Jake was just a guy. Twenty-one, a prime age if there ever was one. College student, not stellar grades but hey, if you were in college and you had a 4.0 you were doing something wrong. That’s what he thought about it anyways. He had played basketball in high school, but didn’t have the height or speed needed for collegiate play. It didn’t interest him anyways, but girls still did. And there was of course that one girl, everyone has one. Pretty, blonde, blue eyes, in his strength and conditioning class. He had never spoken to her, but he thought about it everyday. What he would say to her when the day came when they had another class together. Hey, you were in my strength class last semester. Wanna come to our party this weekend? Some beer, some shots, back to my room? It was all always on his mind.
Back from college for the summer he still thought about her. A few hours stalking the class and he had found her on Facebook, apparently she lived a state over, not too far either. Not that he would ever be creepy enough to go there or anything, but he still entertained the idea. Everyone does.
His house, or rather, his parents house, was set on a three acre plot in the country, in the middle of everything. Not close to anything mind you, but it was literally in the middle of a bunch of things. There were three big cities all within a thirty minute ride of his house, but nothing, absolutely nothing but farmland in the immediate area. That made things boring during the weeks, but fun on the weekends due to the possibilities. He was a waiter, a bad one, but still it paid a bit.
The house he grew up in had a familiar smell now that he had been back for awhile. It was an old house, built over top a farm complex that had been torn down to make his neighborhood. He and his younger brother had found some relics from that time, still kept in the garage for some reason. A sickle, a bunch of chains, some barbed wire. Farm stuff, unimportant. In the basement, from when they had just had the house renovated, was a whole assortment of things apparently, but he couldn’t remember what they were. He just knew his parents had the money to keep the foundations of the old farm-house when they moved in, giving it a rustic sort of feel.
That basement had always scared him, and it still did in a primal sort of way. The dark of a basement makes anyone uneasy for some reason. It’s all your stuff down there, but what if there’s something else, something uninvited? He would play on that fear now that he was back, turning off the lights on the far side of the basement and dashing through a crowd of old boxes and baby toys back to the stairs and up to the main floor. The light switch was situated so that you had to do that, so there were two options. Either leave the lights in the basement on all the time, or turn them off and wander in the dark up to the steps. Why they had never installed a light switch by the top of the stairs he would never know, but it made doing the laundry a special little adventure every time.
One such time he was down there, his phone playing music as he folded and he got ready for it. The switch was on the wall right by the washer, so he turned it off and sprinted with the basket of clean clothes down the unfinished floor and over to the stairs. He was right by the dark outline of a dresser when he heard it.
“Hey,” came the voice. It startled him so badly he jumped and flung the clothes all over the place. Could that really have happened? Had someone just spoken from the darkness? S**t if he was about to find out. The basement freaked him out even when there were no weird voices, and it was pitch black save for the outline of light coming from under the door.
He stared for a second, eyes wide in the gloom, then bolted up the stairs. He took them two at a time, reaching the top in what must be a new land speed record. But at the top his hand found the door, and found it to be locked. The hell? He tried again, panic flooding in his veins. There was no one home, he worked at eight and his parents were gone, his brother too. But the door was indeed locked.
He spun around, staring into the depths of the basement, down the stairs.
It was right at the foot of the stairs, only ten feet away. His mind flooded with pure unadulterated fear. Something in the darkness, something that wasn’t supposed to be there, something he couldn’t see. Something that didn’t belong there. It was a primal fear, fear of the unknown, and it was right there.
He scrambled his feet up as far as he could get, edging his back against the door to let in the maximum amount of light from the crack under the door. But he couldn’t see a thing, it wasn’t enough.
It was right there, inches from his face. He could hear it breathing. Deep, labored breaths, like that from a smokers. He could smell it too, and he remembered very quickly where he had last smelled that smell. From roadkill on the road. The smell of rotting, of decay. His heart lurched in his chest.
“Hey, Jake,” said the voice. So close he should have been able to reach out and touch it, but there was nothing there but black.
“The f**k are you doing in my house!” he screamed at it.
“It ain’t your house, Jake. It’s mine. It’s mine when it’s dark.”
“Get the hell away from me!”
“No, I got a better idea. How about you let me up there, hm? I can’t get out, not like this, not when there’s that much light up there. But with you, hey I might just be able to scape this place. With you a lot of things are possible.”
His mind was ripped with raw terror. Every childish nightmare was coming true. Demons, dark things, unseen frightening creatures. There was one right in front of him.
He closed his eyes and leaned back, stretching in vain to get as far away as he could. But he felt a long, cold, clammy finger caressing his face, and the shock from that touch made his mind stop working. His mouth opened and closed, but nothing came out.
“Hey Jake, what do you say, huh? Help me get out of here, and I’ll help you. Meg, ah what a girl, you want her, right? I know you do. I’ll give her to you, just let me out of here.”
“F**k off,” he screeched, with a far higher voice than he really had.
“Oh no, no I don’t think so. I’ve watched you run through this basement for twenty some years. Every time I wanted to take you, I thought about it a lot. Now here you are, with no one home. Just you and I, Jake. So what do you say?”
He could feel cold air breathe on his face, that smell fill his nose. And then he became quite calm, like it was a drug. His eyes relaxed and opened, his legs spread out and quit shaking. Might not be so bad. I do like Meg. Suddenly the idea was very attractive. This thing couldn’t be all that bad, it wanted to help him after all. Could be a good thing, for him and it.
“Yeah, alright,” he said drunkenly, and smiled.
“Ah, good, that’s. Good boy Jake. Just the answer we were hoping for. Back up to the light, for the first time in four thousand years.”
The cold hand gripped his jaw with frightening strength, forcing his mouth apart. His eyes widened in terror one last time, then his mouth widened, then it was in his lungs, then his entire body, was filled with that cold, cold breath. He exhaled and saw some vapor, as if it were the dead of winter. Ah but he felt alive, more alive than he had in a very very long time. He smiled to himself, stretched his arms to make sure everything was in order, stood up and kicked out the stiffness from his old legs, and walked back down to collect the clothes.
He whistled a tune as he put his clothes in his drawer, neat and orderly. It had been awhile since he owned clothes it felt like, too long had he been naked in the dark.
“Abyssus abyssum invocate,” he sang. “Abiit nemine salutato.”
The front door downstairs opened and he looked up, licking his lips. His brother was home from school. “Oh Father, why have you forsaken him?”