Their murders permanently stained Andie’s memory like the blood on her white linen slacks. A scream as fresh as the day her parents died snapped Andie back into the present and the cold basement. The dark concrete floor was still empty and still silent. There’s no one here! Andie took another step down the stairs and something rustled beneath her. “Hello” Her calm voice echoed in the cavernous dark like replies from the ghosts that haunted there. Her pulse thumped at the base of her neck. She was not alone this time. “Is someone down here?” A breath whispered on the air. The faintest of sound uttered the word ‘Xandra’ Andie’s breath turn into ice. It froze at the back of her throat. No air coming in and no air going out. Her eyes darted in the many directions as the name bounced around the room. Her heart pounded as she searched for whoever had called her name. But there was no one there. Maybe I Imagined it. Andie thought. But still, she scanned for any signs of movement, a shadow, a trickle of water leaking, even blood. But that wasn’t possible. There was no one left to kill. A draft blew through the basement. Behind her the door slammed shut. The fear bolted through Andie like lightning. She spun on her heel and ran back up the stairs. “Andie?” A distressed voice called to her “Andie help me.” Her hand fell away from the door. The voice was familiar. Andie spun around. The voice was too familiar. “Cassia?” Her voice shivered against the silence.“Cassia!” She ran down the steps and into the centre of the empty room, spun a full three hundred and sixty degrees as her eyes crossed the shadows, and sought out the dark spots. There is no one here! “Cassia?” Andie called again as she shook her head. The voice couldn’t be her cousin’s. It just couldn’t be! But hadn’t the basement had always been Cassia’s favourite place to hide? “Cassia” The innocent voice of an eight year old called to Andie through her memory “Cassia, are you down here?” They weren’t allowed in the basement and they’d get into a lot of trouble if they got caught. It was the reason her cousin always hid down here. She would never be found in the basement. No one ever looked for her in here. Andie looked around the hallway and listened for signs of her parents before she slipped quietly through the door. Safe in the knowledge she hadn’t been caught Andie joyfully run down the stairs and into the centre of the cold and dark room. She skipped in and out of the new boxes that were full of old and interesting things from the attic until she spotted exactly what she was looking; Cassia’s waist length blond hair fanned across the top of a stack of boxes she had climbed behind. “One two three Cassia I’ve found you” Andie called dashing up the stairs towards the door. “Xandra Montgomery!” The booming sound of her father’s voice bounced off the stone walls “What are you doing down here?” Andie froze. She gripped the railing as she almost clattered into her father’s legs in the doorway. “I’m sorry Father I… I -” “Xandra you are not to come into this basement.” He wasn’t angry. But he was going to reprimand her anyway. He had that tone in his voice that said she was grounded indefinitely “How many times do you have to be told this?!” “I… I was playing.” Andie tried to explain. “Not down here young lady” He scolded “Now go to your room!” Andie scurried up the remaining steps and passed his legs before the grounding could come. She flew through the house not stopping until she was safe inside her bedroom. Moments later Cassia walked into the room. “You’re the best Andie.” She smiled and sat on the bed beside her. “You could have gotten me in loads a trouble.” Cassia wrapped her arms around Andie and held her tight. “I’m scared of Uncle Max when he shouts.” She sighed “He reminds of the man that killed…” Her voice trembled for a second “…my Mum and Dad.” The memory faded into the dark, empty basement. Her eyes scanned over the room. She could have sworn she heard Cassia’s voice. It wasn’t. Andie turned around on the concrete floor. She felt slightly more comfortable in the room now she was down there. It couldn’t have been Cassia. She was dead. Something moved. The toes of a large trainer clad foot slipped out from behind a box. Andie’s Heart began to race again. The fear turned in her stomach. She moved backwards. She couldn’t turn around. Her eyes were glued to the shoe. Her footsteps echoed in the room. She tried to tread more carefully but her feet scraped louder.
What is with these shoes? Andie lifted herself up onto her tip toes. Used her years of ballet training to step soundlessly backwards. “Hello Andie” A deep male voice echoed around the room. Andie’s feet fell heavily to the ground as the fear turned her every muscle to ice. Fear that tasted like blood. Her blood. Her life. This was it. “W-wh-who are you?” “You know who I am and you know why I’m here.” Yes, of course she did. This was the man who’d been snapping away at the branches of her family tree for thirteen years. Each broken branch was a new grave in her family’s private cemetery until only one twig stood defensively on its own before him; her.