Thursday, October 27, 2022

Liberty Horror #6: Emily In the Cellar

Emily In the Cellar

Emily Parga woke up, like she did every day, in complete darkness. She reached over and turned on the lamp that was on a nightstand next to her bed. She turned on the radio which was always on her favorite morning show. She never deviated from the one station except occasionally to listen to NPR. She went to the bathroom, put her hair up and then poured a bowl of cereal. She ate while listening to the radio and then washed her dishes.

She turned the radio down and read for about an hour. Then she watched The Price Is Right. She liked watching it. With the audience and all the people on the stage, it made her feel less lonely. She was bad at guessing the cost of things since it had been a while since she’d been in a store. After The Price Is Right, she’d sweep and do some dusting. It got dusty where she lived. She always wore slippers because the floor was half cement and half dirt depending on which room she was in. The bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen were cemented while the closets, living room, and entryway had dirt floors. After cleaning, she’d make lunch, today was a turkey sandwich with Colby jack cheese and half a can of pineapple chunks, and sit down to watch The Young and the Restless.

During the afternoon, she tried to alternate what she did. Radio, television, reading, cross-stitching, she tried to keep things fresh since she spent all day here, by herself, and has for years. Cross-stitching was something her mother taught her. She didn’t like it at first but all that changed when she needed to figure out other things to do to fill her days. Luckily, her mother had many unstarted and unfinished project lying around.

The one she was currently working on was a simple black, white and gray one about coffee. Her mom loved coffee and was excited to get started on it and hang it in the kitchen next to the coffee maker. It remained untouched until Emily took it out of the cedar chest a week ago. Emily’s mother had died several years ago. As did her younger brother, Antonio. Since then, she had been alone. All alone, by herself.

She was fourteen. It had been a good day. Her dad always started the story out that way when he told her about that day. She didn’t remember it—a combination of the accident and her brain hiding something traumatic. They all got in the car, a maroon SUV, and drove into town to get ice cream at Dairy Queen. “How about you drive back?” her father asked her. She had just gotten her permit and had just driven around the countryside. She was ready and excited to drive back home from town.

The Pargas lived about three and a half miles south of town. About two miles from town was a fairly busy intersection that had a four-way stop. It was an odd intersection as a creek went underneath it. The intersection was essentially a four-way bridge. The family had driven over it hundreds of times. It was all familiar, there shouldn’t have been a problem but a rainstorm just before they had left lasted only fifteen minutes but the road still had puddles.

She remembers waking up in the hospital. Her father, who was amazingly unhurt in the crash, had stayed at her side throughout the two weeks she was unconscious. They had hydroplaned, where the tires kind of go out from under you when you hit water, he explained to her between sobs. He was thrown from the car. Her mother and brother, because they were in the backseat, had been killed. Emily only had a few cuts and bruises but had been knocked unconscious. After about a week, her father took her out of the hospital against doctor’s advice.

“I talked to the police,” he said to Emily as they drove back home. “They want to hold you accountable for your mom’s and Antonio’s death. They want to charge you with murder. You could get life in prison.”

“What? It was an accident. I didn’t mean to,” Emily cried. “Why do they want me in jail?”

“You know the police. But don’t worry. I’ll protect you,” he hugged her tight and kissed the top of her head. “I have just the place. They’re not taking my daughter away from me.”

Emily was making macaroni and cheese on the stovetop when there was a knock on the cellar door. The knock was just a courtesy, she heard keys jingle, a lock click, and the door open. “Hi, Daddy,” Emily greeted.

“Hey, sweetie. How are you doing today?” he asked, placing a bag on the counter and giving his daughter a kiss on the forehead. “I brought you your groceries for the next few days.”

“I’m doing fine, Daddy. Thanks.”

Vincenzo Parga ran a successful construction business. When he was able to, he bought a quarter section of land to build his family’s house on. On the land was the ruin of a stone house that had burned down in the 1970s. He took some of the stone to build the new house but left the basement ruin alone. After the crash, after his daughter’s survival, he began working on the ruin. He attached a metal roof, reinforced the walls, got electricity and water to the basement, he cemented the floors of a couple of rooms and moved furniture in. He reinforced the cellar door and the basement was ready for Emily to move in.

It took Emily some time to adjust to her new situation. She was only fourteen and the basement—the basement of an abandoned, burned-out house ruin—scared her. Vincenzo tried to make the place more homey and warmer, bringing Emily whatever she might need for her stay.

She believed that at any time, she’d be allowed to leave what she now called home. “How long do I have to stay here?” Emily asked about a month into her stay.

“Until the heat dies down, sweetie,” Vincenzo answered.

“How long do I have to stay here?” Emily asked again about two years into her stay.

Finally, Vincenzo ominously shut down any further hope of her leaving. “I don’t know, sweetie. There’s no statute of limitations on murder,” Vincenzo held his daughter’s cheek. “If they figure out that you’re here or living in the house then they could come busting through the door and take you away. Even if it’s twenty years from now. You might as well stop getting your hopes up.”

“Maybe I should just turn myself in. Maybe if they hear my side and that I didn’t mean to do it…”

“No! I said I would protect you, that I would keep you from them, and I mean it,” Vincenzo said.

She cried for nearly a week. She was angry at everything and everyone. Then, she woke up one morning and was resigned to her situation. She became a model prisoner, so to speak. She looked on the bright side of everything. No more going to school. Her own place. She’d never have to get a job. She really had no problems or cares in the world.

Emily popped herself some popcorn and sat down to watch the news. “A dangerous intersection will be getting a major upgrade in the coming months,” the reporter began. Emily looked up and stared at the television. She recognized the intersection immediately. “It’s a four-way intersection with a creek that goes underneath. It’s also very narrow, barely able to hold two cars in either direction. Some may remember almost five years ago when an accident at this intersection resulted in the deaths of 14-year-old Emily Parga, nine-year-old Antonio Parga, and their mother, 39-year-old Amelia Parga. It was these deaths that spurred a movement to widen the intersection and redirect the creek. Those people are finally getting their wish.”

Emily stared blankly at the TV. She was dead? No, they made a mistake. Or her father said she was dead. He had to explain her disappearance somehow, right? She finished watching the news then got ready for bed.

She hadn’t dreamed of the accident for a long time. Nearly a year. But tonight, she did, but it was different. The basics of the dream was the same. She was driving and her mom and brother were in the backseat. Her father was sitting next to her.

As they approached the intersection, where she hit the puddle, hydroplaned, and crashed, things changed. She noticed the ‘passenger door open’ warning light and her father’s hand reach over and grab the steering wheel. As the car swerved and left the road, she woke up, as she always did. She could usually just roll over and fall right back to sleep. Tonight, she sat up in bed, in the darkness, and thought about the dream and the differences she now remembered.

“Can you tell me again?” Emily asked her father when he came by two days later. “How it happened?”


“The accident.”

“I just told you a few days ago.”

“They’re replacing the intersection. I saw it on the news,” Emily revealed. “They said I was dead.”

Vincenzo thought fast. “I made them think you were dead. So they wouldn’t be coming around her looking for you. You understand, right?”

“I think so. I remember something else, too. I think I can clear my name.”

“What are you talking about?” Vincenzo immediately got upset. Irritation and anger quickly boiled over inside him.

Should she tell him? “If I could just talk to the police. I think I can clear this up.”

“No. Never. Out of the question.”

“I want out of here,” Emily said, practically demanding. “I can live with the consequences of my actions. Can you?”

Flustered, Vincenzo stood up quickly and stormed over to the door. “You will never leave here. I am protecting you. You killed your mother and brother. You nearly killed me and yourself. You should be glad that I love you. I could just give you to the police. You’d be arrested, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death.”

“It was an accident,” Emily ran after her father as he began leaving the cellar. “And I didn’t even do it!” she shouted as the door slammed shut. She stood at the door, looking at it, trying to will it to open. “Dad!” she began screaming. She started knocking on the door and while it echoed inside the cellar, it couldn’t be heard on the other side.

Vincenzo didn’t go to the cellar for over a week. Emily about ran out of food and opted to go to bed early than stay up and eat dinner. He couldn’t leave her down here forever. What if she did starve? She needed to get out of the cellar but there was no way, except through the front door.

She was down to her last few cans of food—canned tamales, potatoes, and a can of pineapples. As she opened the can of pineapples with the can opener, she held the lid with her thumb and forefinger. She bent the lid back to snap it off from the can. Her finger slipped and was sliced open by the edge of the lid.

“Ow!” she yelled. She put her finger in her mouth and went to the bathroom to clean and hopefully bandage the cut. She washed the finger repeatedly but it kept bleeding. She worried that it wouldn’t stop and she’d die without getting out of here.

When it did stop bleeding, she then worried about it becoming infected. She cleaned the cut and put a bandage on it. If she were really sick or going to die, her father would take her to a doctor or the hospital, right? She was almost out of food and she hadn’t seen him since their fight.

“I have to get out of here,” she said to herself. “He’s going to kill me. If he hasn’t already.”

Vincenzo reappeared with some groceries on day nine. It was late at night, the ten o’clock news was just ending, which surprised Emily. “I figured you’d be running out of stuff by now,” he said.

Emily didn’t know how to act. Should she act nice or upset? Should she act like they didn’t have a fight? How much should she push? “Thank you,” she decided. She noticed a box of chicken in a biscuit crackers and took them out and tore into them.

“I will be bringing you a large thing of groceries in a couple days. Is there anything special you want?” Vincenzo asked.

Is he planning on abandoning me? Leaving me to die in here, she asked herself. “Froot Loops,” she answered. She glanced at the bandage on her finger. “And more canned pineapples.”

“Is that it?”

“Give me a minute to think,” Emily said. “How are you doing?”

The question surprised Vincenzo. She never asked about what he was doing or how he was doing. “I’m doing good, Emily. Thanks,” he smiled.

“Do you still build houses?” Emily asked. When she was a kid, she would brag about her Daddy building houses. She wondered if that would elicit any emotion in him.

“For the most part,” he answered. “I’ve done a few commercial properties since you’ve been here—buildings for businesses.”

“Cookie dough. Chocolate chip and sugar. I miss having homemade cookies. And more of these,” she held up the chicken in a biscuit box. “And ice cream. Cookies and cream and cookie dough.”

Vincenzo smirked and pulled out his phone. He opened the notes app and made a list of what Emily wanted. “All right. Is that it? I’ll be back in a couple days. Love you, Emily.”

He opened the door and left, slamming the door to the cellar behind him. She stared at the door for quite a while before returning to the living room to watch TV a bit longer before going to bed.

Vincenzo returned with almost three weeks’ worth of groceries and the stuff that Emily asked for. She immediately began putting the groceries away. “How was your day?” she asked sweetly.

“It was fine,” he answered. “We got a contract for an industrial building in the new technology park.”

“How does that work? Getting contracts?” Emily asked, genuinely curious.

“It’s usually whoever bids the lowest, but sometimes it’s just who can do a good job in a reasonable amount of time and money,” he explained. “That’s what happened with us. We offered better construction in quicker time for just slightly more money.”

“Cool,” Emily nodded. “Thank you for the food.”

“I brought you…” Vincenzo pulled a paper out of his back pocket “…the ingredients for cookies and made you copies of your Mom’s cookie recipes,” he handed the paper to Emily.

Emily had no pictures of her mom. It had been five years since seeing anything related to her mom. Seeing her handwriting made her tear up. “Thank you. It’s been so long since I’ve seen anything of hers.” She stared at the handwriting for several seconds before looking back up at her father. “Can I see her?”


“Her grave. Can you take me to see her?”

“I didn’t bury her. She and Antonio were cremated. They are in an urn in the house,” Vincenzo revealed.

“Even better. I can just come into the house and…”


“This isn’t fair. It’s not fair to take away my childhood, my teenage years, my life in general because of something I didn’t do,” Emily argued, raising her voice.

“I’ve lost my wife—your mother—and your brother. I’m not losing my daughter,” he said. He sounded like he was about to cry but she wasn’t sure if it was real and she wasn’t taking the bait.

“That’s a lie. You’ve already lost me by locking me in here. You only see me once or twice a month. If the crash and the death were an accident, I wouldn’t be sent to jail. You’re keeping me here because I was supposed to die in that crash, too. But I didn’t so you have to hide me away. Why? Why am I down here?”

“You ungrateful…” Vincenzo looked like he wanted to hit her. His fists shook was rage. “I keep you safe and this is the thanks I get.” He exhaled sharply and turned to leave.

“Don’t you dare…” Emily ran toward him. He turned quickly and pushed her away from him. She stumbled on the slightly uneven dirt floor and fell to the ground, hitting her head on the corner of the kitchen counter, knocking her out.

She was unconscious for nearly five hours. And he just left me there, she thought and thought about it constantly over the next few days. She spent most her of her days looking for a way out but there was only one window and it was unbreakable glass, could not be opened, and sealed tight. The walls were well-built and were surrounded by dirt anyway. The ceiling was a wood and steel vault-like ceiling. She couldn’t dig through the floor. And the front door was like the door on a bank vault. She spent an entire day screaming as loud as she could for ten minutes every hour but no one heard her or no one ever came close enough to hear her.

She prepared herself for the possibility that her father would never return. She made herself cookies from her mother’s recipes and enjoyed each and every one she made. She watched a lot of TV and spent a lot of time looking over every inch of the cellar trying to find a weakness that she could exploit to escape. When she would open a can, she’d secret away the lid, placing them around the cellar to use as a weapon if she needed them.

The days and nights dragged as her sleep schedule changed as did what she did to pass the time. It was three in the afternoon, almost a month since she last saw her father, when she heard the door to the cellar clang and start to open. She had rearranged what little furniture she had so she would have cover if he came in with a gun. He came in empty-handed and stopped suddenly at seeing the rearranged rooms. “Been making some changes?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Emily quickly answered. “How are you?” she asked, starting with the nice tactic but wanting to quickly move on.

“I’m good. I’m fine. Wanted to get a list from you for groceries. You’re probably running a little low,” he smiled at her.

Get away from the door. I should’ve thought of something to get him away from the door. “Yeah, a little bit. I haven’t been eating much,” her eyes widened. “I think the toilet isn’t working.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really? Is it clogged or overflowing?”

“I don’t know. Just go see,” she shooed.

“I’m sure it’s fine. Is there anything you want? I have to get going,” Vincenzo clearly wasn’t going to fall for anything.

“I don’t want or need anything,” Emily walked up to him. “Because I’m coming with you.”

He chuckled a little and shook his head. “We’ve been over this. You are staying right here.”

“No, I’m not. Now get out of the way.”

“Emily, listen…”

“I’ve been listening. For five years, I’ve listened. I’m not doing this anymore. You are letting me out of here or so help me I will let myself out.”

“It’s for your own safety…”

“Get out of the way!” she screamed and charged at Vincenzo. He grabbed her arms but she kept trying to claw and kick at him. “Let me go!”

“Calm down, Emily. You don’t want to hurt yourself,” he said calmly but condescendingly.

Emily was done. She kicked at one of his legs but missed. She tried again and was able to hit his crotch. He let go and fell to one knee. She kicked at the one knee that was still holding him up and he went down to the ground. She stood over him, panting.

“That was pretty good,” Vincenzo laughed as he started getting up. “I should’ve known that at some point you’d want out of here. I should’ve just killed you when I had the chance but…”

“Enough talking,” she said.

Vincenzo watched her right arm flash in front of him. He felt a sharp zip across his throat. He held a hand up to his neck and looked down to see blood. He glanced at Emily’s hand which was holding the lid to a tin can, also with blood on it. He tried to say something, opening his mouth.

“I said ‘enough,’” and she slit his throat again. And again. And again.

The can lid and her hand was covered with blood. Vincenzo was lying motionless on the dirt floor. She was still panting as she pulled the steel cellar door all the way open and stepped out into the outside world she hadn’t seen in five years. Emily walked from the cellar to the house that she could barely remember. There had been some changes but it was still the same. She walked up the steps of the back porch to the back door that led into the kitchen. She threw open the door, it hitting the wall, startling the people in the kitchen. At the stove, was another woman. At the table, were two young boys—one, around five-years-old, was doing some kind of school worksheet, while the other, a couple years younger, was holding two action figures. They gasped at the door hitting the wall and again when they saw Emily.

The three of them, Vincenzo’s new family, stared at the girl they had only seen in pictures and only heard about. The woman then noticed Emily’s bloodied hand and gasped.