Garden of Bones


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3. Chapter Two

The house soared into the air like a foreboding tower.

I was the young maiden to be trapped inside.

My parents, the two-headed dragon that suppressed thoughts of escape.

I hated it as soon as we pulled into the driveway. There was no denying its beauty. But there was something in its newness that gave me the creeps. It had no history. It had simply been sitting here empty for years, waiting for us.

“I hate it.” I said to my brother.

He sighed, exiting the truck. “You always do.” He rolled his neck, swinging his arms around and massaging tired muscles. We’d arrived thirty minutes after the rest of our family, traffic and a stop for gas having shortened the distance between them and us. Piper hurried out of the car, dashing inside in a last-ditch effort to claim her new bedroom. My father stood off to my left, leaning against his black Aston-Martin, iPhone pressed to his ear. My mother remained at the front door, throwing off orders to the poor guys in blue jumpsuits, carting furniture and boxes out of four large moving trucks.

Caleb left me on the cobblestone driveway to head inside, into the dark hole where the front door stood and the sun couldn’t reach. I remained there, fighting the urge to climb back into the truck and drive off.

I pulled my cell out, shooting a text to Ramona. I know I’d sworn never to make another friend again. But that had been with the assumption that I would lose them the next time my family moved. Ramona wasn’t quite so easy to get rid of. We’d never actually met in person. Meeting wasn’t possible unless Ramona finally found a way here from Gloucestershire, England. But we’d been friends for four years now, ever since we’d spoken in an online forum for teens looking to run away from home. Ramona had a lousy dad, and I had a lousy living situation.

She didn’t think much of me at first. I made the mistake of telling her how wealthy my family was. She hated me for it and told me as much. “Rich people,” she’d said, “All that money and you’re still so hard to please.” What she didn’t understand was that money didn’t make people as happy as they hoped. It took her a while but eventually Ramona came to understand that. And when she did, she promised she would always be my friend no matter where I moved next.

Glad you made it. Send me a picture of the giant peach. –Mona

I made a mental note to find the giant peach and get a shot of it. Ramona was always looking up landmarks that existed in the places I moved to. Then it was my job to go see them myself.

Caleb reappeared at the door. “Come check this out.” He said to me, a huge smile on his face. Then he disappeared again.

I put my phone away and grabbed my duffle bag from the ground.

The first thing I noticed when I stepped inside was the chandelier dangling precariously over my head. Which was odd, considering all the other features that should have caught my eye, like the grand piano and the polished marble staircase. But lethal light fixtures were always first on my lists. And it was one of the golden rules of survival: look up.

Two adjacent rooms resided to the left and right, both just as striking and brilliantly furnished as the foyer. 

One of the movers tried to squeeze past me on my right with about four boxes stacked in his arms. I stepped out of his way. When the box on top began to slip forward, I put my hand against the stack to help.

“Maybe you shouldn’t carry so many.” I wasn’t trying to be rude. It only made sense.

He shrugged, or tried to. “Don’t really have that luxury. Your parents want this stuff unpacked and set up by noon.”

I moved out of his way again. “Sorry about that.”

He scurried along, not really listening anymore. A few other jumpsuits hurried in after him. I moved aside once more. Why was I even standing there?

“Sapphira.” Caleb said, poking his head around the corner. “What are you doing? Come on.”

I dropped my duffle bag on the ground, pushing it against the wall so no one tripped over it. Then I hurried after my brother. He was moving down a corridor off to the side of the kitchen. “Where are we going?”

“You’ll see.” He said surreptitiously.

Caleb came to a stop in front of an oak door, and pulled it open. I looked inside and then looked at my brother. “A linen closet.” I noted.

His lips twitched. He stepped inside, reached up and pulled on a string attached to a solitary bulb. Even with the light on, it still looked like a linen closet. I was about to point this out to my brother when I noticed another smaller door in front of us.

“You found this in the ten minutes since we’ve been here?” I questioned.

Caleb continued forward. “Sapphira, you look for safety hazards, like frayed wires and faulty light fixtures.”

“I do not.” I shot back. He just looked at me.

“Did you notice the chandelier in the foyer?” He asked, pulling the second door open.

“More like a pendulum. Someone really needs to check that out.” I said.

He nodded. “Point made. You look for things that could kill us. I look for hidden passageways.” He grabbed a flashlight that had been placed by the stairs. Too convenient for my liking. He clicked it on and pointed the beam inside. A wooden stairway led into the black hole below.

“This just seems like something out of a really bad horror movie.” I said to him.

He smiled. “Those are the best ones.” Then he moved forward. “Come on.”

I tested the first step to make sure it was secure, and Caleb rolled his eyes. We moved down the stairs slowly. None of them creaked, which was good. I might have turned back if they did. When we reached the landing, Caleb swung the flashlight both ways. I looked up but couldn’t see anything. Not good. There was a cement wall to our right. To our left a row of shelves. Straight ahead was a door, this one made of steel and seemingly bolted shut. But Caleb pushed it and it swung forward.

“Also convenient.” I commented as he pushed it open entirely. A tunnel lay ahead. The walls were cement and black pipe ran across the ceiling. There were no lights and no exit in sight.

“I’m going to see what’s down there.” He said to me. “Are you in or out?”

Out. I looked down into the tunnel. Definitely out, Sapphira. My brother smiled. I took a deep breath. “I’m in.”

We ventured on, taking slow cautious steps at first. I gained some confidence when the first 100 feet harbored no murders or poisonous snakes like I’d imagined. We’d walked for at least five minutes when I said, “Maybe this leads back to Maine.”

“And you’d love that wouldn’t you?” He replied.

“I’d love to be out of this tunnel.” I said back to him. I felt something brush my leg and stopped moving. “Caleb.”

“I felt it too.” He said, turning to face me, and pointing the beam down at our feet. I heard the hiss before I saw the black, slim body. It could have been harmless. But I didn’t know that and neither did my brother. So we went with our only option. We ran.

Not in the direction we’d come. No, the snake had gone that way. We were counting on an exit showing up at any moment. People didn’t just dig a mile-long tunnel with no exit.

Right then, Caleb stopped suddenly. He handed me the flashlight and I pointed it forward, my hands shaking.

“What are you doing?” I said frantically. “It’s probably coming to eat us.”

“I’m pretty sure it was an eighth of our size. But if that’s what it wants, then we’re screwed.” He said, his tone grave. He stepped to the side so I could see what lay before us. Cement. “There’s no exit.”

“Mother f—” I was ten seconds from getting on the dirt floor and preparing my body for consumption. But then I remembered. First things first: Look up.

The flash light illuminated a steel hatch right above our heads. Caleb looked up too, exhaling in relief. He reached up, grabbing hold of the wheel. It was jammed at first but he threw all of his strength into it, finally getting it to turn.

He pushed it upward, and the hatch swung back, hitting the surrounding area above ground with a thud. Sunlight spilled in and I swallowed huge breaths of summer air. Caleb helped me up first. I climbed out, my fingers sinking into soft grass and soil. I helped Caleb out before finally taking note of where we were.

All around us were trees. But through the clearing and far off was the house. We were past the iron gates that closed off our driveway. Essentially, we were no longer on my family’s property.

“It’s an escape route.” I said to my brother. “Why would someone build a house with an escape route?”

“Must have been a really cautious family.” He said. Which was ironic because caution was quintessential to my family’s existence, along with seclusion and secrecy. We were practically Borrowers with the way we managed to remain unseen.

I tried not to think about it as Caleb shut the hatch, turning the wheel on the outside to lock it in place. But while we walked back to the house, I couldn’t help but recount my first thought as we’d pulled up the cobblestone driveway.

Something set this house apart from every other one we’d lived in. Hard as I tried, there was no shaking the feeling that, all along, it'd been waiting for us.

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