Postage Due, Pandora - Part 3
Katie sat down hard as the walls spun around her. Everything was still, and she could hear the whispery scratch as the letter hit the floor and spilled out a handful of twenties. Her heart felt like a small hard stone throbbing painfully back and forth on overtaxed rubber bands. She was too shocked to cry. Her entire world had changed for the worse in the last half hour, and she found she simply didn’t have a response. The door creaked open now, revealing empty halls. There were light spots on the paint where pictures had hung. Even the carpet was gone. She didn’t need to leave the room to know that the rest of the house was just as empty.
Hadn’t she just been speaking to her mother? Not twenty minutes ago, she’d left her mother singing and dancing in the kitchen. You were preoccupied, she thought, you were dealing with imaginary eyes, and fake monsters. The voice of her thoughts sounded distinctly petulant. The Cure could’ve played a special one-time show in your kitchen just now and you wouldn’t have noticed because you were too busy having your little panic attack over what? A scary marble? You’re pathetic.
Hearing her own thoughts attacking her, was enough to start the tears flowing. She lowered her head and let the sobs come. She cried because she was scared. She cried because she wanted her mother. She cried for her broken life.
Spasms wracked her body, and she could feel the sting of her makeup running and snot dripping off her chin. After what seemed ages, the awful hitching in her chest slowed, and she wiped her face on her T-Shirt, leaving a gummy whitish smear behind. She looked at the money lying on the floor and tried to think of what to do next.
The rolling sound came back. It was amplified now, and had a metallic echo. Katie’s eyes went to the heating duct. It had found a way out of the bathroom after all. The cover was still in place, just next to the door. But would it hold?
There was a heavy sounding click, and the lights went out. She could barely see now by the dusky light coming through her rain-streaked bedroom window. All too soon the bruised purple would fade to twilight blue, and she’d be practically blind. And trapped in an empty house with the eye, she thought, don’t forget that. She moved backward, keeping her focus on where she thought she remembered the duct to be.
The rolling came again. The eye was ricocheting off the walls of the ductwork, like a marble in her old mousetrap game. It sounded like it was right behind the bedroom grate now.
Katie finally understood. This wasn’t happening. This was some kind of hallucination. She must have hit her head when she tripped up the stairs. For all she knew, she was still lying there, at the top of the stairs with a possible concussion.
It was the only thing that made sense. There was no other way so many things could be happening just to her, and so close together. No way at all.
There was a squeal of metal, then … more rolling. Rolling. Stop. She looked down, and there was the eye.
She laughed. “You’re not real. Get lost.”
The eye spun around once and fixed its glare on her again. Faintly, she could hear the muffled thumping footsteps making their way down the hallway again.
Sudden red rage gripped Katie, and she grabbed the eye – meaning to throw it as she had before. This time though, her arm convulsed, as energy coursed into her from the eye. She was frozen in place, staring into its dead silver iris. She heard the mutant-thing in the hall bellow. It was a choked, watery sound, like it was screaming through a mouthful of meat. She was certain then, that this eye belonged to that beast.
Katie was afraid. She felt terror pumping into her like liquid. It hurt to breathe, her heart hurt to pump. Her pants turned dark as with a noiseless rush her bladder emptied its contents.
“Why are you doing this to me?” She screamed in her head, but all that came out of her mouth was a tortured squeak. Somehow though, the eye heard her, and increased the flow of energy.
As suddenly as it had begun, the awful pulsing stopped, and Katie collapsed onto her knees, and the eye rolled out of her hands and across the floor. She took several deep breaths, watching the eye now, wary of further harm.
The thumping steps started again. Her mind clawed for purchase. Because asking “why” had worked out so badly, she found herself replaying the list she’d first heard in Mr. Allen’s Grade 11 English class. “Everything you want to know about the world kids, you can find out with one of these six questions – ‘Who, what, where, when, why and how.’ If you run out of things to say, ask one of these questions.” Mr. Allen had been a total jackass that year, passing her with a lowly sixty-one, but that little nugget of wisdom had stayed with her.
So – the questions -“why” was out. Maybe she could get a grip on things if she could just stop for a second and for chrissakes think!
Thump. She felt her anger return, and threaten to cloud her judgment again. No. Just ignore it for a second and think. Her brain looped the loop and the sequence started again.
Who? Me, just me.
Where? My house, but it’s not really my house anymore, everything’s gone freaky.
What? No way, too big, too weird. I’ll go even crazier.
The eye spun around then, and fixed her with the dead silver of its gaze again. It hopped up about an inch and clacked against the wood floor as it came back down.
When. There was something there. When did all this madness start? Something in her mind clicked as loud as the eye had. When she’d opened the box. The box.
There is nothing in the box.