I’ve entered into a little contest of sorts over at Wattpad. The only prize is bragging rights, but it does mean I’ll be writing more horror stories over the next couple of months and that’s always a good thing. I had to pick five pictures out of a group of twelve and it has to be between four and six thousand words. I decided on my five and that I’d do it in five parts of around a thousand words each. This is the first entry.
Julia heard the knock on the door echo throughout the run down house. She was reluctant to answer it. Anyone who came to the only house on this street with evidence of habitation usually wanted something. Frankly, she and her six year old daughter didn’t have much to offer. They were squatting here as it was. They’d be here as long as the power stayed on and the cops stayed away. Still, judging by the knocker’s persistence, if she didn’t answer the pounding would only increase in volume. Sarai was taking a nap and that meant the door would get answered.
Her long white skirt and thin sweater weren’t much protection against the cold wind. She braced herself and opened the door. The man that stood there was easily six feet tall, if not more. He towered over her. Instinctively, she brought a piece of her long hair around to cover the lower half of her face. “Can I help you sir?”
If he saw, or cared about, her disfigurement, he didn’t show it. “May I come in, miss?” He held out a badge. “I’m here from the Department of Social Services.”
Julia felt her stomach drop. “I see.” She stepped back into the house’s shadows. “Please come in.”
He did, closing the door behind him, and started to take off the heavy blue coat he wore, when he realized it wasn’t much warmer inside the house. “I won’t take much of your time.” He looked around expectantly.
“My daughter is down for a nap. I have no place for you to sit. Unless you don’t mind the stair or the floor.”
He held out a placating hand. “I’m fine, miss.” He consulted the clipboard that he held in his catcher’s mitt of a left hand. “I assume that you’re Julia Evelyn Fitzgerald?”
The statement came out as a question. A habit that annoyed her to no end. “I am. I don’t have any documentation to that end. How can I help you?”
He shuddered as though a chill wind blew through his body. “I’m just making a routine check. I’ve been told that you have a child here.”
“I told you that. And I’m sure her kindergarten teacher did.” Ms. Philips was the only person with any investment in Sarai that knew their current address.
“Yes, miss. I’m here to check on her well-being and the environment that she’s being raised in.”
She held out a hand. “We are staying in this house. You are free to have a look around. You may not go into her bedroom. As I said…”
He nodded, turning red at the ears. “She’s napping. Yeah. Look, miss, I gotta say, you’re handling all of this strangely for my taste. I’m here to make sure that your daughter is okay. I have the authority to take her out of here. You need to show more respect.”
She smiled. She was glad to see that the veneer of civilization was wearing thin on him. “I will show you the amount of respect you earn. You can’t possibly care for my daughter more than I do. Or, for that matter, you can’t know how she needs to be cared for. She’s special.”
He consulted the clipboard. “So our reports indicate. I’ll just have a look around then.” The questioning lilt was gone.
She didn’t follow him. She knew what he would find. Empty living and dining rooms that were still in need of a good sweeping would be his first stop. Then onto the kitchen that had an empty refrigerator and cupboards. Finally, on this floor at least, a bathroom that had neither working toilet ,not sink. His footsteps didn’t make nearly the amount of noise that she expected. For a big man he moved quietly and with care.
She waited for him at the foot of the stairs. “Are you dissatisfied?”
“No.” He stopped, only hearing her question after he answered it. “I mean, yes. Yes, I’m dissatisfied. These aren’t the sort of conditions you raise a child in. There’s no food or furniture. There’s no heat. I’ve seen your yard and frankly I wouldn’t let a dog play in it.”
“Silence.” Her dark brown eyes flashed above the veil of hair. “You will not come into my house and presume to tell me how to raise my daughter. If you have a problem with how we live then you can blame my husband. He did this to me.” She dropped the hair, revealling burn scars and weeing flesh that ran from just beneath her nose to her chin and from dimple to dimple on her cheeks. Or it least where the dimples had been.
The big man took two steps back and made a slight retching noise.
She smiled. More of her teeth shown than should have. Being without lips made for a deaths head grin. “I love my daughter and she loves me. We live where we can and how we choose. I see to it that she has food, water, shelter, love and toys. If you were to go into her room, you would see that.” She stepped into his space. “Would you like to go into her room?”
He took another step back nearly failing when his heel hit a loose board. “No, miss.” His face was now nearly bone white. “This was just an information gathering trip for me. I can come back when little Sarai isn’t napping. I wish I could trust you, but this is my job.”
She spared him further discomfort by pulling her hair back up. “I understand. You are no more a monster than I am.” Even she didn’t know if there was any sarcasm in her voice. “Generally she is awake and we are able to receive company around five in the afternoon. Much later than six and we may have gone out for a bite.” She clacked her teeth together.
He tucked his clipboard under his arm. “Very well, miss. I’ll be back around tomorrow at five sharp.” He moved quickly, though a little less silently, passed her and through her door.
Julia closed and locked it behind him. She dropped her hair, revealing smooth, unblemished skin. The smile was no less frightening for the beauty now on display.