“Shelby, I’ll be here when you’re ready, when you’re ready to come home.”
Both Shelby and the crows finished speaking at the same time, leaving the house silent. She didn’t hear the dogs, either outside, or downstairs, and that raised a high level of concern. She walked to the door and placed her ear against the slick wooden surface. Nothing, not a sound from the other side. The area behind the door was small, with the stairs leading down to the left, and a door leading outside to the right. The door Shelby was standing in front of opened by sliding to her left, disappearing into the wall between the kitchen and the stairs. In one fluid motion, she unlatched the lock and slid the door one inch into the wall. The landing was dark, lit only by the sunlight passing the single window in the heavy door to her right. The curtain, designed with an orange and white pattern of various flowers, was old, faded, and unwashed, another victim of neglect.
Shelby slid the remainder of the thin wooden door into it’s hiding place. Completely stunned and bewildered, Shelby said.
“Where are the flipping dogs?”
Shelby looked downstairs, and then at the light switch. The switch was on, but upon looking up towards the ceiling, she discovered that the socket was empty. An overwhelming stench smashed into her brain.
“Oh my…ugh…that’s bad!”
Shelby smelled the dog feces and noticed the tracks at the same time. She calculated the dogs had been in the basement, but somebody had let them out before closing the door.
“Must be the kids… I must have just missed them.”
Straining her ears, Shelby yelled down to the basement for any sign of life.
“Hello… Adam… Dez…Hey…Ninos!”
Nothing, not a sound came back from below.
“Desire… Adam are you downstairs?… Hello hello hello!”
The smell was bad, too bad to ignore. Peaking through the curtain first to make sure the screen was closed, Shelby opened the door to the backyard. Both dogs ran to the door and extended their front paws as high as possible, trying to get a look at whoever was standing behind the heavy protective barrier. The screen door doubled as a security door and had been designed to withstand all kinds of intrusion, including large four-legged pets that weighed over one hundred pounds. An average screen door wouldn’t have lasted a single day, but the heavy black steel door remained almost completely unblemished.
Shelby said, “Nice try…you can’t wheedle me with all that sweet talk.”
Shelby wasn’t fooled, she knew from experience that the playful attitude was an act, and neither dog could be trusted even for one second.
Shelby could see the dog run and nearly every foot of fence in their backyard. Nothing seemed to be out of place or damaged. In the back of her mind, she knew something was wrong, terribly wrong, and completely upside-down. She thought about the other voice whispering in her boyfriend’s ear during their last telephone conversation and cringed.
“Up is down and down is up…I can’t do this anymore…I cant”
Both dogs had returned to what they had been doing, running back and forth along the fence between the yard and the alley. They had worn a path into the thin grass from two years of chasing everything that moved in the alley, including people walking their dogs, bicyclists, and any automobile that dared to drive past the house.
Seeing that Gabe’s dogs had both food, and water, Shelby decided to leave them be, and focus her attention on the downstairs. She wanted a shower badly but sensed that things in the basement might be nasty, too nasty to clean without showing afterward.