Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
I hadn’t been to my childhood home since my parents got divorced. I was five years old when I was last in that home. It was very important to me to have my home in my possession. My Dad built half of the house and the entire backyard. Now that I’m married and ready to start a family I really wanted my old childhood home back in my life. I didn’t have much of a childhood and this was one place where I really remember feeling happy. Everything was perfect in that house but there was one thing that I found odd. There was an extra door that I don’t remember being next to the master bathroom. It had three padlocks on it above the doorknob and one chain latch near the floor. Joel, my husband, gaze me a side glance at my reaction.
“Was this not here before?” he asked me.
“No, I have no idea what this door could be. If it was an extra bedroom, why the locks?”
“It’s okay Lucy, we’ll get some bolt cutters tomorrow,” Joel said as he went out to the car.
Honestly, it just puzzled me. It couldn’t have been an extra room. There was no space between the master bath and the master bedroom just 8 feet apart from each other in the hall. It was strange to try and think what the hell the previous owners built in my house. Even when I didn’t live here this building was always my house. It took all day to get most of the boxes moved into the large living room. Memories started flooding back to me about the fun times of this house. It was too bad that all the big furniture wouldn’t arrive from Maryland until tomorrow. When it finally came time to crash, Joel and I laid out some blankets in the master bedroom along with some pillows. It was surreal to be sleeping in the room that once belonged to my parents. There was a small room across the hall that used to be my bedroom. Passed the living room, dining room and in the hall closest to the front of the home was another full bathroom and what used to be my older sister’s room. Before it was her room, that room was my Nana’s. Nana was my father’s mother and from what I can remember, she was an amazing woman. She died before I was five of a heart attack and Pawpaw passed two months before I was born. Remembering some of these things so late at night kept me awake. I had to glance at my phone to check what time it was; midnight. We didn’t have any food yet in the house but we did have our plating and glassware. After ripping open a box from the kitchen I let the faucet run for a second before filing a cup with water. Something… odd caught my attention. I heard some rustling in the living room. It didn’t even come from the living room but, the door between the master bath and bedroom. The locked door. I was a bit wary but I put my ear to the door. Skitter skitter! It sounded like squirrels to me, like claws on cement. Squirrels, raccoons and cats in basements or attics were a common thing in Illinois so I wasn’t too worried. I would just have to remember to tell Joel in the morning before we went to get the bolt cutters.
Morning soon came but, I didn’t get any sleep really. Joel was still asleep around 11 AM, but I just started unpacking. I was so happy to have so much cabinet space and such a large kitchen. It sure as hell beats a tiny apartment space. Everything will really come together when the furniture gets here! Skitter skitter! Skek Scratch! Those damn sounds again. I set down the stack of plates I was putting away and put my ear to the door again. They sounded close and frequent. It better have not been mice! Mice were such a huge problem (because we lived in a farm town) and they would not be ruining my house! I couldn’t stand mice, I have had so many problems with them when I lived here before I graduated high school. One even jumped down my mom’s shirt and in the same place, one knocked up my hamster somehow. After the scratching stopped, it sounded like boxes toppling over. There must have been a colony of whatever in there as well as other owners’ items. I went to the bedroom and poked at Joel with my foot to wake him up.
“Get up babe, we need to get the day started,” I said softly before kneeling down and kissing his cheek.
Joel muttered and chuckled at my kisses before pulling me close into a hug. “No, I wanna be here all day with you, Luce.” I loved this man to death but goddamn he joked too much when business needs to get done. “Nope, get up. We have shit to do,” I said before pushing his long curls out of his face. “Brush your teeth and get up,” I gave him a pat on the cheek before getting up again.
Once we got back from Walmart, Joel and I got ready to open up the locked door. We had picked up some mouse traps, cheese, flashlights, replacement padlocks (with keys) and bolt cutters. It took both of us to press on the cutters to snap all three padlocks. The chain lock was actually rusted, so Joel snapped easily with the cutters. I unlocked the door and I was met with musty, stale air. Dust floated in the void from the other side and hung in the air that lead down a staircase.
“It’s a basement,” Joel said as he shined his flashlight down the stairs before looking at the other side of the door. He crouched down to feel long gouges on lower part of the door. “They must have had a dogs down here or something. Bubba used to paw at the back door when he wanted to come in.”
I listened to him but I went down the stairs carefully. They were very creaky just like my grandma’s old basement stairs. With the aid of my flashlight, I gazed around the basement. It was so cluttered with old boxes and storage tubs. I saw the fallen tower of boxes that I heard topple over the night before. Joel and I laid out the traps and took a deeper look into the basement. It was very expansive, covering the entire house. Most of it was walled off with the storage but in the back of the area, there was a living space. A refrigerator, sofa, television, twin sized cot, the works! Joel flipped on a light switch and half of the area lit up. Dear God, it was smothered in dust. The couch was scratched up like a cat (or three) tore at it in boredom. I knelt down to look at the dust on the floor, staring at the tracks in it. They looked similar to raccoon paws but they were too big for a raccoon. Joel distracted me with opening up the fridge to find a half empty jar of pickles. Honestly, that wasn’t the first time I’ve seen that.
After a year in the house, I was excited to tell Joel the big news. He was elated to hear that he was going to be a father. We went down into the basement often to look around for children’s things. We found many baby toys and play items, even a dismantled crib. Joel mentioned that it was odd of how many things were in this basement. It was strange but we both admitted that free shit was free shit. Joel and I set up the nursery in my old bedroom after cleaning everything off. We were so excited for the baby that it outweighed the rodents in the basement. I noticed that some of our food had been nibbled or full bites being taken out of it. Joel and I were both midnight snackers so we didn’t think much of it.
The baby came months later and we were both so happy. His name was Josiah Michael and he was perfect baby boy! When Josiah was still a newborn, something strange happened while Joel was at work. I was giving my son a bath in the front hall bathroom when I heard scratches at wood. I tried to tune them out so I could finish bathing Josiah before I put him to bed. The sounds were getting louder and more frequent but what made me jolt was the a door slamming open. It made me snatch up my baby as fast and carefully as I could. I wrapped Josiah up and held him to my chest. The parlor door was closed and locked then I turned my attention to the other end of the hall. It was the door to the basement; wide open. The door opened with such strength that there was a hole in the wall from the knob. I was so freaked out and in fear for my baby’s life that I rushed to the kitchen to grab our largest knife. I held it with the blade to the floor and the sharp side facing outwards. Sounds enacted from my son’s bedroom, sounds that horrify me to this day. Biting, gnawing, growling. Something was in my house. Joel’s car pulled into the driveway, making me break my line of sight for just a second. The door slammed shut as soon as I looked away. I was holding back a scream as to not scare Josiah. When Joel got into the house, I told him exactly what happened. I was close behind him when we took a peek into our son’s room. One of the toys we had brought up from the basement had completely been chewed in half. I told Joel about what I witness but he told me to calm down first. He went down into the basement to take a look around but didn’t find anything out of place. To ease my mind, Joel added two of the padlocks back onto the door. It did ease my mind and eventually, we unlocked it again.
For the next two years, we worked on that basement to get it empty. We sold a lot of the items in various yard sales and tossed out whatever was left behind. Other things we used in the house, like decorative knick-knacks and such. It was much better than how Nana and my parents had it decorated. I mean, Nana collected clown shit and Mom and Dad didn’t do much decorating at all. Josiah had free range of the house now that he was up and walking. He did the usual toddler things. Falling, bumping into things, doing his best to talk. But we began to notice something rather strange. Joel told me that Josiah had some strange fascination with the basement door. He said that Josiah would try to look under the door and stuck his fingers under it as well. This damn basement was getting on my last goddamn nerve. I honestly was about to have the basement sealed off completely if this pursued. Now, I really wish I would have.
As Josiah got older, around age five, I noticed him becoming even more involved with the door. He even tried to get the kids I babysat to mess with the door. Josiah boasted that he could even get the door open and get to the stuff down there. There was no way he could reach the locks, they were well above his head. I dismissed it as nothing. I did the same things as a kid to seem cooler to my peers. One of the little girls I watched, Lindsey, managed to get her fingers caught under the door. I spent the rest of that day picking splinters out a toddler’s hand. Later that night, I went to bed early because I had a morning shift at work tomorrow. Joel shook me awake around 2am and he looked more pale than usual. He didn’t say anything to me but he took me by the arm and pulled me out of the bed. What I saw next was spine tingling. Joel had me peer around the doorway and I saw Josiah standing on a chair at the basement door. He was loosening the screws on the padlocks with a screwdriver. Once he noticed us, he dropped the screwdriver and began to cry. He knew he was in trouble. I took him back to bed and Joel put the chair back before tightening the screws back. Josiah wouldn’t calm down at all, no matter what I did to try and console him. I finally got him to relax enough to to talk to me.
“Mr. Nails told me to take the locks off ‘cause he wants to be up here too!” my son spoke through tiny sniffles.
Mr. Nails…? Was that a toy that he dropped down there? I asked Joel to stay with Josiah while I went down to the basement to look around. With my baseball bat, I unlocked the lock then opened the door. The dark void met me but was soon lit when I flicked on the light switch. I kept an eye out for anything that would look like a “Mr. Nails” sort of toy that Josiah might have accidently lost down here. I took up the flashlight at the end of the stairs to look into darker places that the ceiling lights couldn’t reach. It was two in the damn morning and I had work tomorrow but, something in Josiah’s tone was…urgent. The basement door creaked shut.
“Babe, can you open the door?” I yelled up to my husband when I was by the small living space that we cleaned up from when we first moved in. No sound came from upstairs. No creaking of someone walking and no returning creak of the door opening. I knew something was down here. It wasn’t a toy. It wasn’t anything small nor local.
Something was watching me. I felt eyes boring into my back. Skitter skitter. Those damn noises.. Those scratching sounds that we’ve heard since day one. Rage swelled into my chest and I bellowed out, “Quit hiding! I know you’re down here!”
I slammed the bat down onto the cement floor, just inches from my frozen toes. The floor was so cold. What worried me more was that my family upstairs didn’t make a sound. My knuckles were turning white at how tight I was gripping my baseball bat. There was a massive rush of light steps up the basement stairs then the door hitting the wall. My heart leapt then I felt my voice rip out of my throat, “Boys!”
It’s been two months since Josiah and Joel were murdered. I sealed off the basement door, looking like it did when I was a child. Just a wall. It was just me there in the house and it was torture. The silence deafened me to the point where I couldn’t stay inside. Going into the back yard didn’t help me at all. Murder in my little hometown was very rare but the thing about it is… I knew it wasn’t a human who murdered my family. Whatever was in my basement is what killed them. And I was going to kill it.
I was prepared. For the last two months, I got everything ready to destroy this “Mr. Nails”. It was broad daylight and I was ready. With mighty swings, I tore down the drywall with a sledgehammer. There was that disgusting door. I unlocked the door then the padlocks.
“This is my house, you monster! And I’m not leaving it to you!” I screamed down the stairs before turning on the light. It was easy to break the door good enough that it couldn’t close or open anymore. This was my house and it has always been MY HOUSE. And I’ll die before it will stop being my house. Like the first time we opened the basement door, the air was stagnant. This time, Mr. Nails wasn’t hiding from me.
I saw it. Lanky, skin clinging to bone, pure white hair shrouding its face and swallowed in white robes. I could tell that it was as thin as possible even under the clothes. Long scraping sounds were heard as it stepped out from the shadows. Its feet bore three inch long claws that matches its boney hands. Those are what tore up the door… and my husband and son. My son had been trying to talk with this.. thing? It was much taller than I was… Which also made it taller than Joel. I couldn’t see its face but… I knew it was looking at me.
“Mr…Nails?” I felt my rage drain into utter fear.
It didn’t respond to me but reached out its thick, dirty clawed hands. My stomach was starting to turn. I could hear it.. In my head.
“I have been here since before this place was here. Do you not remember, Lucy? We used to have such fun here.” Its voice was raspy, dry and horrifying, “I used to speak to you through the floor while you were a little girl. We used to play so many little games with Sally Jo.”
Sally Jo… my older sister? What was this thing… talking… I remembered… This thing’s voice.
“You recall our playtime? How sweet,” Mr. Nails stepped closer to me. I didn’t move. “You called me Angel. But I am afraid once you left, dear Lucy, I grew tired of every other family who came in and out of this. Your little boy was too curious and very annoying. But you, my dear Lucy, are perfect. You still are, even all grown up.”
Its nails were on my face. Cold, clammy hands holding my cheeks.. I could feel its breath. “You, Lucy, are perfect. And I would like to make a proposition to you.”
“Well… What is it?”
“I want… more children in this house. Children that are like you.”
“Huh…” A smile crept up on the corner of my lips, “Yes, Angel….”
Credit: Stuart Capperpot
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