The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Lock the Cellar Door
by Sonora Taylor
“Hurry Sandi! Get downstairs!”
Sandi rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and in the resulting blur, she saw her mother standing panicked in the doorway. “What is it, Mama?” she asked.
“Get downstairs, honey. It’s a big one this time. I can hear the wind.” Her mother ran into Sandi’s room and pulled at her arm. “Come on, move!”
“I’m coming!” But Sandi had already been yanked from the bed. She ran behind her mother, through the hall and towards the front door. They had to cross the yard to get to the storm cellar – a design that Sandi didn’t quite understand, but one she didn’t question.
“It’s coming,” her mother said as she opened the door. Sandi followed behind, then skidded to a stop behind her mother, who stood and stared at the field beyond their driveway.
“It’s here,” her mother whispered. “It’s coming down the street. My God – these twisters just won’t quit.”
Sandi looked out over the fields. It was a sunny day. The trees were rooted, and the dust in the road lay still and untouched.
Sandi knew there wasn’t a tornado, just like there hadn’t been in all the times her mother came to her in a panic and told her to get in the cellar. It was an old cellar with an old lock, one that broke off ten tornado scares ago from overuse. Now Sandi knew to keep a wedge between the door and the ground until her mother calmed enough to go back upstairs. She usually stayed calm for a week or so. Her mother hadn’t panicked in three weeks since the last one, and Sandi had dared to hope that she was getting better.
Sandi should’ve known better than to hope. “Come on!” her mother said, pulling Sandi with a jerk. “We have to go!” Her mother darted towards the cellar. Sandi followed behind, walking carefully down the stairs into the old, musty room where she and her mother would wait out her mother’s delusions.
“Hurry, honey.” Her mother hurried her inside, then looked up at the door. She froze. “Light,” she whispered.
Sandi turned, and saw her mother stare at the tiny sliver of light that the wedge allowed in through the door.
“No light can get in here,” her mother said as she ran back up the steps. “The wind’ll creep in and open the door!”
Panic seized Sandi’s heart. “Mama, don’t!” she cried as she ran towards the stairs.
“We have to lock the cellar door! The tornado’s coming!”
“There’s no -”
The thwack of the door cut Sandi off. Darkness snuffed out her mother from view, but Sandi could still detect her triumph.
“There! Now nothing can get in,” her mother said.
Sandi leaned against the wall. Tears stung her eyes, and she did her best to take slow, shallow breaths. Hyperventilation would only speed up her suffocation – that is, if hunger or thirst didn’t get her first.
“Don’t be afraid, honey,” her mother said. Her mother’s hand reached through the dark and cupped her elbow. “You’re safe now.”
Fiction © Copyright Sonora Taylor
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Sonora Taylor:
Cara Vineyard lives a quiet life in rural North Carolina. She works for an emerging brewery, drives her truck late at night, and lives with her mother on a former pumpkin farm. Her mother is proud of her and keeps a wall displaying all of Cara’s accomplishments.
Cara isn’t so much proud as she is bored. She’s revitalized when she meets Jackson Price, a pharmacist in Raleigh. Every day they spend together, she falls for him a little more — which in turn makes her life more complicated. When Cara goes on her late-night drives, she often picks up men. Those men tend to die. And when Cara comes back to the farm, she brings a memento for her mother to add to her wall of accomplishments.
Cara’s mother loves her no matter what. But she doesn’t know if Jackson will feel the same — and she doesn’t want to find out.