This post is part of the BlogFlash Halloween event. You can read all the participating stories and vote for your favorite. The list of all participating stories can be found below.
by Val Muller
Lisa hated doing laundry. She’d rather scrub the house with a toothbrush. Why did the washer have to be in the basement? It was the stairs–wooden stairs open in back, revealing the shadows underneath. Ever since childhood, she feared a monster lurking there. She pictured it reaching from under the steps, its humongous, clawed hands wrapping around her ankles. Pulling her into its abyss. The coal furnace ignited on the other side of the basement, whispering to life. It sounded like mother. The shadows under the stairs illuminated and danced with the sinister red light of coals. Lisa shuddered.
“It’s your imagination,” Mother always said with no sympathy for Lisa’s fears. In fact, ever since Lisa confessed her terror of the basement, Mother made laundry Lisa’ permanent chore. “You must overcome your fears,” she said. “If you don’t own your fears, you’ll be their prisoner.” If Lisa didn’t know better, she’d say Mother enjoyed watching her daughter cower every laundry day.
“She’s gone now,” Lisa reminded herself. “Just get the house cleaned and sold–you’ll never have to do laundry here again.”
To punctuate the point, she kicked over the ironing board. No sense ironing anymore. It was all going to Good Will. The ironing board clanked against the concrete floor. A clanking echoed near the furnace.
A thud answered.
Lisa’s eyes widened, and she picked up the ironing board. “S-sorry,” she whispered to the darkness.
The adrenaline of her fear hardened to anger, and Lisa turned back to the laundry. “Why am I still doing this? Mother’s gone. I don’t have to do her wash anymore. I’ll donate it as is. So what if it smells like mothballs?” She turned to the stairs. “Hear that?” she asked the shadows. She took the box of laundry detergent and tossed it at the stairs. It exploded in a powdery mess. Lisa’s eyes narrowed. She was the bullied finding the flame of revenge.
“Like that, do you?” she shouted. She picked up the fabric softener. “Conquer this fear, Mother!” She tossed it at the wooden step. As it spilled, the lightbulb above popped into darkness.
“You’ll be their prisoner,” the furnace whispered as it, too, extinguished.
“Hello?” Lisa gulped. Her eyes could not adjust to the darkness, and she shuffled to the stairs. She took it one step at a time, the wood slick with laundry powder and fabric softener. “You’ll be their prisoner,” the furnace hissed again, coming to life with a clunk. The red light illuminated the area under the stairs, revealing a lurking shadow with eyes glowing red. The shadow reached out, two clawed hands reaching for her ankles. She lurched backwards, her feet losing purchase just as she felt the tight, sharp grasp at her feet.
“Mother?” she gulped.
“Their prisoner,” the furnace whispered as her head hit the concrete and her world went black.
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