Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Nineteenth. In the Cellar

No battery. This is modern horror
I've slipped a day behind after missing a morning's writing to a dead tablet battery. Now, to work on catching up! 


All these years later, they're still there in the basement. It's a different basement, but they're still here with me. Maybe they followed me. Or maybe they live in all basements, at all times. In the secret parts of the basement where nobody goes. Behind the boiler. Under the oil tank. In the cracked parts of the foundation where tree trunk-thick waste pipes snake off to the underground. If I ever live in house without a basement - and that seems certain now -  I'd miss them almost as much as I'll miss her.

I first heard their voices when I was very young, when the unfinished cellar had a powerful draw. Other kids had their rec rooms and foosball games and even the glory of an air-hockey table, but I had a secret. A little nook under the workbench, smelling of sawdust and oil layered over damp, earthy secrets. Sometimes, if I lay very quiet, I could hear their whispering. Low, languid, earthynoises, deeper even than my father's bellow but so soft and gentle. I knew instinctively that those voices knew secrets, and if only I could learn their language all the secrets of the earth would open to me.

I never did learn their language, but I gifted them my secrets, adding myself to the trove lying beneath the earth. Such small secrets in hindsight! That it was I who dropped the flower vase, replacing it chipped-side back to hide my infraction. The skipped homework assignments, the voice raised against my younger brother. They became my confessors, to the point that when I was old enough to enter the slender wooden box in the rear of the church, I'd whisper through the screen that I had no sins to confess. Why would I? I'd given them to the very earth, and from the very earth was shriven. I'd later think of it as grounding a lightning rod; the earth is big enough to hold all the lightning from the world. Surely it could hold my little guilts.

I didn't think of them until years later. The usual. College, dating, wild parties (and what secrets I could have told of those!), eventual setlling down, marriage, children. You stop going to church.

Then a baby and the nights without sleep. You know how it is. Your job doesn't change, but there's suddenly this screaming little being that won't stop  screaming no matter what you do, and your wife makes you wake up in the middle of the night because she says it's your turn this time even though you wake up a full hour earlier than she does.

So, you finally get the screaming baby back to bed and, though you'd not done so in over a decade, you tiptoe to the basement, to the dark corners smelling of oil and mildew. That's what I do. It takes time to hear it, but the slow, languid earthvoices are still there, still whispering secrets. I added mine "I'm mad at her. And I'm mad at the baby."
Found on Tumblr with no attribution
I slept the remainder of the night peacefully.

The voices below heard more secrets. Most about anger, about disappointment, about thinking this was a mistake.

About my secretary.

Is that how she knew? Did the voices below tell her? I'm not stupid and I'm not uneducated. I know the tale of the king with the gold-touch and donkey-ears.

So I end up sleeping in the basement, on the spare couch. It's not too bad. I'm closer to the voices, and have some time to  myself. It's been some weeks, with not much of a thaw. Sometimes at night I crawl to the dark corner, listen to the secret voices whispering their indecipherable whisperings, and offer one last confession:

"I still love her. And the baby."

I look up from the dark corner to see her at the top of the stair, backlit by the kitchen lamp. I can't see her face.

WIthout a word, she closes the basement door, leaving me alone with the chorus singing my secret sins.

No comments:

Post a Comment