This story is an amalgamation of several prompts!
@Tanager Haemmerle - Finding something buried in your yard/on your walk! It's been partially dug up by animals. It appears to be some sort of box!
@PotataHed - Where's that music coming from?
@m_allicia - Did you hear that?
@Tonja Burger - When you see someone walk pass you and you know you're the only one home
If your prompt is not listed above but you gave me one when I asked for spooky prompts, keep an eye out! This month will be full of stories!
Pat dropped her backpack as the impossibly blonde woman finished her tour of the house where Pat would be sitting for the next two months.
"Do you understand everything?" The woman waved mancured sharp talons Pat's direction. The dark red polish glinted like a warning.
"I got it." Pat tried not to step back from the hand in her face.
The woman looked doubtful but didn't contradict Pat.
"Normally we would have someone from the service come in but your parents..." The woman let the sentence trail off, for which Pat was glad. Pat didn't want to talk about the reason she was being sent to the middle of nowhere to house-sit for someone she barely knew for two months.
"Are you absolutely sure you understand everything?" The woman said again.
The woman sighed as if this were all just too much for her to handle right now.
"You won't be able to reach us." She said, glancing around her immaculate kitchen. "You can try to call the neighbors if you need something but I'm not sure of their travel plans. Summer is a very busy season around here."
Pat nodded again. It appeared to her that the woman wanted to feel put-upon and overwhelmed and there was no way Pat would be able to assure her.
When a neatly dressed man came into the kitchen, Pat involuntarily stiffened. The man, who she knew was the husband of the blonde, frowned at Pat but said nothing. He turned his back on her to address his wife.
"We have to go." He said, grabbing her elbow and walking her out of the room. "I've been waiting in the car for almost twenty minutes. If we don't leave now we'll have to take a later flight which will put us late meeting the Cartwrights."
The woman started to protest but her husband kept his grip firm. The woman waved distractedly to Pat before disappearing around the corner.
When the front door chirped at their exit, Pat let out the breath she didn't know she was holding.
That could have gone badly. She thought. I wonder how much my parents told them.
Pat only vaguely knew the owners of the house. They were friends of friends of friends. Someone her parents would see at 'functions' they attended. Considering they weren't exactly rich, Pat was always surprised by the wealth of many of her parents' acquaintances.
Such friends had privileges, such as finding a place to hide your wayward daughter until any potential whiff of scandal died down.
Pat gripped the edge of the marble counter as an unexpected wave of grief and anger surged over her. She fought to push it back, but the tears flowed down her cheeks. She was alone and no one could see her cry, but she was also alone and no one could comfort her.
She let herself sink to the floor as the sobs wracked her body. The pain of the last few months threatened to drown her as she lay on the floor, crying as she had never cried before.
"My baby!" She wailed the words into the empty house.
The sun was high in the sky when Pat woke up. She drew herself up into a sitting position and started out of the sliding glass doors. She tried to see the wooded mountain vista as beautiful, but it just felt isolating.
Her stomach rumbled but she ignored it. Instead, she stood up and walked out of the kitchen and into the garden that was expensively natural looking.
Pat ran her hands over the roses and wildflowers carefully arranged in beds as she walked along the stone path. She listened to the birds and insect noise around and soaked up the warmth of the late afternoon sun. It felt and smelled a little less sterile outside, which soothed her.
Down one turn of the path, Pat saw the shadow of an animal dart away from a tree. She couldn't see what it was as it made its way through the flowers, but she could follow the path as if a breeze were only moving small portions of the flowers and bushes.
She walked over to where it had been to see a portion of the grass between the flowers and path dug up. The hole was several inched deep already and she could just make out the corner of what appeared to be a wooden box.
Pat knelt down and finished what the animal had started. Several minutes work rewarded her with a black wooden box about eight inches long and 4 inches wide. After brushing off the dirt, she could see the top held a carving of a hummingbird hoovering over a branch of four petaled flowers. On each corner was a bushy, big leaved plant.
Shaking the box gave her no clue as to what could be inside. She tried sniffing it, just in case that was what had originally drawn the animal to dig it up, but only the smell of dark earth met her nose. The weight gave nothing away either. Though she didn't know how thick the wood of the box was, it wasn't heavy enough to give her any indication of what would lie within.
Pat tried working the top of the lid open, but the slim crack that surrounded the upper and lower lid of the box refused to budge. One of her nails broke under the strain of attempting to open it. She cursed and put the dirty finger up to her mouth without thinking to finish biting off the nail. She spit the dirt and nail out of her mouth in disgust.
Pat tucked the box under one arm and headed back towards the house. She was determined to see what was inside. It seemed odd that either of the owners of the house would have buried anything. Pat couldn't see the blonde woman getting dirt under her immaculate nails and she doubted the husband would sully his own hands in doing the job.
But someone had buried the box. From the condition of the wood, Pat doubted it had even been underground that long. Her only thought was that maybe the current owners had only recently purchased the property. It was always possible the box was buried by a child who previously lived here.
Back inside the kitchen, Pat put down a paper towel on the counter before resting the box on the pepper speckled marble top that had probably never seen dirt before. She dug in the drawers until she came up with a suitably thin cake server.
She pushed the thin side of the server into the broad front of the box and pushed. The only thing that happened was Pat had to try and unbend the damaged utensil.
Pat frowned at the box as she puzzled out what to try next. It occurred to her that maybe the wood had warped or absorbed moisture from the dirt. If that was the case, she knew she may not be able to open the box without damaging it.
Not wanting to give up yet, Pat found a small and sharp looking knife. She meticulously went around the edge of the box, prying out any dirt in the crack and attempting to work her way inside.
When she was back at the beginning of the box, she tried to lever the knife into the wood. Her hand slipped and the sharp knife sliced a neat line into the space between her thumb and forefinger that had been holding the bottom half of the box. Big beads of blood instantly welled up and seeped into the box and paper towel below.
Pat yelp and dropped the knife on the counter, rushing to the sink to wash away the blood coming from the cut. The cool water and soap stung, but Pat washed both hands thoroughly to avoid getting dirt into her wound. She was relieved to see the cut wasn't very deep.
Leaving the box on the counter, Pat wandered into the nearest bathroom to try and find something to cover her cut. It was three bathrooms later that she managed to find a small box of band-aids and some antibiotic ointment. She sat on the closed toilet lid and dressed the cut as best she could considering the awkward position of the wound. After it was done, she continued to sit, wondering what her next step would be.
Her stomach rumbled more insistently this time and Pat had to give in. If the box really was warped by moisture, she figured giving it time to dry out might be the best thing for it.
She walked to the kitchen and rummaged around for food, eyeing the box with dissatisfaction, but leaving it alone. By the time she had made herself a sandwich and taken it into a rather large sitting room resplendent with the largest flat screen television Pat had ever seen in, she had almost forgotten about it.
Several hours of being curled up on the couch marathoning episodes of her favorite show, Pat decided to call it a day. She retrieved her bag from the kitchen, giving the box one more suspicious look before wandering through the darkening house to the room that the blonde had assigned her.
Her bedroom for the next two months was on the second floor with a view overlooking the back garden and mountains beyond. To say it was a bedroom would be doing it disservice as it was really a suite consisting of four connecting rooms.
You walked into a sort of sitting room, complete with couches, television and coffee tables. Two doors came off of this room.
One room lead to a office of sorts. There was a desk, bookcases filled with many different books and overstuffed leather chair next to a small round table. A card on the desk gave the wi-fi password to any who would be using it. Pat noted this password was not the same as the main password her hostess had given her. Pat wondered if each room had it's own connection.
The second room off the sitting room was the actual bedroom. The four poster bed could easily accommodate four full sized adults but Pat doubted if it ever held more than one at a time. Another large television lined the wall opposite the bed. She dumped her bag on the silky chocolate colored bedspread before heading into the en suite bathroom.
Everything gleamed in the bathroom. If it wasn't white marble, it was silver. Pat had almost expected a Jacuzzi in the bathroom so was surprised to see a small stand up shower in one corner and a rather large claw-foot tub opposite. Despite the gleam, the bathroom could almost be called utilitarian.
Pat began running water in the large tub and sniffed at various bath salts and bubble baths until she found a lavender smelling one that she liked. She poured the light purple liquid into the running tap and the soothing scent of the bubbles immediately began enveloping the room.
Undressing, she entered the tub before it was done filling. The hot water was almost painful but she embraced it. She wanted the water to burn off a layer of skin, wanted it to make her feel renewed.
Once the water was off, Pat realized how quiet the house actually was. She wished she had brought in her phone to play music or an audiobook while she bathed. She was already too relaxed in the water to want to get out, so she tried to ignore the buzzing quiet around her.
Pat rested her hands on her belly and absentmindedly began stroking it, humming to herself. She froze when she realized what she was doing and ducked her head under the still too-hot water before her tears could surface again. The sting quickly made her pick her head back up and she had to reach for the nearby towel to wipe away the soapy suds on her face. It had done the trick though and she no longer felt like crying.
Crying. Pat's ears, the only thing free of water at that point, zoned in on what sounded like crying. Not adult sobs, but the whimpering cries of a small child or baby. Despite the heat of the water, Pat instantly felt cold.
She listened but the sound didn't stop. She stepped out of the tub and rushed to pull on clothes enough to find the source of the sound. Once on the stairs leading down to the first floor, Pat again felt icy prickles on her skin as the sounds became quieter but still audible. They were coming from the direction of the kitchen.
As she approached, turning on every light as she passed, the cries became fainter and fainter. Once in the kitchen, Pat heard nothing at all. Nothing seemed disturbed in the room. She walked over to the sliding glass doors and flipped on the flood lights that lit up the backyard like an instant sun.
Various creatures, Pat could make out at least one raccoon and two rabbits, scrabbled back into the safety of the dark. At the very edge of the light's reach, she thought she saw two deer dart away. Various rustlings and night bug sounds could be heard.
Pat shook her head. She had let her imagination run away with her.
"Stop it." She said out loud. "You have to keep it together."
Pat didn't feel together, not even one little bit, but she pretended, as she had done for years. She knew she'd get through this, even if she could imagine how.
To distract herself, Pat went over to the wooden box and began wiping the remaining dirt off of it. The lid was still stuck tight and she didn't risk another injured finger in attempting to open it.
She took the now clean box back upstairs to her room. Placing it carefully on the mahogany bedside table, Pat went back into the bathroom to let the still warm water out of the tub and finish getting ready for bed.
Done with her ablutions, Pat turned on the television and crawled into the overly large bed with her laptop. She found a channel playing mindless comedies and left it on as background noise. Opening her laptop, she dutifully typed in the room's WiFi password and began checking social media.
She was soon lost in the online world of people she barely knew. Her own friends hadn't contacted Pat since the accident, as it was known. She didn't know if that was her parents' doing or the fact that no one knew how to broach the subject. Either way, she hadn't tried to contact them after she left the hospital.
Her sleep was fitful that night, but her dreams were not so terrible that she woke up. When the sun's light finally woke her, Pat lay under the covers, listening to the television that had been playing on low volume all night.
Her eyes focused and the first thing she saw was the black wooden box. She reached out and stroked the wood, letting her fingers play over the carvings on top. She hummed the same tune from the night before, a lullaby her grandmother had once sung to her. It was the lullaby she had hummed to her belly every night once she had found out she was pregnant.
Pat pulled her fingers from the box and lay shivering under the warm blankets. She didn't want to think about the baby she wasn't going to have. She didn't want to think about what happened to it or why she was spending her summer alone instead of with friends before she was meant to go back to her second semester of college. She didn't want to think why, at 18 years old, she was still being treated like a goddamn child who was given no control over her own body.
Shaking with rage, Pat got out of bed and dressed quickly. She needed to get away from the thoughts before she wound up unable to get out of bed that day.
After breakfast and coffee, Pat felt as good as she knew she would get that day. She wandered around the house, taking a closer look at what had only been a whirlwind tour the day before. Respecting the owners' privacy, Pat stayed out of the suite she knew was their bedroom.
Out of all the rooms, her favorite was an old fashioned library of sorts. Built-in shelves lined the walls and each was filled from floor to ceiling with books. There was not one empty space she could see. The room also had varied decorations and artifacts from around the world. She knew the owners were world travelers and it seemed anything unusual picked up during those travels found its way into this room. Being a student of archaeology, some of the items she could pinpoint the region of, others were a delightful mystery to her.
Pat glanced at the titles of the books as she walked towards the room's only window. It was recessed to allow a window seat filled with soft cushions. The window itself went all the way to the ceiling and made the room feel inviting.
On the window seat, Pat was surprised to find a book sitting open, pages down, as if someone had been reading it. Surely, if either of the owners had been reading in here, they would have put the book away before leaving for two months?
She picked up the book to see what it was. When she saw the name Dr. Arthur MacIntire, she threw the books down as if it had burned her. She raced from the room, breathing hard and heart beating too fast.
She knew the book, had known the author. All she could think was it was some kind of sick joke they were playing on her. Surely, if they knew why she was here, they knew what seeing that book would do to her.
It seemed impossible to her that people she barely knew would play such a cruel joke, but why else would that book be out? She didn't know the professions of the houses' owners, so it was possible MacIntire's book was relevant to them. Maybe hearing about Pat's scandal had made one or the other curious enough to take the book back out and they just forgot about it in the hubbub of travel plans.
The Moral Imperative of Osteoarchaeology had been required reading her first term at college. The fact that the writer was a tenured professor of the university made it more enthralling to her, especially when he was re-assigned to be her advisor mid-term when her original advisor left for another professorship abroad.
Pat knew it was stupid to have gone for MacIntire's oozy charm. She was every stereotypical student to ever fall for her professor. She didn't care about his wife, because clearly he loved Pat and the wife just couldn't understand him like she could.
The inevitable pregnancy had overjoyed Pat, who was still stupidly in love. She had told him once she was absolutely sure, knowing he would share in her happiness. Pat hadn't expected the anger. She hadn't expected his insistence at her getting rid of the thing. He had even suggested the baby wasn't his and accused Pat of sleeping around. Pat was berated verbally and told not to come back, that the love of her life wanted nothing to do with her.
The next day MacIntire had called her and asked her to visit him. He had apologized for his behavior the night before. Had sounded sincere. Pat, wanting desperately to believe him, did.
They met in a park not far from campus. She quickly got into his car and together they drove off. MacIntire smiled at Pat and she felt her heart flutter.
"Do you know how far along you are?" MacIntire had asked, his voice sounding pleasant.
"About eight weeks." She smiled. "It probably happened when we spent that weekend on your boat. We weren't very careful then."
MacIntire had nodded.
"Good." He said. "That's not too far along. An abortion would be a easy thing at this point. Probably can go the pill route."
Pat stared at him but was unable to find words.
"What did you think was going to happen?" MacIntire asked after several minutes of silence. "That I was going to marry you and we have a family? How stupid can you be, girl? You knew what this was when we started."
Pat was finding it more and more difficult to breathe. Her vision was becoming cloudy with every work he spoke.
"I've already called a friend of mine, very discreet." MacIntire continued. "I'll pay for it and then we don't see each other again. I've already gotten someone else on staff to be your advisor. It'll all be over soon."
Pat couldn't say exactly what happened next. She had vague memories of screaming and grabbing the wheel, pulling it hard right just as they were crossing on an overpass. She remembered being airborne and then nothing.
She had woken up in the hospital two weeks later with some broken bones, a massive concussion and no baby. MacIntire had survived the crash too but never told the cops exactly what happened, citing it as an accident. He didn't come and see her in the hospital.
It was when a nurse had come in one day after Pat had regained consciousness that she found out what had happened afterwards.
She has asked about the baby, about if she had lost it because of the crash. The nurse looked puzzled by the question and told her that her parents had okayed the abortion when she was in a coma. Since it had been her wish anyway, there was no reason to wait and potentially cause her to need to go the surgical route after such an ordeal.
Pat had cried all the day. When her parents had come to visit, she screamed at them until the staff was forced to give her a sedative to quiet her down. They had taken her baby while she had slept. No one had cared what she wanted.
She had stayed in the hospital for over a month after the accident, not because she was not physically well, but because her mental health had deteriorated after she learned about the abortion. They had moved her to a more secure ward so she could be watched.
When Pat was finally able to leave, she found out her parents had secured her a house-sitting job far away from everyone. They said it was best for her to get away from everyone and spend some quiet time alone. Pat secretly wondered if they hoped she wouldn't return from the job. If she might just end it all away from them so they could just cry and say how they had done everything they could.
Pat took in a deep breath and fought to ground herself in the present. She wasn't going anywhere. No matter what MacIntire and her parents thought about her, she was going to live. She was going to get better and she would never forgive any of them.
The pounding headache she'd been plagued with since leaving the hospital started behind her eyes. Pat made it upstairs and swallowed two of the migraine pills she'd been prescribed for just such an occasion. She lay back on the bed and drifted into a state of nonexistence until the pain, and hopefully the memories, passed.
It was a shadow passing over her closed eyelids that brought Pat to wakefulness several hours later. She cracked open her eyes in time to see a shadow move from the bedroom door into the sitting room. The room swam as she sat up but she knew the shadow hadn't been a trick of her migraine.
As she fought to gain full consciousness, she could hear music being played from somewhere in the house. It was tinny, like a music box or mobile. The tune, however, was one Pat knew well. It was the lullaby she had heard all her life, the one she had been humming only that morning.
Pat was still shaky when she got out of bed. It took several moments before she could trust her legs to hold her weight. As her hand rested on the bedside table for support, she noticed the wooden box was no longer there.
It was the faint cries of a baby that finally convinced Pat to leave the room. She felt drawn to them from some place deep and aching inside her.
Once out of her room, the turned left, deeper into the second floor, following the music. The sounds of the cries increased as did the music as she neared a door on the far side of the house. A green and white rocking horse carved from wood hung on the door. Pat tried to remember if she had seen this before but couldn't.
She pushed open the door to reveal a beautifully outfitted nursery. It was the nursery she had envisioned for her own child, the one that was never allowed to be. The one that had been stolen from her.
The fussing baby sounds were coming from the light brown wooden crib. Over the crib was a mobile of four petaled pink flowers and hummingbirds. The tune was the lullaby Pat knew.
Sleep little one, do not fear.
Dark nor pain can find you here.
Safely stored within my heart.
Never will Death drive us apart.
Pat softly sang the words as she walked towards the crib, not surprised to find the black wooden box opened. The lid was carved side up. The bottom was lined in black silk with a small white figure nestled inside. The withered skin was pulled tight over the small frame of the child.
She could hear the cries in her head though no sound or movement came from the corpse of the baby. As instinctively as if this were her own child, Pat understood the cries for what they were.
"You're hungry, aren't you?" Pat cooed as she lifted the palm sized corpse out of the box. "So hungry."
Pat continued to hum as she went to the rocking chair. She cradled the child against her and used her teeth to remove the bandage from her cut hand. Pat bit her hand until the blood began flowing freely again before placing her hand against the shriveled lips. The dried flesh soaked up her offering and Pat began rocking with a little smile on her face.
Child of my blood,
Child of my heart,
Never will Death
Drive us apart.
She closed her eyes when she felt the child latch on and suck. As the child's flesh softened and plumped, Pat felt happy for the first time since that fateful day. She had a child that no one could take from her.
My lofty dreams of being a famous & brilliant writer were literally smacked out of my head. Now I plan to fill the void with copious amounts of subpar writing!