My father begged me to come home.
He told me that he had closed the cellar door, locked it, and thrown away the key.
“It’s over now, it won’t happen again,” he kept repeating over the phone. There was something in his voice that sounded more desperate than the last time we spoke.
I sighed. It was difficult to swallow my guilt as I paced around the room, eight hours away from my home in Pennsylvania, listening to my father and his broken record.
Home, I thought. Is that even what that it is anymore? Was it ever? Perhaps, it’s just a house; a house filled with darkness, sadness, and addiction. It was only a roof over our heads, sheltering and hiding our ugly from the rest of the world.
I had finally gotten away from them, from all of it, further than ever before. Yet, here I was, staring at the suitcase I had just unpacked in a motel in the Midwest and second guessing my decision to leave.
I felt an itch I couldn’t reach to scratch. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t extract the small sliver of hope ingrained in my heart and mind. So, I caved in.
“I’ll be there before sundown,” I said.
I hung up the phone, packed my things, and checked out of the motel.
It’s the point of no return, I thought. I got in my car, started the engine, and allowed the long, therapeutic car ride to put my mind at ease, at least for now.
When I arrived, my father was already standing in the driveway waiting for me. I opened my car door and stared up at our house. From the outside, it was stunning; red bricks, white windows, and vibrant trees and flowers surrounding the front door. This was a house built big and beautiful enough to contain the chaos within it.
When I walked in, my mother was sitting at the kitchen table with an empty glass. She looked up at me with tired eyes. “Thirsty,” she pleaded. I went to the kitchen sink and filled her glass with water. She looked displeased but drank it anyway.
“More,” she insisted, looking in the direction of the wine cellar. A loud chirping noise called back to her from cellar, like it was yearning to get to her too.
My father and I eyed each other. “Let’s go upstairs now. It’s getting late,” he said to my mother. She begrudgingly got up and followed him upstairs to their bedroom.
It wasn’t until my parents went to bed that I registered how tired I was. I went into the living room, turned off the lights, and eventually fell asleep on the couch.
After an hour or so, I awoke from the same sound of chirping from the cellar. But this time, it was much louder. I walked over to the door and kicked it hard. “Go away!” I yelled. The chirping continued. “Go AWAY!” I yelled louder. The chirping stopped.
I went back to the couch to try and fall asleep again. Some time later, I awoke to the sound of footsteps in the darkness. I turned on the tableside lamp and saw my father turning the key to the cellar door.
“What are you doing?” I hissed. He looked at me with guilty eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said. “She wouldn’t stop begging.”
He opened the door and a pair of piercing, yellow eyes emerged from the bottom of the cellar. As the eyes moved closer, the shape of the creature grew in the dim light, slithering and slinking up the staircase with the body of a snake and the girth of an oversized slug. I could smell its body all the way across the room, which reeked of wine. The alcohol visibly hung like a tire in its belly. The creature let out a loud chirp exposing a long bifurcated tongue and two rows of teeth like broken glass. It grinned at me insidiously.
Then, without a second more, the creature unhinged its jaw and swallowed its tail; its body forming a hoop. It wheeled rapidly down the hallway and up the second staircase towards my parent’s bedroom.
I sprinted after it, trailing it down the hallway and up the staircase. The door to my parent’s bedroom was already open when I ran through the door. My mother was lying on the ground with the creature wrapped tightly around her body. Its head was so far down her throat that I could see it moving around in her gullet. Its belly was getting smaller and smaller while my mother’s grew bigger and bigger in size. It was releasing all of the alcohol from its body and filtering it into her. My mother’s face was turning dark blue from lack of oxygen and her stomach was becoming so large, for a second, I thought it was about to burst.
“GET OFF!” I yelled. I grabbed its tail and pulled as hard as I could but it wouldn’t budge. I pulled again and again but continued to fail. The creature just retaliated by clinging tighter to her like a leech.
I was afraid to do more damage than good, so I let go.
There was nothing left to do but wait. Sobbing, I took my mother’s hand and squeezed it.
“I’m here,” I said.
Finally, the creature slithered out of my mother’s mouth. With a satisfied expression and a slim stomach, it slinked away into the darkness. I faintly heard the turn of a key downstairs and knew my father had locked the creature back in the cellar.
I held my mother tightly. She felt heavy in my arms.
With desperation in her eyes, she looked up at me, and slowly opened her mouth to speak.
“Please,” she begged. “More.”
Melissa Maney is a writer in NYC. Her fiction has been published in Fictive Dream, CafeLit, and the 42 Stories Anthology.