Mrs. Earnshaw’s House
An unseasonal gust of wind rushed through the overgrown garden, up the broken paving stones and rattled the unhinged gate as it finally blasted Anne’s face, sending her long black hair up into her eyes and mouth. She brushed it away and tucked the unruly tendrils behind her ears with one hand. I must get it cut, she thought to herself, before the summer is over and I’m back at school.
Rather than enjoy her time off, Anne had let herself be guilt-tripped into helping out with a charity her grandmother worked for – selling chocolate bars to the elderly residents in her neighbourhood wasn’t exactly her first choice of labour, but it beat being stuck indoors on a hot day. At least it had, up until she reached Mrs. Earnshaw’s house. The sight of the unkempt garden sent chills down Anne’s spine as she remembered being left in the care of Mrs. Earnshaw when she was a young child. Anne had stumbled over something in the garden, and when she looked down, she was traumatised to see a collection of bones jutting up from the soil. Never again, her grandmother had promised her. And that was the last time Anne ever visited Mrs. Earnshaw’s house… until now.
Taking a deep breath, Anne gripped onto the chocolate box with both hands and shifted around the unhinged gate, being careful not to step on the cracks as she made her way up the path. With her eyes fixated to the ground, it wasn’t until Anne had reached the front door that she realised it was already ajar. Expecting Mrs. Earnshaw to jump out, Anne gripped even tighter onto the box and froze; but the only sound that greeted her was the rush of air that swept through the grass and leaves. Ever so slowly, Anne reached one hand out and attempted to knock.
Another blast of wind caused the door to creak open, and Anne found herself stood in the doorframe, a meek voice escaping her throat to call out to Mrs. Earnshaw. It had been a while since Anne had heard of her, perhaps she’d moved. Maybe the house was abandoned. Why couldn’t I have thought of all these things before stepping inside, Anne thought. I could’ve escaped this place and be on Mrs. Lane’s front porch right now, having a lovely conversation about prune juice! Yet once again, Anne found herself calling out Mrs. Earnshaw.
The interior hadn’t changed, apart from the obvious decayed look it now sported. The small TV in the corner of the room had its screen coated with a think layer of dust. Anne felt like she was traveling back through time with every step. She couldn’t explain the force she felt, pulling her further and further into Mrs. Earnshaw’s house.
As she was about to call out for a third time, a noise came from the staircase, causing Anne to freeze and listen intently. In the distance, she could hear a low-pitched humming, sort of like the noise a dishwasher would make. But this house hadn’t ever seen modern technology like that… TECHNOLOGY, Anne suddenly thought as she reached into her pocket and pulled out her mobile phone.
Why had it not occurred to her until now to call the police? Surely an empty, unlocked house deserved reporting, even if Mrs. Earnshaw was inside – perhaps she had fallen down and needed an ambulance, Anne thought.
Feeling a little braver, Anne proceeded toward the noise and detected it was coming from behind a door, underneath the stairs. Wedging the chocolate box under her arm, Anne prepared to open the door with one hand and, if need be, dial 999 with the other. After a few deep breaths, Anne twisted the handle and pulled open the door in one swift move. A wooden staircase appeared before her, leading down into a dark cellar. Anne could tell someone was down there, as shadows were moving unnaturally in the dim light. She wanted to call out, to scream even, but fear strangled Anne’s voice. With one hand still gripping her phone, Anne used the other one to guide herself down the stairs.
The humming noise began to sound human the further down Anne reached. In fact, without the barrier of the door, Anne could almost swear it wasn’t humming, but chanting. Crouching low to the ground Anne took another step down, hypnotised by the constant drone of inhuman words.
…Ela-ankh-ha, Mela-fac-tah, Ela-ankh-ha, Mela-fac-tah…
Fear gripped Anne’s body, yet she found the same inexplicable force that had pulled her through the house now guiding her down the remaining stairs and into the dim candlelight.
Anne’s eyes darted around the room at the sights before her: rows of different shaped candles, flames burning high; chains draped from the ceiling and stone walls; a five-pointed star drawn in chalk on the stone floor; and a skull in the middle, with one lone candle fused into the bone with melted wax. On her hands and knees, an old woman lay on the inside of a circle of twigs placed around the star. It was from her where the chanting came… it was from Mrs. Earnshaw.
Frozen to the spot, Anne could not even bring herself to breathe for fear of being intoxicated by the aroma of burning incense. But she had to move, especially since Mrs. Earnshaw had stopped chanting, and would at any moment lift her head up and see Anne standing at the bottom of the stairs.
Seconds passed, but neither of them moved. Suddenly, an electronic beeping sound echoed around the hollow room, and the digital screen on Anne’s phone bathed the cellar with its light. Anne watched in horror as Mrs. Earnshaw slowly raised her head, and looked at Anne with piercing black eyes. Her wrinkled lips parted to reveal teeth that were crooked and yellow, inside a mouth of blackened gums. Unlike the monotonous droning, words with sinister intent began to rasp from Mrs. Earnshaw’s aged lungs.
“Finally, you came!”
Rising to her feet, Mrs. Earnshaw slid her hands into the pocket of her burgundy robes and slowly revealed the bejeweled handle of a shimmering silver dagger. The dagger’s blade glared from the reflection of the light upstairs, causing Anne to be blinded. In a panic, she stumbled back and felt her way up the stairs and out of the cellar, belting through the house towards the front door. When Anne looked back to check Mrs. Earnshaw wasn’t chasing after her, a pair of hands suddenly grabbed her arms, causing Anne to let out an almighty shriek!