Not Enough Steps

The rust was orange and its metal flakes were sharp on the metal banister. Smoke wafted up through a grate in the floor under the steps and it smelled like someone cooking breakfast- burnt toast, bacon, eggs frying in butter. The little girl Sara sat beside the grate sharpening a knife on a wet stone like her brother showed her. Her hands were orange from holding the rusty banister. She had never made it to the top because there were stairs missing. She tried to climb just the railing all the way up once but got scared and came back down. Everyone else was up there but they were all out of earshot and they sure weren’t coming back down here any time soon. The courtyard was littered with distant relatives and no one wanted to end up like them.

Once the knife was good and sharp Sara got up and cut Sabbie loose and the dog went crazy jumping around. He sniffed the dead relatives, poking them with his nose, then ran over to the stairs and ran up as far as he could go. “We can’t go up there, Sabbie,” Sara said. “Not enough steps.” The dog whimpered a little, staring up the steps excitedly. Then he ran down to sniff at the grate with its rising smoke and gave a few barks. Sara went and looked down the grate with him. What appeared to be a normal family eating breakfast sat below, in a normal-looking kitchen. Sara knew it wasn’t normal and they weren’t real people. That’s why she had the knife.

When the fake breakfast family heard the dog barking they looked up. The balding father put a chair in the middle of the breakfast table and reached up to the grate. A forked tongue shot out of his mouth and with a terrific yank he pulled the grate loose. Sara and Sabbie jumped back and seconds later the whole family crept out of the hole where the grate had been, crawling out on all fours. They continued toward Sara and Sabbie, the four of them crawling on their hands and knees, sidling like crabs. Sara got to her feet and held the knife out. Sabbie barked and barked.

When the little boy reached her she jabbed at him with the knife. This didn’t stop him so she swung the blade, cutting his arm clean off. The dog pounced on the arm like it was a bone and shook it back and forth. The father came forward and he lost his head to the sharpened blade, his forked tongue hanging out as the head rolled. The family kept coming and Sara kept slashing until she stood in front of a pile of body parts. Strangely, there wasn’t any blood.

After Sabbie chewed on a few chunks of bloodless flesh, Sara hopped on his back like he was a horse. She egged him on and he ran across the field away from the town.

They found a small cave in the forest and curled up to sleep there for the night. Sara dreamt about her brother and the rest of her family, all appearing much younger than their real ages, everybody laughing and happy. She had a smile on her face when she woke up. As beams of morning sunlight shone through the trees, she and Sabbie crossed through the woods and started down into the next village, Sara crossing her fingers that Ernie the blacksmith might be able to make some steps for them.

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