Sharon carried a clothesbasket upstairs and emptied the master-room hamper into it. Then she went into Chad’s room. As expected, he had clothes from the previous week strewn around his room. The jeans he had ripped were still in the middle of the floor, and Sharon saw that he had clothes heaped in front of the closet, as well. With a heavy sigh, she set about picking up the clothes and dropping them into the basket. Once this was done, she could at least see the toys he still had out; she would have to take care of those later—as well as the wadded up sheets and blankets that hung from his bed. Nine years old, and was it really too much to ask him to at least remember to pull his bedding up when he left the bed? Sharon rolled her eyes and hefted the heavy basket into her arms and carried it downstairs.
After the thrill of loading the washing machine to her exact specifications, Sharon remembered the toys and the mess in Chad’s room and trudged up the stairs again.
She peeked in. This time, the floors were completely cleared. She did not see a toy out of place anywhere. Furthermore, his bed was made, neatly and tidily, with the sheets pulled flat as Chad had never quite managed before. Sharon blinked, but she only had a moment to consider this before a loud thumping resounded from the laundry room. Sharon flew down the stairs to rebalance the load.
By the time she had cared for that problem, her mind had moved down the “To-Do” list in her head and she remembered that she needed to dust the front room and the dining room. She spritzed a cloth with dusting spray and carefully wiped each surface, growing more and more pleased with the increasing amount of dust clinging to her rag after each shelf. On her way to dust the dining room, she stopped by the laundry room and grabbed the can to spray her rag again—
Then stared in horror at the thick black splotch now staining the white cloth. She looked at the canister she held.
“Black shoe polish?” She shrieked. She could have sworn the can was still the dusting spray she had left out for this reason. Bewildered, she looked around the narrow area. There, on the opposite counter, tucked in the corner where she usually kept the shoe polish, was the dusting spray. Had she mislaid the two cans by accident? Sharon’s temples began to throb, and she groaned as she massaged them. She threw the ruined cloth away and pulled out a fresh one to finish the dusting. This time, she deliberately left the dusting spray in the middle of the counter. When she returned to the laundry room after finishing the job, she approached slowly, dreading whether she would find the shoe polish there again. The can of dusting spray remained where she left it. Sharon stowed it back in the cupboard and moved on to the other chores.
She hauled the vacuum out of the closet and lightly covered all the carpeted areas, beginning with upstairs. Using the hallway outlet, she could get practically every room, the hallway itself, and the first few stairs. When the cord length gave out, Sharon stopped the vacuum, carried it the rest of the way downstairs, and went to plug it into another outlet in the downstairs hallway. The minute she did, a terrifying squeal reached her ears. She whirled around to behold the sight of the vacuum perched on the nice front-hall rug, its edge hopelessly tangled around the industrial-strength rollers of the vacuum! Sharon yanked the cord out in desperation and fell to her knees before the appliance, struggling to free the material from its grasp. Half an hour later, she had the demolished rug out of harm’s way, and she attempted to finish the vacuuming. While using the hose attachment to reach behind the couch, she heard something snap, and suddenly she felt no suction at the end of the hose. She turned back toward the body of the vacuum to find that the canister designed to hold the dust and maintain the suction had somehow snapped off its clips, spreading dust and dirt in a thick grey-brown cloud all around the vacuum. Sharon dropped the vacuum hose and ran to the kitchen to take something for her headache.
When she returned, the vacuum sat innocently in the midst of a clean floor. Sharon stared at it. The vacuum never moved. She felt her knees start to give, so she aimed her collapse for the sofa behind her.
“I must be losing my mind,” she muttered, wagging her head slowly. She replaced the vacuum and checked on the laundry. The first load had finished, so she shifted it to the dryer and loaded the washer a second time, taking care this time that it would not be unbalanced.
As she left the laundry room, Sharon couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched; she had no idea why the sudden paranoia. She’d been alone in the house plenty of times before, and had found it relaxing, and peaceful. She pursed her lips in thought; it must be the amount of unexplained things that had happened already in a matter of hours. Things that she’d never seen happen at any other time in her life—what had changed? What was different about today than all other days, with the exception of Anise’s absence?
Sharon was still puzzling over this as she scoured and scrubbed the vinyl countertops and tiled floors of the bathroom.
Maybe it’s a ghost, she thought—then jerked upright so hard she almost smacked her head on the shower door. A chill ran down her spine. The voice in her head had been a man’s voice—and not Hank’s, either. It sounded deep and menacing, like the villain on a movie she and Hank saw on their last date night. What, now she was hearing strange voices in her head? Sharon shrugged and turned back to the sink—only to find that she had left the water running and the plugged sink was just centimeters away from overflowing onto the counter! Desperately, Sharon lunged for the faucet and turned it off. She finished and brought all the supplies into the master bathroom. Cleaning that area went off without a hitch—except that extraordinarily noisy bug that she kept hearing but could never find. Sharon shuddered; she hated bugs, especially the big ones that made loud noises and yet always seemed to evade capture or death. It was the middle of the day, and she had earned a break. Sharon turned to grab the cleaning supplies—but instead of being on the counter where she left them, they hovered in midair at about eye level! With a cry, Sharon stumbled back into a shelf of towels, dislodging a pile of washcloths that fell onto her head. When she pulled the cloths out of her face, the supplies sat on the counter as usual. Sharon felt the baby turn in her womb, and she laid a quieting hand protectively over the bump; it wasn’t good for this new little life if she got so worked up.