The Cellar(57)

By: Minette Walters

Ebuka was only half-convinced. He eased her aside to look down the cellar steps. I was sure someone was with you.

Would you like to see for yourself, Master? If I fetch the hoist to lower you from your chair, I could help you down the same way Mr Hughes did. I’m stronger than I used to be.

Ebuka returned the rod to his lap with a grunt of amusement. And then what? You abandon me at the bottom? I wouldn’t trust you not to lock me in all night if it suited you. I’m sure you’d think it a worthy punishment.

Muna felt the first tiny tremors of the Devil’s laughter rise through the floorboards. I would, Master … but at least you’d know for certain there’s no one hiding there. If a person breathed, you would hear him. All sounds are loud when you’re alone and afraid in the darkness.

Ebuka rubbed his arm. It’s deathly cold. Turn off the light and close the door. We’ll order some shoes in the morning … dresses too if you like.

Muna touched the switch and plunged them into darkness again. She heard Ebuka grumble that he couldn’t see anything, and Muna thought how vulnerable he’d made himself. With a single push, she could pitch him down the steps and his life would be ended for ever. The Devil was tempting her to do it. His laughter swelled and grew, creating such strong vibrations that Muna believed the walls of the house would crack.

She placed her palm on the door frame to steady herself. Never had she felt the Devil’s power so strongly, yet her mind resisted Him. This wasn’t what she wanted. She couldn’t lose Ebuka now. He must remain her father until they moved and the whites lost interest in them. There would be too many questions otherwise.

Even as these thoughts ran through Muna’s head, the laughter died and the house became still. Ebuka asked impatiently why she was taking so long to switch on the hall light, and, in sudden confusion, she wondered if the tremors had been in her and not in the walls. Was she sick in the mind like Olubayo?

She reached out to pull the cellar door to, but her fingers were numb and unfeeling. Hard as she tried, she could not make her hand close around the knob. She stared into the darkness below. Something moved. Something stirred. And the air that came from it smelt of death and corruption.

A weight descended on her neck, forcing her to her knees. She bowed her head in terror when a voice, absent of pity or love, spoke.

Do you think to cheat Me out of what is Mine? I am Vengeance. I am Retribution. I am Wrath. I take lives in payment for those that have been taken. There is no escape.

Sinewy coils bound around Muna’s chest, squeezing the breath from her lungs. In her mind, she saw an image of Yetunde, eyes pleading for mercy as her life ebbed away. Muna tried to cry out that she was sorry but her mouth wouldn’t open, and in despair, she turned towards Ebuka. But his wheelchair was empty and he was gone.

She felt the Darkness pull her down. She heard the cellar door close.

And she knew the Devil was laughing.

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