“Quickly,” said Mavis, pulling her brother’s hand, “we have to go quickly.”
At once! her mother would shout when she wanted her room clean, her bed made, or her toys in the toy box, and sometimes that’s what she would use with Lewis, but not this time, because to go quickly was the very thing he was eager to do, and quickly they did go through the house, through the kitchen, the hallway, to the basement entrance, the anteroom where she stood on the sideboard and pulled the light switch. In a draw were the matches. The matches to light the lantern.
“Here Lewis, hold my hand and stay close.”
Mavis led the way down the steps, one step at a time, lower, lower into the cool, dark basement. They mazed their way through the things down there, their father’s things, the spare furniture the tools and forgotten parts of things until they got to the stack of scary paintings, and behind the scary paintings was the dumbwaiter, and they climbed in, first Lewis, who took the lantern in and set it down, then Mavis.
The prayer chest contained the book of prayers, which was in fact an exercise book with prayers she and her brother had worked on over the months for various things, and a bible.
“Quickly, quickly!” said Lewis as Mavis opened the prayer book. She knew what she was looking for and she arrived at it within seconds.
“Our Father in heaven,” she read, “please protect us from the woman upstairs, and please protect—”
“Miss Crawford!” shouted Lewis. Mavis shushed him with a finger to her lips and a stern look.
“Not so loud, Lewis! That’s disrespectful!”
“It’s disrespectful,” Lewis repeated, as though to chastise someone else.
“And please protect Miss Crawford from the woman upstairs.”
“The owl!” whispered Lewis.
“Protect us from the woman and we pray that Daddy comes home quickly, and the lady doesn’t turn off all the lights, that we have all the lights,” she paraphrased, following the pictures illuminating the margins of the page. “And we pray to have good dreams tonight when we go to bed, amen.”
“Amen,” said Lewis.
Upstairs, after a brief, tense nap in which she floated room to room through the house’s many mirrors Diane was startled awake by the house cat, which jumped up onto the bed and attempted to curl up on her stomach.