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Joye Keele

The Monster in the Basement

My grandma's house was ancient. Built in pioneer times, it was nearly 100 years old. It was also spooky and mysterious, especially to me. Nothing seemed to bother my brothers, but the creaky, narrow stairs and all the secret passages made my skin crawl. My grandma didn't like us to explore the house because she was afraid we'd make a mess or get hurt falling down the stairs. My brothers didn't care. They always tried to sneak off and explore some little nook or cranny and they usually dragged me with them. So as I got older I knew that house inside and out. There was the coat closet that connected to the closet in the library. There was also a secret back door hidden behind a bookcase in the junk room. We had searched every place in that house except one – grandma's bedroom.

That room was always off limits. Grandma never let us in and to make sure, she always had the door and windows locked. We always teased her about having dead bodies in there, but she would just give us a knowing look and check the lock. Grandma was always a little eccentric. She had all kinds of weird cures for everything and she was always mumbling to herself. The mumbling never made sense, but I could tell that a lot of it rhymed. She also smelled funny. I never remember smelling anything else like it. I figured it was just the way eccentric grandma's smelled.

Now here I was, all grown up and back in that house. My grandma had long since gone to a nursing home, and this week she had died. I was the only one left that live close to the old homestead, so after the funeral when all the family left, the duty fell on me to go through the house, find the things worth keeping and junk the rest. Eventually we hoped to sell the house and if that wasn't possible, then at least sell the land it was on. It was a daunting task.

Grandma only agreed to go to the nursing home if we all agreed to not touch any of her stuff in the house. She didn't even want us in there as long as she was alive. She really didn't want anyone in there ever, but now that she was gone, what did it matter? Besides, we had to do something with the house and all the stuff before some delinquent started the whole thing on fire. After all, we'd each like to have some keepsake to remember grandma, something to pass on to our own children.

When I drove up to the house all the old memories came crashing in on me. I gripped the steering wheel and forced myself to take long, deep breaths. I was excited, but also fearful. Al the emotions of my childhood in that scary house flooded my mind. I knew it was silly. Here I was, a grown woman, and there was no one else around, nothing to be afraid of. I approached the door and pulled out a big ring of keys. I'd picked them up from the safely deposit box that morning. Some of the keys were modern and some old fashioned, but there were a lot of them. Grandma made sure each outside door had a dead bolt and a padlock on it. I wondered again what she thought was so valuable in there that she didn't want anyone to have. I shook my head, “Crazy old grandma.” I thought. “I love her, but....”.

After trying about six keys, I finally found the three I needed for the front door. With my heart racing, I pushed the door open and went inside. An old, musty smell greeted me as I walked in. When my eyes adjusted to the dim light, all I could see was dust everywhere. I thought I was prepared for that, but it still made my spirits sink. This was going to be a lot of work. I decided there was no better place to start than right there in the foyer. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that I didn't want to get to all of those secret scary places.

I worked all day in that little front room. The desk and buffet were in decent shape, but the piano was going to need some work. I figured it could be restored, but at this point it was unplayable. The pictures on the wall would be good keepsakes, even if most of them needed new frames. The thin rug was worse than useless, but the floor seemed sturdy and straight enough to support new carpeting. The buffet still had dishes in that were worth keeping, but all the tablecloths and napkins had been eaten my mice. Going through the desk was tedious, but after a whole day of hot, dusty work, I had one room done. As I left, I made sure to lock all three locks, just the way grandma liked. I actually felt good about what I'd accomplished and I didn't feel nearly as scared as when I'd come in. I knew it was going to take a lot of time and a lot of hard work, but I felt like I could do it and it would be my tribute to grandma.

I could only work at the house on weekends, so each Saturday I faithfully went to grandma's, picked a room and got to work. The living room and kitchen were relatively easy. Most of the stuff could just be junked. There was some antique value in the old coal stove, but the rest of the furniture and appliances could be scrapped. It still looked like the floors and foundation of the home were sturdy and sound.

The only bathroom was just off the kitchen. Of course, the first bathroom had been an outhouse. The current bathroom had been added on years later when modern plumbing became available to everyone. The bathroom was the one room that had been cleaned out when grandma went to the nursing home. She took most of the stuff with her and the rest was thrown away then. The fixtures needed a good cleaning, but that didn't take long.

I got caught in the library an extra day. There were so many books. Some were ruined by mice and other pests, but there were still a lot of priceless old gems worth passing down. Everyone would definitely want a book. Grandma's love of books was a memory we'd all love to preserve.

The junk room was just that – junk. There were boxes of old papers and cards and crafts. I didn't need to even go through half of it to know I could throw it all away. The only things in there I kept were the old sewing machine and the pump organ, again because of their antique value.

The only room left downstairs was grandma's bedroom. I still hadn't psyched myself up enough to do that room, so I decided to do the upstairs. The stairs were narrow and worn, but since I'd been in the house so much lately, I found that they weren't nearly as scary as I'd remembered. They were still treacherous and I had to watch my every step as I carried things down. There were three bedrooms with more secret passages up there, mostly involving closets being connected. There was a lot of junk in the rooms to go through. Each room took one of my precious Saturdays, but I was able to finish. Again, there wasn't much to save, but the basic structure of the rooms remained sound.

I was done. All I had left was that bedroom. Because I had spent so much time in the house, I discovered that I was falling in love with it. The thought had even crossed my mind that I could live here. I found myself visualizing where I would put things of mine. The couch could go there, a picture here, a mirror on the wall. The house was becoming quaint instead of scary. Those were my thoughts until I went to clean grandma's room.

When I stood in front of that door, all the fear came rushing back. I had never been in this room, never even looked into it before. My hands were sweating and shaking as I searched for the keys that would unlock this greatest of all mysteries. After trying ten different keys, I finally unlocked all the locks on the door. I slowly opened the door and peered in to the dim room. I saw...nothing unusual. I stepped in and looked around. It was a normal bedroom. There was a bed and a dresser, a desk and a couple of book cases. It was all very neat, except for the layer of dust over everything. It was much more tidy and well kept than the rest of the house had been. Grandma cared about this room, you could tell. I breathed a sigh of relief and with a little laugh at myself, I started to clean. I spent a lot of time on the books again, curious to see what books she liked to have close to her. Some of them were very strange. They seemed, not only old, but ancient. There were a few that were written in a weird language. I knew grandma didn't speak another language, unless you counted her mumbling, so I thought she probably had those books because of their ancient beauty. She always did like books.

It was getting late in the day and I was just finishing up the floors when something on the wall snagged my broom. I bent down to take a closer look and I saw a little crack in the wall under the dresser. I pushed the dresser to the side. The crack ran clear up the wall. My hear began to pound. This could be another secret passage. If this piece of wall opened up, it would probably be some little storage area under the stairs. Using my fingernails, I was able to edge along the wall until I found a small depression, perfectly concealed by the wall paper. I pushed it and the wall clicked open. Trembling, I looked inside, but it was pitch black. I couldn't see anything. I ran out to my car and got a flashlight. When I got back in, It took me a minute to find the door in the wall again. I opened the door and shined the light into the blackness. I was surprised to see stairs heading down. I had never heard of any kind of basement in the house. I knew grandma had a fruit cellar on the other side of the house, but that had been cleaned out years ago. I'd never been told about a basement. I was a little nervous, but I decided to explore, just a little ways. It was almost like being a kid again and finding a new secret door in the closet - scary, but a little exciting too. I started cautiously down the stairs, making sure to keep the light in front of me. I was surprised that there were not any bugs and not much dust. I made it to a landing and discovered that the stairs turned and continued down. I must admit my curiosity got the best of me and I continued down also. I lost track of how many flights of stairs I'd gone down. I must have been descending for more than five minutes, much deeper than a normal basement would be. Finally, I came to a landing and found that the stairs had stopped and there was a door. I had no idea what might be behind the door, but I'd come all this way and I was going to find out. I tried the doorknob and to my surprise it turned. I was glad because I didn't want to go all the way back up the stairs for the ring of keys I'd left on the dresser. I slowly pushed the door open and as I peeked in, I was blinded. The brightest light I'd ever seen filled my sight. It was so bright, I had to blink several times and actually close my eyes for a while to get used to the brightness. When I was able to see clearly, I looked into the most brilliantly dazzling white room. I quietly stepped in and looked around. There were rows and rows of monitor's set into one wall, each showing people doing very ordinary things. There were also a couple of rows of computers with a chair by each station. The only thing strange about it was that everything was white. Not just ordinary white, but a dazzling, diamond sparkling white. The chairs were white, the computers were white, even the people working there wore white. I couldn't believe it! There were people there! One man looked up at me and before I could do anything, he got up and went and talked to a man who was watching the screens in the wall. The man turned and looked at me and gave me the most dazzling smile. He was the most handsome man I'd ever seen. He leaned toward the other man and whispered something like, “I thought I felt something.” I didn't know what that meant, but then he walked toward me. I was so stunned, I couldn't move. My heart was racing and I was close to hyper-ventilating.

The man came over to me and said, “Hello. Welcome. My name is Luke.” With that he gave a look around the room. All the other people working there stood up and left the room and the screens went blank. I wasn't paying much attention to them and I don't know how they left, but after a moment, Luke and I were alone. When I looked at him, he gestured for me to come in.

“I'm sure you have a lot of questions.” he said. “I'll do my best to answer them. You must be Lina, Velma's granddaughter.”

“Yes.” I stammered. “How do you know who I am? Where am I? What's going on here? How do you know my grandma?”

“See, I knew you'd have a lot of questions.” He smiled at me and had me sit down in one of the sparkling computer chairs.

“Let's see, where to begin?” he said as he strolled around the room. “This is my headquarters in this area. I am a facilitator of sorts. I show people different ways of doing things to help them decide a course of action. The people you saw on the monitors were some of my clients.”

“So where are we? How.......?”

“Hold on, I'm coming to that. A long time ago I met your grandmother. She was a “client” of mine. I helped her make some decisions in her life and as payment, she let me set up my headquarters here. We are quite far below Earth's surface, but not too far.”

“Why would you want your headquarters under ground instead of in some big skyscraper in the city?”

“Well, my clients usually want privacy. I also need to be as unobtrusive as possible so that I don't overly influence my clients' choices. If I was right out in the open, then that might sway my clients' into making a choice that wouldn't really suit them.”

“So you're saying that you watch over people and present them with choices, then you hope they make the right one?”

“Something like that.”

“Well, you don't look near as old as my grandma. How could you have had her as a client?”

“That's a little tougher. I am sort of, well...I'm not really mortal. I'm sort of like an...angel, a guardian angel.” he said with a smile. “So I'm a little older than I look.”

“So why did my grandma need a facilitator? She always seemed like she knew what she was doing to me.”

“She invited me. It was kind of a game at first, but she seemed to like the choices I presented her with. She wanted more and more choices and thus she came into my debt. It was a wonderful idea to pay me back by giving me this area of her lovely home.”

“So do you often go up into the house? I've been cleaning for weeks and I haven't even heard anyone.”

“Sadly, no. I keep very busy down here and I don't get the opportunity to leave very often. I've been stuck down here for a while now.”

“Well, you might need to find some time to come up and visit. I was going to sell the house, but I'm slowly falling in love with it. Maybe I'll fix it up and move in here myself. It would be nice to have company close by,” I said.

Luke gave me a big smile, “I think I'd like that too.”

His grin turned a little too big, almost forced, but the look quickly passed.

“This is a lot to take in. I think I'll go back home now so I can think about everything I've seen and heard.”

“Yes, you should go back and I need to get back to work too.”

“Do you mind if I visit you again?”

“No, that would be lovely, a couple more times at least.”

As I climbed the stairs I thought about everything. I was excited and amazed, but also wary and still a little confused. Something just didn't click. What did he mean by “a couple more times”?

When I got back to grandma's room, I noticed all the books I'd boxed up. I decided to look at the books a little closer, but because it was so late, I took the boxes home with me. I arranged with some movers to meet me at the house the next Saturday so they could move out all the items I'd decided to save and put them in storage until my family could go through them. I figured I could get the junk taken out the next weekend. During the week, whenever I had time, I looked through grandma's books. Most of the books were just normal books: novels, self-help, religious; but there was one box that had some really strange books. Those are the ones I concentrated on. I couldn't get anything from the ones that weren't in English, but what I read in the others was enough to scare my socks off. One book, The Character of Evil, had a lot of interesting ideas. In fact it looked like grandma had marked passages and written notes in the margins. I read through the notes and the marked passages and was surprised to find that they talked in detail about devils. The descriptions were not what you'd expect. There was no talk of red skin, horns, or tails. In fact, one of the notes I read described what grandma must have thought was a devil, by saying, “this man was the most handsome I'd seen, with a dazzling smile. I was totally enchanted and couldn't think clearly in his presence.” That seemed eerily familiar. Another passage said, “he is very tricky. He doesn't give all the information. He tells half-truths to get you to believe him.” By the time I got toward the end of the book I was finding notes about how to get rid of devils, or binding them and overcoming their influence. There were many references to chants, songs, and poems in other books; books that grandma had. I looked closer at the referenced books. I tried to read the poems even thought they weren't written in English. They also seemed familiar. It hit me, after I read one aloud, that it sounded like grandma's mumbling. I began to get an idea of what was going on, but I knew I needed more information. I read a lot, but I also knew I had to get back to the house and look around some more.

I decided to take the day off work and go out there on Wednesday. I was armed with a couple of the books that I thought might help in my search for truth. I went immediately to grandma's room and began pulling up the old carpet near the secret door. Etched into the floor was a symbol of some kind. I still wasn't sure what it meant, but I'd seen it in the book. I look at it closely. The symbol was perfect. There were no lines out of place and each line had a perfect edge. I was amazed and curiously drawn toward the symbol. I gently rubbed my hand over them, feeling the perfect grooves. As my hand glided toward the center, my finger touched the symbol of a star and a jolt of electricity shot through my hand. I jerked back. Fear gripped me and I ran out of the house. It felt like I drove all the way home before I started to breath again.

The next couple of days went by in a blur. I was dazed and confused and just sat in my room like a zombie. I didn't go to work; I didn't do anything. I ate only enough to keep me alive, because eating made me sick to my stomach. On Saturday morning I got a phone call. The movers were at the house and wondered if I was coming. The door had been left unlocked, so they had started moving out the furniture that was marked SAVE. I felt another jolt as I came out of my daze. “NO!” I screamed.

“What?” the man said. “Listen, we want to get this done as fast as we can. You said you'd be here, but you're not, so we're going to get started.”

I tried to calm down and think. Finally I said, “Okay go ahead and start, but leave the downstairs bedroom until I get there. Only take the things marked SAVE from the rest of the house and BE CAREFUL!”

I hung up before I could get a response and hurried out the door to my car. I knew I looked like a lunatic, but right now I didn't care. I drove to the house as fast as I dared. By the time I got to the house, the movers were almost done with the downstairs. They were working on getting the coal stove out of the kitchen and one guy had started bringing boxes down from upstairs.

I told the foreman to just forget the downstairs bedroom. I was going in there, but no one else should come in. There wasn't anything to save in there anyway. The man gave a grunt and went back to working on the stove.

I quietly stepped into grandma's room. The room felt electric, but eerie. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. I lit some candles and looked around for the books. I saw them in the center of the room where I'd abandoned them a few days earlier. I picked up the one book and flipped through it until I came to the marked chant my grandma had mumbled all those years. I thought I might need it. My eyes kept flicking over to the symbol on the floor and the secret door in the wall. Again, I felt myself being drawn there. I began to think of all the questions I still had. I wanted answers. I tried to think about the things I'd learned and seen, but my mind seemed so muddled. I remembered Luke saying “a couple more times”. I knew I'd only visited him once and if he needed me to come a couple more times, then I should be safe to go one more time. I'd have the chant and I could get my questions answered. Part of me was screaming to get out, run, but I was so curious. I could gain so much knowledge if I just went down there again.

Before I knew what was going on, I had crossed the symbol, opened the secret door and was headed down the stairs. The air seemed charged, like a lightning storm about to happen. I got down the stairs to the door, opened it and walked into the brilliantly lit room. Luke was standing there alone with that huge dazzling smile on his face. It was an eager and almost menacing smile.

“Thank you.” he said.

I was expecting the smile. I had an idea who I was talking to now, but the word caught me off guard.

“Thank you for what?”

“Coming to see me. I was hoping you'd come.”

“I have some more questions.”

“I'm sure you do.”

“And I want real, truthful answers.”

“I'm sure you do.”

“Who are you really?”

“I think I can truthfully answer that now. Luke is a nickname, my real name is Lucifer.”

Even though I expected that, I was still struck by his answer and his boldness in giving that answer. When I recovered my wits I asked, “I want to know about grandma. How does she fit into all this? She was a nice lady and I don't believe she'd voluntarily be involved with you.”

“Okay, I'll tell you the story.” he motioned for me to sit, but I refused. “When your grandma was a young girl she started playing with a Ouija board. It was all silly fun at first, but she found answers to some important questions she had and she began to believe more and more. She always wanted answers and she always had so many questions. Thus she became a client of mine. I presented her choices that led her to more and more information on me and my followers. She thought it was all in the name of education, but she was slowly being brought to my realm. She finally, with help from me, of course, found the old writings that would help her call me here. I came. She had questions, so many questions. I answered her everything. She called me a couple of times with pages of questions to be answered. I came, I answered. When she called the third time, I knew I had her.” At this he smiled the most wicked smile I'd ever seen. He took a moment to compose himself and then went on. “I didn't realize she'd learned more than what I'd taught her. She was prepared when I came the third time, she immediately began the song of binding. She had filled the room with the appropriate spices, scents and symbols. Because of my surprise, she was able to bind me into the wall. As the years slowly went by, I was able to move and stretch and dig enough to finally make this lovely headquarters. The spirits that are mine are able to come and go as they please, but I am stuck here. Your grandmother became a powerful being, able to keep me trapped behind the wall. Every time I'd try to sneak out she'd start the chant and strengthen the defenses. Apparently she made one big mistake though.”

“Oh, what was that?” I said, shocked and horrified by the things he'd said.

“She didn't pass her vast knowledge down to anyone else. Maybe she thought they'd be enchanted by 'the dark side',” he grinned, “but that mistake will cost her dearly.”

“Oh and how is that?” I asked, trembling.

He simply replied, “You.”

I was shocked! I tried to gather my thoughts and remember everything. I kept thinking “two – two”.

“Two.” I finally squeaked aloud. “I've only been here two times. You have no power over me yet.”

Then he smiled, that wicked beautiful smile, and he whispered, “You crossed the pentagram three times.”

As the words sunk in I reeled. I realized I was in trouble – terrible trouble. I racked my brain trying to find a way out of this. I was close to panicking, then I felt the book in my hand. I knew what I had to do. I pulled the book up and with a loud voice I began to read the chant. I saw Luke...........Lucifer cringe. His face turned ugly.

I kept reading, screaming the poem over and over again and I started backing toward the door. As the words became familiar, I glanced up at Lucifer. When I saw the look on his face, I understood all the old saying of a “beast” and “gnashing of teeth”. In that glimpse of the devil I couldn't believe that I'd ever thought he was handsome.

I didn't dare stop my chant, but I could see that Lucifer was following me. He kept his distance, but he was coming after me. I remembered him saying that my grandma had songs, spices, scents and symbols. I had only the song and the symbol upstairs. I hoped it would be enough. I climbed the stairs backward so that I could keep an eye on the devil who was following me. I never stopped my chanting and my voice started having a singing quality to it as my brain memorized the poem. I finally got to the secret door. As I reached behind me to open the door, I saw the devil lunging at me. I tripped backward through the door and bumped into the dresser as I fell across the pentagram on the floor. I backed out of the symbol and as I grabbed the book I'd dropped, I noticed thick dust in the air. I quickly began the chant again. I heard something hit the door, then I saw him standing in the doorway. As he tried to take a step into the room, he let out a torturous howl. I dropped the book and covered my ears. The house started to tremble and shake. Things began to topple over. I figured there wasn't much more I could do here. I ran toward the door with ceiling plaster falling all around me. As I ran out of the room, I noticed the candles had fallen over and the bed was on fire. I ran through the house dodging falling debris and made it out the front door just as the house collapsed. I got clear of the devastation and then looked around to get my bearings. I was surprised to see the moving truck with all the men staring in shock at the house. It looked like they were just closing up the truck when they heard the collapse. I was also shocked to notice that I had the book in my hand. I must have grabbed it as I ran out. I looked at the house as it turned to a pile of rubble and began to burn. I struggled to remember the details of what had happened. I remembered the four “s's”: song, scent, spice and symbol. I had the song and the symbol. The candles causing the fire must have been the scent. Then I thought about the dust. There was something different about the dust. I remembered that when I was cleaning the room, I'd set some boxes of smelly powders on the dresser. They'd reminded me of how my grandma smelled. Those must have been the spices. I had all four “s's”.

A peaceful calm settled over me. With the house burned to the ground, there would be no way for the devil to find the door. I knew we were safe. There was no way we could sell this property and I'd have to learn enough to set wards around it, but I knew I could do it. It would be hard to explain what had happened to my family , but I would not make the same mistake my grandma did. I would pass the knowledge on and as a family we could take on the responsibility to keep this land safe from evil. We had our mementos and keepsakes and the books of knowledge we'd need. The monster would never leave the basement.

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