They waited, the silence of the basement pressing in like a pressure wave. Jo tried to imagine she was on a climb, an overhang, with just her hands between her and a long, fatal fall. That kind of pressure, she could handle. Waiting, scared in the dark, not knowing what was coming, if anything—that was harder.
The smallest sound reached them from upstairs, and Jo stiffened. In a building as old as this, it could have been floor boards settling as easily as a footstep. After several moments she let out a slow breath; there was no followup sound.
They waited a few minutes more; her eyes were beginning to adjust to the gloom. She could just make out Mike’s outline, black against the deep, dark gray of the room. He was shifting his weight from foot to foot, no doubt as impatient as she was to be out of this situation.
She finally started edging toward the staircase, willing herself to make no sound. The scrapes and shuffles of her shoes on the floor made her cringe, but she kept going, moving slower; still nothing from upstairs.
The door at the top of the stairs stood open, just as it had stood when they originally found it. It outlined a patch of lighter gray; she couldn’t make out anything at the top. She stood by the foot of the stairs and they waited a bit more.
Ten minutes must have passed by the time Mike dared the faintest whisper. “I don’t think there’s anyone there.”
“Get the box,” she replied.
“If we leave it, we risk losing it entirely.”
He was silent for a moment, silhouette unmoving against the gray. “Alright, fine.” He very, very slowly knelt down next to the box; she could see him fumbling around, unable to see it in the dark. She held her breath; his coat sleeve caught on the box and dragged it a moment, making a noise that she’d barely have heard under normal circumstances, but sounded like the collision of two planets to her here and now.
“Crap,” he whispered.