The air was peculiarly quiet. Clucking from the chickens and the car’s door closing seemed to be the only thing to disturb the still atmosphere. Stacey swallowed hard and stepped closer to the porch. Drawn shades, yellowed over time, hung across the front windows. The front door hung open to a black rectangle of unknown.
“Anyone home?” Stacey called.
She stepped up on the porch, testing rotting boards that creaked with each footfall, and peered through the doorway. Light filtered inside from a back window, casting shadows and dimly illuminating the interior. A haze of dust hung in the air. Two chairs sat at a wood table. In the corner was an armchair covered with a quilt and next to it, a stack of newspapers. A flowerpot lay on its side, the dirt spilled out, and the plant long dead.
“Hello,” Stacey said, the last syllable sounding like a musical note held for a full measure, and tilted her head from side to side trying to glimpse any movement or catch a sound.
Suddenly, she sensed someone behind her. Her heart leaped to her throat, and she turned slowly.
Ruby stood at the foot of the porch steps. Her eyes were wild and swollen, her hair tangled and knotted. In her right hand, she held a knife. Dark visceral material clung to the fingers of her left hand. Blood stained the front of her dress.
“Hey, Ruby,” Stacey said, keeping an eye on the knife. “What have you been doing?”