The first snowfall of the season dusted the ground in light powder, revealing small footprints that led to the cellar door. Jack shook his head in disbelief. What child would be wandering out here barefoot in the cold?
He scouted the area, not finding any other evidence before reluctantly coming back to the cellar, a place he’d avoided since moving in last month. One look into its dark, dank hold had been enough to dissuade him from further exploration. Who knows what lurked down there? Jack hadn’t been keen to find out.
Returning from the house with a flashlight, Jack swung the wooden door open and peered inside. The musty smell of damp earth assaulted him, whatever traces of potatoes or onions it might have once held no longer discernable. He shuddered at the thought of black widow spiders hunkered down to spend the winter in cozy comfort.
The light played across the small space, showing a fresh mound of disturbed earth in the center of the floor. Thoughts of spiders faded as a small hand pushed up through the dirt, tiny fingers curling once before hanging limp.
Jack bounded down the rickety stairs, tripping and landing in a heap in his rush. He dug furiously, having only his hands for tools. His skin cracked and bled from the effort. Within minutes, he’d unearthed a small girl, no more than three or four years old. Her blue eyes stared forever fixed at a point beyond his understanding. Her mouth had been filled with dirt as if buried alive. All she wore was a tiny pink nightgown.
Gagging, Jack retreated back up the stairs and into the house. He called the police to report his findings. When they arrived, they found nothing amiss: no body, no small footprints, no soft dirt. Although naturally suspicious of Jack’s story, there were no reports of a missing child. They labeled him a crank and warned him about making false calls.
Did he hallucinate the whole ordeal? Only his bloody hands told him no. When the footprints appeared again two day later with the next snowfall, Jack moved out, deciding the place was haunted.
One month later, three-year-old Abbie Tinsdale was reported missing by her mother, taken from the house sometime during the night. She mentioned the girl was wearing a pink nightgown. The police remembered Jack’s report and checked the root cellar of the house where he used to live. They found the girl too late. She’d been buried alive.
The police arrested Jack based on his detailed description of the crime scene, even though he’d reported it a month before it happened, and the DNA evidence. His blood was mixed in the soil where the girl was found. They were convinced that only the killer would know such details, even accused Jack of setting up an elaborate alibi for himself with his story. The small town jury placed their trust in the hands of the law, sentencing him to life for a murder he didn’t commit—but had the misfortune to predict.
Laura Eno (http://lauraeno.blogspot.com) has written two YA fantasy novels and a paranormal romance. Her flash fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Twisted Dreams, The Monsters Next Door, Flashes in the Dark, 10Flash, House of Horror, The New Flesh, Everyday Weirdness and MicroHorror.