By Connor Matthew
“Shit, I didn’t get her anything,” Lanaye whispered.
Corey stared at the toddler. Nile’s kid, already two years old. It felt like just weeks ago that Corey was watching videos of her crawling. She stood before Corey, ripping open a present from Lanaye’s other brother, Rick.
Evidently, he remembers these kinds of things, Corey thought.
“It’s fine. We’ve been busy. They’ll understand.” Corey whispered back, eyeing the father and his wife.
Corey and Lanaye had been together for three years. They had bought their first house, an early-20th century brick behemoth on the corner of Main Street. Lanaye’s two brothers and their significant others were over for the first time.
The towering home sat dormant in sleepy Cooperdale for five years before Corey and Lanaye submitted an offer, just hours after the initial showing. The seller swiftly accepted, “quicker than usual”, their realtor had commented.
The inspector came weeks later. The middle-aged man of stocky and staunch stature stared in awe at the foundation, using words like “indestructible” and “reliably built”. He was particularly drawn to a claustrophobic room in the unfinished section of the otherwise normal basement. Dark brick enclosed a space where noise no longer existed. Corey had thought the silence was squeezing his skull before he nervously laughed and left the inspector alone with Lanaye. The rest of the house was in ship shape, except for some chipped porch paint and bat droppings. Nevertheless, Corey and Lanaye moved in, ready to build onto their new nest.
Nile’s toddler, Addie, was dirtying the nest while carelessly tossing Rick’s wrapping paper to and fro. A modern-looking Etch A Sketch emerged; white with flowers and hearts bordering the hard plastic tablet. From it hung a writing utensil shaped like a unicorn horn.
Minutes passed as the conversation continued about stair repair and clear coating. Addie fiddled with the unicorn horn, scribbling nothings upon the Etch A Sketch’s surface. She reluctantly slid the pad to Corey, who briefly demonstrated how to draw a smiley face. Addie looked in wonder as the face came to shape, offering her own smile. Corey slid the pad back to her.
The conversation halted as the lights went out. The group sat briefly in silence before light returned. They all greeted it with small applause, all except for Corey. He listened. A pulse emanated from below him, from the basement.
Next to Corey, on the couch, sat the Etch A Sketch. Addie held the unicorn horn in her hand. On the pad, a figure is drawn. A long skinny body clad in black. The face had no features.
Corey, momentarily paralyzed by a kind of wonder, looked up. Lanaye and her two brothers, Rick and Nile, both stared at Corey. Their faces no longer had eyes, mouths, or noses. Corey looked down to his side to see Addie, her face a blank and featureless slate.
From the basement doorway, a long set of fingers emerged before the following faceless figure, too tall to be human, beckoning Corey.
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