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Ever since I can remember, my uncle’s root cellar terrified me. A nameless fear. They told me it was just a child’s fear of the dark, and I believed them. My family would push me towards the door in the back of the first room. I would kick, I would scream, I would cry, I would bite and scratch. Anything to be free of that dark unknown. Looking back, that was smart of me. But I would not be telling you this now if I had been smart. No, if I had been smart, I would have let it go. But my relatives would tease me.
I kept struggling against them each time we would visit my uncle, out in the middle of nowhere. Miles outside of the smallest town you could imagine, in the middle of rolling pastures and thick woods. The cellar itself was set in the side of a large hill, the door facing the pasture below, large pond always covered in a thick green algae. An innocuous round topped door that leads into the earth and stone room, set into a rounded mound near the middle of the hill. A room full of barrels and dust, that’s what I saw in the first room, from my safe perch outside, clutching the side of the hill.
For years, I would fight anyone trying to get me within even five steps of that door in the back. No one believed me when I told them something was on the other side. Something inexplicable, intangible. Just the wild imagination of a child, they said. And I believed them. Because when I turned twelve, I was suddenly a ‘big boy’ and no longer afraid of ‘childish things’ like the dark and scary cellars. So to prove everyone wrong, I came up with the best idea I had ever had. I would go into the root cellar the next chance I got.
But, I thought, ‘no one is going to believe me.’ so I brought my camera and the biggest flashlight I could find. The kind with those giant blocky batteries. Well, I hid these things in that back of mom’s car and the next time we visited her sister and brother-in-law, I ran off to steel myself. “I’m a big boy, I’m not afraid” that’s what I told myself, repeatedly, as if trying to convince myself it were true. Once I was sure I had enough courage, I crept through the almost always propped open entrance.
So far so good, I’m alive, nothing. That familiar sense of dread, it washed over me, but big boys aren’t afraid of the dark. Or monsters. So I turned the flashlight on, making lightsaber sounds as I swung it around. A bit cheesy, perhaps, but it gave a twelve year old the courage to keep walking. As I came to the back door, I swallowed a large lump in my throat and approached. The door looked similar to the first. But, darker. Not only the dark of the room, but the door itself. I convinced myself that the door just hadn’t seen that much sun, so it hadn’t become sun faded.
Or maybe it had been made of a different wood. It didn’t look so scary with the large flashlight shining on it. I would need both hands, so I set it down, facing the door. Camera in the pocket of my shirt, I put both palms on the door and shoved. The door weighed a ton. It took all that I had to push it open. Part of me felt that maybe it was so heavy because I wasn’t meant to open it. But that was silly, big boys aren’t afraid of anything. I just kept pushing, until my small body would be able to slip through. I jumped back and grabbed the flashlight, pointing it at the opening.
I swore then, and still swear now, that as I pushed the door open, I heard a loud breath. As if from the maw of some colossal creature. They would later tell me, it was just the air rushing out. It was stale. Musty. Old. This room had not seen light in, maybe a century, longer perhaps. Timidly I crept inside, the flashlight the first thing in, waving it around. This was the point in the movie the monster leapt out to eat you. That not happening, I poked my head in. The room was empty. In fact there was nothing inside.
Not a spider web. Not a living creature at all. Not even the evidence that anything alive had set foot in the room, not for the longest of times. This seemed strange. The previous room was filled with dusty barrels, a few wooden boxes, myriad cobwebs and the husks of dead bugs. Mouse droppings littered the room. Yet this room, nothing. The door creaked and I leapt, screaming, bobbling around with the flashlight as I dropped it. I caught it, heart almost stopping. If I broke that, I’d be alone. In the dark. In the back of a spooky root cellar.
Alone, that thought itself was a relief. I chuckled and looked around, the entire room made of earth, packed as tightly as you could imagine. Lined with limestone. I didn’t know that at the time, I have since looked it up. Bits of what I assumed to be iron were in the blocks, it looked natural. Maybe they chose it to be pretty? That’s what I thought. I did like rocks, the ones I found in the back yard with shiny bits of iron in them were my favorite. The large flecks of iron cast the beam of the flashlight around like a disco ball.
Why had I ever fought so hard to not get into this room? It’s not so bad, I thought to myself. Well, I proved I was a big boy, only one thing left to do. Evidence. I set the flashlight down, shining at the ceiling, if that’s what you call it when you’re underground. Bits of light cast around by a large cluster of the metallic flecks, but still not enough light. I turned on the flash, made sure it was charged. I could hear it whine as the capacitor charged the flash bulb. Once the light came on, indicating the full charge, I held the camera at arm’s length.
I stuck my tongue out and gave myself bunny ears, ever the joker. The flash went off, blinding me. I had to rub at my eyes when it was gone. Purple spots all over my field of vision, the flashlight no longer seemed as bright as it should be. But it was flickering. This worried me. It was a brand new battery. I was sure of that. I grabbed it and started to leave, tucking the camera into my left pants pocket. I slid through the door, when I heard a heaving breath again. Only this time, a raspy whisper. “Thaaank youuuuu.”
At this point, I freaked out. I was alone. My sisters were playing off in the front yard, my mother was chatting with her sister and her husband. I turned to the door as it slammed shut in my face. I ran, screaming, into the house. I grabbed my mother around the middle, red faced screaming about the monster. No one believed me. “It was just the wind” they told me. But, how could the wind shut a fifty pound door from the inside? From the inside of a room that is not exposed to the wind? No less a door that an average sized twelve year old boy had to struggle to push open.
No one believed me. It’s just your imagination, they said, again. I did not sleep that night at my grandmother’s house. She already had a large collection, hundreds of dolls. I had a slight phobia of them, ever since seeing Child’s Play at the age of five. But tonight was different. I was hearing things. Dark shadows crept along the walls. I had my flashlight with me, but it kept flickering. Every time I heard a noise, or saw something out of the corner of my eye, I couldn’t use it to shine in that direction.
By the time it would stabilize, there was nothing there. By the time the sun came up, I was barely upright. I wanted to sleep, but I couldn’t let myself sleep. But as would happen to any kid, I nodded off. Nightmares are the only thing I remember. Well, waking up from one. Being shaken by my mother and screaming my head off. I nearly struck her with the flashlight. But no matter. That was how it began. Every night for as long as I could remember. I couldn’t let myself sleep. I heard and saw things that no one believed.
A few years later, I could no longer manage it. Living on an hour of sleep a night was taking its toll. I had put on so much weight by then. I nodded off one night around midnight. I woke to my mother in the room, holding a butcher knife, just staring at me, blank face, blank eyes. When I jerked back into the headboard, she looked up, strange grin on her face. “Dinner will be ready in just a few minutes, dear.” She then turned and walked out the door. I clutched the blankets up to my chin, not even daring to blink.
How could I go so slack? How could I let myself doze off? So long did I spend pondering this, I didn’t notice the shadows creeping around. Not at first. By the time I did, there were other things occupying my time. I heard a muffled scream and ran into the hall. Mom was in the room my sisters shared. Blood was everywhere. My younger sister never stood a chance. She was run through asleep. My baby sister felt the movement and woke up. She let out the scream as she was stabbed in the ribcage.
I got there just as the light left her eyes, before my mother turned to me. “Oh, you weren’t supposed to see this… well I’ll just have to take care of that.” Before I could act, she drew the butcher knife across her throat and fell over. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shadow, it seemed to scurry along the wall, but I ran over, checking on things. No pulses on my sisters, just gone. Though I was genuinely terrified of my mother right now, I checked her wrist, she had a weak pulse. I ran for the phone, to call the police.
Being the middle of nowhere, they took fifteen minutes to arrive. By the time they did, no one else was alive. I kept my ‘wild story’ to myself. Let them figure it out. No one believed me anyways. I didn’t need to be locked up in some loony bin. Foster care. That was my future. Or past as it is now. Bouncing around from family to family. Strange things would happen, they didn’t like that I would try to stay awake all night. If I fell asleep, something bad was going to happen again. It wasn’t until I was seventeen that it happened again.
I fell asleep. I woke to my foster family dead, throats slit. Not again, that’s what I screamed. I liked this family, they were nice. They didn’t treat me the way others did. Like some lunatic who ranted and raved about shadows on the walls, noises in the night. The police were called again. I knew they suspected me, I was the only survivor twice. But there was no evidence that could put the knife in my hand. There was no blood on me. Blood splattered everywhere in the carnage, yet I had not a drop on me.
No more foster families, I just got a job, working at some dinky fast food joint. I can’t even remember the name, it was a knock-off of one of the big chains. In such a small town, people would eat there even if it wasn’t a big chain store. The drone of working the register kept me awake. Until I went home. Then I would sit and stare at the television. Even if nothing good was on. Even if it was static. That might have been a mistake, because in the snow, I lost the ability to stay awake. I dozed off.
I woke to the shadows again, things falling over, shattering glass, shrieks of anger. I was onto the game by now, I lived alone, as far from people as I could. For years I had bested whatever it was that followed me around. But, like the idiot I was back then, I let it know that. I told it “That’s right, I’m winning!” It didn’t like that. Not one bit. The next time I fell asleep, it got me. I woke up this time on my feet, soaked in blood. This time I had a knife in my hand, a family lay at my feet, police with their guns trained on me, shouting “We told you to drop the knife and get on your knees!”
I had no idea what they meant, but I did as they said. I dropped the knife and got on my knees. Five fully grown men tackled me. Of course at this point, the only thing I could proffer in my defense was that the shadows had possessed me. Great idea. But that was my story. I stuck to it. They declared me mentally unfit. Unbalanced. Tossed me in a padded room. Found not guilty by reason of mental defect, but still locked away in a mental hospital. But, they had to let me out, I was quite sane. Sleep deprived, but sane.
But still, whispers in the night. Shadows following me around. It wasn’t long before I was locked up again. I tried to drive my car into a bridge abutment. Or rather I succeeded. But I forgot to take my seatbelt off. I was carted back to the padded room. For observation, until they moved me into one of the rooms. No getting out this time. But still the whispers. The whispers. The shadows. Oh how the shadows follow me. Now I sound like the raving psychotic they hold me out to be. But I swear to you, this is the truth.
Would an insane person admit to sounding completely and totally insane? Don’t answer that. I can feel it, even now. It’s coming again. It’s mad. Nineteen years it hasn’t gotten what it wanted. It hasn’t taken my sanity yet. Or my life. But as I write this, even now, I feel my strength to continue fighting sapping away. If they knew I was out of my room, typing this, they would not be happy. But you have to know. You have to know my story. You have to know what to do once I’m gone. Please, take my words at face value.
When it comes for me, oh God I can hear it now. I don’t have long. When it comes, when it kills me. Please, bury the remains in my uncle’s root cellar. The enclosed attachment will have the address, I dare not put it in this, I don’t want people to know where it is. Place my remains, hopefully with this monster, this demon, whatever it is, inside them, into this room. Shut the door and lock it. Barricade it if you have to. Hell, blast the damn entrance to the mound shut. No one must ever, EVER, disturb this thing again.
I have to finish this, I can hear it. Hear it at the door. The lock trying to turn. The tinkle of glass. This is my last desperate plea, hear me, spread this story, tell the people. Even the ones who thought I was crazy. A psychotic mess. I was sane. I tried to fight it. I let it out. It’s all my fault. I am sorry to all the people that got hurt. The door is opening, I have to hit send. Out of time. Out of time.
Credit: Kyu Arashibara