“Water,” she whispers harshly, her voice sounding as if someone, invisible to me, is pressing a forearm against her throat, making it hard to breathe.

I run upstairs—two at a time—get a glass from the cupboard and hold it under the faucet.

Mama and Daddy said I was only imagining things. “The end of a dream, is all,” Daddy said. “Like when you dream your alarm is ringing, and it wakes you up.”

But I knew the scratching under the floorboards weren’t tree branches hitting the side of the house. I knew those soft cries—”help, somebody”—wasn’t the wailing wind blowing through the crack in my windowsill.

There is a girl in our basement. She’s been here three months.

She drains the glass in two gulps, holds it out for me to refill it. The dirt caked around her eyes and cheekbones crack and peel as the muscles in her face revive.

“How’d you get in here?” I ask, searching for burrows between the walls and floors where she might have dug her way through, like the rats we set traps for.

She points to the top of the stairs, and I turn to find Daddy standing by the basement door I left ajar.

“You just too curious, boy.” He slams it shut, locks it from the outside, leaving us in darkness.

© 2016 Nortina Simmons

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