by Ella Etienne-Richards
The smell of fresh country air and the birds singing outside my window was like an injection of exuberance and excitement. For some reason I had a feeling this day was going to be different than any other. I couldn’t really place a figure on it but I was filled with optimism. Since moving in, I had lazed about for a whole week. Now it was time to get things organized. Jeff was already outside in the back garden pottering around. He was like a kid in a candy store; with all that space he could pursue his hobby to his heart’s content. He wasted no time; he had already started digging up the soil and looking at different gardening magazines. He wanted to design the best garden in Fudge Town.
His eyes lit up with excitement as he explained his plan for the back yard. “On the far corner of the fence will be all roses in memory of Aunty Dee she was the Rose in our life.”
I nodded as he looked at me for confirmation or some sort of approval. He had never gotten over his aunt’s passing, it was so sudden.
While he continued to bombard me with his fabulous garden design I was thinking, I really need to clean out the basement. The attic will be a much bigger job but I need to start with the basement first.
As quickly as he came in he was out of the door again with a hot steaming cup of tea. Lisa walked into the room with an "I'm so bored" teenager look written all over her face. In an instant a thought came into my head. It would be great if Lisa would help me to clear the basement. I knew it would take a hell of a lot of convincing or just good old fashion bribery.
I kissed her good morning as she mumbled something like, “What's good about it?”
“Everything” I said with gusto. I would be damned if I allowed her to damper my spirits. Turning into a teenager had dropped a cloud of depression over her. “I have an exciting project in mind and you are going to love it.”
She rolled her eyes and cocked her head to one side, "What?" she said in a rude tone of voice.
I continued trying to maintain my excitement. “This is a very old house, I am sure people have left a lot of old antique stuff behind. Stored in the basement waiting to be discovered.”
“And your point is Mum” she interjected again with sheer insolence.
“Well I was thinking of cleaning the basement today and I thought we could do it together.”
“I beg your pardon" she said.
Never in my wildest dream would I ever be able to speak to my mum like that but I carried on. “Can you imagine the family heirlooms, and God knows what, might be in that basement? We could have a garage sale.”
She pushed her breakfast plate aside, stood up and started to walk away.
“Not so fast” I said, “You know that iPhone you wanted? You could use that money to get it.” She stopped and turned around. Yes, I thought I got her, hook, line and sinker. Now I need to reel her in.
She turned around and walked back towards the table with a sheepish smile on her face. “What if there's just pure junk in the basement.”
“What if it's not?” I said “We can start straight away, are you in or not?" “Come on Lee Lee we’ll have fun. I promise you. It will be like old times. Do you remember that time when we cleaned Grandma’s basement and we found all these old dolls hidden in an old trunk.”
I saw her eyes lit up as she nodded and smiled.” “Yeah she said that was cool.” I was so excited, I felt like I was getting my old Lee Lee back.
Jeff burst through the back door and I almost dropped my cup of coffee.
"My garden bulbs and seedlings are being delivered today” he announced. “By the way what's the plan for today?” he asked as if trying to motivate us.
Before I could respond Lisa surprised me and said, “Mum and I are going to clean out the basement.”
Jeff looked at me in total and utter shock. He obviously didn't expect that response from Lisa. Lately she seemed to spend her life on Face book and bloody Snap chat.
“I am going to put on my old jeans” she said as she walked out of the room. Before I could even finish my coffee Lisa was back in the kitchen with feather duster, bags and all. “Come on Mum she said what are you waiting for?”
“OK” I said “I'm coming, meet you downstairs.”
“I am dumbfounded" Jeff said "What's come over her."
"Nothing to do with me, a change of location and exposure to clean countryside air can have a positive effect on anyone" I said, lying through my teeth.
"Whatever you did I'm glad" he said, “I feel like we've got our old Lee Lee back.”
I raced upstairs took off my pyjamas and put on something more practical. I had to get down there quick before she changed her mind. I was dressed and out of the room like a flash.
“Be careful down there Jeff shouted” as I almost toppled down the basement stairs in my haste to join Lisa. At first I could not see her but it was a big basement with a lot of stuff so I knew she was there somewhere.
“I'm here" I shouted, and I heard a horrible grunt in response. I giggled thinking of the days when she was much younger and would always try to scare me. We had so much fun, how I miss those days. Becoming a teenager had really changed my Lee Lee.
There were so many boxes, I was curious to discover what was in all these boxes, left behind and stored away. I did not know where to start. “Lee, Lee why don’t we start over here together.”
In response I heard a muffled sound coming from the far corner of the room. I was a little curious and thought; if she wants to scare me I will teach her a lesson and really make her jump. Slowly and quietly I walked over ready to pounce.
To my horror I saw Lisa slumped between two boxes, with her hands clutching her throat, "What on earth Lee Lee" I screamed. She looked like she was choking. I immediately grabbed her and pulled her towards me. "What's wrong" I said as she collapsed into my arms and whispered hoarsely, “Get me out of here Mum, get me out of here?” She coughed and spluttered and I immediately patted her back because I thought maybe she had swallowed something by accident.
“Are you alright” I said trying to look closer at her. She suddenly wheeled around pushed my arms away and flew up the steps like a bat out of hell. Confused, I chased up the steps after her to find out what in God's name was going on. I got to the top of the stairs as she sprinted across kitchen and into the backyard into father's arms. I pushed my way through the swinging back door and joined them in the backyard.
Jeff looked at me, bewildered expecting an explanation. "Eleona!" what in God’s name is going on with you two?" he exclaimed angrily. Maybe he thought we had one of our heated arguments again.
“Calm down and let her explain," I said. "Tell us Lee Lee, what’s the matter?"
“Oh my God Mum” she said “I almost died down there” She raised her voice almost wailing “Mum something tried to kill me. I could not breathe I was trying to call you but I could not get any words out. I could feel a hand suffocating me”
"Oh my God" I said “Did you see anyone? It sounds very strange to me".
“Dad you’ve got to believe me, there's something down there, something awful, something evil. I don’t know what it is but I am not staying here one day longer. I am going to Gran’s.”
“Now, Now” Jeff said, “Let’s calm down. Let’s not start making any hasty decisions .There might be all sorts of things down there, it could be anything. Did you see or hear anything Eleanor.”
“Well I did hear some sort of a grunt but I just thought Lisa was making silly noises."
“That explains it” Jeff said “There must be some sort of wild animal down there. I will get my gun and get to the bottom of this.”
“No Dad Lisa pleaded you can't go down there it’s dangerous, this is no joke.”
“Nonsense" Jeff grumbled. "I am not scared of anything not in my own house."
Crazy thoughts were going through my head, it all seemed very bizarre.
“Ma’am, ma’am” we all turned around to see a lady next door frantically calling and waving at us over the fence. “What now” I thought. Jeff smiled and waved dismissively in an attempt to get rid of her but she continued waving.
She looked right at me and beckoned me to come over. “Stop” she said as Jeff started walking towards the door to go back inside. “I need to talk to both of you.”
Lisa was sitting on a bag of compost in the middle of the garden and she looked like she had just seen a ghost. I took a few steps towards the old woman and Jeff followed me. I smiled and said, “Hello.”
She did not smile back. She looked straight into my eyes and blurted out. “Your family is in danger, demons, evil, When I saw you move in I prayed it wouldn’t happen again, but they will never leave this place, no one can ever settle here.”
“Sorry Ma'am but I don't believe in ghosts” Jeff said as he grabbed my hands and said “Come on Eleona.”
I looked back as we walked away and I saw a look of terror written all over the old woman’s face. With pleading eyes she looked at me and said, “Please get out of there while you can.”
Lisa was getting highly agitated at the thought of her father going down to the basement. “Please Dad; let’s just get out of here.”
I could feel the hair stand up at the back of my neck but I knew I could not stop Jeff. “Maybe we should call someone.” I said.
He spun around looked at me and uttered “Who? Ghost busters?”
I followed him as he dashed into the house and grabbed his gun above the kitchen cabinet. I was consumed with fear as to what we would find down there. With his gardening boots still on he kicked open the basement door and cautiously went down the first few steps. I was about to follow him down when the door swung shut in my face and I heard a blood cuddling scream from Jeff .
Terrified I desperately tried to kick the door open but it would not budge.
“Dad, Dad.” Lisa yelled from behind me.
“Go find help” I shouted as I continued frantically kicking at the door. I heard a few shots being fired then that deep grunt again, this time louder much louder as if coming from the bowels of the earth and I shuddered at the thought at what the hell was making this ghastly noise.
Suddenly there was a deafening silence and the basement door slowly swung open. For a second I stood frozen to the spot in absolute shock, and then I quickly came to my senses as I heard Lisa coming through the door with one of the neighbours. I turned around as he walked in and said “My husband, he’s down there, I heard shots...
“Stand back” the man said, “Raphael and Jake is on their way, always trouble with this old house, it should be bulldozed. I would do it myself if I could. Come on Jake” he shouted as two other men joined him, one of them with a big dog. I was about to follow behind them when the younger man said, “Oh no! wait here if he’s down there we’ll bring him up”.
I didn’t understand what he meant, I was so weak I slumped to the floor near the basement door with Lisa seating near by in a terrible state.
I could hear them shouting to each other, “Move those boxes Raphael Can you see anything.”
I could hear boxes being shifted and dropped as I waited for a sign that Jeff was alright. I couldn’t take it any longer. “Stay here Lee Lee I’m going down, I can’t just sit there doing nothing.”
“No Mum” Lisa said “No.”
In my rush I skidded down the steps and landed on my bottom but I did not care. “Jeff" I shouted, “Where are you?”
“Sorry Ma’am” the taller man called Jake said as he rushed towards me. “He’s nowhere to be found, Gone like all the others.”
“What do you mean?” I protested, “He has to be there! I saw him go down.”
“Come on Ma'am we have to leave now.” the two other men joined him as they forcefully guided me back up the steps. “You know, no one has lived here for years. Too many things have happened in this house.”
“Sinister quite sinister” the shorter gentleman whispered. It’s as if he was afraid something or someone would hear him. “They said it would all be alright after the exorcism and they put the building back on sale. I never believed it myself.”
“The lady next door warned us if only I had listened, I need to talk to her there must be something we can do” I said desperately.
“What lady next door?” the man with moustache said. “No one has live next door since old Miss Bertrand died almost twenty years ago.”
My jaw dropped, everything was getting more and more peculiar. “Are you sure” I said, as I tried to describe her. They looked at each other and shook their heads.
“OK that's it! Is there somewhere you can go till the police get over here to investigate?”
Frustrated with their behaviour, I said "Listen my husband went down to the basement so he’s in the basement; where else could he have gone.”
The taller man gave me a stern look, like a naughty child. “Ma'am your husband is gone, spirited away. He ain’t the first and until they bulldoze this place he won't be the last. This place is hunted by restless troubled, dark souls. Take your daughter and go, you need to go, lady, while you still can”. His eyes were glazed over and bloodshot. He looked possessed. I was filled with fear and trepidation.
I grabbed Lisa off the floor where she still sat huddled in a corner rocking back and forth and made my way towards the front door. There was an eerie silence as the men followed behind us almost pushing us out. Maybe I should thank them I thought and I turned around but they were gone, there was no one behind us. I was propelled forward almost lifted off my feet and bounced off the front steps landing in the middle of the lawn in the front yard with Lisa right on top of me. Stunned and mystified I looked up to see the door violently opened and shut three times as if by a strong gust of wind from inside the house.
I flinched as someone tapped me on the shoulder, it was a policeman, and the village vicar was standing right behind him. "Ma’am are you alright? There was an emergency call from this address."
Dazed and baffled I picked myself off the ground and told the police that my husband was in danger.
The Vicar looked at me and Lisa and made the sign of the cross and said, “You know, no one has ever made it out of there alive. You are lucky, someone is watching over you”
“Please” I said, “my husband."
“Ok” he said “Inspector Langley and I will go in and check” The Vicar pulled out a wooden cross and some holy water, pushed the door wide open and they both went in. I stood up to follow but an unseen force from inside the house slammed the door shut right in my face.
Scared but very angry I grabbed hold of the door handle but Lisa screamed, “Mum Stop! Please don’t leave me on my own.”
I stepped back pulled Lisa close to me and waited anxiously. She was visibly shaken and in tears. I tried to reassure her that the policeman and the Vicar would get to the bottom of this and find Dad. She looked up at me in obvious disbelief. “I will call the medics right now just in case Dad is hurt.”
After about what seemed like half an hour or so the police officer, followed by the Vicar came rushing out the door with a look of fear on their faces.
“There’s no one down there Ma’am the basement is empty” They were both out of breath.
The police officer did not look well “We need to go. The air in this place is toxic. I had serious trouble breathing. I almost passed out. Thank you Vicar I would not have made it out without you. It felt like someone was literally trying to strangle me.”
Without warning there were loud siren noises and a commotion right across the road at the end of the field. Everything was happening so quickly there were a few curious bystanders and the police had cordoned off a small area.
The Vicar rushed across the road shouting,“That will be the body; nothing stays in this house dead or alive.”
I was in a heightened state of distress. I followed closely behind the Vicar and Inspector Langley. As we crossed the road I saw the body bag and my heart sank but I had to be sure. “Stop” I screamed as I pushed my way through before they zipped up the bag but the face I saw was unrecognizable. A bloody mangled mass of flesh eaten up by some sort of creature or rodent. That definitely was not Jeff. I jumped back horrified, light headed and weak at the knees as the Vicar tried to hold me up.
I had a throbbing headache and as I opened my eyes and looked around Grandma was sitting near my bed. “I am so sorry Eleona” she said, “a paranormal team and one of the best psychics have been to the house. Jeff’s definitely not in the house. They can sense his spirit but he is not with us.”
“What! But is he alive" I said in a panicked state.
“Rest, Rest” Grandma said. “It’s an inexplicable phenomenon. We have to wait and see. He may be able to find his way back. It’s never happened before but it’s possible. We have to pray to help him find his way. We’ll have all the family together we’ll have a Novena.”
I didn’t understand what Grandma was saying. I was convinced that it was all a dream; I was having a horrible nightmare. I would wake up sooner or later and everything, everything will be back to normal.