I kept the door locked because I couldn’t figure out why it was locked. It seemed completely unnecessary. A dark skeleton key hung on a metal hook only about a foot above the handle. I had been in the house for two weeks and hadn’t yet had the courage to use that key. There was no rush and that’s what I told myself each time I considered checking out the second floor. The old door was at the bottom of the stairs and I had decided that today was the day I would go through it.
My ear pressed against the cool wood of the door. It was a tiny bit of relief against the otherwise stifling house. It was June and there was no air conditioning. I hoped I’d be used to the heat by August. All I could hear was my own breathing, which was deliberately calm. I had heard noises above me… noises that suggested someone or something was moving around up there.
At first I thought it was my imagination. It was a bright, beautiful sunny afternoon though and things that went bump in the night normally went bump in the night. That was how I knew there was a perfectly rational explanation. My best guess was that some sort of wild animal, maybe a squirrel, had somehow gotten in the house. Maybe there was a broken window. If there was an animal and/or a broken window upstairs, those were things I should probably do something about. A grownup would fix a problem with her house and I was supposed to be figuring out how to be a grownup.
The first thing I did was walk around the outside of the house. The windows all appeared to be intact. The sun got in my eyes on one side though and made it difficult to be certain. The next thing I did was head into the garage to pick up the biggest, heaviest, sturdiest weapon I could find. It was a shovel so big I needed two hands to carry it. I wasn’t wild about taking the dirty old thing into the house, but if something up there wanted to give me rabies I intended to put up a fight.
I propped open the back door as I came inside. My plan was to chase whatever it was outside and I needed to be sure it had an exit. I listened at the locked door for a full minute and didn’t hear anything behind it.
“Here we go,” I whispered to myself. I rested the shovel on the ground so I could support it with one hand and took down the key with my free hand. The keyhole was rather large and yet it took a few tries to fit the key into it because my hands were shaking. I was about to turn the key when I heard a voice.
It was a weak male voice that said only, “Rose?”
Animals did not have voices. I slowly pulled the key back out and put it back on the hook where I watched in shock as it swung from side to side. Then the voice called out again a little stronger, “Rose?”
The shovel hit the floor with a terrifying clatter and I was out the back door before it stopped vibrating. I jumped into my car before I realized that I had no keys. I ran back inside without thinking and grabbed my backpack off the counter. I didn’t have any idea where I was going to go. The only thing I knew for sure was that animals did not talk.
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