The bank people leave a stack of papers for our review. We don't understand a word.
"Read it out loud," Father says.
We read it out loud. We still don't understand it, but we hear, from beneath the house, a creaking, and then, as we read the last words, the wail of something starved and lonely. We drop the papers. The wailing stops.
Father decides the youngest one must go down to see what it is. She pales when she hears this, her bright red hair frizzing around her face. "I- I don't-" she stammers. Father points at the back door, and she leaves, her body stiff and her steps weighted.
We stand in silence, out steamy breath mingling in the stillness of the house. There is no more noise from beneath the floorboards.
More time than should have passed is gone. Father points at the second youngest. "You, son. Go."
The boy nods once, the fading light reflecting off his wide blue eyes. He leaves the way the first one did, out the silent back door to enter the basement from the hatch by the gardens. The other entrance was sealed long ago. Father never told us why.
Silence takes us again. Minutes creep by. This time, some of us are aware of a gurgling, sloshing sound rising up from underneath our feet. We exchange glances. Father doesn't seem to notice.
The eldest of us speaks. "Father, none of this is any good. There is a monster down there, and to seek it out is to die!"
He looks at her. His face lacks emotion. "You are next. Go."