To whom it may concern,
My name is Ashley Kirk and my mother killed me.
I guess it began when Jordan passed. Mom and Will had date night and I had to babysit. I was twelve, he was four. Wasn’t that hard to watch him, and it wasn’t my first time. But it was the last. I was helping him bathe. I had a pizza in the oven for us, and I went down to check on it so I wouldn’t burn the house down, but when I returned, Jordan hit his head somehow, slipped and drowned in the tub. I hadn’t spoken a word since, and that’s when she started to hate me.
Six months later, we’re here. In this dump hole in the middle of nowhere, and I swear to God, this place has changed her. She was already a dick towards me, but now she’s evil. That is not my mother. I mean, she always blamed me for Jordan. Never said it, but I heard it in her tone, saw it in her eyes, everyday for six months. But if this is really my mom. I guess this is her revenge.
So, this is my plea. If anyone ever gets this, tell my mother that I’m sorry for Jordan, and that I forgive her for doing this to me.
The color of the home first grabbed her attention. Pink or faded red? The structure seemed ancient. Vines crawling up the sides. The tree in the front yard, the tree on the side, both gravitating toward the roof. The Earth consuming this place, and the family of three in the process of moving in.
Ashley stopped before the single cracked-up step that led to the dingy door. She grabbed her bedazzled notepad, flipped the pages toward the middle and wrote “EWW!” on the yellow blank page. She turned to her mother and stepfather, but only showed the page to Will.
“Hey, it’s not so bad. Just a little elbow grease and some T.L.C. and this place will be home sweet home in a week.” Will turned to his wife. “Right, hun?”
“Hmm” was all she said.
Inside was worst. The walls were brick and the floor was full of dirt. A sudden draft attacked her once she made it past the front room. So cold. Colder than outside. It seemed the Gods had turned this house inside out.
A narrow hallway completed the length of the home where the stairway took up most of the space, barely enough room to get into the kitchen off to the side. Were the designers drunk?
If the door under the stairs wasn’t cracked open, she’d have missed it. The sliver of darkness shined like black light. She approached the …closet? bathroom?… with caution, and as she got closer, found the source of the cold air. Is it a freezer in there?
She opened the door and the darkness spread to the hallway. One step forward and then another. Thank God for the switch to her left because there were there were steps going down. Basement. I don’t do basements.
That freezing chill spiraled up and around her legs and arms, then her neck. It tickled her, made her itch. She scratched and rubbed her collar bone. Bad vibes, nothing in the world would get her down those steps. Nothing.
Two steps back and she closed the squealing door. In the knob was a key, ancient like the house, and she locked it.
The second floor looked much like the first. And since she had to be here, she spent her time cleaning instead of complaining. Fixing her bedroom took up most of her day, making it functional enough for a comfortable night of sleep.
When the time came for snooze-town, down the hallway, past the bathroom, mumbling disturbed her peace. Are they arguing? Ashley rarely heard Mom and Will argue. Couldn’t even remember a time when they did. She couldn’t make out the words, but it was something. If she weren’t the root of most issues, really the only issue of their family, she might have snooped. Instead, she grabbed her earbuds, plugged them into her phone and listened to Drake.
The next morning, she hopped down the steps in her robe. It was the smell of bacon, Will knew how to get her out of bed. But the bacon would have to wait. When she made it to the bottom step, her legs were mauled by freezing air. She turned and saw that the basement door was cracked open again. She shrugged, figured mom or Will explored down there or something. So, she closed the basement door, locked it, then put the ancient key in the right pocket of her night robe.
If they really wanted Ashley to talk again, and they did, all they had to do was deny her bacon. She’d return to the blabbermouth she used to be before Jordan died. She saved her bacon until she finished her eggs and waffle. Mom didn’t look good, had a scratch near her eye, and she limped from the table to the kitchen counter to refill her coffee.
Instead of asking her mother directly, Ashley took her notepad out of her left robe pocket, placed it on the counter, and wrote “Heard you guys last night, everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Will said as her mom limped back to the table. “Your mother fell last night, but she’s okay now. Right, hun?” he touched her hand, and she quickly pulled it back.
Whatever. As the young girl worked on her bacon, her mother just stared at her. A stare so hard and cruel-like that it was hard to avoid, hard to ignore and eventually Ashley lost her appetite. But before the girl could excuse herself, that cruel, hard look her mother had descended into fright. Something Ashley hadn’t seen in six months. And then her mother screamed and ran out of the kitchen.
“WTF!” Ashley wrote.
Will seemed worried and he stammered before finding the right phrase. “Don’t take it personal. I think she’s just tired. Didn’t sleep much last night.”
Mom had been harsh on Ashley since Jordan’s accident. And Ashley, poor girl, had gotten used to her mother’s cruelty, but this… what the hell was that?
“I can’t take off work anymore. So, just let her have this day. Let her rest. Clean up around the house for me, please. Outside, too. We’ll poke around that basement this weekend, see what treasures await us.” The man always tried too hard to lighten the mood and he constantly played peacemaker between her and her mother.
Ashley gave a slight nod. He kissed her forehead and left.
When Will finally came home, Ashley had raked the leaves along the edges of the home, swept the dirt out of the living room and destroyed the cobwebs in the front room, spiders included. She had managed to avoid her mother all day. A smiley face on her notepad was her goodnight message to Will.
“Maybe I should go blind, think I’d rather hear your voice than see anything,” he ruffled her black hair.
She flipped him off with a smile.
She ran upstairs, giggling. She fell asleep with her music like the night before, but her phone died and noises from downstairs brought her out of bed. Didn’t know the time, but she would’ve guessed two or three. She walked to the door in her night robe, no socks, no slippers and she heard whispering from her mother, “You leave us alone. Leave us alone.”
Is she talking to Will? No, because the man’s snores were like thunder.
At the bottom step, that draft hit her leg again. The basement door cracked open, light on, and her mother still whispering and whimpering, more of an echo now. She checked her right front pocket and felt the key. Old lock probably or another key?
Ashley was a curious girl, had to know things, needed answers, like why her mother was in the basement at three in the morning talking to herself. So, against her better judgment, she snuck down the steps. Fear and being barefooted kept her vision aimed mostly at her feet to avoid stepping on a hundred-year-old nail or something.
Once she made it to the bottom of the steps, she realized her mother had stopped whispering, no more whimpering, but to hell with all of that, what is this?
The basement appeared twice the size of the upstairs, and that was just what she could see. The light illuminated a wide hall from the stairway, no telling how far left or right this basement extended, but what is this?
A well. A water well. As clear as day. She walked up to the old rustic brick beautiful thing and swore she was outside the way the light shined down on it. Is this light or sky? Then a rustling sound startled her. Before she turned all the way, she was pushed in the back and falling. Felt like minutes until she started bouncing off the hard walls, first her hip and then her head, that’s what knocked her out.
Dreams of her mother. Her face.
That tragic image of her mother pushing her only daughter, her last child, down that ancient black hole.
Ashley woke up to pain, her legs hurt a bit, had a devil of a migraine, but mostly her heart ached. Her white robe was red now, stained with blood but didn’t know where she bled from. She could see, a little, thanks to the light shining from a crack in the bricks. Where is this light coming from?
How far have I fallen? Now, seemed like the perfect time to break her silence. “Help!” she screamed. “Help!” Over and over and over. She must’ve yelled for hours. She lost a lot of blood, and maybe her mind as well. Every now and again, she would see a white hand, no body, just the creepy limb crawling in and out of the well-lit cracks in the wall. Maybe on a normal day, it’d frighten her, but she had bigger things to worry about, her life. Maybe this hand represented death. She cried, yeah, and screamed some more but once her voice gave up on her, like her legs, and her mind, and her mother, she turned to the only thing she could count on… her notepad. She took out her bedazzled friend out of her robe pocket, flipped to a yellow page that hadn’t been touched by blood… and started writing. When they find me, they will find this, and know the truth.
She ripped out the page, stuck it in her pocket and tossed the notepad.
Ashley couldn’t tell if it was sleep or death pulling at her, but she had no more pain. No more worry. The creepy hand crawled on her leg now, she had no more fear. It scuttled up her thigh, across her stomach, over her chest and as the palm covered her mouth, the fingers stretched around her head and interlocked.
Revenge, revenge, revenge.
“Angela? Angela?” Will called to her from the driver seat.
“Yeah,” she responded. Then shook off the painful chill in her shoulders.
The truck stopped and the family stepped out to see the new place, glorified shack, that they would call home. A decision she was not a part of. Forget the bad feeling she continued to feel in her bones, she scowled at the ugly residence.
“Hey, it’s not so bad. Just a little elbow grease and some T.L.C. and this place will be home sweet home in a week.” Will turned to her. “Right, hun?”
“Hmm” she responded.
When Ashley walked inside, Angela walked around the home, tried to see any other houses in the area. They saw a few on the way up, but there was nothing out here, only woods, only them. After the trip around the house, her husband opened the trailer door and shouted out, “Let’s get the big stuff out of the way first.” She helped him bring in the furniture and they stashed it all in the living room. They’d get to rearranging it later. Well, Will will. It was nap time for her.
A long nap that wouldn’t be interrupted or else there’d be hell to pay. So, she slept… all day long, and woke up at night.
“Sleep good?” The irritation in Will’s tone surpassed whatever he said.
And she would’ve felt bad too, for sleeping all day, not helping much since the morning, but he had to open his mouth.
“Well, I felt like going home, my real home. And dreaming of it is the only way now, since you downgraded us to this piece of shit in the middle of the forest.” The volume of her voice grew. “And you’re back at work again tomorrow, with the truck. Just what the hell are me and little miss mutesy gonna talk about? Huh?”
“Chill out, okay? This is going to work out.”
“Forever the peacemaker, aren’t you? Why don’t you get mad for once? Yell at me! Hit me!” she jumped out of bed and bumped up against him.
She pushed him again and waited for a reaction.
“What’s gotten into you?”
She scared herself. Since Jordan, she’d had a short fuse, but to this extent, not so much. She was wrong, yeah, but wouldn’t apologize, not now, maybe tomorrow. What she needed was a shower. A long, hot, shower. So, she left him in on the bed, in his confusion, and locked herself in the bathroom.
The water felt nice on her back, the temperature just hot enough to massage the tension in her shoulders, she could fall asleep standing up this way. All track of time vanished as she stood there, rocking her body side to side, eyes closed, humming some made up tune. Maybe once she finished, she’d wake up her husband and make love. That way, she didn’t have to say sorry. But for now, the shower felt amazing, and the hot water didn’t cool down, consistent temperature, pure bliss. Ugh. I rather live here. Feels so—
The water pressure changed, around her neck mainly, felt like clumps of water instead of tiny sprinkles. And then the water temperature dropped, but just on her neck. Maybe time to get out. Then those cold clumps turned to freezing fingers crawling around her neck, squeezing. “Fuck!” She turned, but slipped and slammed her hip on the surface. Scratched her eye with her fingernail in the process. “Will!” she cried. She pulled the shower curtain to the side, looked around the bathroom…nothing. The hot shower smacked her in the thighs. “Will!” she screamed.
He broke through the door and helped her up.
She didn’t sleep much that night. But when she did, it’d be dreaming of Jordan. She called those nightmares.
The next morning, she didn’t have much of an appetite and was working on coffee cup number three when Ashley joined them at the table. Angela didn’t hate the notepad that much anymore, but that night robe she wore reminded her of Jordan.
The sweet boy picked it out and donated his only dollar to help her get it for his sister’s birthday. Sweet boy. Vile Girl. She couldn’t help those thoughts and constantly felt bad for thinking them. It wasn’t her daughter’s fault. It was an accident. She couldn’t bring herself to tell her though, comfort her. Couldn’t say “Ashley, I love you!” – been six months since she’d said those words.
She looked at her daughter chewing on her bacon and almost cried. She missed Ashley, her voice, their relationship. She had to stay in this house, but she didn’t have to treat her daughter as a stranger anymore.
So beautiful, Ashley. So precious. So—Angela squinted her eyes at a movement behind her daughter’s ears. An old white hand—NO! Two white hands, on either side of her daughter’s head. Crawling over Ashley’s ears to her face. Does she not feel this? Does Will not see? Angela choked on her words, struggled with her thoughts. And then a face, the source of those frightening hands, snuck up above her daughter’s head. It was Ashley, or it looked like her. Pale, bloody, dirty face. Angela’s breath had left her the same time her heart stopped.
She screamed though. That she could do and that she did, so loud and hysterical that she vomited on her escape up the steps to her room.
No sleep. That’s all it is. I need to sleep. I need to rest.
She cried in bed, under the covers like a scared little girl. Then drifted off to dreamland.
Up again, but not yet morning. Will was already in bed, roaring with his snores. And in the doorway, a silhouette stood, a shadow in a red robe. Angela hopped out of bed and chased the thing down the steps, scared, but determined to get some answers. Why me? She had to know. Tears flowed down her face and even dampened her voice. “What are you? What do you want from me? You leave us alone, leave us alone.”
Nothing in the front room, nothing in the dining room. The basement door was open, the light on, no turning back now. Ashley asleep, Will asleep, just her and this ghostly thing.
Down the basement steps she saw the girl in the red robe run from one dark side to the other. The underground water well was ignored as she searched for this creature stalking her. “Where are you? Leave us alone. Leave me alone,” she cried. Then came another whisper.
“You killed me.”
“You killed me.”
I’m going crazy. She was in a dark basement in a foreign place searching for a ghost, a creature, maybe herself, her crazy mind. And then she saw, in the light, the robe. Not red anymore, but white. She ran to the thing and it—wait, Ashley, her daughter turned to her. But it was too late. Angela’s arms were stretched out, and her daughter was screaming, falling, staring her mother in the eyes as her last child fell down a throat of darkness.
Angela immediately fainted.
She woke up in the morning, near the water well. A water well? In a basement… strange. Her first time realizing this. And it was the second to last thing she’d ever realize because her memory hit her like an explosion. I killed Ashley.
The acknowledgement transformed her into a living zombie. Without thought, without feeling, without a reason to live. She dragged herself up the steps and into the kitchen.
“Hey, where were you?” Will asked.
She walked to the knife block and pulled out the biggest blade.
“Made some eggs, got some bacon for Ash… surprised she hasn’t come down yet.”
Everything the man said blew through one ear and out the other. She grabbed one of the chairs from the table, dragged it up the steps with one hand, and the knife with the other. Will yelled after her but the words meant nothing now.
On the second level, she closed her bedroom door, locked it, and went to the bathroom door. That door wouldn’t lock anymore, thanks to Will, so, she propped the dining chair against the knob. Will wouldn’t—couldn’t save her from herself.
Since Jordan passed, Angela kept bottles of Vodka stashed; and she grabbed one from under the sink. She sipped on it while the bathtub filled with water.
Guzzling the alcohol. Waiting for the water. Welcoming the knife. Hoping to see her children soon.