The Mackenzies

By S.B. Borgersen

Our cellar is not a normal run-of-the-mill cellar — but you always knew that. It has a rock wall and a dirt floor and is home to the water tank, the pump, and a few relics from previous residents. Those who were the original settlers.

It smells of old. Of a dark damp that comes with age and decay. Of rotting remnants of an earlier life. You’ve been down there twice in the past 20 or so years.  Down the jagged sloping stone steps. Ducking under the hackmatack beams with their cobweb nettings wrapped around the carved initials I.M.

You’ve been living alone in this old house for almost three years now, since Feargal left. You don’t forget that dawn when you reached across the big bed and he was not there. When his warmth on the rumpled sheets between the blankets had gone. Without a word. With no sign.

And you’ve heard nothing since. It’s strange how you haven’t tried. How you haven’t asked for help in searching for him. You’ve always let him make his own decisions. Never nagged. Never wanted him to change his ways. To wear bright clothes, shave his beard, drink beer. You let him carry on through all those years doing it his way. Not your way.

But you lasted 40 years until he left in that sunless dawn.

There’s a power cut tonight. After the hurricane force winds, you are not surprised. You’ve filled the bath with water so that you can flush the toilet. You’ve got the one-ring propane burner to heat up the beans. But the wind has dropped now and there is a silence. No hum of the fridge or the furnace. No normal house noises.

So it’s easy to hear footsteps in the cellar. Under the kitchen floor. You feel the footfall as your senses recognise them. You know they’re his. A slight heaviness with the right foot, that lean from an early injury when he fell. He’s in the cellar. You know it as sure as you know your own name: Imelda Mackenzie. 

It is not fear that you feel. A certain apprehension maybe. But a chill in the air as you wrap your old green plaid blanket around your shoulders. You feel your way away from the woodstove, across the kitchen to the cellar door and lift the latch.

You call, “If that’s you Feargal, do be careful, the steps are broken now, I wouldn’t want you to fall again.”


Internationally published, S.B. Borgersen writes poetry, short and micro fiction. She also has 13 draft novellas gathering dust. She’s a long-standing member of the Nova Scotia Writers’ Federation, Writers Abroad, and a founding member of the Liverpool Literary Society. Sue judged the Atlantic Writing Competition (Poetry) 2016 and Hysteria (Poetry) 2017.


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