My eyes fall quickly on the doorknob that is only minimally attached to the basement door. It sits there quietly; waiting, it seems, for me to look away before again resuming its rattling. White paint peels from its surface like the skin of a corpse. The door itself is old, with rusted hinges and dirt smudges around its edges from the fingers of those long dead. Dead. What an interesting word in this house. This house with so many sounds and so many secrets.
I have only to close my eyes to picture those who still walk these halls. They are there, watching my every move. Listening to my breath as I sleep. Laughing as I look up towards the ceiling after hearing footsteps in the empty attic. Sometimes I feel them as they glide close to me. Their hands often reach out to catch my hair, and their lips have tasted my own as I have napped in the living room recliner. There are at least five, perhaps more. Each of them with their own stories to tell; and me… their only ear.
The door rattles lightly, and the sound of haunting music drifts up to me from the basement below. I lean my forehead against it’s cool wood, and listen. I close my eyes, allowing the darkness that I find there to embrace me. I sway slightly with the music, smiling in spite of the fact that I know that there is no logical explanation behind what I am hearing. I am alone here, as I always am, and the music plays on.
I place my hand on the latch that is nestled half way up the door. It is a twisted piece of metal, bent, as if something from the other side had tried fervently to get out. I lift the hook from its metal eye and place my hand on the doorknob. It is warm and smooth and turns easily in my fingers. The door itself opens with a creak and within seconds, I am looking down the steps into the inky darkness. The music abruptly stops, only to be replaced by the sound of a dripping pipe and then something else. Something is moving down there.
I try the light switch to no avail, and As I place my foot on the top step that leads down into that darkness, I try to convince myself that it is just my imagination… that I do not really hear the slithering sound of some dead thing pulling its leaking bloody body cross the basement floor. Another step, and then another and my whole body is starting to shake. It occurs to me that this is quite a bad idea, but I continue on until at last, my feet are planted firmly on the floor of the basement. I look back up towards the comforting light of the kitchen, and follow its path as it attempts to follow me down to where I now find myself. The light can’t quite make it, and the blackness of the damp and windowless room begins to swallow me as I edge away from the steps to the center of the basement. To the back of the basement there are crawl spaces leading into raw earth. The furnace is situated in a smaller room leading to these crawl spaces. It is between this furnace and the crawl spaces that I can now hear the distinct sounds of scratching and heavy breathing.
I can just make out a dark slumped figure, moving it seems towards me from one of the crawl spaces. Imagination. My mind screams for me to race back up the stairs, to slam closed the basement door and to run screaming from the house. But instead, I stand there as this blotch on the darkness edges ever closer to me. As it slides itself across the earthen floor, I can hear what sounds like pieces of its rotting body falling into the dirt with its movements. As it draws near, my eyes adjust to the darkness just enough to allow me a glimpse of the thing that is coming towards me. Tissue hangs from its face to expose what could be bone. Muscle and veins hang from the neck like so many slugs and worms. Its mouth opens in a grimace and releases a soft sound that could have been a whoosh of air coming up from the bowels of its decaying body. Behind it, I hear a splatter and the sound of a falling body as something else makes its way out of a crawl space. It is then that I reach my breaking point, and wild eyed, make a dash for the stairs. Above me I hear the sound of rapping on the front door of the house. I start to run up the stairs and turn around once more only to stare at the empty space where only moments before there had been a grotesque and horrible creature. Imagination.
I stop only briefly, and then with effort walk the rest of the way back up the stairs. The light of the kitchen is warm and welcoming as I turn and close the door behind me. I find the bent and misshapen latch and drop it into place. Again, I can hear knocking at my front door. I lean against the door trying to still my beating heart and trying to convince myself that what I just saw was my imagination. Up until now, the spirits here have never caused such a raging fear within me. Again, there comes a knock out front. I break away from the basement door and cautiously make my way into the living room. I go to the front door, very afraid of what I may find outside the house. I try to see outside by looking through the peephole. There is nothing. The rapping starts again, startling me, and sending fear racing through my veins once more. I open it slowly after unlocking the dead bolt and peak out onto the front stoop, fully expecting to see the rotting and oozing flesh of the vision I had encountered in the basement. I let out my breath as I looked down, for standing there, are three pint sized monsters that are far less scary than that which my mind had created in the basement. They hold up little plastic pumpkins and smiling they start up a chorus of “trick or treat”. It takes me a moment before I catch my breath and turn to get a large bowl of candy from a table next to the door. I place the candy in each of their pumpkins and then stand there watching as they fade into the darkness. It is then that I begin to hear the faint strains of music that have started once more to drift up from below.
My heart lurches in my chest at the sound of the doorknob on the basement door jiggling back and forth. Imagination. I turn and slowly make my way back into the kitchen. I look now at the open basement door and the bloody track across my kitchen linoleum that could only have been made by a body. Behind me I hear a hiss and the gnashing of teeth. It is then that the electricity flickers and goes out. Shivering and terrified, I turn to meet my fate.
J.A.H , 2005