Claire hung up the phone. Closing her aching eyes she massaged her temples and sighed heavily. Rain pattered on the foggy window. The screams echoed across the hallways of her grandmother’s old home reverberating in Claire’s skull, penetrating her mind. Groaning to herself Claire stood up and went to the sink for a glass of water. It was cool in the house. Her bare feet were chilled against the tile of the kitchen. Again screams, horrible and painful. Moving to the kitchen cupboard, she pulled out the syringe and filled it for the hundreth time with the morphine. Laboriously she made her way to the hallway and to the door of the basement.
When Claire emerged her tiny frame shook slightly. The phone rang. “Hello.” she answered in the living room. “Hello, Ms. Smith?” a voice replied on the other end.
“Yes, this is she.” Claire’s voice sounded like the dust and cold surrounding her in the creaking house.
“Ms. Smith, we received your message. Unfortunately we don’t usually deal with cases like yours. But we are willing to come out and take a general asesment. Possibly steer you in the right direction.” Claire was silent.
“Ms. Smith? Did you hear me?” the voice said.
“Yes.” she answered.
“So you would like us to come and survey the situation?” the voice asked.
“Yes.” Claire sighed.
“We’ll be there in the morning Ms. Smith. At 8 am sharp.” Claire hung up the phone. The clock on the mantle read 4 pm. There was only silence. An hour passed. Claire still stood by the phone. Rain continued to patter outside, a draft blew a small cloud of dust through the hallway. Another hour passed. Claire stood by the phone. 6 pm, all was silent. 7 pm, screams erupted from the basement. Shrill, and unearthly screams pierced the silence. 10 pm screams, 1 am screams, 4 am screams, 7 am screams. The morphine was gone.
At 8 oclock a sturdy knock sounded at the wooden door. Red rings circled Claire’s eyes, dark shadows pulled her cheeks inward. “Good morning Ms. Smith.” A tall man stood at the door carrying a black case. Behind him was another shorter man also carrying a black case. Both were dressed in faded, gray tweed suits. “May we come in?” the tall man asked politely. Claire nodded and the two men walked into the home.
“You may lead us to the place when you’re ready Ms. Smith.” the shorter man said. Claire led them to the door of the basement. Her bare feet padded softly on the dusty floorboards of her home. She pointed at the door, “Down there.” The men nodded in understanding and went down the stairs. After a few minutes the screams started again. Tears welled up in Claire’s eyes. “Stop,” she whispered, “stop, stop, stop, stop.” She clasped her ears in her hands and sank to the ground. “Stop, please stop.” She muttered under her breath. 30 minutes later, the screaming ended and the men came back up stairs. “Ms. Smith, we’d like to have a word with you in the living room.” Claire led them into the living room and sat down on one of the musty couches. The two men sat on the edge of green sofa.They were ridged and stiff. Both fiddled with their hands. “How long has he been like this?” the shorter man finally said after a few minutes of silence.
Claire shrugged,”4, 5 months maybe. I’ve lost count.”
“And its been this bad the entire time?” the tall man asked. Claire nodded. The short man pulled out a notebook and began jotting notes. “How is it you are able to come by the morphine?”
“It was left here by my grandmother. She had cancer and kept a cupboard full.” Claire twisted her hands in her lap. “But i’ve run out. I have nothing left. Nothing.”
The tall man nodded understandingly. “Ms. Smith, this is a very unusual case. We are very concerned not only for him but for you as well. We cant help noticing this home has fallen into neglect. And no offense but you look a bit ill yourself. Have you considered calling a priest?”
Again Clair shook her head. “We’re not religious.”
“Right, but in these sort of situations sometimes it might be best to try anything possible.” Both men were looking at her intensely. Claire sat there, staring at the clock.
“May we ask what triggered all of this?” the tall man said.
“I don’t know. We got married. We went on a honeymoon. We moved in to take care of grandmother, she died. He got sick, then this started. I put him down there. I didn’t know what else to do. The hospital wouldn’t take him.”
The two men looked at each other and nodded. Then standing up, they pulled a brochure from their pocket. “We want you to read this brochure Ms. Smith. We will be back on wednesday with additional help. It is out of our line of expertise but we want to help. It doesn’t hurt expanding our horizons a little. In the meantime, here’s some extra morphine free of charge till we can come back wednesday. Sound good?” Claire nodded her drooped head as the men turned and left.
Wednesday arrived. The men came back, this time there were three others with them. They knocked on the door. No answer. After several minutes the tall man pushed on the thick wooden door. It opened. A deafening silence hit them. “Hello! Ms. Smith!” the short man called out. The five people stepped cautiously into the dusty home. The floorboards creaked from the added weight. “Ms. Smith.” they called. A sound like running water came from the kitchen. Slowly they inched themselves down the hallway. The short man placed a hand on the kitchen door and cautiously pushed it open. “Ms. Smith?” he said. A handsome man with dark thick hair stood at the sink pouring himself a glass of water. He did not turn around. “Where is Ms. Smith?” the tall man asked, his voice shook slightly.
“Claire, is not here.” the strange man said.
“She is expecting us.” one of the other team members said, trying to sound brave.
“Is she?” its was a rhetorical answer, dead and unfealing sounding.
“Why don’t you turn around?” the short man said.
“It is unnecessary. Now would you kindly leave my house. Claire is not here.”
Hesitantly the team of five left the man standing in the kitchen. They were confused and slightly disturbed. Quietly the tall man shut the house door behind him and walked with the rest of the team back to their van. As they drove away the house stood, large and gray against the rainy sky. There was no houses for miles in these parts. Claire must have left.
Back in the house, screams began to echo through the frames shattering the silence. The man walked to the cupboard and pulled out a syringe. He filled it with the morphine, and walked to the basement door.