The Creature in the Basement, Part 1
Hi all. This is my first post here, but because my stories run so long, it won't be my last. This is a story about some friends who are loosely based on a group of friends I used to live with. Any criticism is welcome and encouraged.
The Creature in the Basement
The party had been good. Jay, Tim, Doug and Helen all looked around the house and sighed. Helen wandered around picking up various little things around the house and putting them in the garbage. Jay, Tim and Doug all sat on the large couch staring tiredly at the ceiling. Their eyes were bleary and one could tell by their general demeanor that they had been drinking and were feeling quite well.
Helen, stop that and come sit down. Tim said, his deep bass voice booming throughout the houses high ceilings. Weve got all day tomorrow to do that. And you dont even live here.
Helen smiled and put down her latest armful of things to be put away and sat in a chair beside her three friends. I feel like I live here sometimes. She said with a grin.
Its probably cause shes here every weekend. Doug muttered with his eyes closed. Could we start charging her rent?
Jay shook his head and leaned forward. No, he said, rubbing his eyes. We dont do that to our friends.
Im your friend and you charge me rent. Doug replied.
We dont charge you rent. Tim explained. The guy that owns the house does.
Doug nodded sagely for a moment. Why dont we just buy the house then?
Tim laughed. Cause itd cost us five million bucks.
To say the house was large would be an understatement. Three floors, guestrooms, three full baths, dining room, living room, a parlor, and in the basement were the rooms that the three house mates affectionately called the dungeon. A series of stone rooms including the furnace room, a wine cellar, and a strange little room with the oil drums for the furnace and at least four discarded water heaters. Tim called the room the Place Where Water Heaters Go to Die.
The house was old as well. Made sometime prior to 1900, the entire house was trimmed in magnificent oak baseboards. A large fireplace was the main feature in the parlor, and the living room was dominated by great bay windows. Twelve-foot ceilings were the norm on the first and second floor, and the third floor ceilings topped off at around ten feet. The large grand staircase was made of oak and teak, stained dark.
As the four of them rested before they pulled themselves to bed. There was a sudden loud crash from the basement. Doug roused himself from a light sleep with a start and Helen let out an involuntary yelp in surprise. Tim stood and went to a cupboard in the kitchen.
Its those God-Damned rats again. He muttered under his breath.
It was your idea to move into the country. Jay said as he followed him. Lets move to the country! he said. Itll be fun, he said. He didnt mention the rats.
Suddenly there was a great wailing from the basement, unlike anything that any of the four of them had heard before. A long mournful cry that echoed throughout the house and seemed to hang in the air, long after the sound had stopped.
Thats a new sound from the rats. Doug said dryly from the kitchen door. I wonder where they learned to do that.
Probably from listening at Tims door! said Jay, grinning and ducking.
Tim looked down at the box of rat poison in his hand. I dont think this is really going to work. He said softly. Someone should go check it out.
Helen was standing by the kitchen sink with her arms wrapped around her shoulders, as if trying to comfort herself. Like who? she said with a slight waver in her voice. Im not going down there! I never liked the basement in the first place.
Jay slapped Doug on the shoulder. Lets go, Buddy! We need something new to put in the Stupid Book. He said with a smile, referring to a book of stupid ideas that Jay and Doug had put together. In order for it to be admitted as an entry into the book it had to be a stupid idea, and it had to have been completed.
Uh. Jay. Tim said uncertainly. Do you really want to go down there?
Jay stood, paused at the basement door and looked around at the others seriously. Look guys, we know that theres something downstairs. Its probably just an animal or something that got into the garage and down to the basement. Theres nothing that can go wrong. He smiled and unlocked the door. Coming Doug?
Doug smiled. Of course I am. He said. It couldnt go into The Book if only you went.
Jay opened the door and immediately there was a cool breeze and the stale smell of dried ashes. Jay and Doug stole a quick glance at one another and Jay took the first few steps down, followed closely by Doug. Tim and Helen stood at the top of the stairs and peered down into the darkness with growing concern as they started to loose sight of their two friends.
Jay reached the spot on the wall where the light switch was and fumbled around a little for it. Flipping it on, nothing happened. He tried it a couple more times but gave up and called up the stairs, Tim! Can you get me a flashlight?
Sure thing. Tim replied and Doug retreated a few steps upstairs and waited for their light.
Bulb must have blown. Doug muttered to Helen as he waited.
ALL of them? Helen replied. That switch runs three or four light bulbs.
Doug fell into a brooding silence and glanced down into the basement. He could barely see Jay as he waited at the bottom of the steps. He was looking around into the darkness and it looked like he was tapping his foot a couple of times in impatience.
Here. Tim said as he handed a flashlight over Dougs shoulder.
Doug took the flashlight and started down the old stairs again. This time flipping on the light and shining its gaze in the dark corners of the basement.
Good. Jay said with a weak smile. Now maybe we can look around.
Jay and Doug wandered around the basement, looking into the wine cellar and then wandering through the furnace room. When they reached the oil room, that was affectionately called The Room Where Water Heaters go to Die, they were stunned. Inside was a large hole in the floor of the room. Two of the four or five water heaters in the room were perched precariously on the edge of the large hole. An orange - green light was radiating from the hole, and there was a low, deep rumbling from deep within the earth.
Now theres something you dont see everyday. Doug muttered in shock.
Thisll definitely go into The Book wont it? Jay added.
Suddenly a black tendril covered in an oozing black fluid reached up tentatively from the hole. Jay and Doug were frozen for a moment. They watched as the black thing moved slowly around the room, then, as if it had caught their scent it turned towards them and struck with lightning speed.
For years afterwards, Jay would say that he had saved Dougs life and Doug would argue that he had saved Jays. The truth of the matter was that the two of them, in their rush to escape the thing from the hole crashed into each other and fell to the ground in a clumsy heap of flesh. The black tendril flew too high above them and smashed into the stone wall. Jay and Doug raced out of the basement and stumbled up the stairs to the landing, where Tim and Helen were waiting patiently.
Well. What was it? Tim asked.
Doug and Jay looked at each other for a moment, then, Jay forced himself to smile and said, Were going to need a really good exterminator.
For the next three hours Doug and Jay went over exactly what they saw in the basement. Tim and Helen asked a hundred questions after they finished their story, making sure that they had all the possible facts.
Well. Tim said rubbing his eyes; it was now four in the morning. What I think we have here is a case of
He paused, unsure of what exactly to call it.
A case of the slimys in the basement. Doug said. And for some reason I dont think a rat exterminator is going to get rid of it. Just call it a hunch.
So what do we do? Helen asked.
Her question was answered with silence. The four of them looked at each other, all hoping someone else had the answer, yet no one spoke.
Then, quietly, Doug said three words. We kill it.
How? Jay asked.
Remember when it struck out at us? Doug said. When it hit the wall it recoiled back, like it was hurt. If it can be hurt, it can be killed.
Yeah, right. Jay said dryly.
About fifteen minutes later Doug, Jay and Tim were ready to do battle with the thing in the basement. They had gathered whatever weapons they could find and were slowly making their way down the stairs into the basement. Helen had decided that she should stay on the first floor in case something bad should happen and they needed some assistance.
Tim and Jay were both carrying axes and Doug was wielding a large piece of rattan that he was planning on making into a pole-arm whenever he got the chance. The three men wandered around the basement in the dark, the flashlight in Tims hands the only way that they could see anything. They slowly peeked around the corner of the oil room and were shocked to see that the hole was mysteriously gone.
Reaching out and flipping on the light, Tim was surprised to find that it worked. He turned and glared at Jay and Doug.
It was right here! Jay yelled running over to where the hole had been only a few hours before. It was right here!
Hes right! Doug cried. And the big slimy arm came out of it and tried to smush us!
Well I dont see anything now. Tim said. I mean, even anything, like a crack in the floor or something would be good.
Doug and Jay searched the room and found nothing, until Doug stumbled upon an old moldy box in the far corner of the room, hidden behind the oil drums. He carefully opened it up and looked inside. Shocked to find old diaries and newspaper clippings.
Guys! Doug said. Over here! I think Ive found something!
Tim and Jay crowded around Doug as he carefully lifted out the various pieces of paper, trying not to damage them in the process. He handed them to Tim, who brought them upstairs and started to lay them on the dining room table to dry. The moisture of the basement had done a deal of damage to them, yet Tim was sure he could salvage most of them.
At the very bottom of the box, Doug found a large leather book, with great iron clasps. He looked up to Jay, quizzically. Jay shrugged. Doug lifted the book out and carried it upstairs, leaving the empty, moldy box in the basement.
Look what we found! Doug said as he let the big book thud onto the table. A book!
Helen smiled at Tim. He can be taught!
Tim examined the outside of the book and carefully ran his hands over the leather. It was vaguely warm to the touch and the texture was slightly different than the other leathers that he knew of. The iron clasps were locked shut and Tim lifted the book, glancing around it, looking for a key.
We need a key. He said absently.
Any old key will do? Jay said with a smile.
Tim glanced at him pointedly and then looked around the room for a moment, thinking. Its probably in the basement somewhere. Did you guys search the whole room?
Doug nodded. If theres anything in that room, we know about it now.
What about the other rooms? Helen asked.
Jay shook his head. We were kind of worried about the room that had the big slimy, black octopus that was trying to kill us.
Well maybe there is some other stuff in the other rooms. Helen replied with a dry smile.
Why dont we get some sleep first. Tim said suddenly.
Jay looked at Tim as if he had three heads. Uh. Tim, weve got three guests staying the night and Im pretty sure that our insurance doesnt cover massacre by supernatural, slimy, black octopuses.
Tim smiled. Weve been here for ten months now and weve never had a death yet.
I think its the yet that Jays worried about. Doug muttered.
We also havent had a big, slimy, black octopus residing in the Room Where Water Heaters go to Die. Jay said.
Okay, fine if you guys want to go and look downstairs some more, Ill stay up here and try to sort out some of the papers. Tim said with a sigh.
Good! Jay said, as if hed won something important. He wandered back to the basement door with a pleased look on his face, followed closely by Doug.
Uh, Jay. Doug said after a moment of thought. You do realize that were the ones going down there with the creature from the Water Heater Graveyard, and Tim and Helen are safe upstairs looking at old newspaper clippings.
Jay nodded. Well Doug, he said with a grave expression. Some people are blessed with brains and some people are blessed with brawn. Then there are people like us, that share one brain. Jay opened the door into the wine cellar and paused, turning back to look at Doug in the face. Strong like ox, smart like doorknob.
Doug followed Jay into the wine cellar and glanced around. Boxes lay everywhere and some old furniture was piled into one of the corners. A strong scent of mold and mildew was in the air. Jay went to one of the corners and started moving boxes, looking for any that were not his, Dougs or Tims. Doug wandered over to the wine racks and peeked in behind them, searching for anything out of the ordinary.
As Jay searched in the corner, he came across a series of scratches on the floor. They appeared to be made by a large animal with great claws, but they also looked to be old. Jay filed that away for future reference and moved on to the wall. As he looked around he noticed that one of the lamps that were built into the stone was crooked. He reached out and attempted to straighten it, lost his balance and pulled it out towards the center of the room.
Doug was examining the dirty, dark spot under the wine racks when he heard the loud clash of gears. The racks started to move inward and Doug was forced to retreat to the middle of the room before the large, oak beams crushed him.
Jay joined Doug in the middle of the room, watching in awe as a doorway emerged in the stone behind the wine racks. Darkness bathed the opening and as Doug shone the flashlight into the doorway, he noticed that it appeared to be a tunnel, weaving off to his right.
This wasnt in the rental agreement. Doug muttered.
Must have been overlooked. Jay said with a cursory step forward. Lets check it out.
Yeah, great plan, Jay. Doug muttered as he followed Jay into the hall. Lets go look in a secret passage in a house with a black, slimy octopus living in the basement.
The two walked carefully along the passage, having to brush past cobwebs and moisture slicked walls. In short time they reached a door at the end of the winding hall. The door was large, made of carved oak and bound with great iron bands. The carving in the door depicted a great bulbous creature with countless long tentacles performing horrendous acts of brutality on the small human creatures that ran around its body.
Doug and Jay exchanged frightened glances. Jays hand reached tentatively towards the door, Doug reached out and stopped him.
What if the thing is in there? Doug asked.
What if the key we need is in there? Jay countered.
Personally Id like to live.
We all die some day.
Doug let go of Jays hand and let him open the door. A deep musty smell, like that of old books and incense came from the room. Jay opened the door wide and Doug shone his light into the room. It was a library of sorts. The walls were covered floor to ceiling in bookshelves and dusty, moldy tomes sat on the tables in the middle of the room. To the left a table sat with what looked like a small chemistry set on it. Beakers and pipettes were strewn over the table with a couple of Bunsen burners on the edges. A large, plush chair was in the corner of the room and a book was laid open on the seat.
Doug wandered over to the chair and book while Jay went to investigate the table with the chemistry set. Doug flipped one of the pages and it turned to dust in his hands.
Guess this has been here for awhile. He muttered softly to himself.
He wandered to the bookshelf and occasionally touched the spines of the books to see if they had faired the passage of time any better than the book on the chair. When he found ones that seemed sturdy he took them aside and placed them carefully on the table.
Jay, meanwhile, was looking at all the strange ingredients that he found in a small cupboard under the table he was at. Different plants and plant extracts were shelved into the cupboard, and Jay was at a loss to figure out just what any of them would do. He did notice one shelf for mandrake root.
Hey, Doug I got a whole shelf full of Mandrake here. Jay called. We can make another batch of that psychotropic beer.
Then he noticed the key in the bottom drawer of the cupboard. It was a large key. It was an iron key. Jay figured that it was far to coincidental that it could be the key to the book upstairs. Then he thought about all the other strange things that had happened on this night and grabbed the key, thrusting it into his pocket.
Got the key! Jay said as he turned around.
Doug was placing another book on the table and looked up. I found a bunch of books. He said with a smile.
Tim will be very pleased. Jay said dryly.
They each took an armful of books and carried them up to the first floor, leaving the secret passage and room open.
To be continued ...