Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
My aunt was a kind and benevolent woman. She was widowed, but never allowed her situation to get the better of her. She had a stern outlook on rules and etiquette, but a heart of platinum. She gave to charity even when she barely had enough for herself and she was loved by everyone… except for me.
My aunt wore a disguise. Her facade was so convincing I would love her for many years before.
Back in the days before I would often visit my aunts old house by the sea and would always be thrilled for the opportunity. She was an elder, but her house was never a bore. It was filled to the brim with knick-knacks and photo albums. Some in the town called her a hoarder, but she always preferred to be called a collector. A ‘collector of memories’ she would often tell me as we sat by the warmth of the fire that always bellowed in its stone cage. I would sit on the carpeted floor and listen quietly as she strung tales of the adventures of her youth. The stories of my young aunt clashed heavily with the frail figure I now saw rocking back and forth in her chair.
I was hooked on her stories and would not let her take me to my bed before hearing at least one. She also gave me free range in her home and there was plenty to explore. Her house had been built during the years of prohibition and the old place had been equipped with various nooks and crannies and the occasional hidden room or tunnel. The secret rooms were always dusty and filled with relics of years past. Whenever I asked her about a bottle cap or playbill I found littering the floors of the hidden storage spaces she would only tell me “Oh, sweetie, you know me…I never throw anything away!” then she would laugh and send me off with a sandwich or an apple in hand to go play some more.
I said before that she gave me free range of her house, but to be honest that was not completely true. There was ONE room that she forbade me from entering. “The basement is too old and dangerous, sweetie, you mustn’t ever venture down there, do you understand?” I would always smile and nod yes before going off on another adventure. Not that I forgot the room, I would often wonder what lay behind the old oak door that blocked me from my potential exploration. The door was always locked, though and I would lose interest very quickly.
That is how things went for a while until she started to show signs of mental illness. She began forgetting things. Small things at first…where she left her keys or that she had already bought eggs the day before. She still smiled through it all and would often dismiss her troubles by giving a simple “silly me, my head is full of rocks!” Although she never forgot her mantra “I never throw anything away” and would continue to tell me the stories attached to each object in her collection.
Her mental state slowly slipped away until she couldn’t even remember my name, let alone her own. I was in my early 20s by this point, but I continued to visit my beloved aunt up until the day she finally died from her illnesses. On one of the last days I spoke to her she was sitting in her chair by the fire as she had many times before and mumbling to herself. “Harold…Harold…Harold…” She was muttering my late uncle’s name over and over again. I knew little about my uncle, because he was one of the few topics she never spoke about, and to hear his name escape her lips for the first time since I could remember was shocking. “Auntie, do you want to say something about Uncle Harry?” I leaned in close and watched as a crooked smile went across her lips. Her teeth were yellow and brown in spots and obviously decaying with her age. She laughed for seemingly no reason and let out a raspy “I never throw anything away, child, never…” Then she just stared off into space and wouldn’t answer me. A few days later she died at the town’s hospital and we buried her the next day. Preparations had been in place for some time and the whole ordeal was over pretty quickly.
I learned a few weeks later that she had left the old house to me. I was very excited. This house meant the world to me and I decided to move in as soon as possible. I moved in a few days later and carried my bags up to what had once been my designated bedroom for when I visited. After all the boxes had been carried up I decided to look around my old playing ground. It was relatively the same as before, but age had withered it some. It would need some work, but I was up to the task if it was to restore my aunt home. I spent the next few weeks dusting and patching up the place and made a good amount of progress. The place was starting to look like it had 11-15 years ago. Her old knick-knacks still crowded every shelf and mantle in the house and that was just how I wanted it.
The only issue I had, though, was that at night the house made noises. I tried to tell myself they were just the sound of an old house settling and that I should ignore it. The sounds kept me awake however. I swore at time it sounded like rattling coming from the depths of the old estate. I even thought I heard grunts and voices at one point. This went on every night for weeks and I was getting less and less sleep.
One day while I was finishing up cleaning I noticed for the first time in years, the old basement door. I had grown so accustomed to it being off limits that I hadn’t even acknowledged it this entire time. However, now this was MY house and I had a right to finally see what secrets it held. Besides, I had to clean that room as well as the others. The door, however, was surely locked as it had been for years. I then caught sight of something shiny sitting atop the doorframe. I was a lot taller now than I had been as a child and assumed that is why I had not seen it before. I reached up and brought down a brass key. The key’s appearance conflicted with the rest of the house as it was shiny and polished without a speck of dust on it.
I slid the old key into the lock of the basement door and the tumblers moved with ease. The door creaked open and I was presented with wooden stairs that descended into darkness. I flicked the light switch on the wall, but a fuse must have been blown, because I was still staring at a black pit. I rushed and got a flashlight from my tool bag and was relived to find the batteries were still in working order. I shined the white ball of light into the basement and saw that the stairs themselves looked as if dust had been kicked around and the handrail was wiped clean. I descended the stairs and flicked my light from one side of the room to another. The room was filled with what seemed to be old science equipment. Beakers and test-tubes littered the tables and jars filled with various liquids and gels sat on the shelves. I wondered if my aunt had helped some old high school clean out their old science gear or something and was quite surprised to find this kind of stuff in her basement. There were other jars on the back shelves that seemed to hold organic tissue of some sort, I guess it was probably from frogs or pig fetuses as those where used in high school science classes sometimes.
Then my light landed on what appeared to be a large black box in the middle of the room. It was locked and I could see that little dust had fallen on it. I finally put together that my aunt must have been coming down here regularly when I went to sleep, hence why some of these objects had not been left alone long enough to gather dust. I walked towards the box and gave it a light kick, perhaps it was something from her travels? Or maybe it was just a bundle of old clothes she had put away for a rainy day.
As I kicked the box it moved. It moved not in the way an inanimate objects moves when force is applied to it, but as if something had moved from inside. I kicked it lightly again and it shook more violently this time. I thought I heard noises coming from the black mysterious object. The sounds seemed inhuman in nature and were mostly grunts and moans. The box was shaking more wildly now and I assumed that some animal had gotten stuck in it. My heart was pounding and my eyes were wide. I could feel my palms becoming clammy and sweat rolled down my cheek. This whole experience was so weird, so bizarre that I had no idea how to handle it. I saw that the box was locked with a sliding lock and I walked gingerly towards it. My hand was shaking but I managed to grab a hold of the latch and slide it so as to unlock the box.
The lid flung open and a black figure sprang up. I screamed. Or at least I tried and I fell backwards on my butt in the dusty ground. My flashlight fell from my hands and rolled away and I turned to bolt up the stairs that would lead me away from the horrid basement. I ran and ran until I was through the doorframe. I slammed the door behind me and locked it with the key that I had somehow managed to keep in hand. I felt a hard impact from the other side and my ears were polluted with the vile sounds of inhuman groans and the scratching of nails against wood. I ran to the phone and called the police.
By the time the authorities got to the house the noises had ceased. When they opened the door that found the thing had left long bloody scratch marks on the other side of the door. There were even some broken fingernails lodged in the wood. When they ventured further they found the body of the creature I had ran from in the dark. It had apparently died sometime between jumping out of the box and now. It was a man. His body was badly mutilated and was barely able to tell he was male. His skin was black and flaky and charred as if he had been in a fire. His eyelids and lips had been cut away and his tongue removed. One of his arms had been completely severed at the elbow and the autopsy revealed some minor organs had been removed. His genitals were horribly mangled and his bones showed signs of multiple breaks. His remaining teeth were cracked and jagged as if hit by a hammer. He had no hair as it had probably been burnt off in whatever fire had destroyed his skin. He had no toes on one foot and only half his fingers on his remaining hand. There were various chemicals found in his system that told us that he had gone through several heinous injections. He was nude except for a medical bracelet that had been fused to his wrist in the heat of the flames that had scarred him. It read ‘Harold’.
Upon hearing this I immediately remembered my aunt favorite mantra and my stomach became weak, “I never throw anything away”.
My uncle had gone missing over 15 years ago and was presumed dead. I never thought I would ever meet him. Old journals were found in the basement that revealed that my Aunts mental illness was worse than we could have ever imagined. It turns out that she thought her actions were justified under orders from God. She thought it was her duty to cleanse my uncle’s soul through continuous suffering and had trapped him down in the basement and tortured him for years. When I went down and unknowingly opened the door of his cage he wasn’t trying to chase me, but rather he was trying to escape the hell he had been confined to for 15 years…and I and locked him there. I had kept him in the basement and he died never being able to see the light of day again.
He died in the same hell he wanted nothing more than to escape from. I carry that guilt with me forever. I put her house for sale afterwards, but no one wanted to buy the house of the murderous woman who kept her husband in a box. The house burned down some years after, no one is sure if it was arson or an accident, but I didn’t care. When I heard the news I smiled.
I still have the key, though. A reminder that you can’t trust those you love the most at face value. A reminder that the person you hold in highest regard could be a devil in disguise. Besides, despite my animosity towards my aunt I cannot get myself to get rid of the key.
After all, I never throw anything away.
Credit To – Clever Boy