It was about two weeks ago I moved in. Foreclosures. For someone just moving into town following a job opportunity, it was great; and by that I mean the price. For being a first time buyer, it was fairly painless too. Foreclosures are sold by the bank, after all. Regular sellers are obnoxious and realtors are even worse.
There were a few pieces of furniture left over. The previous owner lost his job apparently, and couldn’t keep paying the mortgage. Poor sap. Well, his loss is my gain. I also didn’t have any furniture so I couldn’t complain, even if they are a little worse for wear. There was some other junk lying around that I had to clean up, but it’s a small price to pay.
I’m still sorting through it. So far all the living space is clear and I was able to move into the house properly. The last bit was down in the basement. It’s probably the biggest mess, and while it was out of the way, I wanted to get it sorted through. I can’t imagine the thought of rats or other things living down there.
At the back of the heap of things that were mostly broken, I found something built into the floor. It seemed like a hatch, and beside it was a small hole dug into the concrete leading downwards. It may have been a drain of some sort, if the cover had come off. Whatever it was, it was caked in dirt and other filth. I shined a light down it, but it just contained darkness for what I could see.
While digging through the heap of trash, I found a paper, dirty and crumpled, but still legible. The shaky handwriting in permanent marker seemed like it could have been written by the previous owner, if he had been doped up at the time. I hoped silently that I had not moved into what once was a meth den. The words I could make out said that I would have to feed something. The house had no signs of animals living there; no hair, no smell, no toys or pet food. Maybe he had a fish. They can’t feed themselves in a little glass container after all. I breathed deeply as my complex web of thoughts brought me to a conclusion that finally put me at ease. I returned to my work.
Not minutes later, while pulling out a broken chair leg from the mess, I sent a porcelain dish flying to the ground, shattering on impact. It was probably cheap anyways. I went to pick it up, when I heard a noise from the hole in the ground. It was something between a whimper and a scream. The hair on my neck stood up. Did they leave their pet below in this cellar? What type of pet makes that noise?
I found an old rusty shovel, complete with splintered handle, to try and open the trap door. I was able to squeeze the blade into a crack along the edge. Against my better judgment, I leveraged it open. The wooden cover flipped up and landed by the now open passageway to below. The smell of something rotten came from below, like old cut grass and bad eggs. If there was something still alive down there, it had been probably making nothing but mess.
Peering in the entrance revealed a ladder that lead down to the bottom. I plugged my nose, and pointed my flashlight down the rungs, taking each step carefully. At the last step, I noticed something shine in the light of the beam. I bent down to pick it up; a plain gold ring, covered in muck. Gross. There was something still in the center of the loop. Examining it closer, it was hard and pale, stuck to the metal by whatever dried out dirt it was sitting in. I popped it out with my pinky and examined it in the palm of my hand.
“Oh my god.” I muttered to myself. It was a phalange; a finger bone. I dropped the bone and the ring with it, and my hand tensed around the flashlight. The ring made a light ping off the hard ground. I shined the light around. There was a loud sound of something breathing out heavily. Another flash of light appeared in the darkness of the corner. Two flashes. Eyes.
I adjusted to the darkness slowly. Whatever it was didn’t move. It snorted. Its form was almost comical. A long neck, four legs, covered in a dense fur. I shined the light in its eyes once again, and took a tenuous step forward. It stomped its feet, and I heard it make a sound like one you would make after brushing your teeth. Ptoo. This was a llama.
I stopped dead in my tracks. I had stepped on something crunchy. Not like a big autumn leaf crunchy, but like a walnut in a nut cracker crunchy. I shined my light down to the floor; it was covered by skeletal hands of various sizes, picked clean. I shined my light back at the llama, who kept staring at me. Rather, my mid section. I quickly moved my non-flashlight hand behind my back, confirming my suspicion. His neck arched around as if to follow where my hand had gone. I got the feeling it was about to move. My foot found its way back to the bottom rung of the ladder, and I pushed myself upwards.
Reaching the top, I shined my light back down. It had not came after me. I doubt llamas can climb ladders, but I wasn’t going to figure out. The door was still sitting on the ground besides the hole, and I was able to put it back into place with much haste. The shock from being opened had dislodged a layer of dust from it, and I could make out a word that had been painted on the wood. “Carl.”
Prompt from reddit r/writingprompts.