Charlie kicked in the back door and Maude stumbled in behind him, clutching her abdomen with both hands. It was dark, but the blood seeping through her fingers was darker. Taking her by the shoulders, Charlie guided her to the middle of the room, then closed the door as best he could, given that it was in splinters.

Maude swayed and Charlie went to her, his machine gun clattering on the vinyl floor. The house had looked empty enough from swamp. It was dark – so dark that they might have missed it entirely if they had passed more than a few feet from its stone foundation. Charlie could make out a few broken windows, and creepers and vines had crawled all over the sagging back porch. It reminded Charlie of the old Luther place down the street from his grandmother’s house – derelict, fascinating and definitely haunted.

Charlie dropped his rucksack next to the gun and lifted Maude, carrying her into the next room. It was empty, except for a pile of moving blankets in one corner. Maude was heavier than she looked. Charlie lurched toward the blankets and half-dropped Maude on top of them. A puff of dust rose up and Maude coughed twice.

“It’s okay Maudie. The house is empty. Nobody around for miles,” he whispered.

Maude nodded weakly. “And the money?” she croaked.

“It’s all there in my pack. Don’t you worry.”

Satisfied, Maude’s hands fell away from her stomach and her head turned to the side as she lost consciousness.

Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked and several more answered. “Shit,” Charlie hissed. Staying low, he scampered back to the kitchen. The door he’d kicked in hung crooked and ajar. He peeked through the opening and saw flashlights crisscrossing the swamp.

He watched them a for a few minutes. In that time, it became clear they were sweeping a wide arc away from the house. The boot falls and barking dogs, which, a moment ago, seemed inevitable, receded into the distance.

Charlie went back to Maude, but she was still unconscious. The dark splotch on the front of her dress was spreading almost perceptibly. He didn’t want to look, didn’t want to see her flesh chewed up by shotgun pellets. But he had to do something or she’d die.

Charlie tried to remember his first aid training as he made his way through the house in search of something he could use as a field dressing. All the rooms on the first floor were empty. He had put one hand on the bannister leading upstairs when her heard a plunk.

The sound seemed to have come from upstairs, but he couldn’t be sure, so Charlie went back to Maude to check on her. Her breathing was noisy and shallow.

Plunk

This time he was certain the sound was coming from somewhere above their heads. Charlie took two steps toward the stairs before thinking better of it. Instead he moved toward the kitchen. Somehow the old empty house seemed even darker than before.

Making his way into the half light of the kitchen, Charlie could barely make out his rucksack on the floor. The top buckle had come open, and wads of bills spilled out. Charlie shoved the money back into the sack. Then he searched around for his machine gun.

It wasn’t there.

It wasn’t there, but it had to be. Charlie remembered dropping it. He remembered the sound it made as it clattered to the floor.

Directly above his head, a floor creaked. Charlie froze. It creaked again, firm and deliberate like a footstep. Charlie closed his eyes and waited.

The house fell silent.

Then the sound of Maude stirring. “Is there anyone there?” she moaned.

Charlie turned his head toward her, but he dared not answer.

He looked at the rucksack, then he looked at the crooked, broken door.

“Charlie? Oh no, Charlie.”

From his crouch on the kitchen floor, Charlie heard the magazine of the machine gun start to whir. Before a single bullet fired, he grabbed the bag full of money and ran through the door.

Charlie ran and ran.


About Prompt-A-Day: The rules are simple. Every day, I generate a prompt using Story Shack’s awesome writing prompt generator. Then I set a timer for one hour. At the end of the hour, I post what I’ve got. Sometimes it’s decent. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes I fail at the prompt. Sometimes I do okay. I do not edit, unless I find a typo, because I can’t help fixing those. Feel free to join in and post a link to your writing in the comments.