The older Chevy Malibu rolled to a quiet stop along Alpine Road in the growing mountain community just north of Bayfield, Colorado. Without any street lights, the vehicle and its two occupants were completely hidden. They paused motionless for a moment in the sleepy darkness.
“I don't like this,” complained Nate Daniels, a nervous youth with a clean record. “Let's just forget it.”
His older, more experienced brother looked around. Everything was quiet. A perfect evening for easy pickings.
“This is cherry, Nate. In and out. We'll be back at the party before anyone sees we're gone,” scolded Cliff. “Let's go.”
The young men exited the vehicle and quietly jogged to the two-story house they knew was empty. No lights, no barking dogs or alarms and an unlocked window. It couldn't be any easier than this.
In a moment, they were inside the still house. They waited by the window till their eyes adjusted completely to the dark interior. So far the conversation they over heard was correct. Hopefully the money, jewelry and vintage coin collection would be where they were supposed to be too.
They rose to their feet and tip toed past the kitchen, but froze at a sudden noise close to them. The whirl and buzzing came from the aging refrigerator. They sighed in relief.
Smiling past their momentary scare, they continued into the living room. Several lights from a digital entertainment center gave off a steady glow.
“We'll have to come back for this stuff later,” whispered Cliff. Nate nodded in agreement.
They passed the silent fireplace and large antique grandfather clock and started for the stairs.
That's when they saw him.
Every hair on their young bodies stood on end as they looked up at him.
“What are you doing here?” asked the shadowy form at the top of the stairs.
Their hearts pounded in their throats. His unearthly voice seem to come from all around them, from the stairs above, behind them and even inside their heads. They couldn't move for sheer terror.
“Oh man, oh man” whimpered Nate.
Cliff turned to his scared brother. “Shhhh!”
They looked back up the stairs but the dark man was gone. Their eyes darted around through the darkness.
“I asked you a question,” came the voice from behind them. They spun around. “What are you doing here?”
Nate was shaking uncontrollably. Cliff tried to sound convincing, “We...we're friends of the family. We're just picking up something.”
“Friends? The form moved closer. “I've never seen you here before.”
Nearing tears, Nate pleaded with Cliff, “Let's just get out of here.”
“Do you always do what your brother tells you Nathan?”
The hysterical, younger brother answered, “Nathan, who-who's that? I'm not Nathan!”
“Then why did you answer?” the shadow asked.
“Oh God, oh God, oh man,” Nate cowers behind his brother, tears running down his face.
Cliff stood as strong as he could against the dark form. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“My name is Ashton. I am sent in answer to prayer to guard and protect. Now my turn, Clifford. Why are you really here”
He's stunned to hear is name. “N-N-Never mind man,” reaching for Nate, “We're leaving.”
“I don't think so,” responded Ashton.
Cliff's hand slipped into into his dark jacket pocket.
“The knife won't help, Clifford.”
Somehow Cliff knew that.
Nate felt something move around his feet. He watched horrified as his foot sank into the carpet.
Cliff turned to his brother.
“Cliff,” Nate screamed, “Help me!”
Cliff grabbed his brother at the same time he sank down into the floor himself. The boys reached and pulled at the carpet only to sink faster.
“No! Help us! Help us!” their cries became gurgles of pain, then only echoes and moans.
Ashton looked down on them without making a sound.
In a moment the house was still. The window closed. The shadow was gone.
The following afternoon, Thomas and Lynn Billings returned from their weekend church retreat. After unpacking, Linda's detailed eye traced over the living room floor.
“I knew it,” she thought, “I did vacuum before we left.”
Approximately 1,700 missing persons cases are initiated every year in America.
62 of them will never be solved.
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