“The Voice in the Basement”
by T.A. Saunders
I heard it again. Just as I began to enter that peaceful place between being awake and finally falling asleep, I heard it. It calls my name and only my name with this hateful, angry voice that sounds like a whisper to my ears but must be much louder than that. It has to be because I hear it come up from the vents, which means it must be coming from the basement.
For the last thirty-seven days I have relived this exact moment every night without explanation to the origin of this voice that snarls my name as if speaking it in that way could set me on fire. Each time it happens is another night I do not sleep well for the strange dreams I have and never quite remember. I wake to the buzzing of the alarm clock to find I have slept as long as I should have, but feel as though I slept perhaps half of that. The voice torments my dreams I think and turns them against me as a chain that I cannot break.
I have tried not sleeping, only to doze off from exhaustion then be pulled awake once more by the phantasmal speaker below. I have sought protection by prayer, but Christ does not hear me in my comfortable Hell. I have sought a psychic, who was pretty and smelled of exotic things. She told me to move. I just bought this house! I don’t care what demon lurks below with knowledge of my name, I’m not going to leave! I wished the pretty psychic had stayed. Perhaps the aftermath of a one night stand would grant me a peaceful rest. But she didn’t.
As I stare now at the void presented by my the stairs leading down to my basement, I know I have to resolve this. For the last two weeks my performance at work has been less than stellar. I’m an architect. People don’t like it when you doze off while drawing up blueprints for multimillion dollar skyscrapers. They like it even less when they see you drawing pictures of stick men jumping off those skyscrapers you’re supposed to be designing. The doodling keeps me awake. So does coffee. The blonde girl with freckles that works at Starbucks knows me by name now and knows what I want to drink even though I can’t pronounce it. Between the sugar, the caffeine and the doodling, I get by. I have become an irritable, overtired slave to the thing that calls me below.
I will try something new tonight, that I’ve not tried other nights. I’m going downstairs and I’m going to find what’s been calling my name and confront it. Every B horror movie I’ve ever watched tells me this is a bad idea. Bad ideas are all I have left. Over a month’s worth of sleep deprivation is unwinding my mind. I can feel my sanity slip away and fall down these wooden steps to the darkness below. I would probably be more than a little frightened if there was enough of my mind left to comprehend that I should be.
As I willfully descend into the mouth of the beast of unknown, every expectation that I would be snatched by some savage thing and torn asunder is met with ironic disappointment. At least in death, I wouldn’t hear that damn voice shaking me from a good night’s rest and giving me dreams that torment me, though I can’t remember them. As I step on the tiled floor of the basement, I turn the light switch on thinking that something new would be down here that was not here this evening when I retrieved my laundry. The way the light bulb flickers stirs a sense of déjà vu and it settles In my stomach like bad cabbage soup. Something from one of my unremembered dreams, maybe. The uncertainty of it commands hesitation in my steps, as I take a closer look around.
The basement is dusty, filled with boxes from my move and carries a very faint musty aroma. It looked as though the previous owner meant to make it into a family room, but it was never quite finished. The corner near the washer and dryer was cement floor instead of tile and there were exposed wooden beams and insulation, where proper walling should be. None of this seemed out of order for how it looked at any other time of day, adding to my admittedly strange disappointment that I had not uncovered a clue. Perhaps there was no voice at all and instead, I was going mad. Madness would be easier to accept than the possibility the home I had just bought was haunted, or cursed. Madness would mean I could take a day off from work every week to lay across a couch and talk about my childhood to some leggy psychiatrist instead of sitting in my office listening to my fat old secretary complaining about a jammed copier or a missing stapler.
But then I noticed something, or rather the absence of something. I had heard the ticking of an old wall clock a few moments ago, then it stopped ticking. Weaving through an obstacle course of boxes, cobwebs and furniture left by the previous owner, I moved to where the clock should be. It was a simple wall clock with fake gold trim, white face and Roman numerals. It was the kind you bought at Wal-Mart for twenty dollars when you were too cheap to buy something nice for a wedding. The ex’s uncle bought one of these kinds of clocks for our wedding and tried to pass it off as some sort of fancy, handmade European clock. Stupid bastard forgot to take the price tag off. The time was stuck at 1:50 AM; a quick glance at my watch confirmed it was 1:55 AM. Strange that it died right this very moment…as if I were meant to see time stop.
The sudden thump at the back of my head instantly blurred my vision with the sharp spike of pain that followed the impact. As my face smashed against the cement support the clock was hanging from, I could see the contents of boxes falling around me and taste the fresh trickle of my own blood in my mouth as I slid down in a crumpled pile. As consciousness stole away, I could see something vaguely lurking nearby. I was struck with a sense of profound horror when I realized the lurking thing had been a shadow with no mortal form to cast it. Simply disembodied darkness waiting for me to black out and do whatever it planned to do with me. The last thing I heard was it speaking my name in that same raspy voice I knew so well and had come to despise, hate and now fear.
This time it sounded almost happy to see me.