Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month the prompt is to use three of the following words in the story- tremble, start, tiptoe, yank, and dresser.
Today’s contribution comes from Val Muller, who you can stalk at www.valmuller.com. The story takes place in the world of her current work-in-progress, a middle-grade novel with a scifi twist.
It’s in the Basement
By Val Muller
Mel kept still in the giant queen-sized bed. Her grandmother was snoring now, a good sign that Mel could sneak away. But she shifted a bit and found the sheets were tucked in too tightly. Grandma always tucked her in like that—like a mummy. The sheets didn’t let in any air, and Mel started to sweat. She should have tried harder to convince Grandma to let her sleep on the couch.
Dad, you owe me, she thought as she wriggled out of the tightly-tucked sheets. She got one leg out, and Grandma stirred next to her, clicking her tongue against her teeth. Grandma adjusted the blanket a bit and rolled onto her side. Mel stilled again, waiting for Grandma’s breathing to become regular again.
Finally it was, and she tiptoed across the floor. She didn’t remember what part of the floor creaked, but she knew it did. She tried each step before she committed, remembering all the spy movies she’d ever seen. Spy Kids. Yep, that was her. She was living a ten-year-old’s Mission Impossible.
Luckily, Grandma’s bedroom door never fully closed—the wood was too swollen—so all Mel had to do was pull it open. But she was so concerned about creaking floorboards that she slammed right into the dresser. Her side exploded in pain, and she bit her cheek to stifle it. She didn’t know which hurt worse, now. She’d be bruised in the morning, and salty foods would sting for the next few days.
“Danny,” Grandma muttered in her sleep. “Danny.”
Danny was the name of Mel’s grandfather, a man who had passed away before Mel was born. It was Danny’s pictures Mel was going to steal. No, not steal, she reminded herself. Borrow. Dad said it was a travesty for those historical photos to waste away in the basement. But Grandma didn’t like to let anything go. Dad had bribed Mel with a new Wii if she was able to sneak into the basement, retrieve the pictures, and get them home—all under the guise of a weekend at Grandma’s.
These were photos from Grandpa Danny’s time in World War II. He’d taken them in the field, and he’d put them in an old suitcase when he came back from the war. He never liked to talk about them, Dad had said. But they were too important to be left in the moldy basement. Dad wanted to scan them into his computer and maybe even publish them. Mel wondered what Grandma would think of that.
But why did they have to be kept in the basement? Of all the places in the world, the scariest was Grandma’s basement—and at night, it was even worse. Mel crept to the basement door. She trembled.
Grandma kept flashlights all over the house in case of a power outage. Mel took the one from the kitchen counter. The moonlight was just enough for her to see her way around the house, but the basement had only those two tiny windows. There would not be enough light. She couldn’t risk turning on the bright florescent lights, either. They made this awful hum-snap when they warmed up. No telling what might wake Grandma.
She flipped the flashlight on. It was an old, metal one, and it clicked so loudly it seemed to echo through the house. She stuffed it under her shirt to hide the light and listened to see if Grandma had heard. The silence was almost deafening—so dense. She thought she heard Grandma’s steady breathing, but her ears strained. Then the refrigerator motor started up, and Mel realized it was now or never.
She crept down the basement stairs, directing her flashlight beam before her. Her heart leapt, and last night’s dinner touched the back of her throat. In the darkness, the shapes in the basement lurked like monsters. A dressform hovered like a ghost under its protective sheet. An exercise bike laden with coat hangers looked like a scary dinosaur. Shadows shifted behind boxes, and everything seemed to be moving in on Mel.
She would remember this night as the first time she was ever drenched in sweat. How would she explain it to Grandma? She directed the flashlight at the wall. There, under an ancient Monopoly game, was the brown suitcase, just as Dad described it. Inside it was a shoebox of pictures. All Mel had to do was grab it and be done. She yanked the suitcase, but the board game on top of it toppled over, crashing to the floor. Monopoly money and playing pieces scattered around. She froze, turned out the flashlight. Waited for Grandma.
When he came to pick her up, Dad kept eyeballing Mel, his eyes asking the question he dared note speak. Did you get them?
But Mel just averted her eyes.
“You should take Mel to the doctor,” Grandma told him just before he pulled away. “I caught her sleepwalking.”
“Sleepwalking?” Dad asked.
“Could have broken a leg on those stairs,” Grandma said.
“She sleepwalked all the way into the basement. Was trying to play Monopoly at midnight!”
Dad bit his lip and frowned. He had long told Mel how hard it was to sneak anything out of Grandma’s house. Oh, well. There was always next weekend.
The Spot Writers- our members:
RC Bonitz: http://www.rcbonitz.com
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: http://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Kathy Price: (Website in development)