Abbey realized she had been holding her breath as she stared out of the window, her muscles tensed reflexively as she gasped for air. She squinted at the curtains; they were pushed back as far as they could go along the length of the black metal curtain rod. The tail on the left side was flipped up hanging over the arm of the chair; the other side twisted exposing the lining. The window sat undisturbed, the glass still intact, the sash still tight against the frame. How could someone have simply passed through glass, it could be the story line for an X-Files episode or Stephen King novel but this was real. Even as Abbey tried rationalizing this there was no way around the evidence, at least the stuff that was still in the room. She looked all about her as if to confirm what she had been thinking, and yet, if someone was telling her the story she would be the first one waiting for the punch line. A trace of a smile passed over her lips just as a wave of nausea pushed in, a simple reminder that this was no joke. She fought it off, being sick anytime felt like a sign of weakness and at the moment if felt like an excuse.
A headache followed close behind and she closed her eyes to trying to block it. Raising her hand up to her face she winced as her fingers brushed across a large bump forming above her right temple. The dull ache reminded her of when she was twelve; her brother had been fooling around in the house with a tennis racket, pretending he was McEnroe performing one of his signature temper tantrums. Abbey caught the edge of the racket right between the eyes and she tumbled backwards into the hallway. Jorge of course had rushed to her side but she remembers that when she looked up it was not Jorge that was kneeling beside her, I was her Grandmother. Her face, she was so young and beautiful – she said everything was going to be all right. Abbey broke into tears.
Another wave of nausea hit hard and fast, there was no fighting this one off, nothing to do but hang on and go for the ride. She rolled to one side catching a glimpse of her right foot that had been neatly folded under her after falling into the hole in the floor. She cried out as a sharp pain telegraphed up her leg. Shaking and crying she wrapped her arms around her bare legs; pulling them together panting loudly and growling underneath each breath hoping that it might somehow relieve the pain when she heard a faint knock at the door. Abbey held her breath and listened but it was quiet, panic washed over her not sure of what she may have heard.
A second knock echoed inside the room and she bit her lip to keep from crying out. She inhaled deeply, on the verge of yelling when she heard the unmistakable sound of someone walking across the floor and down the steps to the front door. A chill ran up her spine, the hairs lifting on her neck and arms. Then she heard the unmistakable sound of the deadbolt as it clicked and turned inside the cylinder.
“Oh, hello, I didn’t think anyone was home, I hope I’m not troubling you?”
“No, no, not at all. How can I help you?”
“What the hell? Holy shit, who is in my house?”
There was a short conversation too quiet for Abbey to make out but for more than a few words. She thought she heard the name Strauss, then a hearty “Merry Christmas” just before the sound of the door closing.
Abbey’s breathing increased and her mouth went dry. “What the fuck?” she whispered to herself. Whoever was out there was coming up the stairs, Hard souled shoes clicked on the tiled staircase, pausing briefly as they reached the top and started getting closer. Her pulse rocketed and she could hear the pounding in her ears. The door! She had to block it somehow; block out the searing pain as she leaned over and dragged herself across the floor. It was getting closer. Click, click, click, Abbey tried to picture the length of the hall, she’d walked it a million times. How come she couldn’t think of how many steps it took. Six, seven, maybe 8 tops and whoever it was would be at the door. Abbey pulled herself up on her hands and lunged at a chair close to the door managing to slide the back just under the handle as it began to push down. She began to breathe again and there was a rapid jiggling on the handle and the door began to shake.
“Who are you, what do you want!” Abbey screamed. The rattling stopped.
“Very clever Abbey, I hope you didn’t think that was someone coming to stop us.”
“Stop you from what? And what do you mean us?
“Us? Why you and me Abbey!”
Abbey sat leaning against the door, her mind whirling. “There is no you and me, I don’t know who you are.”
“Ah but you do, and I know you very well my darling we’ll have plenty of time to chat once things get back to normal.”
“What the hell are you talking about, back to normal, normal left sometime after supper last night? This... I don’t know what this is and I don’t like you being in my house!”
“It’s our house now darling; you might want to keep that in mind. Oh, and you better wash up now, dinner will be ready soon and the guests will be arriving.
Abbey closed her eyes and started shouting, “No, NO, NO! Get out go back to where you came from!”
There was a few seconds of silence before the sound of footsteps clicked and echoed down the hall towards the living room, within seconds a fire orange glow of light flickering under the bottom of the door and Abbey realized that there was a now a fire in the other room. The images from the other night flashed behind her eyes; what she thought was only a dream was something much bigger.
The familiar buzzing of her cell phone announced an incoming call. She was terrified to move from the door but knew she had no choice. Abbey rolled on to her left side and began clawing her way over to the phone reaching it just in time. “Hello?”
Silence, for what seemed like forever then – Hello, Abbey is that you? What’s the matter?”
“Francis, I’m so glad you called, I don’t have time to explain, please…click. “Francis, hello, are you there? Francis!” Abbey knew that the call was lost and was just about to call back when it began to buzz in her hand. The reception was horrible and there was a lot of static. The voice of an overly cheerful operator came on the line, “We’re sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed, please hang up and try your call again, we’re sorry, your call-.” The light flickered and went out. The phone was dead, she began to cry.
After about 5 min the sobbing had subsided, she wiped her eyes and looked down at the floor letters strewn about her when she noticed a familiar name, Albert Brude. She picked up the envelope and flipped it over and saw it was addressed to her. She had just finished closing his estate, how was it possible to have a letter concealed in the floor of her bedroom. She put it to the side and picked up another one that had Ted Jacobs name printed in sharp precise lettering, he was the train engineer in the accident with Albert. She began organizing and stacking the envelopes, most of them were from people she had helped over the past year, all of them with a family member that had died or were dead themselves like Albert. Others she didn’t recognize at all and stacked them in a small pile to the right. She found a large manila envelope covered in doodles of moons and stars that had her name handwritten across the front and below it were three small words. Don’t be afraid. She sliced it open and searched the edge with her fingers for a piece of paper but it was empty. She pulled the ends apart and looked into the sleeve and saw a small business card and reached in and read the name on the card, Mystic Angels -psychic readings by Anna Krauss. Abbey stared at the card and read it over several times before she realized why it sounded so familiar. It wasn’t Strauss she heard the voice at the door say, it was Krauss. It was too much of a coincidence for it not to be. Abbey pulled herself over to her desk and pulled down a pad of paper and a pen and began to write. When she was finished she sealed the letter in an envelope and addressed it to Anna before dropping it into the hole in the floor and covering it up. She waited 5 minutes before removing the section of flooring again and smiled, there was nothing there, just as she thought.