The sun was setting as Frank drove up the familiar gravel road. It was a road he driven countless times but with each new trip he knew it might be his last. The single lane road lead to his childhood house and it had been on the market since his mother’s passing a few months ago. There had been a few interested lookers, but no firm offers. In this tough economy, it was understandable, but that was no reason to let it fall in disrepair. If he wanted to sell it, he knew constant upkeep was a must. That’s why he was there on that night. He received a call from one of his neighbors about teenagers sneaking around his property. The house was set back from the main road, but it wasn’t completely isolated from the occasional trespassers seeking a shortcut. The surrounding trees offered ample shade from the sun and unwanted onlookers; the perfect place for teenagers to drink without the fear of parental reprisal. He hoped it was nothing to be concerned about, but still expected some issues. He grabbed his son Paul and they headed over.
As they approached the house, Frank immediately noticed the broken windows. Just two, but two is more than enough he thought. “Damn drunken kids,” he muttered out loud. “Grab the tools from the back, I’m going to check out the rest of the house,” Frank told Paul. His son gave him an acknowledging nod and hopped out of the truck as Frank walked towards the house. Frank opened the door and turned on his flashlight. Having turned off the electricity, they would have to work by portable work lights. “Drop everything by the windows and set up the lights Paul, I’m going to check the rest of the house.” After a quick walk-through, Frank noted nothing seemed amiss. He headed back to the living room to join Paul who already began prepping for the repair.
Paul just turned 16. When his father told him they needed to head to grand mom’s house, he did so with no hesitation. Unlike most kids his age, he didn’t resent spending time with his father; he enjoyed it. He especially enjoyed helping his dad with odd jobs around the house. As his father grew older he started to do most of the heavy lifting, but that didn’t bother him in the least bit. He was an edger learner and he enjoyed the time they spent together; soaking up everything his father taught him.
Paul did most of the work as Frank sat back and gave guidance. For a skilled handyman as himself, the job was easy enough for Frank. But he knew Paul never did this before, so he turned over the job to his son, guiding him along. They worked diligently on the windows under the glow from the portable lights, taking their time, ensuring the job was done right. The constant humming from the generator outside was only broken by the occasional order given by Frank to his young apprentice. After a short time, and a few declarative “No, I told you to do it like this” instances, the job was finally done. They began to break down their makeshift workshop; Paul quietly admiring his accomplishment, Frank proudly admiring his son. With everything packed up in the truck, Frank grabbed the flashlight for one last walk-through. “Stay in the truck”, Frank ordered Paul, “I’m going to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time.” Frank headed back through the front door, the illumination from his flashlight slowly fading into the darkened house. As always the obedient son, Paul remained in the truck. But as the rebellious teenager, Paul grabbed the spare flashlight and ran into the house to help his father.
Paul made his way to the basement as his father finished up the second floor. He worked his way down the uneven wooden staircase, steadying himself with each step. The musky smell he encountered was heavy, but very familiar from the numerous summers he spent there. He made his way around the perimeter of the basement, looking at each window to make sure his new found skills were not needed. Satisfied there was nothing wrong, he turned and began to head up the staircase. Suddenly he stopped with no provocation. He was wrong. Something was wrong. “No, not wrong…” he corrected himself, “…something…was not right”. Upon this realization, a chill slowly ran down his spine. Over his own increasing heartbeat he could hear the attempted muffled breathing coming from somewhere behind him. Paul stood there, frozen. It was only seconds, but the fear stretched it to a lifetime. Should he scream for help? Should he turn and fight? A million thoughts ran through his head. “PAUL, RUN!!!” He heard his father’s shout cut through his indecision. Without hesitation, he bolted up the stairs towards the basement door. With each terrifying step, he felt something coming closer…
Frank had just finished checking the second floor as he walked towards the kitchen which was next to the basement. As Frank rounded the corner, he stared at the now ajar basement door. He swore to himself it was closed the last time, but easily convinced himself he must have been mistaken. He proceeded to close the door and head to the kitchen. He took purposeful steps, scanning the entire room slowly with his light, from the floor to the ceiling. As his light fell upon the backdoor in the kitchen, he stopped, confused at what he saw. The backdoor was now open. This time, he knew he was not mistaken, that door was definitely not open before. There he stood, processing his surroundings: the kitchen door is open, basement door was open, and his son is sitting by himself unaware outside. Frank spun around and ran towards the basement door with urgent determination. As he raced towards the deadbolt on the basement door, Frank screamed for his son in the truck, “PAUL, RUN!!!” He threw himself at the basement door, bracing himself as he locked the deadbolt. Instantaneously he was met with the frantic pounding on the door from the other side. Frank readied himself for whatever may break through that door. But no matter what happened to him, he knew holding that door closed was the only thing protecting his son….