Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Changing Room

It was move-in day for the Patterson’s. Their new home was one of those turn-of-the-century Victorians with gingerbread trim and a large welcoming front porch. Even though it was a fixer-upper, Joseph had paid more than he wanted to and it was larger than they needed, but Kelly was in love with it and he was hoping it might help their marriage get through the current rough spot in the road.

Boxes went in and tired, sweaty Patterson’s came out. Joseph carried a box marked “basement” down the creaking stairs into the underbelly of the house. Like all basements in older homes, it smelled of mold and spider webs were draped in every corner. He set the box on the floor under a small window, and as he rose up, he noticed something through a crack between two boards on the wall. He squinted to see into the darkness, and he could swear he was looking into a small room.

After a few minutes of searching, he pulled on a board and to his amazement a door opened. His inner child’s heart was racing with excitement. A secret room! The dim basement light revealed a small, stark chamber decorated with only an old overstuffed chair and a small table with a framed photograph of a very grim looking man wearing a stained butcher’s apron. Joseph felt drawn into the strange little hideaway. The moment he lowered himself into the chair, however, the door slammed shut. He could see out into the basement through slits in the wood, but nobody could see him. The darkness in the room pressed down on his body and he couldn’t move or speak. Then the whispers began.

It was dusk but still humid and the two sheriff’s deputies were sweating despite standing in the shade of the porch. Kelly leaned against a wall, her face blotchy, her eyes red from crying.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Patterson. We searched the entire house and yard. Twice. He’s not here,” said the taller sheriff.

She was emphatic. “But where could he be? The car’s right there. His wallet is sitting on the kitchen table. This is insane.”

“I can understand you’re upset. We’ll continue looking for him tonight on our rounds. Try and get some rest. He may show up at any time.”

How could he just disappear she asked herself for the hundredth time as she brushed her hair before bed. He must be somewhere hurt, unable to get help or did the bastard just up and leave me? What would he—

Suddenly, in the mirror behind her stood Joseph. He was wearing the same clothes as this morning, but something about his expression was different, unsettling.

“Joseph? Baby, where have you been? What have you been doing?”

She caught the glint of a polished steel blade in his right hand at the same moment he spoke.


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