Today's Reading

I should go back, she thought. It was cold, and her skin felt itchy and shivery. She could feel something down here with her, something bad. She turned in place, but all she saw were smudged walls, and bottles, and that weird doll.

Two eyes blinked open.

"Kitty," Maribeth whispered, moving toward the eyes. They were shiny and yellow. She lowered herself to her knees and leaned forward.

The yellow eyes blinked.

"Come here," she murmured, reaching out her arm—

A boy's voice drifted down the stairs. "Hey? Is someone down there?"

Maribeth's heart sputtered. She jerked her hand away and spun around so fast she twisted her ankle. Pain shot up her leg.

The yellow eyes shifted back into the shadows.

"Who's there?" Maribeth shouted, tears tickling her eyes. Her ankle hurt a lot, but the fear was worse. It felt like someone had grabbed hold of her lungs and squeezed. She pressed herself all the way back against the cold cellar wall.

The stairs creaked. It sounded like someone was walking very slowly down the steps, but Maribeth didn't see anyone there. A moment later, the scent of cologne wafted through the cellar. Her nose itched. It smelled like the stuff her dad wore on special occasions, like when he took her mom out on a date.

"What's your name?" asked the voice. It was a nice voice. It reminded Maribeth of her older brothers.

"Maribeth Ruiz," she said, numb. She tried to sound more confident than she felt. Where was the voice coming from? For some reason, she looked over at the doll sitting on the trunk. The black eyeholes stared back at her, but the doll's mouth stayed still.

"Cool name," said the voice.

Fingers curled around Maribeth's wrist. They were cold and damp, like raw chicken just out of the fridge. Maribeth looked down at the fingers, but there wasn't anything there. She blinked and there was still nothing there.

But she could feel them. They pinched her wrist and squeezed the blood from her hand.

Maribeth shrieked and took a clumsy step backward. Her hurt ankle slid out from beneath her and she hit the floor—hard—the packed earth chilling the skin right through her tights.

The fingers still held her arm. They twisted it back at an awkward angle so that bright flares of pain pierced Maribeth's shoulder. She tried to scream, but the sound didn't make it past her throat. Her lips trembled. The fingers squeezed tighter.

The cologne scent became sweet and stronger. It clogged Maribeth's throat, making it harder for her to scream.

"You'll pay for what she did," the voice crooned into her ear.

Maribeth opened and closed her mouth, lips flopping like a dead fish. A ragged, desperate sound finally clawed up her throat, but the walls were thick, and she knew no one would hear it.

Outside, the wind blew the cellar door shut.

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