Friday, January 31, 2014
Basements are naturally creepy places, don’t you think? Who hasn’t gotten spooked before and ran out of their basement or cellar like there was a hideous monster trailing behind them? Billy Jessup had done so on more than one occasion. Something about being down in that dark, dank cellar alone gave him the willies.
But Billy was getting older. In less than a month, he’d be ten. He was smart enough for his age to know that if he didn’t conquer this demon now, the irrational fear might control him the rest of his life.
So one particular Monday after school, when mom was out buying groceries and dad wasn’t due home from work for another two hours, Billy put aside his trepidation and decided it was now or never.
Standing in front of the green cellar door, he took three deep breaths and steeled himself for the challenge. Then gently turning the knob, he pulled the door open and dragged his hand across the wall in search of the light switch. When he found it, the fluorescent lights flicked on and he descended the creaky wooden staircase his dad had constructed himself when the old staircase caved in.
Billy one day dreamed of being as handy as his old man. When his father was his age, he was constructing tree houses and birdfeeders. Billy couldn’t even build a gingerbread house for his art class.
The fluorescents flickered and emitted a buzzing noise as they did from time to time. It made Billy jump until he realized it was just the lights. “Pull it together, Billy,” he said aloud for nobody else to hear but himself. “You’ve gone this far. You’re at the bottom of the stairs now. Keep going.”
The cellar was damp and muggy in the heat of June. Billy tugged at the neck of his Batman shirt in a vain attempt to cool off. Billy was an avid comic book fan–X-Men, Spiderman, Superman. But Batman was always his preferred choice. That was the hero he admired. No superpowers, no supernatural abilities. A hero that relies on dexterity and intellect in order to thwart criminals or save the day. Much like his father relied on his skills and intelligence to do things like assemble a staircase from scratch or build a tree house the size of a night club. In a way, Billy was saying his father was his real hero. He just had a different way of expressing it.
Brown cardboard boxes were stacked and piled against the walls, some containing photos or books or vintage clothing. Others containing boxes of comics Billy had been collecting since he was five. Even at a young age, he understood the value and his father had taught him to bag and board all of his comics to preserve their condition.
And beyond the boxes, the boiler room of the cellar. The room that gave Billy nightmares for six months straight after he had watched A Nightmare on Elm Street late one night on television. “That’s what you get for watching movies you’re not supposed to,” his father had lectured. And Billy knew he was right. It taught him a lesson he’d never forget.
The door frame of the boiler room projected an image of darkness. The door was wide open and the room was still pitch-black. The room had fluorescents, but the light switch was on the other side of the door.
“You can do it,” Billy encouraged himself. “It’s just a silly little room. Nothing in there can hurt you.”
The fluorescents continued to hum and flicker as Billy glided past the boxes. He stopped ten feet from the door when the boiler began to rattle. “It’s a normal sound,” he assured himself. “Nothing to be afraid of. Don’t chicken out now. What would Batman do? He’d keep going.”
As the rattling of the boiler and the buzzing of the lights continued, a new sound emerged suddenly past the threshold of the boiler room.
It was a sound he couldn’t quite distinguish. Then it grew louder and he could easily deduce it. It was chattering. The chattering of teeth.
Sharp, jagged, spikey teeth.
“It’s all in your imagination,” he whispered. “It’s all in your mind.”
Tentacles–slimy and yellow–crept out from the room and roped their way around his ankles.
“All in your mind…” he repeated. His eyes were closed, but he could feel the warm tears streaming down his cheeks. The tentacles that were coiled around his ankles snatched him off his feet, dragging him into a pit of darkness.
The rumble of the boiler ceased as Billy’s screams reached an abrupt conclusion.