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The Presence in The Basement

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In 1978, my two “old maid” aunts died, only three months apart. They had always lived together and were good friends as well as sisters. They were also great “playmates” to me, an only child whose parents both worked. It was always a joy to get off the school bus in the afternoon and run over to their house (which was next to mine), enjoying homemade snacks and watching afternoon TV. Because they never had children, and I had somewhat “absent” parents, it was an ideal relationship for all three of us. We spent many, many happy hours together at their house, which was built just for them.

One aunt died in December, and the other followed in February. It was as if their spirits just could not be apart; I understood that concept even then. So, my parents set about trying to sell the house, after clearing out all the furniture, repainting the walls, and recarpeting every room.

When the house wasn’t being shown, and was left completely empty, I took great pleasure in “borrowing” the keys to the house and taking advantage of all the space – I especially loved to do cartwheels, backbends, and other gymnastics in the large, front living room – all the usual things any typical 12-year-old girl enjoys.

The living room was next to the foyer, which led to the door that opened to the basement. For some reason, I kept feeling drawn to the basement door, and curiosity finally won out: I still remember very clearly opening the door and seeing the familiar long steps that led down to the basement.

Standing at the entrance to the door, I felt an immediate presence of fear – as if I were being watched, or that I wasn’t alone. It was a very frightening feeling, which was odd to me, because I had never felt anything but love in that house. Still, I felt compelled to move down the stairs to investigate…as I descended, with each step, the feeling became stronger. I didn’t even make it all the way; standing on the stairs and looking over at the ground below, I suddenly felt completely frightened and took off like lightning, running pell mell through the house and out the door. I didn’t even stop to lock it and had to return later, when my fear had subsided somewhat.

I never went back into that house while it remained unoccupied.

Some time later, the house was sold to a couple who had a daughter around my age, whom I befriended. Within mere months, the couple began having problems in their marriage; I know this because when I slept over, we would hear them fighting and her mother crying, and when we woke up, she would have spent the night on the couch.

Kim, my new friend, told me her mother had never acted that way before; she seemed to feel so sad all the time now; and once, when she was driving us both to school because we missed the bus, she cried the entire way there, even telling us about her marriage, and how it wasn’t good between them at all.

That family moved away in less than a year, with no explanation; they didn’t even wait until the house was sold to another family.

I am convinced that something truly evil somehow “took up residence” in that house after my aunts died. Why, I will never know, but I will always remember that feeling of abject and complete fear that I felt that one day when I was 12, knowing that something, some malevolent presence, lurked in the basement.

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