A woman alone. An old house. A dark musty cellar. These three juicy clichÃ©s are enough to whet the appetite of any horror freak. But women are different today. Are they not strong, assertive and in control of their destiny? Think again.
The Bogeyman Cometh
I mentally berated myself. How could I have been so stupid to rashly buy this house? Apparently, I had lost all reason. I must have been seduced by the surrounding area or the perceived romanticism of the setting. There was no charm to the house. It was isolated from both neighbours and town. It was, also,not particularly attractive. Its saving grace and the quality that most appealed to me was that it was over a century old. That and the wide plank, pine flooring. The house certainly would require a lot of hard work. It was a small two story and it even had a rudimentary basement. It was certainly large enough for the few pieces of furniture I had accumulated. So why did I have this nagging fear that I had made the wrong decision? I had treated everyone who tried to dissuade me with disdain, from Mother (How can you live anywhere but New York City?), to my best friend Eve (The odds of getting laid are better in the city than in the country. Think about it.) Even when the real estate agent looked at me, his face was full of pity. I could imagine him thinking,”this poor broad needs a man about the house.”
Well, I had had a man in my life and it didn’t work out. To be honest, I figured I could do better. Not money-wise but brain-wise. Maybe it would happen here in these new surroundings, once I was settled. If it didn’t, so be it. Life is too short to worry about incidentals. My furnishings had arrived late yesterday, just as the storm broke. It had been raining ever since. Early this morning, the rain was joined by high winds that reached gale force. Had I been on Cape Cod, I would not have been surprised, but this was the Finger Lake region of New York state.
After I wiped down my delivery piece by piece, I had the movers place each item exactly as detailed on my floor plan sketches. I was, if nothing else, very competent in design and writing. I only hoped my decision to give up architecture and switch to writing full time would work out. Correction. It will work out! If the drivel I read on the internet was what some authors considered fiction, I could be another Virginia Wolf. I found it truly amusing how these second rate hacks thought they had arrived and were part of the literary elite just because they were published. It was unfortunate that they had to resort to giving away their material for free. I suppose you get what you pay for.
I powered up my laptop computer and absent-mindedly caressed its ice white body. The furniture may have been in place, but the house was still in a state of disarray. My clothes were strewn everywhere due to the fact that the two upstairs bedrooms had no closets, a carryover from the late nineteenth century’s love of armoires. I ignored my surroundings and my thoughts disappeared into the screen of my computer as I started to type. Immediately, I was lost in my plot. When I looked up, it was night and I was sitting in the dark. Only the glow from the screen lit the room in a ghostly sheen. What had roused me out of my self-absorbed stupor? I had heard something but did not know what or where it came from. Something breaking. A falling lamp? No. It was glass. I stood up and walked over to the light switch. It was very old although not as old as the house. It operated similar to a stove control in a dial-like movement from left to right. It also didn’t feel very solid – but it worked.
The small hanging fixture of brass nymphs frolicking in a forest of ferns lit up the room with all the intensity a 40 watt bulb could muster. The wind was still howling and the rain continued with the occasional flash of lightning. Strange how oblivious I had been to the uproar outside and still had heard the breaking glass. I went to the front door to check out the storm. Before I reached the doorway, I saw the fleeting movement of a shadow cross the tiny paned window in the centre of the door. It startled me enough that I stopped dead in my tracks.
I’m not a fearful person. It doesn’t bother me to be alone. If I could survive the Big Apple, I could survive sleepy, upstate New York. I opened the unlocked front door and looked out. The storm continued to rage. The porch light was not on the porch but on a post about twenty feet down the gravel drive and under the large willow tree in the front yard. I certainly didn’t recall turning on the light. In its glow, the willow was shaking and twisting wildly as if trying to escape the storm’s fury. Several small branches and one larger one lay strewn on the ground. The dim aura of light cast by the post lamp and the thrashing branches were a plausible cause of the shadow that had startled me. Perhaps a branch had been blown against one of the upper floor windows and had caused the sound I heard. I quickly made my way to the narrow, wooden stairs but first turned on the overhead hall light. Again, the meager illumination that came from the frosted globe didn’t help much. The globe, in fact, was reminiscent of a full moon’s shimmering, blue white light, The transparent pattern of the globe even gave it the appearance of the face of the man in the moon.
In keeping with the age of the building, the stairs groaned in complaint with my every footfall. At least no one could catch me by surprise in this house. I chuckled to myself and thought back to my childhood and how frightened I had been of creaking stairs or floors. I was terrified of the bogey man. That terrifying specter who lurked in my closet, under my bed or in dark places, haunted my early years. One recurring nightmare was of disembodied hands coming from under the bed to encircle and trap me as I slept. I would wake up screaming and my parents, usually my father, would come and soothe my fears away. It was only the bogeyman in my imagination or in my dream, he would say, as he held my trembling body. He would add that the bogeyman couldn’t harm me because he wasn’t real. Only with the combination of knowledge and wisdom of age did I triumph over those early fears.
As I reached the landing at the top of the stairs, the lights went out. With the assistance of the occasional lightening flash, I carefully retraced my steps down the squeaking stairs to the kitchen. Thankfully I had stored my emergency flash light in a drawer and retrieved it. Its beam, at first, appeared brighter than the ceiling fixtures, but that was an illusion. Still it was better than a flickering candle. I returned to the bedroom level and searched the walls with the beam to locate the windows. Both bedroom windows were intact. A quick process of elimination left only my least favourite area, the cellar, to search next.
Back down the creaking stairs once more to the kitchen. The paneled door to the cellar was wedged at the top and it took me several try’s to release it. When I opened it, the hinges mimicked the squeal of the stairs and I faced a void of black. Worse, I was accosted by a rush of damp moist air. The mustiness took me by surprise. I shone the flashlight beam into the darkness and proceeded down the open-back, wood treads. Here, I faced still another hurtle from my youth. Open risers triggered another adolescent fear, that of evil hands reaching out from below to grab my ankles. I started down with the feeling of goose bumps hardly smothered. I was a mature woman now, I thought, reinforcing my dwindling self-confidence. It’s only a carry over fear from youth. I made it to the bottom. The cellar’s mustiness was due in no small part to the bare dirt floor and the field stone support walls. The gaps between the stones were awkwardly filled with mortar, some of which had fallen away. Directly ahead of me, at the end of the flashlight’s beam, was a small wood frame window that appeared wedged into the stone wall. The glass was shattered leaving tiny shards the size of shark’s teeth around the edge. I smiled in triumph. Finally, I had found the source of the broken glass sound.
On the dirt floor below the window were a half dozen circles of what appeared to be dried drops, the colour of burnt umber. I was about to examine them at closer range when I heard a wheezing, asthmatic sound somewhere to my right. I turned slowly in that direction, the flashlight beam turning with me. Then I saw it. In the corner was the main electric box. The real estate agent had pointed it out to me, being careful to explain that the power was on when the heavy gauge wire handle was in the upright position. As I walked towards the hydro box, the flashlight beam bounced up and down matching my steps. I was only a few feet away when the alarm bells in my head started. The wire handle was down!
Even as that fact registered, in the light beam I saw two hands coming from behind and a flash of stainless steel. A strong arm grabbed me. As I struggled, the flashlight fell into the dirt and I felt a quick, smooth motion across my throat like the tickle of a feather. There was no pain but when I brought my free hand up to the area it was moist and sticky. Then I felt myself weakening and I drifted from the darkness of the cellar to the darkness of eternal night.