14. Write about a power outage

“Are you sure we should be in here Sarah? What if there’s something we’re not supposed to see?”

“Yes, it’s fine. Besides, if this stuff was so important, it wouldn’t be locked down here in this dusty old basement anyway. Ooh, look at this!” Sarah grabs Yvonne’s wrist and drags her over to a stack of boxes in the far corner of her grandparent’s basement. Sticking out the top box is a Lady Justice statue. “This is so cool!” Sarah squeals, flicking one of the scales so that it clicks against the other.

“Why is she wearing a blindfold?” Yvonne asks, inching closer.

“‘Because justice doesn’t care what you look like or where you’re from!’ That’s what my granpa always says anyway.”

“Well that’s not really true.”

“Well nobody cares if it’s true or not Yvonne! At least this is cool. Don’t be a downer.” Sarah reaches into the box and grabs Lady Justice by her sword-weilding arm.

“You should be careful with that.” Yvonne whispers, taking a step back. “I’m sure your grandfather would not want us playing with something so important.”

“Well it can’t be that important if it’s sitting in a box down here. I just want a closer look that’s all.” Sarah pulls Lady Justice from her hiding place. “Woah, this is heaver than I thought it would be.”

“Be carefu—” Lady Justice slips out of Sarah’s grasp and falls to the floor with a thud and a clang as the scales separate from their old hinges and skip across the hard cement. “I told you not to touch that thing!”

“Shut. Up. Yvonne! Since you like telling me what to do so much, why don’t you tell me how to fix it!” Sarah stomps through the basement, picking up the scattered pieces of Lady Justice.

“You don’t have to be so mean about it Sarah. Don’t get mad at me because you broke your grandfather’s statue!”

Sarah rolls her eyes and reaches for Lady Justice’s body. “Do you see the bottom to this thing? Help me look.”

Yvonne walks over towards the base of the stairs and picks up the circular cap that should have been attached to the Lady’s base. “There’s a piece of paper in here,” she says, pulling the thin slip of paper from the cap.

“Well don’t just stand there. What does it say?”

“It doesn’t say anything. It’s just numbers. Some of the ink is a little blurry, like it had gotten wet at some point. 2…18…9…30. What do you think they are for?”

“My granpa used to have a money safe in his office upstairs when he was a big judge. Before the stroke. Maybe it goes to that. I think it’s still up there. Let’s go see!”

Sarah snatches the paper from Yvonne’s fingers and runs up the basement steps. Before Yvonne can yell ‘wait for me!’ Sarah is through the kitchen and out of ear shot. Yvonne runs after her. When she gets to the big room at the far end of the hall Sarah has opened the cabinet where the safe is hidden and is already turning the dial to open it.

“It won’t open! Stupid, stupid.”

“That’s because those things only need three numbers. There’s four on that paper.”

“Like I said, stupid!” Sarah slams the cabinet door shut causing the walls to rattle and her grandfather’s desk to shake. A small panel on the side of the desk falls open from the commotion.

“What about here?” Yvonne asks. Sarah whips around to see the open panel. This one is digital. “Here, hand it to me. I want to put the numbers in this time.” Sarah hands the slip of paper to Yvonne and she punches in the number. A light at the top of the panel turns green, but nothing else happens. Five seconds go by, still nothing. “Well I guess this one is a dud too,” she sighs.

“Not so fast,” Sarah says, “listen.” Both girls go quiet as they listen to a series of clicks that sound like they are coming from below. Just before Sarah puts her ear to the ground a squeal and a rumble signal a door opening. “Look! Under the desk!” Under the desk, a trap door slides open, revealing a series of wall sconces dimly lighting a winding staircase.

“You going down there?” Yvonne asks. Sarah sticks her head through the trap door for a closer look at what’s below. “Do you see anything?”

“No, I don’t see anything, and yes, I’m going down there.” Sarah heads down the stairs. “You coming with me?” she calls up to Yvonne. Yvonne nods and follows her friend. As soon as her foot leaves the last step at the bottom of the staircase, the trap door above begins to squeal shut. Yvonne turns to run back up the stairs, but Sarah grabs her arm and points to a panel on the wall next to her that resembles the one that was on the side of the desk. Yvonne releases the breath she’d been holding, though the hairs on her arms are still standing at attention. “Let’s go,” Sarah whispers.

“You sure this isn’t just another part of the basement?” Yvonne asks as they walk around boxes stacked high.

“This is definitely not part of the basement. Come look!”

Yvonne rounds another stack of boxes and finds Sarah standing before a long dark hallway. “Maybe we should go back. I’m pretty certain this was not meant for us to find.”

“Aww, you scared?” Sarah teases. “It’s just a hallway. It’s gotta lead somewhere. Outside probably. Maybe my granpa didn’t like walking through the leaves so much and it just leads down to the lake.” Sarah grabs Yvonne’s wrist and pulls her down the hallway behind her. “Let’s see if this is a shortcut! I’d rather spend the rest of the day laying out on the boat anyway.”

At the end of the hallway is another keypad. Sarah enters the numbers on the paper, but the lights above flicker before she can finish. The light on the keypad turns orange instead of green. “Stupid lights! Let me try again.” She enters the numbers again. The light on the key pad turns green and a door in front of them slides open.

Sarah and Yvonne step into the room in front of them. The bright lights a stark difference to the darkness of the hallway. The room has no other doors, no stacks of boxes, no shelves. It is empty except for a small clear container sitting atop a metal pedestal. “I want to go, Sarah. We shouldn’t be in here.”

“Then go Yvonne! Since you want to be a baby about it!”

Yvonne takes a step back out of the room and turns to head down the long hallway. Before she can take another step, all the lights go out and the door to the room slams shut. “Sarah!!” Yvonne turns back and tries to enter the code in the keypad. She can’t see the buttons. Then she hears Sarah. Screaming. “Sarah!!!!!!” She bangs on the door. “Can you hear me Sarah?!?” More screaming. She fumbles for her phone in her back pocket and turns on the built in flashlight. She punches the code into the keypad. “2…18…9…30.” Nothing. “2…18…9…30.” No green light. No orange light. She looks around her. “No lights. No power.”

She runs down the hallway and back into the first room, slamming into the stack of boxes nearest the hallway entrance. Yvonne aims her flashlight so she can make her way back to the winding staircase. She tries the code again at the bottom of the stairs. Nothing. “No lights. No power.” Yvonne reaches the top of the staircase and bangs on the trap door. “Hello! Can anybody hear me? We’re stuck down here! Hello!!” Minutes tick by, it seems like an eternity. She tries to call her mom, but her phone has no signal. She bangs on the door again! “Hello!” she yells, “we’re stuck down here!”

Ten minutes go by. Yvonne runs back and forth between the top of the stairs and the door Sarah is stuck behind, banging on both, not receiving an answer from the other side of either one. Sarah has stopped screaming. Five more minutes. Yvonne is sitting at the top of the stairs, face stained with tears and sweat, when the lights flicker and the trap door begins to squeal open. The face of Sarah’s grandfather is the first thing she sees. He reaches down and grabs her arm. “Wait! Sarah is in the room at the end of the hall. We have to get her out now that the power is back on!”

“That door is not going to open.” Sarah’s grandfather looks weary. His already wrinkled skin sagging with what looks to be the weight of the world.

“What do you mean it’s not going to open? It opened the first time. We put in the code. We have to get Sarah out of there! She’s scared! You should’ve heard the way she was screaming!” Yvonne struggles to loosen his grip on her arm, but he’s stronger than any stroke-afflicted man she’s ever met. He pulls her up from the stairs and back into the safety of his office, sitting her in his big leather chair.

Sarah’s grandfather kneels in front of her. “Sarah wasn’t screaming because she was scared.” He looks Yvonne in her eyes, not blinking. “And she’s not ever coming back.” He holds up his hand to stop whatever words were about to pour out of Yvonne’s mouth. “There was something in that room, something very dangerous.” He doesn’t blink. “If Sarah touched the panel inside at the same time the power went out, then the substance would have escaped it’s containment. I’m certain that’s the case because you said the door shut on her.”

“The door did shut on her. Because the power went out!” Yvonne’s tears flowed fresh down the sides of her cheeks.

“The door closed because it was triggered to close, but not by the power. It wasn’t designed that way. It was designed to contain what was inside, and will not open again for three weeks.”

“Three weeks! How do we get Sarah out? Isn’t there another way to get the door open?”

“I know you don’t understand. This was never meant for you to understand. We don’t want the door to open before then. Sarah is not coming out of that room alive. Three weeks should be long enough for the substance to die without a viable host. We’ll have to take extraordinary measures to ensure that’s the case.” Sarah’s grandfather pats Yvonne’s knee gently. “Come now child, your mother is waiting for you in the kitchen. Everything will be fine. Don’t you worry.”

Yvonne wipes her face with the back of her hand and follows Sarah’s grandfather out of his office and through the house to the kitchen. Her mother is standing at the kitchen island drinking tea with Sarah’s grandmother. “Mom!” Yvonne gasps, falling into her mother’s arms. Her mom holds her for a long moment before leading her out to the car. She turns back and nods to Sarah’s grandparents. “Thank you for getting her out of there Jean.”

“She got herself out,” Sarah’s grandfather replies, “and just in time.”

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