. It always amazed me that they thought they would be safe if they didn’t look. I moved toward her slowly, murmuring gently, “Shh, it’s alright now. I’m here.” Holding my hand slightly behind my back to conceal the knife I approached her cautiously. She had stopped screaming and now the only sound was her whimpering and sniffling. The sound came from behind me. As I spun to see what it was the fire extinguisher crashed into the side of my head. As I fell to the floor I marveled at the sound of ringing in my ears, a sound that drowned out all others. Through my watering eyes I saw the young girl, who was no more than ten or eleven, standing with the fire extinguisher raised above her head. As I contemplated the magic that had provided her the strength to perform such a feat the life saving device turned killing machine descended toward my head. Some questions just never get answered.