“Angela?” A barely masculine voice squeaked out the “ah” sound at the end of her name.
Angela rolled her eyes and jumped up from her hiding spot. She hit her head on the octopus furnace and a loud clang echoed in the darkness of the basement. There was a commotion at the top of the stairs as the person jumped backward. Angela swore and cursed.
“Asshole, Luther, get down here!” She yelled.
Luther appeared at the top of the stairs. He was a skinny and tall kid, much taller than her, with a brown mop of hair, hipster messenger bag, and glasses. He navigated by the light of his phone. He was a late bloomer a couple of grades below her. He had the hots for her and wouldn’t let it go even when she clearly outlined that she had zero sexual attraction for boys. Even though he wanted to live in the world of unrequited love, he had a good heart, so she was never mean above and beyond brutal honesty. He was like a lost puppy, and she had a soft spot for strays.
His phone went into sleep mode halfway down the stairs, and he futzed around with the finger print identification. Angela could hear the buzz, buzz, as it rejected each swipe of his thumb. He finally got the phone on again and continued down the stairs. When the phone timed out a second time, Angela was ready with her flashlight app, “If you’re going to use the screen as a flashlight, download an app, or at the very least turn off sleep mode!”
“I wasn’t intending on going inside,” Luther said in is crackeling not-quite a man voice. “But then I saw your car and figured you may need some help.”
Angela knew she should have not parked in such a noticeable location. She was hoping the trip would be quick. She’d take a couple of pictures, maybe find some evidence that her brother had been at the Wellington House, and then leave. However, there were no tags in the house. Her brother would have left his mark somewhere, especially if the witch marks inspired his signature.
The more she thought about it, the lack of graffiti in an old abandoned house was odd. People should have left some evidence of occupation behind. While the house was old and worn, there was no indication that anyone had left their mark aside from the beam in the basement. Angela found it hard to believe because the police had problems with vagrancy in the house. Various people tried to get it torn down over the years, but they were always blocked by a historical society that seemed to like protesting more than restoring houses. Someone should have left something behind, even if it was just a harmless tagger, or a doodle. Every other abandoned building in town was covered with graffiti. Why wasn’t the Wellington house?
Angela turned her phone light towards the walls of the basement. She explored every inch, and there was no evidence of any graffiti. Luther was confused by her actions. She ignored his questions, and continued to sweep for clues. There was junk, but anything useful had been picked clean years ago. The rest was rusting farm equipment that looked as if hadn’t been used since World War II.
“At least let me help,” Luther said and pulled out his phone. After two buzzes of failed attempts, he unlocked the phone. “What are we looking for?”
“Anything drawn, written, painted, on the walls,” She said as she searched.
“Um, OK. Mind telling me why?”
“Have you noticed any graffiti since you’ve been here?”
“Um… no… I don’t see.”
“That’s exactly it. This house has been abandoned for how long now?”
“I believe it’s been…”
“I don’t need the exact number. Suffice to say that don’t you find it odd that there hasn’t been a single tagger? Not one street artist in the entire history of the house?”
“Maybe the tags have been painted over?”
“Have you seen the condition of the paint? I don’t think this place has been repainted since hipster beards were just beards.”
“Maybe taggers don’t come here. The abandoned warehouse seems to offer more space….”
“Or maybe they did… and…”
Angela stopped in front of a grey, blank basement wall. It was craggy and old, but not so much as to prevent a young street artist from painting a mural. There wasn’t any form of human marking on the wall. Angela turned to Luther, “Do you have your sketch book?”
“Yeah, but I don’t see…”
“Do you have the charcoal? Could I get a piece?”
Luther shrugged and dug through his messenger bag. He pulled out a piece of charcoal he used for sketching. Angela took the piece and walked up to the wall. She drew a circle. Even though she was definitely rubbing charcoal on the wall, nothing seemed to leave a mark.
“Maybe it’s resistant to charcoal?” Luther suggested and handed her a marker.
She tried another circle. The marker left no indication that it had contact with the wall even though she pressed as hard as she could. She switched to the charcoal and instead of doing a circle, she drew a straight line, violently rubbing the piece as hard as she could.
“Um… Angela,” Luther said while she grunted and toiled.
“You better come look at this.”
Angela walked over to the foot of the stairs. One of the lines that composed the witch marks on the beam was glowing. The wall directly behind the witch mark had a charcoal line that mirrored the one that was glowing. Angela ran to the wall and drew another line that mirrored another one from the witch mark. The line appear on the back wall, and the equivalent line on the beam began to glow as well.
Angela didn’t need to look at the beam. She had seen her brother draw the markings so many times. She had it memorized. Each time she drew a line, the corresponding line on the witch mark would glow. She completed the lines including the hidden, k, y, l, and e. As soon as she finished the design on the back wall, the house began to shake.
“We should get out of here!” Luther yelled and ran towards the stairs. The shaking increased and Luther tripped on the bottom step and tumbled past the stairs. The octopus furnace clanged and groaned as the tremors rippled through the pipes. A bundle of metal fence posts fell to the ground. The shutter was accompanied by a low pitch rumbling noise that seemed far away in the beginning. The noise became louder and louder until it was almost deafening.
Just as it felt as if the house would collapse around them, the rumbling stopped. The basement was in a state of disarray. The rusting equipment was scattered. A pipe from the furnace collapsed. The witch marks on the back wall had turned into a passageway with a stone arch signifying the entrance.