Story 24: The girl in the basement

For StoryADay May Challenge

Once upon a time,

There was a girl who lived in the basement of a great, drafty house. Her guardians were selfish, mean tyrants who delighted in keeping her in the dark, in the damp, away from sunshine and everything good.

The girl had been there for years, she had almost lost track of the days. But there was one thing that the girl did to help her pass the time: she sang.

At first, her voice was not strong, and she sang only for a few minutes per day.

But over time, as she continued to sing, her voice grew sweeter and stronger and her mind more creative. She made up songs about the past she remembered, dancing among the flowers. She sang about the pain of being locked in the basement. She sang of suffering and hope, loneliness, and pain.

Sometimes the guardians upstairs hollered at her to shut up. But for some reason, they never could stop her. At first, she would fall silent at their screams…but over time, it only made her sing more boldly.

One day, a family was picnicking in the park near the great old house. There was a mother, a father, and a small group of children–different ages, different genders, different ethnicities.

As the mother unwrapped the carefully prepared sandwiches, the littlest girl in the family suddenly said: “Who is singing?”

The dad and her older siblings looked around. “No one is singing,” they said.

“I hear someone singing!” the littlest sister insisted. Everyone fell silent. Sure enough, there was a haunting, lilting melody, floating faintly on the breeze.

“Who is that?” a brother said in amazement.

“It’s so pretty,” said another sister.

“Let’s go see!” said the father.

So the family left their picnic lunch basket on the grass and followed the sound. When they found themselves in front of the great house, the father knocked.

The door creaked open two inches “Yes?” said a gravelly voice.

“Excuse me,” the father said. “We heard someone singing and we were wondering if it was someone living here.”

“No one in here sings,” the voice said. “Go away.” And the door slammed in their faces.

The family was startled, but they knew the voice was lying. The sweet singing voice was stronger than ever. They followed it around to the back of the house and saw a small basement window, from which the sound was coming.

“Hello!” The littlest sister said, cupping her hands around her mouth and directing her greeting at the window.

The singing stopped. Then the girl in the basement replied: “Hello?”

“What are you singing?”

“It is a song I wrote, about sadness.”

“It’s beautiful,” the littlest sister said. “The people who live in the house above–are they your parents?”

“No,” the girl in the basement sighed. “They are my guardians. They never let me outside.”

“Never?” the mother gasped in horror. “That’s terrible.”

“Do you have any other family?” one of the brothers asked.

“No,” the girl in the basement replied. “I am alone.”

“Then would you like to join our family?” the littlest sister asked.

The girl in the basement was silent for a moment. “I can?” she said finally. “You would want me?”

“Of course,” the family assured her.

“But you’ve never even seen me.”

“We have heard you,” the family said. “And you sound like you need a family.”

“I would…like to have a family,” the girl said at last.

“Perfect! You must join ours,” the littlest sister said, clapping her hands. “How do we get you out?”

With the ingenuity of the brothers and sisters, the family figured out a way to open the basement window, reach in, and pull the little girl out. She was a mess, having lived alone in the basement for so long. Her hair was ratty, her clothes sullied. But the family hugged and welcomed her anyway.

Later that night, the guardians in the house above realized that something was different about the house. There was no singing. Anxiously, they crept down to the basement, and opened the door for the first time in years. The room was empty. The girl was gone.

The guardians howled their anger, but there was nothing they could do–their prisoner had escaped.

The once ratty, lonely girl in the basement had become part of a big, loving family. As she taught them her songs and told them her stories, they taught and shared theirs with her. And the girl wrote new songs, about warmth, and love, and joy, and hopes fulfilled, and when they were finished, the entire family sang together.

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