Purple's Platitudes

nothing but words …

Billie & Brindle Chapter 1

Billie & Brindle Chapter 1

 “So, do you want to see? I dare you to come down with me?”

             Billie hesitated, fidgeting awkwardly, trying to think fast and make up his mind. He didn’t want Stephanie to think he was afraid, but the truth was, he was.

 “Well…?” she asked impatiently, folding her arms across her chest and tapping her foot and giving him one of those “truth or dare” looks she was so good at delivering.

 “Okay,” Billie managed to say, although he was certain she could detect his fear, just like Bernie, Mr. Fenderson’s Saint Bernard, whenever he tried to hurry past him on his way home.

             Stephanie smiled. Without even saying a word, she turned and descended the three steps to the cellar door. It was taller than either of them, with black cast iron hinges and a blacker push-button handle. Billie noticed that much of the door itself was coated with a thick green and brown moss, but nothing grew around the door or on the stone steps leading down. Billie was already dreading his decision.

 “So, what’s under your house that’s so exciting?” Billie asked, trying to sound as uninterested as possible.

             Stephanie stopped and smiled mischievously back at him. “You’ll see!”

             She reached for the handle with both hands and squeezed. A loud click sounded and Billie gasped, trying to cover it up with a weak cough. Stephanie leaned against the heavy wooden door and began to push. The scraping of wood over stone and dirt seemed much louder than Billie expected. The effect of this was not lost on his face, but it was too late to turn back now. Stephanie would never let him live it down if he didn’t go in now.

            Stephanie managed to only push the door open a little ways. Billie secretly hoped that the opening wasn’t large enough for them to squeeze through, but Stephanie easily wiggled through. Billie paused, just long enough to get reprimanded by her taunts from inside before he took a deep breath, crushed himself against the mossy door,  and forced his way through.

            Frightened by the total darkness, he reached with hands he couldn’t see but found nothing within his reach. It was cooler in there and strange scents overwhelmed his nostrils. The smell of dirt and mud and worms and things he couldn’t even imagine. Billie shivered.

            He was just about to ask Stephanie where she was, when he felt a light tickle on his arm. Quickly drawing both arms to his sides, he barely stifled a squeaky protest, as he heard a girlish laugh just ahead of him and to his right. Suddenly Stephanie flicked on her flashlight, which illuminated her face with an eerie reddish glow.

 “Very funny, Steph” Billie mumbled.

“I thought so,” she replied laughing, “made you jump didn’t it?”

             Billie tried to appear irritated, but he was inwardly thinking he shouldn’t be such a scaredy-cat. If Stephanie wasn’t afraid to explore down here under her house, why should he be frightened? After all, he tried to tell himself, she’s a girl!

 “So, we’re here,” Billie exclaimed, “what’s so amazing that I just had to see it?”

             Stephanie’s face grew serious and pointing with her flashlight, she directed his attention back towards the darkest, farthest corner. Billie strained to see what was back there, but the flashlight beam barely reached more than a few feet in front of them.

 “What?” Billie asked, perhaps just a little bit more impatiently than he meant. “I don’t see anything back there.”

 “Come on, I’ll show you, if you’re sure you want to really see?”

             She let the flashlight play across the floor just ahead and Billie noticed two wooden planks formed a makeshift walkway through a wet, muddy mess on either side. Stephanie warned him to be careful and stay on the path, but, unfortunately, she forgot to mention the low ceiling beams, which Billie painfully discovered all on his own. Neither of them could avoid the dense spider webs that crisscrossed the cellar and Billie found some small satisfaction in the fact that these seemed to bother Stephanie immensely.

            Billie followed Stephanie closely, too closely in fact, because when she stopped he clumsily bumped into her. Billie noticed one tiny window but it was too high and too coated with mud and gunk to allow anything more than a sliver of light through. His eyes had begun to adjust to the darkness and Billie could see a small trunk nestled in the corner against the wall just ahead of them. It looked like one of those treasure chests he’d seen in pirate movies, complete with a dirty brass padlock too.

 “Is that what this is all about?” Billie asked incredulously. “Doesn’t look like much to me.”

 “Sshh!” Stephanie commanded.

             Billie jabbered on ignoring her completely. “Here I thought there was going to be something really cool to see, some big secret, but …”

 “I said be quiet Billie!” and Stephanie clicked off the flashlight.

             The sudden darkness and the urgency in her voice made Billie uneasy. He whispered “Why?” only to be shushed again.

            For what seemed like forever they stood there. Neither of them spoke. Billie wondered what Stephanie was waiting for or listening to in the darkness. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, willing himself to keep breathing normally, well, as normally as he could under the circumstances. He stared into the dim darkness around them, imagining all sorts of shapes and hearing more than just his breathing. He wished Stephanie would turn the flashlight back on again or say something. Billie glanced back, towards the cellar door, but it seemed so far away.

            Stephanie’s piercing scream caught him off guard and Billie panicked and began to run. He hit something hard and fell backwards, landing in stinking mud and gross stagnant water. He yelled for Stephanie, but she didn’t answer. He tried again, nothing.

 “Okay, Steph, this isn’t funny anymore,” he practically bawled. “Where are you? Turn the flashlight back on!”

 Still no response.

 “Steph?” It was a question, with more than just a little pleading in his voice.

Billie held his breath and tried to listen, but the blood pounding in his ears only sounded louder. He heard nothing. Maybe something had happened to Stephanie, maybe she was hurt, maybe even unconscious? Maybe that’s why she wasn’t answering him.

 “Stephanie, please answer me, please!” Billie whimpered, unsure of what to do. He was afraid to move, but afraid not to as well. Maybe he should try to find the way out and go get help, but he had no idea which way was out.

 “Help! Can anybody hear me?” Billie hollered.

             He felt around, trying to find the wooden planks that marked the path back to the cellar door, but to his surprise, he felt something soft, almost prickly, almost like grass? Grasping it in his fingers he tugged and came away with just that, a handful of grass.

“What the … ?” he stammered, “that’s weird. Grass growing down here in all this mud and … “

 “Help! Somebody help us… help!” Billie yelled.

             Suddenly even more afraid, Billie forced himself to crawl forward on his hands and knees, feeling his way through the darkness.

 “Help! Somebody help us… help!” Billie yelled even more loudly again.

             The terror was building inside of him but he knew he had to find the cellar door and get out, especially if something had happened to Stephanie.

So he stood up and carefully scuffled forward, one and two steps at a time. He kept stumbling along, hoping he was heading in the right direction but in the darkness he didn’t know anymore. He wondered why the floor seemed so uneven and different, softer, almost as if he was walking across dirt or mud, sure, he was just off the planks and off the path and …

19 September, 2009 - Posted by | Fiction |

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