Three minutes passed after the grandfather clock chimed on the witching hour of three.
River stood past the threshold of the living room and stared at the painting above the mantel. From the corner of her eye, she saw Piper dart past her. “Piper?” She turned and looked to see someone standing behind her. At first glimpse, the little girl appeared as the groundskeeper’s granddaughter. “Olivia?” River walked toward her and the resemblance of who she thought it was had been altered and realized the little girl to be someone else.
A little girl with black hair wearing a Victorian style dress a little older than Olivia. She looked at River with a vacant stare as she held a Russian Blue cat that was similar to Piper cuddled in her arms. “Mother?” The little girl asked with confused tone.
River continued to stare at the little girl. “I don’t think I am.”
The little girl went around the corner to the foyer.
River quickly followed and the little girl was gone. “Who are you? What is your name?” she asked.
Humming in a musical tone came from the upper level of the house.
River was familiar with the melody but could not recall the name of the song
The environment altered to the second floor and River found herself standing at the threshold of the master bedroom. Looking in, she saw no one there and at the same time felt like she was being watched. River turned as she felt an unsettling presence and saw a silhouette of a man wearing what looked to be a nineteen thirties style fedora standing at the far end of the hallway. “Michael?”
The figure stood from afar in silence.
River went to Michael’s study and found the door ajar. As she was about to open the door, she saw the little girl standing without the cat at the top of the staircase that led to the third floor, looking down with the same vacant stare.
“Who are you?” River asked again.
The little girl turned and walked away from the edge of the staircase. “Come. See.” she whispered.
River went up the staircase and felt a bitter chill come over her like a blanket of dread. The closer she got to the top, the more intense the feeling became. When she reached the top, the little girl was gone. At the end of the hallway, Michael stood at the farthest door to the right. “Michael, where did the little girl go?”
In a frame by frame motion, Michael turned to her and opened his mouth.
River saw his lips move slowly but could not hear what he was saying. “Michael!” she called again.
Michael entered the room.
River went up to the door with the same feeling of dread as the door slowly closed. “Michael?” She turned the knob and walked in. Her husband wasn’t there but only the little girl dressed in Victorian clothing standing in an empty room.
Pointing toward the closet door, the little girl whispered in a fragile tone, “Outside. My brother … Jeremiah Thatcher.”
“Who is Jeremiah Thatcher?” River asked.
The little girl stepped back as her eyes glazed white and her facial expression contorted with paralyzing terror. “’The Man in the Hat’ is here.”
At that moment, River felt a pair of ice cold hands clench onto her arms from behind. She stood rigid with fear as the specter’s cold breath covered the nape of her neck.
Blood dripped from the little girl’s eyes and her body flaked into ashes as she stepped back further–leaving nothing left but only a haunting memory of herself.
As the presence behind River consumed her in its dreadful darkness, it said with a bellowing voice, “THE CHILDREN ARE MINE!”
“Michael!” River shrieked.