“Okay,” said Sam. “That’s different.”
Lachlan followed Sam into the house and realized right away why the house had felt strange. It was too clean.
The other houses were caked with a thick dust layer and full of clutter, personal belongings, and decorations. The inside of this house was spotless, Spartan and minimalist. It was clean enough that someone had to have been in it recently, but it looked the least lived-in of all the houses they’d searched for supplies.
The house’s front room was a small combined kitchen and living room that opened into a hallway on one side. It was sparsely furnished; the living area contained only a single couch against one wall, a shelf of neatly arranged books against the other, and a coffee table with nothing on it between them. Other than the kitchen cabinets, counters, and bar, the kitchen contained only a non-operational refrigerator and two bar stools. The only decorations were two framed portraits hanging on either side of the bookshelf.
The portraits were drawn in clean pencil lines. They were pretty good drawings, but they had an impalpable quality that made Lachlan think the person who’d drawn them hadn’t been an artist. One drawing was of two somber-faced children with large dark eyes, drawn with similar enough features Lachlan suspected they were meant to be siblings.
The other drawing was of a woman who’s face looked strangely familiar. It took Lachlan a moment to realize why.
“Sam.” Lachlan pointed to the portrait. “Look at that picture.”
Sam had already disappeared into the hallway, so he poked his head around the corner.
“What?” Sam came into the room and walking over to stand near it. He squinted. “Wait a minute. Is that who I think it is?”
The likeness was unmistakable. It was one of those creepy sisters.
“It sure looks like it,” said Lachlan. “The question is, what kind of lunatic would hang a picture of one of the Donner sisters in a place of pride in their living room?”
“Maybe it’s not one of them.” Sam disappeared into the hall again. His voice grew more muffled as he walked farther away. “Maybe it’s just a picture of a lady who looks like them.”
Lachlan frowned at the picture. The resemblance was too uncanny to be a coincidence.
The squeak of Sam opening a door came from the end of the hall.
“I’m gonna see if I can find anything useful,” said Sam.
“Wait.” Lachlan started after him. “This house isn’t abandoned like the other ones. Someone’s staying here.”
Lachlan followed Sam into a bedroom that was as plain and sparse as the kitchen and living area. It contained an immaculately made double bed with a plain gray bedspread, a nightstand with an old-fashioned alarm clock, a dresser, and a desk with a swivel chair. Sam had already started rifling through a desk drawer.
“What are you doing?” said Lachlan.
“Satisfying my healthy scientific curiosity,” said Sam.
Sam pulled a notebook from the drawer and opened it, squinting down at the pages.
“Find anything interesting?” said Lachlan.
“Check this out.” Sam held up the book.
On the page was a detailed illustration of a rectangular monster like the one that had attacked them earlier, with notes and labels in pristine cursive. The clean, precise pencil lines reminded Lachlan of the drawings in the living room, even though the subject matter was pretty different. The top of the page was labeled ‘Dave fabrication (mature)’.
“Hm,” said Lachlan. “That is interesting.”
“This person is keeping detailed notes about everything they’ve encountered here,” said Sam. “This could help us figure out what’s going on.”
Lachlan sat down cross-legged on the floor beside Sam and pulled a file out of the drawer.
“I guess it pays to be nosy,” he said.