For my Halloween post, I invite you to enjoy this post. I found it tucked away in a corner of my high-school binder. I don’t recognize the writing as any of my friend’s, and it certainly isn’t mine, so I thought perhaps I could share it. If you remember writing something like this, please, send me a message. I’d love to give you credit.
It started with a smell. A noxious, poignant stench that you could almost taste on the edge of your tongue. Whenever one walked by the old oaken door to the basement, the bog-like odor would rise up and greet you anew like an old friend. I hated that smell. Always had, since we first bought the house when I was five. I remember whining to my mother about how it would stick to my clothes. She didn’t even turn from her computer when she told me not to go near the door then.
I’ve lived with the stench for years, so much so that I almost forgot it even existed. The only one I’ve seen go down there is Dad in his old coveralls splattered with paint the same color as the garage walls. The sounds of hammers and breaking rock come up after him, and I never had the courage to ask him how he could stand the smell. It followed him out of the basement sometimes, as obnoxious as the tan-orange of the paint.
I never was home alone, not really. When my mother and father went out of town, they always had my uncle or my aunts babysit me, even into my early teens. The aunts never complained about the smell. My uncle did, though. All the time, he bellyached about it, and would often take me out to dinner because he said he couldn’t stand the stench a second longer. My aunts hovered around the basement door, whispering to each other. But whenever I would come in, they would hush and ask if my homework was done, in that creepy way twins do.
Around when I turned fifteen, the smell seemed to get worse. Nauseating to the point that I developed a habit of opening windows every time I passed through a room. When asked about staying with my uncle and his wife, my mother, again not looking up from her swagbucks and online wordpuzzles, told me to bear with it for just a bit longer. Before I knew it, Dad had torn her away from her computer, and bundled her into the car, and with a note to me on the counter when I got home, they went on a ‘vacation’.
I was home alone for the first time. They’d even left me a key on the counter, next to the fifty dollars for food over the weekend. The first thing I did was open all of the windows, which only relieved the smell a little. However, it made for odd sounds. The curtains rustling in rooms I wasn’t in. The soft hush of breezes through the leaves outside, almost like someone whispering things. I started to note things a little more. Windows that I opened would sometimes slide down to half closed just as I left the room. It was odd, but I could only assume they were loose in their moorings. Maybe Dad could fix them when he got home and I let him know.
The second day of their trip, I went down into the kitchen to get some milk. The old greyish wood of the basement door was misplaced. The basement door, which was closed constantly, unless my father’s hand was on the handle, was open. Just an inch. Just barely enough to see the black behind it, the yawning space which lead to what I assumed were stairs. The stench was warmer now, thicker, like something had rolled in it, and was now heaving itself under my nose. I covered my mouth, abandoning the idea of milk, and shoved the door closed, with a heavy thud.
I tried not to think about it. I watched movies. I played videogames. I played mmos with my friends from school. I avoided going down to the kitchen by ordering pizza, and having it delivered up the stairs. Pizza deliverers are surprisingly tacit when offered a large tip. It was nice not having to get out of bed for food. The day slowly turned into night, and I only paused my game to go to the bathroom.
One such unpausing revealed more of the strange sussurus that I had thought was the wind in the leaves. But I could clearly see the old maple tree outside, and the leaves were still in the night air. The sound ebbed and flowed like the ocean that I had once had the fortune of feeling on my skin, cold and salty and fresh. It was such an odd thing that I didn’t notice the scent from the kitchen had wafted up into my bedroom.
I followed the sound, oddly curious, temptation rising in me. The soft whisper of it touched my ears and made my skin prickle with goosebumps. I shivered, rubbing at the skin on my arms, as my chucks maneuvred the carpet-covered stairs. I followed it, as it got louder, and louder, into the kitchen. The door the basement was open again, the bright red of the pizza-warmer laying just in front of it. Wider this time, a large yawning foot of black so deep and dark that it looked like it was moving. An illusion, my eyes screamed, and I rubbed at them, to try and clear it. But closing my eyes only made the sound that much louder.
Whispers, yes, but not of something against something, or of wind through leaves, oh no. These were words. Words in a language I didn’t understand, couldn’t understand. It sounded almost as if whoever was speaking had three voices, no, twelve, no, one. I couldn’t make it out. I knew if I went closer to the stairs, just a touch, just a step, I could make out what it was saying.
Before I knew it, that one step had turned into two, five, twelve. The darkness rose up around me, and I couldn’t see. It moved, not illusion not smoke, but real and heavy and black and dark. Whispy tendrils of blackness felt like the touch of ice across my cheeks, my hands, the backs of my calves. Come, it said, come down, and see us, and know us, and when had I begun to learn the language that this spoke?
I stumbled, the end of the stairs a surprise. I didn’t feel cement beneath my feet. It was unsteady, crumbling like some kind of sand, or maybe dirt. My chucks shifted and something hissed. I stopped, stock still. Something different was down here. There was no smell, there was no sight, there was nothing but darkness and the whispers. Whispers asking me to stay, to love, to be loved, whispers that wanted me to just say I would stay, oh please.
My breath echoed in this place. My heart raced. I tried to think. I tried to answer. My lips seemed frozen. I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed. Time felt like a twisted ribbon. Something was wrong. I could see something, something moving. It didn’t make sense. Nothing made sense. Weightless. Broken. Put back together. Dashed on rocks so sharp they were knives now. I screamed and rocks flew from my lips like spittle.
I woke up.
The smell… The smell was gone. I couldn’t smell anything. There was dirt under me. Dirt with small chunks of rubble like cement. The smell of dirt was unwelcome and heavy. I didn’t understand. Where had the scent gone? The marker coming from the basement, where had it gone? I opened my eyes.
A hole before me, filled with mannequins. No. Not mannequins. People. Hands, and arms, and heads, and feet. People, chopped up and decomposing, and some looked as if they had been for years decomposing. But what caught me… was the smell.
The scent… It smelled so good.
Like nothing I could name. Warm, and thick, and heady, and absolutely amazing. It reminded of me of the darkness like broken rocks on a shoreline where no stars shone. When my dad came home, I asked him if he could smell it. He nodded, and asked if I’d like to help him. The smell, the scent of that death, that decay, so sweet and warm and welcome, prompted me to agree.