The car screeched to a halt, and Corrine’s luggage spilled across the backseat. Thick green vines obscured the view of the house she sought, just a few yards from the road. With no one behind her, she shifted into reverse, cursed the mess, and found her way into what had been the driveway of the abandoned home.
For a moment, she grasped the steering wheel as she stared through the windshield, her eyes traveled over rotting boards above the front door, to the second floor shutters, and finally came to rest intently on the attic window. There, several small pieces of paper were taped on the glass.
She quickly grabbed her flashlight and cut the engine. Dusk was creeping over the horizon, and a slight fall chill bit through her red sweater. She hurried up the front porch and tried the door.
It was locked.
The two front windows were also immoveable. Through one, she could make out a kitchen with an empty hole where a stove had been and an old green refrigerator. Just as she was about to step back, she noticed a broken window above the sink.
“Looks like my luck has changed,” she mumbled.
Moments later, she hoisted her body up through the small opening and landed in a crouched position on the dirty kitchen floor.
As her eyes adjusted to the surroundings, she watched a cockroach skitter across the tile a few feet away from her. It was enough to send her sprinting to the living room.
There, a beige couch sat directly across from an old, busted box television. A large stain covered the floor near the window.
She turned and placed one foot cautiously on the stairs, then the next, and rushed to the top as the wood shifted beneath her. At the opposite end of the hall, she spotted the reason she came: a curved set of stairs leading up to the attic.
Corrine snuck a glance into open, spacious bedrooms as she passed them. They gave off a grey ambiance, comforting and still. With one last look behind her, she began to climb the attic stairs and noticed a distinct change in temperature. On the first two floors, the house held the chill of autumn. The attic, however, was so warm that she removed her sweater. The damp, musky scent transformed to a honeysuckle fragrance. She slowly pushed open the attic door and was startled to find a man leaning against the window with his back to her. He looked young, around twenty, with a tall muscular build.
“It’s too late to turn back now,” she thought.
Corrine took a step into the room, and her foot kicked an empty bottle across the floor.
She instinctively wielded her flashlight as a weapon at the same moment she saw the bottle poised in his hand.
It flew towards her, and she felt herself falling, then colliding abruptly with the hardwood.
Suddenly, the chill of the house had returned.
She sat up, rubbed her arms, and examined her surroundings. The man had disappeared.
She ambled to her feet and rushed to the window. Switching on her flashlight, she gasped as familiar faces stared back at her.
The first was a pale young woman with blue eyes. Her hair was pulled back in a pony tail, and her smile was brilliant and chilling.
The man by the window was also in the photograph. He held the camera, and was reflected in a mirror behind her.
She reached out, took the photo, and was about to move to the next one when she heard his voice.
“Corrine,” he began. “Forgive me. You see, you have your grandmother’s eyes.”
She spun around to confront him, but the room was empty.
Adrenaline sent her running down the attic stairs and past the bedrooms in the hall. The doors were shut and rattling on their posts.
Downstairs, the stain in the living room was spreading. She was almost out when she remembered her sweater. She paused, and over the smell of blood, she detected another scent.
His voice shouted from the attic.
So she did. Out the front door, down the porch, and to the security of her car. She locked the doors and started the engine. In her headlights she watched shadows struggling through the windows.
Chill bumps danced up her arms, but the photo in her pocket was warm. She took a deep breath, placed the car in reverse, and started for home.