blogimaget   It was the third week in the Stupid Fucking House as Maggie Quinn called it. A small two-bedroom in a town that didn’t quite qualify as a suburb and was much quieter than she expected. It wasn’t her first choice, but the other two properties fell through. One, the day before closing. The second, right in the middle of closing. Three was the charm. Third week. Third house. Third coat of paint.

The guy at Menards now recognized her from two aisles away. “Must have a big place?” the man smiled as he mixed six gallons for her. 

Maggie tried to smile back. No, it wasn’t a big place.  She just liked to paint. It was a job, something to do. And she needed that. Best of all, the results were immediate and obvious. A refreshing change. Maybe she should start her own house painting business. She was getting good at it.

“You need any drop cloths, brushes, anything?” the man smiled.

Maggie Quinn shook her head.

This week’s challenge was painting without a net, she decided. No drop cloths, no masking tape, no rags. Nothing. In the living room, she would cover the restful blue of Shining Seas with the honey glow of Warm Welcome. The kitchen would return to Burning Bush, the color she used that first week. Red was a good color. It took at least three coats to get an even tone, then at least three more coats to cover it back up again. Three’s the charm. Blue for the bathroom. Not the same as the living room had been, but a few tones brighter.

The bedrooms were up for grabs. The one which was now her library had next to no wall space left. Bookshelves covered just about every inch, floor to ceiling. To see some sort of results, Maggie experimented with the ceiling. First a restful blue swirled with hand-ragged clouds. Then a gazebo roof with vines that came out looking more like moldy ropes than anything living. Her most recent attempt was actually a daring taunt. Black. Maggie thought if she could pull the shadows to one central location, she could deal with them better. Like a meditation. Focus on your fear. Accept your fear. Live with your fear.

The color lasted one night.

Three coats later, the ceiling was a pure Winter’s Day. The other bedroom was barely used, barely opened. She painted it lavender and put the four poster bed and the unopened boxes of clothes and toys in it. It made no sense. Maggie knew that. Erin was gone and there would never be a use for the room or what was in it. Still, she felt something whenever she walked past and the doorknob was still warm when she touched it. So, for now at least, the room stayed as it was. As it had been at the old brownstone.

The only place other than that bedroom that hadn’t received its mandatory three coats was the basement. Maggie wanted a house without a basement, no basement, no crawl space. Nothing. Just a house on a slab. That’s what she had with the first two. By the time this one was shown to her, the basement was a non-issue. She just wanted a stupid fucking house and that’s what she got. A Stupid Fucking House. And a stupid fucking basement she never visited. Even with the lights on, it was too dark. Too many shadows.

While the sun was high, they remained silent, resting, gathering strength. At the first taste of dusk, they writhed and churned, anxious to seep into the walls and find her. Maggie always kept the door to the basement closed. The bulb above the stairs was raised from sixty to a hundred watts and it was never turned off. Still the dark found its way to Maggie. It always found its way.

To beat an opponent, you must know its true nature.

Maggie knew the dark. Intimately. Her mental file was stuffed with various tidbits woven together to create a profile of the perpetrator. Motive. Means. Opportunity. She knew why it came and how. She knew when she was most vulnerable and when the shadows wouldn’t dare come near. But Maggie Quinn was keenly aware that knowledge wasn’t always power. You could know a great deal and still be unable to stop an attack, put a killer behind bars… save someone you loved. 

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