Bridget winced, trying to ignore the sounds coming from the garage.
I asked them to not practice during finals week. Why did Dad have to get him that guitar for his birthday?
Her idiot brother Steve should have been studying for finals as well. Instead he was holed up in the garage with three of his friends, trying to convince himself he would be a rock star someday.
Bridget thought he would spend the rest of his life scrubbing tables at the Burger Baron down the road – if he didn't get fired first.
The sounds from the garage came to an abrupt halt. Bridget sat still, listening. Were they finally done for the night? Then she could finally-
The band launched into its next "song", a rapid, pounding beat that Bridget secretly called "Ode to a Jackhammer".
Bridget slammed the book shut, stood up, and stormed out of the room. She didn't need this, not with next year's college applications to worry about. She wasn't going to wind up like her brother, dragging around a GPA that no number of extra credit assignments could ever fix.
The staircase creaked as she descended. She did not touch the railing – even after several cleanings it still left grime on her hands. God, how she hated this creepy old house. When they'd moved to Dunwich earlier this year it was the only house Mom and Dad could afford. At first they thought that was because of the location – it was in the middle of nowhere and next to a reeking swamp – but that was before they'd learned about the house's previous owners. She'd gotten plenty of strange looks when her new classmates learned that she was living in "the old Whateley house."
Bridget usually tried to avoid the garage as much as possible. That was where the cops found most of the bodies, when they came to take the Whateleys away.
She opened the garage door, marched inside, and banged her knee on the workbench. The four boys had shoved everything off to the side, almost blocking the door, to make room for themselves and their unfortunate instruments.
Clutching her soon-to-be-bruised- knee, to the band. "Guys! Can you keep it down? I'm trying to study!"
They ignored her and continued torturing their instruments.
She raised her voice, almost shouting. "Guys! Can you keep it down!"
Steve's eye caught hers. He shot her a look of pure contempt, daring her to try and stop him.
If their parents had been home Bridget could have appealed to them. Unfortunately, Mom was at a conference in Chicago all week and Dad had the night shift. If Bridget wanted any peace and quiet, she would have to make it herself. She left the garage, slamming the door, and made her way upstairs.
All right, jerk. I tried asking nicely.
She located the gray metal panel on the kitchen wall and flung it open. A column of black plastic switches – the circuit breakers- greeted her eyes.
Bridget leaned close and squinted. The labels were old and faded. That one might say "Garage", but so might that one at the bottom. That's weird. Why does the garage have two switches?
She reached out and flipped both.
The music in the came to an abrupt halt. Bridget could the boys cursing and shouting as they stumbled around in the dark, and she allowed herself a small smile. Now she could finally get her studying-
There was a rumble that shook the whole house, followed by a crash that sounded like the drum set being demolished. Then the screams began.
Bridget rushed back to the kitchen and flipped the switches back on again. Maybe this hadn't been such a great idea. Someone must have gotten hurt, stumbling around in the dark.
There was a sputter and a clunk, as some mechanical contraption beneath the house tried to start and failed. She could worry about it later. First she had to check on her brother.
The screams stopped, as suddenly as they'd begun. Bridget cursed. What if her little prank had gotten someone killed? She reached the garage door and flung it open.
The door opened on a silent, empty garage.
At first Bridget hoped the boys had decided to retaliate with a trick of their own, hiding behind the drum set or the workbench. Then she saw the hole, and the rubble.
She made her way to the other side of the workbench. The floor was littered with chunks of concrete, the shattered remains of three guitars, and pieces of a pulverized drum set. And in the middle of it all, that hole in the floor.
Bridget's first thought was the previous owners. It would be just like the Whateleys to have a secret room where they'd stashed even more bodies. One of the boys must have stumbled onto a rotten spot and fallen through.
She stepped forward and was about to call out – and stopped. Because that wasn't what had really happened, was it? It didn't look like a cave-in, more like... an eruption. Something had come up from underneath. And that hole wasn't large enough to swallow four boys, unless they all lined up and jumped in... and why were all the instruments completely destroyed?
And why did she think those smears on the sides of the hole weren't just reddish mud?
Deep in the hole, something shifted. Something big. It didn't sound like someone injured, trying to crawl to safety. It was more like a crunching or tearing, almost like-
Like a roast chicken being pulled apart.
Her stomach convulsed. The remains of tonight's microwave dinner spattered the concrete.
The sounds stopped. Bridget had the sudden, terrifying sense that she was being watched – and not by her brother and his friends. Something knew she was here.
She bolted through the door, slamming it shut behind her. The crunching sounds – the feeding sounds – resumed.
She sprinted back upstairs to the kitchen. If she could flip the switch again- or grab a knife-
She stopped. A rectangular hole gaped in the kitchen wall. The circuit breaker box lay on the floor, torn out of the wall by something with bloody claws.
Her overstrained brain spat out a single thought: How? And got a quick answer: There's more than one. One snuck past me when I was in the garage.
Bridget tore through the kitchen and out the front door, not stopping to grab a weapon. She could figure out how to fight these things later, when she was somewhere safe- and her parents. She had to warn her parents. How was she supposed to convince them there were invisible monsters running loose?
Loose, pointed stones on the pavement stabbed her bare feet. Her sprint slowed to a limping jog, and finally a hobble.
She heard a roar from the house behind her.
Bridget looked back.
She'd been wrong. There was only a single monster, and it wasn't invisible. What she'd taken to be the work of multiple monsters was the work of huge tentacles, punching through the floor and snaking through the walls.
The monster was much larger than she'd imagined, and it was not yet free.
Bridget limped on. The air was thick with the stench of swamp water, suffocating her. The humidity made the dust and dirt stick to the ground and to her clothes. For miles and miles, there was nothing but emptiness, cut apart by the satin-black road. But somewhere at the end of that road lay safety... and answers. Someone in town would have to know about the monster living under the garage, and how to fight it.
It was not yet nighttime, but the sky was completely black. Flashes of purple lightning streaked the clouds.
A storm was coming.