by DJ Tyrer
She always sought sanctuary below the house, in the cellar. There was an area which could only be reached through a low gap in the wall which she didn’t think anyone else knew about and which they’d find difficult to squeeze through if they did; it was where a pit slowly filled with water in order to keep the rest of the cellar dry. Here she felt safe, alone in the cool darkness, her father’s rage muffled by distance. Down here she could almost imagine she was safe.
“I wish I could stay down here forever,” she sighed to herself.
“Then, stay,” came a voice from the direction of the pit. It was a soft, whispery voice like the sound of water flowing through a pipe.
She knew she was alone. She had to be. There couldn’t have been anyone there to speak. She must have imagined it. Maybe it had just been water in a pipe or the sound of a breeze through some unseen gap or even the furtive gnawing of a rat.
“Stay with me and you will be safe,” the voice whispered. As soft as they were, the words were too distinct to be her imagination, she was certain.
“Who are you?” she asked, suddenly nervous. Her sanctuary no longer seemed quite so safe.
“I have always been here,” the whisper replied. “Long did I sleep until your sobs awakened me.”
“But, who are you?” She found the darkness threatening now and the cool air had become cold, goosepimpling her skin.
“I have no name that I remember, none that I can recall after so many ages alone and unloved, hidden in darkness. Once I was honoured and worshipped, the spirit of this place. But, then, strangers came from a distant land and turned the people away from me, cast down my shrine and statue, and buried it.”
“You’re beneath the ground?”
“Yes. Down in the damp earth. Please, dig me up and we can be together forever, just you and me.”
“I have to go…” She just didn’t know what to think.
“Don’t leave! Your father is still up there, searching for you. Stay down here where you are safe.”
“Dig me up, so we can be together.”
Why not? It couldn’t harm her, could it? It was just a statue, after all.
She went over to the pit and began to feel around.
“Here?” she asked.
“No. Over here.”
“Yes. Dig here.”
She began to scoop away the earthen floor of the cellar. Here, beside the pit, the soil was loose and muddy, not hardpacked as it was elsewhere, so it wasn’t too difficult to pull handfuls of it up and toss it away, eventually uncovering something small and hard with engraved features that she could feel beneath her fingers.
“Is this you?”
“Yes. My statue, at least. My soul.”
“Oh.” She scraped it clean of mud and cradled it in her arms.
“Yes, we shall be here together forever. You shall never leave me alone again.”
“But, I don’t want to never see the sun again…”
“You need nothing else; you have me.”
She sat there in the darkness, no longer alone but more scared than she had ever been before. The cellar was no longer her sanctuary, but her prison and her tomb…
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DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines in the UK, USA and elsewhere, including Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), State of Horror: Illinois (Charon Coin Press), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), Tales of the Black Arts (Hazardous Press), Ill-considered Expeditions (April Moon Books), and Sorcery & Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen (Hieroglyphics Press), and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor). DJ Tyrer’s website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/
3 thoughts on “Sanctuary Below”
The well-told story provides the planned frisson. You might want to consider dropping the last two sentences, and letting the reader’s imagination to its work. AGB
Very nice. I too think it might be even more effective without the last line. Enjoyed it much, though.
Couldn’t she pound on the ceiling and yell for help? Just a practical thought. It’s a good story. I agree that the last two lines should be cut.