Banging. I can hear an incessant banging coming from somewhere in the building. I pried my eyes open, hoping it was the neighbors still working on redoing their roof. It had been weeks since Ted Miller started and much to the dismay of his wife Lacey, he had refused to bring in a contractor despite his growing age.
But no. The banging wasn’t coming from above; it was coming from downstairs. Specifically, the entrance to the store front below my apartment. I swung my feet out of the bed, hesitating a moment before resting them on the cold hardwood floor.
Wrapping a bath robe around my body, I took a glance at the clock next to the face down picture frame on my night stand.
“Who the hell is knocking at 2:30 in the morning?” The banging increased in fervor and I wondered for a moment if whoever it is would break the damn thing down.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” I mutter to myself as I walked down the stairs into the apothecary below.
Before I reached the door, I grabbed the aluminum baseball bat from behind the register and slowly made my way to the front. Leaving the chain guard in the store entrance and peered through. Only to discover a very frantic Ethan Reynolds.
He was about 5’11” and of average build with short ruffled brown hair. A dusting of freckles from too many hours out in the garden made him look younger than 29 years old. But, his sunken in grey eyes and the creases in his forehead gave him a perpetual look of exhaustion one only gets from too much worrying. Ethan and I had gone to the same High School and graduated in the same class. We would have classes together, but we traveled in different circles and weren’t particularly close. Now, he would come into the store to buy medicines for his mother, who the whole town knows has been in and out of the hospital for years. We would make small talk at the counter but nothing more. Tonight, he was wearing dark jeans, a dark green t-shirt and work shoes, no different than any other day. But, rather than sleeping like any sane person at this hour, he is standing outside my front door, breathing heavily and visibly in a panic.
“Eudora! Finally! You need to let me in. It’s an emergency. Please let me in!” Ethan said quickly in a breathless voice.
“Ethan? One second.” I closed the door momentarily and thought about whether I should let him in or tell him off. I eventually undid the chain and opened the door to let him in. He rushed in and, much to my irritation, nearly knocked me over.
“What’s going on Ethan? It’s 2:30 in the morning. If this is about your mother, you should take her to the hospital rather than coming to see me.” I said, grumpy and still half asleep, as I relocked the door. Catching his breath, he leaned over on a display table as he rested his weight on the palms of his hands. Still holding the baseball bat, seconds went by with only the sound of Ethan’s ragged breathing filling the room.
“Well? What’s the emergency?” I said, starting to become impatient. Ethan looked at me, as seriously as he ever had before, and said, “They’re coming. They’re coming for you. You need to run.”
“Excuse me? Who is they and why are they coming for me?”
“You need to trust me. If you don’t go now, they are going to take you. And if you can’t give them what they want, I’m scared they will kill you.” As Ethan spoke, fear began to creep into his eyes and voice.
I’m understandably skeptical. I don’t know this man personally, but the look on his face tells me this isn’t a prank and besides. If he wasn’t serious, I highly doubted he would be in my store at such an ungodly hour. “Ethan if you don’t tell me what’s going on, I can’t do anything.” I explained slowly. “You need to tell me exactly what’s happening, so I can figure out what to do.”
Ethan exhaled slowly, visibly preparing himself for what he had to tell me. “It’s a small-town Eudora; people talk. Everyone knows you’re special— that you and your family can affect people. My mother’s friends say you’re all healers. They think you’re magic. But, being in a small town also means everyone knows you haven’t been able to have a baby. That that’s why Richard left you.”
He paused and looked me up and down, trying to gauge my response. I looked from him to the floor, trying to keep my face as neutral as possible. Ethan continued. “They think you did it. Out of spite or something and they want you to undo it.”
“They think I did what?” I finally snapped.
“All the women, the pregnant women, in the entire town. They aren’t pregnant anymore. Like, one night they went to sleep with a child and woke up with stomachs flat as boards. There were no miscarriages, just no more babies. And the people think it’s your fault, that you cursed them.”
“That’s ridiculous! They can’t believe that nonsense! This town has known my family for generations, they’ve known me since I was a child. They can’t honestly believe that I could or would do something like that.”
“It doesn’t matter who you are. The people want someone to blame. The men are coming for you tonight. They want revenge and if we don’t move, they will catch you.”
I knew there was no use in trying to run, that we wouldn’t make it out of town before they blocked off the bridge. I had an idea, and it might just work. I ran to the back room where I prepared my herbal remedies for the store, leaving a flustered and confused Ethan where he was standing.
“Are you coming or not?!” I yelled from the back.
Ethan quickly walked in to find an empty room. “Eudora? Where did you go?”
“Back here!” I said popping my head from a hidden doorway behind the tapestry with my family lineage embroidered on it causing Ethan to jump nearly a foot in the air.
The room was small and made of stone and herbs hung from the rafters drying in the cool air. And in the middle of the floor, I started working on moving a large floor tile with a crowbar.
With no help from Ethan, I finally managed to pry the tile up, moved it out of place to reveal a small cellar below.
“Extra storage for perishable items. My father installed it when I was ten. It should hide us well enough for a few hours.”
Ethan stood there for what felt like 5 minutes staring at the hole in the floor, awestruck, until I jabbed him with the crowbar.
We descended a short staircase into the cellar before I placed the tile back where it originally sat. We didn’t have to wait long, not even a half an hour, before we heard the first noises.