The man in my basement takes one step closer every week. - Chap 7
Rule 1: He will begin in the furthest corner of your basement. If you see him, do not overreact. He may decide to move on.
I woke to the sound of rain.
Rain tapping against the bedroom window and snaking downward; a pointless race to the bottom; large drops consuming the smaller. I sat up, and stared at the shut closet doors. The horrific sounds of last night still echoed in my head. Reaching for my crutches, I stopped short. Water. A puddle on the window sill.
I grabbed a single crutch, pushed up to standing, and hopped over. Water dripped off the window sill and onto the floor. I wiped my hand against it. Cloudy white droplets clung to my fingertips. I ran another hand along the edges of the window seam until it caught a snag. More water. The seal was broken. Yet another expense I didn’t have the money for. Wiping my hand off on my shirt, I turned back around when- another memory entered my head: The dripping sound in the basement. The puddle of water and clumps of wet dirt in the basement corner. What exactly was that about? I grabbed my other crutch and went downstairs.
Howie’s green backpack sat in the middle of the living room floor. “Howie?” I said. No response. Shrugging, I moved into the kitchen. Maybe he went out for the day. Either way, my curiosity was getting the better of me once again. The barricaded basement door was inviting me down. One last time. I stood there, thinking about puddles and coat-racks. Ruminating.
I never specifically mentioned the Coat-rack to Paul. Sure, there’s a chance he could’ve overheard me talking with Mitch, but that seemed unlikely. Maybe he really was possessed by the man in the basement. Maybe I really am completely insane. Maybe I’m trapped in a madness triggered by Mitch’s note and a misplaced coat-rack. But that seemed crazier than the actual situation. Regardless, I needed to investigate the basement. One last time.
I couldn’t go through the main door, but Thankfully one of the spare rooms down there had a window, a small window stuck in a cramped window well, but a window nonetheless. Hopefully, the few extra quarantine pounds wouldn’t prevent me from squeezing through.
I brought my trusty switchblade and a pencil-sized high-powered flashlight. I’d be going in dark because the light switch was on the stairs, and so was the intruder. I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of going down back down, but according to the rules, the intruder wouldn’t hurt me, at least that was implied.
I crouched down into the gravel window well. Moving around with one leg was getting a little easier, but I still needed crutches. Through the window, I slid my crutches in first, and then my flashlight. Both fell to the carpeted floor inside, a little louder than I’dve liked. Feet first, I pulled myself through and stepped down into the room. A room no bigger than a walk-in closet, crowded with unopened boxes. Squatting down, I picked up my crutches and flashlight. It’s not real. I told myself once again, flicking the flashlights’ on switch. Nothing.
Are you fucking kidding me? I literally changed the batteries five minutes ago. I shook the light. I smacked it with the palm of my hand, and it flickered to life. Thank fuck. I was starting to feel like a Silent Hill character, clunky walking controls included.
Flashlight between my teeth, I crutched across the room, deeper into the basement. My hand gripped around the doorknob, and – I froze. The insanity of me being down here again suddenly hit me. Was this really such a good idea? I glanced back at the open window. Inviting sunlight cast into the room. The peaceful sound of rain, patting against gravel. I turned back for the door. I still don’t know why, but something told me the water in the basement corner would answer many questions. Filled with bitter resolve, I clenched my fist around the doorknob, turned it, and gently pushed open the door with my knee.
It was quiet down here. Like the entire world behind me suddenly vanished into non-existence. I stepped into the hallway, turned to my left: the light between my teeth cast into the distant stairwell corner. Empty. Thank god. I turned to my right: the cold concrete rec-room greeted me. Uninviting as always. Even before all this, the rec-room creeped me out. There was something about hallways that led to rooms with blind corners on either side. Anything could be hiding there, waiting to jump out at you as you stepped in. The random stacks of cardboard boxes didn’t help either. I crutched forward.
Shadows on the rec-room’s back wall lurched up and down with each forward step. My eyes darted back and forth, searching for any possible movement. I stepped into the rec-room and swivel-checked the corners. Nothing. Everything motionless. So still, it almost felt like the room was on pause. A thin layer of dust covered all. I crutched forward again, and- my cast covered leg bumped into a stack of precarious boxes. A stack of boxes that collapsed into another stack of boxes and then another one. The tumbling crash of random objects slammed into the concrete floor. I tensed up, bracing for the noise to stop – feeling like a fool of a Took. Finally, the domino cacophony stopped. Silence returned. I looked back over my shoulder, casting light into the stairwell corner. Empty. Good – I half expected something terrible to be stood there. I waited with held breath, waited for the intruder to stagger down the steps. But nothing happened, not even the sound of breathing. Not even the smell of burnt hair. Okay. I turned around and crept towards the back corner.
I squatted down and studied the corner. The same corner where the water had dripped a few nights back. I looked up. Pink insulation and pipes. Maybe it really was just a leak, maybe I came all the way back down here for no good reason. I was about to stand back up when – something caught my eye: Dust, or rather, the lack of dust. A perfectly dustless square in the corner of the concrete wall about three-feet by three-feet. I leaned in close and squinted. There was a hair-thin line in the concrete. A crack, only visible from the perfect angle. A thin line forming the shape of a square. Like someone had cut into the concrete with a laser. Reflexively, I placed my hand against the dustless square and pushed. The panel shifted backward with a satisfying CLICK. Then shifted forward and slid to the side, revealing an entrance. An entrance barely big enough to crawl through. I looked back over my shoulder, shining the flashlight at the door to the rec-room. Still nothing. I turned around and crouched down further.
The entrance led to a tunnel: A long straight tunnel with dirt walls, dirt floors, and strained wooded beams holding it all together. It went for about twenty feet, then took a hard turn to the right. A hard turn directly towards Paul’s house. I barely even registered what I saw when-
-The basement light flicked on. My eyes flinched as they reacted to the sudden light, and I spun around. Eyes opened. Still nothing. Time to leave. I pushed up to standing and crutched back towards the hallway. The basement light flicked off again. Fuck this. I picked up speed, hauled down the hallway, shoulder pushed back into the spare room, slammed the door shut, and locked it. Taking a deep breath, I stepped away from the door, spun around, and shoved my crutches through the open window. I hoisted myself through and scrambled out of the window well. I crawled away from the window and lay with my back on the wet lawn. Catching my breath, I stared up at gray skies.
Suddenly, my phone buzzed to life in my pocket. I pulled it out. One missed call: unknown number. Voice mail: One message. I tapped into voice mail and held it up to my ear:
“Hey Brandon, it’s Paul. I’ve… I’d like to set things straight. Call me back when you get a chance… I haven’t been fully transparent with you.”