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The call floated through the air, like the sounds of the wind chimes on her neighbor's back porch. Clorisa began hearing the voice a few weeks ago, right after her dad deserted her. It wafted up from the old well, growing louder and more persistent with each passing day.
The massive oak tree cast shadows, long fingers clawing at the ground, over the stone slabs. A lingering mist created a barrier between the well and the rest of the yard.
She took hesitant steps toward the well. If her mom caught her, she'd be grounded. That didn't stop her any more than the fear of the unknown. As she approached, the wet air touched her soft cheek. Her bare feet sank into the muddy ground and the moisture caressed her small toes.
After tying the kite's string to the fence, she clambered over the old wooden pickets. Her shirt snagged a rusty nail and she struggled to release herself. From the well the sound of a dozen claws rose followed by the moans of a tortured soul. Something inside her said to turn and run, but curiosity forced her to grip the well's rough edge and peer into the black hole.
"Hello?" The echo caused her delicate arm hairs to rise in salute. She strained to see through the darkness below and spoke again. "What are you doing?"
"Waiting for you," the voice said and then giggled.
"Who are you?"
"How'd you get in the well?"
"Mommy pushed me," he said.
"What?" A lump formed in her throat. The wind cooled the beads of sweat forming on her forehead.
"Don't matter. Let's play."
"Clorisa!" her mom shrieked. The back door slammed. Her mom raced across the backyard.
"I've got to go."
"Please. Don't go."
Icy fingertips grazed her hand, paralyzing her. A terrifying blue tint crept from her fingers, to her wrist, and up her arm. Her mom gripped her shoulders from behind and the strange color disappeared. Drained by the ghostly touch, Clorisa fell back against her mom's warm body.
"You shouldn't be near this well. It's dangerous. Are you okay?"
"Yes, but someone's down there," she answered. Guilt plagued her. The last thing her mom needed was to worry over her.
"Nonsense, now get in the house. I don't want to ever see you out here again."
Clorisa stood and crossed her arms over her chest.
"You heard me. Now get!"
She took a couple of steps before remembering her kite. The string was gone and colorful tails drifted off in the distance. She turned to her mom, but swallowed the words about to escape when she saw the paleness on her mom's face.
"Mom?" Clorisa stepped closer.
"I told you to get to the house." She placed her hands on her hips and puckered her lips in anger.
Clorisa slumped away in defeat. As she neared the back door, she heard the phone ringing. She bolted through the door, into the kitchen, and snatched up the receiver.
"Hey, honey. How are you?" her dad said.
Now she would be in big trouble. "I'm okay." She had to get him off the phone.
The back door slammed.
Too late, she thought.
"Who are you talking to?" her mom demanded.
Clorisa handed her the phone and went to the couch to wait for her punishment.
Glancing toward the kitchen from time to time, she wondered how much trouble she was in. She tiptoed toward the door, pausing at the sound of breaking glass. She pressed her ear to the door and listened.
"I can't handle her anymore. You have to take her for a while," her mom said.
Emptiness seeped inside her at the thought of being abandoned once again. She raced out the back door, and toward the well.
"You came back!" he said.
Clorisa glanced at the house. "Mom said I couldn't, but she's busy."
"You should have listened to her. I'm glad you didn't."
"Want to play?"
She eased to the well's edge. "What do you want to play?"
"How are we going to do that?"
A light flashed in the darkness, revealing a decomposed face. Slime oozed from sunken eyeholes, while spiders swarmed in and out of the nostrils and mouth.
One of the spiders jumped onto her hand, and blue vines crawled up her arm. The pounding of her heart sent blood rushing to her brain. Dizziness blurred her vision.
Cold hands wrapped around her slender neck and pulled her forward. The air screamed as she plunged into the dark abyss.
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