I ducked inside the house when it started to rain. I had been knocking and calling out, but when it started to pour down on me, it was the only shelter available. They had left it unlocked, and I really needed to get inside. I supposed that it was remote enough that they didn’t think much of leaving the building unlocked. It was an extremely rare chance that anyone like me would come along and actually approach the house.

But I’d run out of gas nearby, and it was the closest building I could see from the highway. So, I had come there to see if they had some gas or could at least tell me how close I was to the nearest town. But nobody was home, so they couldn’t do either of those things.

As I had approached it, I decided that the house looked odd. There were no outbuildings, for one thing. A farmhouse with no outbuildings was unheard of. And it was a charming old brick place. Would have been at home in a quaint, suburban neighbourhood. It was totally out of place on the bald prairie.

But out of place or not, it was shelter when the rain started coming down, and so I still ducked inside. For the first little while, I just stayed in the foyer. I felt like I wasn’t really doing anything bad if I just stayed where I was and didn’t go wandering further around the house.

But eventually, I grew bored of just standing around by the door, and I started looking around the rest of the house. There was a hallway from the front door to the kitchen at the back. In the hallway, there was a staircase that went upstairs.

After I’d looked around the main floor, I took my shoes off and went upstairs. The stairs were carpeted so I felt like I should try to keep them as clean as I could. There were a couple of bedrooms, a sitting room and a bathroom. In fact, the second floor was just as I had expected, except for a huge hatch built over the staircase.

You could close a wooden lid over the top of the stairs, and completely cut yourself off from the main floor. There was even a kind of latch, so that if you had a lock, you could lock the thing shut. The whole second floor would be like a safe room.

I relaxed in the sitting room as the light started to fade. It was still raining, but it seemed pretty clear that the family wasn’t going to come home that day, so I made myself comfortable. As it got dark, I started to fall asleep. The chair I had taken was terribly cozy.

I don’t know how long I slept for, but it was fully dark by the time I woke up. I immediately went to the bathroom, and then I decided that I was hungry and should go down to the kitchen. I’d been telling myself that I’d never let myself get so comfortable that I would raid their kitchen. But I was feeling ravenous, so I decided to break that vow and get something to eat.

So, I went downstairs to the kitchen. I searched through the kitchen, but it had been completely emptied. I wasn’t able to find anything to eat. There weren’t even any scraps or crumbs left for me to take. The place looked like it had not only been emptied but cleaned and scoured to make sure there was nothing left.

As I searched, I became aware of some fervent movement off to my right. I jerked my head around, but there was nothing to see.

Then I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye to the left of me. Again, I jerked my head around. And again, there was nothing to see.

Finally, I managed to actually get a glimpse of the figures who were moving around. All I could see was a kind of shadow in the shape of a tiny little man. I had turned on a light in the kitchen. It lit the area underneath the cupboards, and it had been enough to search with. However, it was still dim enough that it cast long shadows. As I watched, there was more movement around the room.

I was still hungry, but the little men were freaking me out. There was no indication that they meant to do anything to me, so I forced myself to just walk instead of running back to the stairs. When I got upstairs, I closed the hatch behind me. Then I went into the sitting room and pulled an old chest out to sit on top of it, as I didn’t have a lock.

I turned the lights on upstairs, but there was no one to be seen. After I’d satisfied myself that they were all still downstairs, I tried to get back to sleep. I took one of the bedrooms, turned all the lights back off, and flopped on top of the bed. I was sleepy, but there was no way that I could put the little creatures out of my head. Getting back to sleep was impossible.

Eventually I decided that I had no choice but to go out the window. It was the only option to avoid the main floor. It wasn’t an elegant solution, but I hated the house now, and the rain had finally stopped. So, I stripped the bed and tied the sheets together. Then I tied one end to the leg of the bed closest to the window and tied the other end around my middle.

I’m not a fan of heights, but I was willing to put up with it to avoid the shadow men. When everything was tied off, I opened the window and lowered myself out. I lowered myself down going hand-over-hand to the ground.

There was a moment of tension when the bed suddenly slid over to the wall, but I hung on. I thought I heard something rip, but I was almost at ground-level anyway by that time. In the end, it worked fine.

When I was outside, I couldn’t help myself and I rushed over to one of the windows and cupped my hands around my eyes so I could look inside. There was no sign of the little men, as I should have expected. I think it was actually creepier that I couldn’t see them. I imagined them hiding in closets and cupboards, plotting how they’d get upstairs to get me. I snickered smugly when I imagined how disappointed they’d be when they got upstairs and found me gone.

However, as smug as I might have been feeling, I still didn’t really know where I should go. All I could see in the moonlight was more prairie. However, there was the road back to the highway, and then I could just keep walking. The house had wasted most of a day, but I still needed to get gas so I could get on my way.

I’d walk back to the road, and then let the highway guide me to the next town. Not a great plan, but I was hungry and sleepy. Eventually, I’d get somewhere.