The Day I Left

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Clouds filled the sky in a blanket of filthy gray. The rain glinted and twisted into a rainbow of dreams. I closed my eyes and let the drops warm my pale face. My backpack was stuffed to the brim with memories of my home. Maddy draped over me in a sobbing embrace. A tear smears her makeup and falls into my black ponytail. 

“Don’t leave me here! Not alone!” Maddy looks up at me, crushing my heart. 

“Maddy, I can’t stay here without my parents. I have to go with them.” I hug her one last time and pull away, not looking back.  

I opened the car door and swung my backpack across the seat. I stood, my hand on the door, motionless. I scrunched my face, a tear rolling down my cheek, and landing on my sneakers, the ones Maddy gave me. I wipe my face on my sleeve and sit, swinging the door shut behind me. Mom and dad looked back at me from the front, their eyes wet. 

“You ready Cassidy?” Dad grips the steering wheel and combs his fingers through his dark hair. 

I look up at him, piercing his eyes with mine. I nod and let the tears fall. 

Hours pass and all I see are hills, jumping out of the earth, trying to escape it. The river runs dry, the sun drinking the last drop. Tumbleweeds dance among the cacti, standing strong upon the sand. I thought Arizona was where Arizona Tea came from, not heat stroke and dehydration. 

“Fifteen minutes.” Mom yawns and pulls up her sleep mask. 

I nodded and looked up. The first signs of civilization weren’t promising. A general store with broken windows sits on a corner, a gas pump caked with dirt stands unused of the side of the road.  

We turned up a gravel road, the dust flailing wildly behind us. It twisted and turned for a century, when we finally reached a farmhouse and pulled into the yard. 

I stepped out into the blazing heat that beat down on my back. Only a few seconds in what seems like deadly heat, sweat was already rolling down my face.  

“Hey kiddo, why don’t you stretch your legs and go explore while we unload the car,” Dad said. 

I nodded mutely and started towards the barn. I had seen the house in pictures many times before and had no desire to see my prison in person. No, I was curious to see the pile of rotting wood they called a barn. 

The creaky old structure was bent with age. Ivy was creeping up the sides, looking like green hair growing in reverse. It was painted like a classic barn with red paint and a white trim around the edge, but it had been so long since anyone had payed it any attention, the red had faded to a reddish brown. The white was just visible under a layer of grit. There was a second floor with two small windows covered in dirt. The corner had been blown out of one of them, and I could see rotting wood and mouse droppings everywhere. One of the doors to the barn was gone, and it looked like a single sneeze would spell death for the thing. The windows were eyes, the ivy was hair, the door made a crooked grin. This aged barn looked like a face. It was watching me.  

I shivered and turned around to see my dad walking up to me.  

“You ok? You’ve been standing here for the past five minutes,” he says.  

“I’m fine, just taking in the view.” 

“Sure is something, isn’t it?” Dad says.  

“Yeah,” I choke out. 

“Well, you gonna go inside or what?” 

I waved him off and walked through the door. The barn was just as broken on the inside as the outside, with rotting wood everywhere, dead bugs all over the floor, mouse poop covering ever inch. I’m about to turn around and leave when a flash of yellow catches my eye. It’s tucked way in the corner. I picked my way through wood and poop to get there.  

The yellow was a hay bale. It must have been fake, because all the hay that must have been here before was long gone. I shoved it aside to see an odd trapdoor beneath the fake hay bale.  

I opened the trapdoor to see another long rope ladder descending into darkness.  

“Hey guys, was there anything about a trapdoor in the barn that was mentioned?” 

No response.  

I was really wondering when the ladder stopped, so I stepped on the first rung and started into the darkness. My mistake.  

A few steps down and I still couldn’t see the bottom. I reached for the rung above my hand. Then I heard it. The sound that would chase me in my dreams and haunt my nightmares. The sound of a rope ladder breaking. One side snaps and I slam against the side of the narrow passage. I watch in horror as the other rope starts to unravel. Almost in slo-mo, the last thread breaks. I barely have time to rip a scream from my throat before I plummeted into the endless dark. Then it all went black.