The Calling of Cadence Saenger
by Darshes A. DiPesa
part 1 of 2
Cadence Saenger prepared to descend into the basement. The creaking of the heavy oak door with its rusty brass hinges was, as usual, uninviting. The discordant shriek had always echoed through the house, a constant reminder of the estate’s colonial origins. It had been this way since she could remember, almost as familiar to her as reciting the alphabet.
Mundane details never bothered Cadence, although that door certainly did, at least it did today. Mindful of her own discomfort, Cadence dismissed it and decided to return to the less than humdrum affairs of her life.
Darkness waited beyond the door and there seemed to be a chill in the air. This wasn’t a nighttime, wintry cold, not during the hot and humid month of July. No, this was something else.
A thread of fear wound its way through her mind, eclipsing the assurance she customarily felt before descending the stairwell. Her blood froze in her veins. She remained suspended on the top step, hugging herself in a nervous gesture, all the while hearing the raspy voice of her deceased father chastising her for not keeping a good posture.
If anything, the voice seemed more authoritative now. The girl closed her eyes for a moment to clear her mind. The silence that should have been refreshing was only unsettling.
Cadence shivered. The chill rippled like an icy hand down her spine to the small of her back. She put a hand to her lips to stifle an involuntary gasp of fear. What was it about today?
She fumbled in the dark for the light switch. Light always served as a formidable weapon to spirit wraiths in those ridiculous movies her husband liked to watch. Funny, she thought, the idea doesn’t seem so ridiculous right now.
The fluorescent illumination flickered before the telltale hum told her the lights were ready to come on. They didn’t comply. Light flickered in a violent tattoo, a cool, white strobe light, after-imaged as if she were in two hallways at once.
Suddenly, with a loud pop and a long drone, the lights came on.
Cadence’s hand moved to the silver and ceramic hook on the wall. It gleamed with the look of fresh polish in the now pinkish hues of the light. The hook held a long white lab coat, always returned once she was finished with her work. Again, her father’s voice goaded her.
“It’s time to go to work, Cady.”
Entranced and unemotional, she replied, “Yes... Daddy.”
The air was dank and musty, but with that all-too-familiar smell. She remembered it from the days of her early childhood. She was only seven years old then. How many times had she witnessed her father descend into this very same basement with a large, ominous black bag, escorted by two large men.
Cadence had watched her father go down there one particular night. He had met her innocent blue eyes with his characteristic good humor. “Now, angel, don’t you come down here. I promise I’ll only be a few minutes and then I’ll read you a story before bed. How about ‘Sleeping Beauty’? Would you like that, Cady?” His grey eyes sparkled and Cadence smiled, the gap in her teeth pronounced from the loss of a front tooth.
* * *
Cadence waited in her room. The book on her nightstand was opened to the right page. She was eager to find out whether or not the enchanted princess would ever awake from her slumber but couldn’t help but wonder why her father wasn’t done yet. The longest he’d ever stayed in the basement was twenty minutes. Why was he still down there?
Curiosity got the better of Cady. She decided to check on him. She donned her slippers and robe and discreetly made her way downstairs.
The door was huge, at least three times her size. She stretched on her toes, daring to grasp the glass knob. The door creaked open. Too loud! Cadence shuddered to think what her mother would do to her if she was caught now. She slipped through the open portal and made her way to the bottom of the basement stairs.
Cadence had never dared venture this far before, but she just had to see what was keeping her father. She peeked around the corner and spied him standing at a metal table. The room was cold, even through her robe. Her father wore a long white coat, like a doctor’s, thick rubber gloves and a white surgical mask on his face.
He seemed more than a little interested in something spread out on the table. Cadence couldn’t see it, but she knew her father was intently attending to whatever was there. She had to see what it was for herself.
Cady decided to stand up and make her way over to her father. He turned, smoky eyes wide at the sight of his little girl.
“Cady, I thought I told you never to come down here!”
“Yes, Daddy, but you never came to read me the story...”
Young Cady stood silent, transfixed by what lay on the stainless steel table. Her father rushed to her, tearing the gloves off his hands, and covered her eyes.
“No! You must not see! Viola! Cady has gotten into the basement!”
It was too late. She’d seen it all. Even the scolding and beating her mother gave her that night wasn’t enough to drive the apparition of what lay on that table from her mind.
A day went by, and little Cady hadn’t uttered a word. She refused to talk, eat, or do any of her chores. Her teacher at school said she seemed distant, almost inaccessible, though calm. She had gone through the entire day without speaking to anyone.
Much later, when her parents were asleep, Cady found herself returning to the basement once again. She reached the bottom stair and remained there, motionless with awe at the sight of the large stainless-steel table. As sure as she had pigtails, she was going to get a closer look.
Cadence dragged a chair over to the metal slab, now heedless of the noise, and climbed to the top. She just stood there. It was as she thought she had seen. On the scarred metal surface lay the body of a girl about the same age as she. The girl wasn’t moving! She wasn’t breathing! She just lay still, like she was sleeping with her eyes open.
“Cadence! What are you doing down here? I thought I told you to stay out of the basement!”
Cadence remained resolute as she studied the corpse. She never even turned as she answered. “I know, Daddy, but I wanted to see.”
“See what?” The frantic response was enough to tell anyone he was seriously bothered by his daughter’s stoic demeanor.
He spun Cadence about to face him. She looked as if she was deep in thought. “Honey, tell me why you came down here?”
“Who is she, Daddy?”
“I... I don’t know, Cady.”
“Does she have a family who misses her?”
He was silent for a long moment. “No one knows for sure. She was found in the Merrimack River. I still have a lot of work to do, because she drowned. Even the nameless deserve a proper burial.”
Cadence knew drowning was a bad thing, but this girl looked as though she was sleeping. In fact, it hardly looked as though a drop of water had even touched her skin. She pondered over the myriad questions bouncing about in her mind. There were so many, but her father had only one. Why wasn’t his only daughter bothered by the sight of a dead body? He’d practically vomited in Medical School when he’d seen his first cadaver. Yet here his seven-year old daughter was, starry-eyed when she should’ve been horrified.
* * *
Eventually she would decide to continue her father’s work. This is how she met her husband, Trevor. The days she spent with Trevor were the happiest of her life. Their love was fiery, passionate and unconditional. He made her feel feminine and beautiful, unlike most of the men she’d dated before him. They’d just made her feel dissociated from the real world.
However, it didn’t start off that way. She’d never forget the day they met. Daniela, her lab partner, and she were removing vitals from their wax-white cadaver in gross anatomy class when Trevor approached the two girls, scalpel still in hand.
“How you feelin’, Daniela? Everyone’s been worried since you got sick earlier.”
Daniela put on a brave smile and said, “Thank you for your concern, but you needn’t worry about me. I just had some bad chicken from the cafeteria.”
Both were referring to the incident an hour before when Daniela had vomited at the sight of her cadaver. She had a weak stomach. Though she gagged whenever they drew back the sheet, she’d never gotten sick until today when assigned to extract the appendix. This might have been the reason she dropped out of school later, but Cadence and she never spoke of it, even though the two remained good friends for three years after.
Trevor wiped his forehead. That was over-exaggerated, Cadence thought.
“Why don’t you leave Lucy, Daniela, and me alone and go back to your sty, Trevor?” Cady answered with her sweetest smile. She certainly wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of bullying Daniela on their second week of gross anatomy. If he got away with it, Trevor seemed like the kind of idiot who’d make himself feel tough by bullying her time and again.
Cadence knew the type. His father was paying for his tuition so he could pound beers and pick up girls. He was only in med school so he could notch his bedpost. Maybe his ego needed to be stroked, but he wouldn’t get that sort of treatment from Cadence Saenger.
“Who’s Lucy? You’re only paired with Daniela, Cady.”
“She is.” Cady indicated the body between her and Daniela with a little wave of her scalpel. The matter-of-fact tone in Cadence’s voice suggested she was serious. She’d actually taken the time to name the cadaver lying before her.
“You named the dead chick?”
Again the smile. “Sure did. It makes her more personable to have a name. Now leave us alone.”
“Personable? Whatever you say, freak.”
Cady giggled sotto voce as she heard her professor scold Trevor for interrupting his class. Little did she know, this would only be the beginning of Trevor’s affections for her.
Copyright © 2012 by Darshes A. DiPesa