Look at that, I’m ahead of schedule. I felt inspired with it and went through a bunch in the past few days.
Now, as much as it seems like it (in some ways), Section One isn’t really a story in and of itself. Section Two is really necessary to get the full picture on it (especially about stuff you learn towards the end). I’m just starting it right now, so it might be done in… a week or something. Then, in my time off around the holidays, I’ll probably write something else. We’ll see. I’m not really sure what it would be quite yet, but I’ll probably come up with something before then. I can’t really not write for long before a ton of ideas start assailing me.
I drove up to the house at 145 Stairway Drive. It was a tall Victorian-modeled house that didn’t look like it had been much cared for by its previous inhabitants. Paint peeled from the sides and the wooden stairway up to the porch and front door was somewhat lopsided.
I had bought it at a house auction and gotten a very good price for it, though, so I didn’t mind much. I had lived in worse places before.
After moving my filled-car’s worth of belongings into the house, I ate a quick dinner then went to bed. Typically when I sleep anywhere unusual, such as a hotel, I have quite a bit of trouble sleeping, tossing and turning throughout the night and waking up feeling very unrested. This time, however, while I still felt tired upon waking up, I didn’t have any remembrance of insomnia the night before. Didn’t remember anything, in fact, even my dreams, due to the deep sleep I was presumably in. Perhaps this house was just right for me.
I got up and made a cup of coffee to try and eradicate the vague sleepiness that still held me. I downed that cup and poured another, then made two pieces of toast for breakfast. The drowsiness had been dulled by the caffeine, and I was feeling better.
I worked from home, but had taken off the week to get settled into my new surroundings. I began making my way around the house, getting accustomed to the layout and envisioning the uses I’d have for different rooms. As large as the house was, I had been thinking about renting out a room, or an entire floor. It would be a nice boost in income, and I could start fixing up the house with some of it.
The inside was in surprisingly good condition, given the outward appearance. There were layers of dust over everything, but nothing was broken or out of order. It surprised me, but I was glad for it. It would mean much less work for me in making it a livable space.
I came back down to the first floor, where I had spent the night, and found a door under the stairs. I assumed it led to the basement, which I hadn’t gotten a chance to look at during my quick run-through before the auction. I turned the doorknob and pulled, but the door seemed to be stuck. I pulled harder, but it remained shut. I braced myself and pulled again, and the door got past whatever had been holding it shut and opened. As soon as the door opened, the ground shook, but only for a moment before it subsided completely.
I dearly hoped it wasn’t a sign of some structural imbalance. It didn’t matter if the inside looked good, if there was a problem with the structure. But it had only been for a moment, so I thought it must have been due to forcing the door open. I could hope, anyway.
I flipped the switch to turn on the basement lights, but nothing turned on. I turned it off, then tried again. This time, a very faint glow was the response. I made a mental note to replace the bulbs, then headed down the uneven steps.
Only one lightbulb had turned on, an unusually dim one that seemed to be nearing the end of its life. I could just barely make out the portion of the basement that was near it, but nothing else. I could get no idea of how big it was or the condition it was in from this one light.
I headed back up the stairs, flipped off the switch, and closed the door. I had been collecting a list of things I needed to refurbish the house in a small notebook, and I added lightbulbs to it. As there didn’t seem to be many things that would need to be fixed, so the list was short. I would be able to make it available for renting sooner than I had hoped, if all was well. If there was some structural problem in the basement, though, that would set things back. I needed to get lightbulbs soon to get a better look down there.
After checking a few small closets I hadn’t looked in previously, I checked the time. Somehow, it was already in the late afternoon, and well on its way to becoming evening. I at a small dinner, then got ready for bed. The night before I had only slept in a sleeping bag on the floor, but now I rebuilt the bed frame I had bought with me and put on the mattress pad and mattress and made the bed. If I had slept so well the first night while being on the floor, I had high hopes for being back in my bed.
I slept straight through the night again, albeit with a number of bad dreams. Dark dreams filled with horror and doubt. For some reason, none of the lights in the house were working except one faint lightbulb in the basement which flickered incessantly. I sat on the floor of the basement, trying to stay in that one spot of light, until the bulb let out a pop and I was surrounded by darkness. Darkness that whispered in my ears and scraped sharp claws down my spine.
The morning after I felt tired and shaky from the dreams, but a light breakfast and two cups of coffee set me aright.
When I had moved in my belongings from my car, I had stacked most of them in one of the small rooms near the entrance, and I began to set up the preliminary organization of the house, beginning to arrange things how I thought I would like them in the house. Several bookshelves were in place throughout the inside and I utilized them well.
I was liking the house. It really felt like a good match for me, which was good. Once I had put away everything I had a place for so far, I went back to the basement with a flashlight. As I extended my hand towards the knob, I felt a small internal hesitation, which I felt sure must have been prompted by my dreams of the previous night. When I turned the knob and pulled, the door stayed shut once more. I braced myself and pulled again, and it gave way, a small shudder shaking the floor once again.
A wisp of stale air brushed past my ear, as of someone suddenly pulling away. Instinctively, I looked beside me, but nothing was there. I flicked on the flashlight and headed down the stairs.
The steps were incredibly uneven, and I ended up shining the flashlight on them to maintain my footing. Once at the bottom, I held up the flashlight and looked around. The stairway blocked a portion of it, but from what I saw it looked quite large. I remembered something about this building having been converted into an emergency bomb-shelter sometime during World War II, and understood why. I walked along the walls, deciding to wait until I had better lighting to explore the interior. Around the time I was halfway around the perimeter, I paused, listening. I thought I had heard something, and wanted to make out what it was. I heard a dripping sound, and felt a droplet of water running down my face. I wiped it away and shined the flashlight above me, but found nothing there. There were pipes above me, but I didn’t see any that were leaking. I decided I would check it out further once I had better lighting.
I made my way around the rest of the basement, then returned upstairs. When I noticed the clock up there, it read that I had spent forty-five minutes in the basement. I knew it was large, but it surprised me that so much time had elapsed. Despite the dreams of the night before, though, I didn’t feel uncomfortable down there. The only fear I had was that there would be some major repair needed.
I had a few items on my list of things to get, so I decided I’d run to the store and pick them up and get started on fixing up anything I could.
I got in my car and headed towards the nearest department store. As I started up the engine and began to pull away, something felt odd. I hadn’t driven my car in over two days, whereas I normally drove daily, but I didn’t feel that was it. It felt as though some weight had been lifted from me, though I wasn’t sure what it was; a shadow that had been lurking in my mind had faded away without a trace. I felt strangely clear-headed, though I wasn’t aware that I hadn’t been in the first place. I felt more focused and aware of my surroundings than I had been before as I neared the store.
I parked the car and walked into the store. I walked through the aisles, referring to my list as I went. I purchased light bulbs, enough food to last me a few more days, a feather duster, broom and dustpan, and made a last-moment purchase of a hammer and nails and a screwdriver and screws, just in case there was anything simple I could repair with them in the house.
When I headed back to the house I still felt unusually conscious and felt hesitant to return to the building. I had no idea why, as I no longer even had any fear of the basement, which was the only thing I could have any unnatural fears about. Yet I felt the hesitation all the same. I continued driving and returned to the house, but waited a minute in the car before I went back inside.
I wanted to understand what I was feeling, and why I was feeling it. I didn’t know why, but I felt as though as soon as I returned inside, my clearheadedness would vanish as quickly as it had appeared.
Maybe it was just the air. The air was quite stale within, and maybe getting out in fresh air had done me some good. Having no other ideas of what it could be, I decided that once I got back in, I’d open all of the windows and try to freshen things up. It would be good anyway, since I was going to be cleaning which would no doubt produce a lot of dust.
I opened the door and stepped in, leaving the door open behind me. I took a breath of the air, and decided I had definitely chosen wisely. Airing the place out would greatly improve things. I went to shut the door behind me but found it was already shut. I didn’t recall closing it, and had actually intended at first that I would keep it open as with all the windows.
I must’ve just instinctively shut it. I began opening the windows throughout the house. Already I could feel things freshening, and began cleaning. Thick layers of dust were on everything, but oddly enough, I didn’t find any cobwebs or any other signs of insects in the house. Fine by me, this house seemed to be getting better the longer I was here. No obvious damage, no insects, hardly any problems beside dead lightbulbs and dust. I cleaned in a good mood, and forgot about my clearheadedness outside.
I worked well into dark, and by the time I had finished, I thought myself ready to go to bed. I dusted a few last surfaces, then got into bed and fell asleep almost immediately.
No dreams this night, thankfully, and I woke up the next night with only a whisper of tiredness. That didn’t concern me, as I was getting used to it by now, but something else did. I had fallen asleep in my bed, but woke up in the middle of the floor on the second storey. I had no history of sleepwalking, and this worried me. I remembered the hesitation I had when returning from shopping the day before, and now this… Something was unnerving about this house, but I had no idea what it could be. I honestly liked the building, and couldn’t name any specific reason I would be unnerved by it.
I went downstairs and, trying to take my mind off of what had happened, ate breakfast. When I finished, I realized that I had forgotten to replace the basement lights the day before. Once I had cleaned up, I picked up the box of lightbulbs and went back to the basement, picking up my flashlight on the way. I stood in front of the door, waiting. I did not know what I was waiting for, but I stood motionless in front of the closed door. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
When I opened them, the basement door was hanging open before me, and I could almost feel the darkness seeping out from the opening. A black vapor seemed to fill the void of shadow before me and I could almost swear I saw it pouring out into the light.
Instinctively, I shut the door. I sat down on the floor below it, leaning against the door. I had no remembrance of opening the door. I had been standing before it waiting for… something. Waiting to work up the nerve to force the door open again? But I didn’t fear the basement any more; the dream of it was all but forgotten by now, and now that I had lightbulbs it would be well-lit and ready to be explored.
I stood up and opened the door again. It opened easily, and I flicked on the switch for the lights. No change came from below. I turned on the flashlight I had brought and headed down the uneven stairs. They creaked as I stepped on them, but I continued with no hesitation.
Once at the bottom, I looked around on the ceiling for the dead lightbulb. I found it, unscrewed the old bulb, and put the new one in. It flickered to life, and created a strangely dim glow. I began looking for another bulb on the ceiling, but the light from the one I had just replaced had a small radius. Turning the flashlight on again, I looked at the bulb, wondering why it illumined so poorly. The bulbs were high-wattage, and for a moment a wisp of that fear from before crept into me, that the darkness was more real than I thought and was somehow choking out the light.
I abandoned that thought and went back to my search. As I progressed through the basement, I replaced eight lightbulbs and by the end I had a good picture of the room. It was large, and filled with quite a few crumbling cardboard and wooden boxes. Both types sagged under the weight of age they carried, The walls were made of some material that was slowly eroding away and falling into dust on the ground. I didn’t see anything structural that looked problematic, and wondered what the shaking was when I had opened the door the first time. That thought brought to mind the experience I had immediately before descending, and I put it out of my mind. As long as there wasn’t a problem with the structure, it was all good. I must’ve just opened the door while I had my eyes closed without realizing it, or maybe it had just swung open of its own accord.
I was about to go upstairs when I remembered the dripping I had heard the second time I came down, and walked over to where I thought I had been when I had heard it. I didn’t see or hear anything, and didn’t see a wet patch on the ground anywhere near there, so I went back upstairs.
Since everything looked good, and the electricity was working fine, I decided I wouldn’t wait any longer and just put an ad in the newspaper for renting the upstairs. I locked up the house and got in my car.
As soon as I started driving away, I felt two things; sudden clearheadedness, and a profound sense of deja vu. It was the second time I had driven away from the house, and I felt as though something similar had happened before, but had no distinct memory of what it was, despite my clear mind. I couldn’t remember what it was caused by or when it ended, but I did remember that it felt nearly identical to this.
While wrapped up in my thoughts, I made my way to the main building for the local newspaper. It was typical to call the company to place an ad, but, while having a phone come installed in the house – goodness knows how old it must be – I wanted to do it in person to avoid any possible mistakes. When I arrived, I went in and placed a short ad:
Upper floor of house for rent: $— cash p. mo. My phone number was added below it.
I paid for the ad then returned to my car and began driving home. The closer I got to the house, the more an unreadable feeling of black dread began to creep over me. This too invoked a sense of deja vu, and I knew somehow that I had felt this before; an unknown hesitation and anxiety about returning to the house, growing and growing until the only image in my mind was of the face of it staring me down, looming above me and forcing me to sink to my knees. I covered my face with my hands, though I wasn’t sure if it was in reality or in my mental image. Something was clawing its way out of my subconscious and urging me, forcing me to not return, to turn the car around and abandon it and all my belongings, to start completely fresh and purge all memory of it from my mind.
When I forced these thoughts out of my mind and paid attention to my surroundings once again, I found that I was pulled over by the side of the road. My body was shaking and my eyes felt soft and hot and damp, trails of moisture running down from them, and a subtle salty taste in my mouth. I took a deep breath, wiped my eyes, and headed back onto the road. I had no idea what had just happened, and dearly hoped it wouldn’t happen again.
When I pulled into the drive, I looked up nervously at the house rising high above me. I had no possible legitimate reason to avoid going in, but all the same… I loathed the thought of it. The thoughts I had on the ride back came to me again and I shut my eyes tight and pressed along my eyebrows, trying to relieve some of the inexplicable tension that was going through me. With a conscious effort, I got out of the car and headed inside.
Once through the door, I looked around and felt at ease again. Or perhaps not “again”, as I felt sure I had always felt this way. A calmness filled me just as a fog imperceptibly filled my mind again.
The next day, I received a phone call from a couple interested in renting the house. I told them I was available any time during the day, and they said they’d come by sometime around two.
Until then, I tidied up anything out of order in the house, did a full sweeping and dusting, and had time to light a few candles before they arrived. They seemed perturbed by the disrepair of the outside, but were interested in the antiquity of the house as soon as they came in. I showed them through the rooms of the house, a quick run-through of the downstairs then a more in-depth tour of the upstairs. When we were in one of the upstairs bedrooms and I was showing them the expansive closet room, the man, Philip, jolted his head towards the doorway. He took a step back to get a better view, frowning, then stepped back forward. I asked him if anything was wrong, and he asked me if I was the only person living in the house. I said I was, and he continued frowning.
They liked the upstairs, so I led them back downstairs and headed toward the basement. When I opened the door, the two of them let out a shudder, then followed me down the stairs after I flicked on the lights. I led them around the basement, showing that it would be a great place for storing anything they didn’t need right away, but Philip kept turning his head from left to right in a paranoid fashion. I tried to ignore it as I showed them around, but when we were about halfway around, he was staring in horror somewhere into the distance. He tapped the shoulder of the woman, Grace, and slowly lifted a pointing finger in the direction. I turned to look, seeing nothing, and heard a scream from behind me. Philip was shaking, breathing heavily, and clutching his chest. He leaned on Grace’s shoulder, who was wide-eyed with terror. He shook his hand at me in a show of mute dismissal, then the two of them hurried up the stairs. I heard the front door close and the car pull away. I looked back in the direction he had pointed. The lightbulb illuminating that section flickered, and for a moment in the darkness I thought I saw something in a shadowed corner, but when the light turned back on, I saw that it was just a stack of boxes. I noticed that I was breathing heavily, unsure why. I went back upstairs, closed the door, and turned off the light. So much for that couple, I decided. I couldn’t tell what had horrified them both, but I could tell they wouldn’t be coming back.
I walked towards the dining room, realizing I hadn’t eaten lunch yet.
The chairs that had been around the dining room table were piled up on one side. They flashed back into their normal positions, then back again. I walked forward slowly and awkwardly, my libs seeming to jolt around randomly. The chairs flashed back and forth between the two positions before my eyes. I glanced towards the clock, and noticed the minute hand moving faster than usual, flashing from minute to minute in an instant, the second hand whipping around. I pressed my hands to the sides of my head and realized a slow scream that had been gradually growing inside me reached ear-piercing levels. I screamed and screamed and watched the chairs flash back and forth and the clock spin out of control, unable to tear my eyes away. Next moment I was laying on the floor, my eyes covered, and blacked out for a moment, whether from fear or lack of air, I couldn’t tell.
When I regained consciousness and opened my eyes, the chairs were back in their normal positions. Forty-five minutes had elapsed since I had come into the house, and the first thing I saw was a note pinned to the ceiling above me. I stood up, my body shaking, and took it down.
The note simply read “Get out”.
I slumped down against the kitchen cupboards and focused on my breathing. In and out, steady, in and out. I couldn’t have all that happen again. I was either losing it, or the house was haunted. In either case, I needed to get out, if only for a little while. I somehow made my way to the door. I walked a little ways away from the house and sat down on the ground. I ran my hands through the grass, needing to feel something physical to reassure me that there still was something called “reality”. I realized I still had the note balled up in my hand, and opened it up and set it beside me. It was scrawled in black ink, splattered in places, and the lines of the letters shook.
The image of the spinning hands of the clock and the shifting chairs remained in my mind. The memory of the dripping in the basement, awakening in a different room, the first time I opened the basement, the horror of the couple, and my own hesitation at returning to the house joined those images, along with a sudden remembrance of the strange clearheadedness I had when leaving the property. Something was wrong with this house, and I couldn’t stay here much longer. Either I was mad or the house was haunted, but I thought I knew which it was.
I glanced back at the note. It now read “Nope” below the previous message.
I shuffled back away from it on my hands and feet, staring it down as if it would attack me. I tried to focus on my breathing again, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t believe it. But what even was it meaning? I picked up the note again and looked with scrutiny at the house. I looked back at the note. Below the previous two messages was this: “You’re writing this.”
No! I needed to get the hell away from this house as fast as I possibly could.
“You’ve been doing most everything yourself.”
Between my eyes blinking, the messages were added.
“The chairs, waking upstairs, and so on.”
But I wouldn’t listen to it.
“But that isn’t it.”
It couldn’t be… the people had been terrified of something in the basement and it couldn’t have been something I did. But I wouldn’t listen to this note. It was the house.
No additional messages appeared on the paper. I didn’t notice until a moment later that words were appearing on my arm.
When the final word appeared, it was my hand that held the marker. My hand that crossed the final “t”. Next time I blinked my eyes, two last words appeared on my hand. “Get out.”
I screamed and, screaming all the while, ran to the car. I turned the ignition, pulled it into reverse, and turned around as fast as I could. I drove away, to where, I didn’t care. I only noticed when my throat started hurting that I was still screaming.