Candy and Monica cringed in the corner and held each other as close as possible while they listened to Mary yell at Sebastian. They knew from the sound of her voice that this wasn’t going to end well for their friend.
“You ungrateful little monster,” Mary yelled at Sebastian, and then slapped him across the face. “How dare you steal from me.”
“But we ain’t had no food in two days, Mother Mary,” Sebastian pleaded his case.
“You’ll eat when I say you eat,” she told him and then picked the five-year-old up by his collar and dragged him toward the cellar door.
Sebastian screamed and begged to be let go. He kicked out at Mary, but the woman was too strong for him to break her hold. All the children were scared to death of the cellar. They didn’t know exactly what was down there, but they knew it was awful because nobody who went in there ever came back.
“Please, Mother Mary, don’t send me down there,” Sebastian begged. “I promise, I’ll never steal again.”
“Oh, I know you won’t,” Mary replied, and then opened the cellar door. Before she headed down the stairs with Sebastian, Mary told the other children to stay put or they’d be in trouble when she got back.
Candy and Monica gathered the younger children close and all stayed huddled in the corner. Try as they might, they couldn’t hear what was going on downstairs. Candy wasn’t so sure they really wanted to.
Down in the cellar, Sebastian couldn’t believe his eyes. Cages lined the cellar walls, but it was what was inside the cages that scared him most. Each cage held a child, or the remains of one, anyway. Some were only bones, but others still had flesh attached.
Sebastian threw up all over Mary’s shoes when he passed the cage that held Robert, his cousin who he hadn’t seen in two months. He remembered the day Mother Mary pushed Robert threw the cellar door. Sebastian had tried to go after them, but Candy held him back and put her hand over his mouth so he couldn’t yell out. “Hush, little one,” Candy had said, “you don’t want to join him, do you?”
There was no fight left in Sebastian by the time Mary placed him in a cage. He crumpled to the floor and hugged himself close. Mary slammed the cage door shut and locked it.
At the top of the stairs, she stopped and faced Sebastian who was staring at her, too terrified to speak. “Bad children get put in time out, Sebastian, that’s just the way it is,” she said and then left the boy alone in the darkness.