Alex was too busy wondering what she might find in the hidden room to get much sleep. As it turned out, convincing Vanessa to let her have the key back wasn’t much of a challenge. Since Trevor returned the next day with a crew to begin the process of cleaning and clearing out the basement, he had assured them that it was quite safe.
“I still wouldn’t recommend going down there,” Trevor said as the others were leaving for the day. “We had to use quite the dose of chemicals to clean up what those rodents left behind.”
“Yeah, I saw the bags your men carried out,” Alex said with a laugh. “I guess it was really gross down there.”
“I thought I saw someone bring down traps?”
Trevor shrugged. “Just a precaution. The hope is that they remain empty. If not, you might have an infestation. Exterminators aren’t cheap, let me tell you.”
Alex sighed. “Disgusting.”
“On that pleasant note, have yourself a good evening.”
“You, too. See you tomorrow.”
“Why do you want the key back?” Vanessa asked suspiciously.
“Don’t worry, Nessa. You heard Trevor. The basement is fuming with chemicals right now. I just feel better knowing I have all the keys in one place.” She held up a large key-ring with an assortment of rusted keys.
Vanessa sighed grudgingly and handed the key over. “Fine. I’ll see you tomorrow then. Call me if you need me to come back, okay?”
Alex laughed and gave her a hug goodnight.
Once the last taillights had disappeared, Alex went back inside. Arming herself with her hammer and a flashlight, she stood in front of the basement door. Tonight was the night. “Okay, Alex,” she said to herself. “You can do this.”
According to John, there had been no electricity set up in the basement. It was like it had never been intended to be a finished part of the house. Trevor’s team used long extension cords to set up lights to work by. Unfortunately, Alex forgot to plug these in before coming down. She thought about going back up, but she was already down here.
Shining her flashlight around, she saw that the basement was just one large open space with a few strategically placed pillars to support the house. The walls were covered in wooden boards where they were covered at all, but there were no decorations whatsoever. The only things down here were the items brought in by the cleanup crew. Lights, fans, extension cords, and traps mainly. The random junk had been removed during the day and cast into the dumpster.
It smelled of chemicals, just as Trevor said it would. However, Alex got a feeling in her gut that something was wrong. The horrid scent of rotting food and decay had not been erased, and it churned her stomach for more reasons than one. She didn’t know if it had something to do with the dreams or the fear of the ghost, but she instinctively knew that this place was dangerous. Maybe she should have asked one of the guys to stay behind to help her. It was too late now. Besides, she would have had to explain about the ghost and that would make anyone think she was crazy. She could have asked Vanessa. Perhaps she could still call her.
Shivering, she reached into her pocket to find her phone wasn’t there. It was on the counter upstairs, she remembered. Taking a slow step back, she felt the air grow cold around her and the hairs on her arms stood on end. She gasped and turned, hoisting the hammer to defend herself.
The ghost stood behind her, a worried look on her face.
“You scared me!” Alex said sighing in relief. “There really is something down here, isn’t there? I can feel it.”
Clearly frightened, the ghost nodded.
“Let’s do this quickly so we can get out of here. What do I do?”
The woman pointed to the far wall.
Alex walked hesitantly to it, her grip never loosening on her hammer. “Where’s the door?” she asked in a whisper.
Holding up a finger, the ghost made a twisting motion in front of a knot in the wood.
Curious, Alex stared at the small hole. “It’s like a keyhole?” Fearing something might happen to her finger, Alex felt her resolve waver. She took the flashlight in her mouth and reached for the knot, hands trembling. Relief caught in her throat when nothing happened, but even it knew the time was too soon to be released.
When she completed the twisting gesture the ghost showed her, there was a click from the wall. Alex braced herself and gave the wall a shove. It was heavy, but with some force it turned inward. She wasn’t sure what she would find inside, so she held her hammer ready, directing the flashlight into the room.
An ominous feeling washed over her, and her knees trembled so bad they nearly gave way beneath her. Somehow, she managed to stay upright.
She could see nothing at first as a cloud of dust from the door swirled in the beam of light. When it had settled enough to see, she swung the flashlight around to search the room. Though it had been sealed up, she got the distinct impression it had been lived in. There was a wall to her left filled with all manner of dried foods and canned goods. In front of that was a table. On it were dishes and cutlery enough for one. These were almost invisible under the dust that covered them.
At the back of the space was a bed and a dresser. There even appeared to be something of a fireplace or stove. She briefly wondered if she might be able to find the chimney on the yard, now that she knew to look for it.
To her right was a desk and chair. There was nothing on the desk save for a lone book. “Is that it?” she asked turning to the ghost.
The woman nodded, her gaze focused on the book as though it had been glued there.
Cautiously, she entered the room. It felt almost suffocating. With each step, her desire to flee grew stronger. She was only a few feet from the desk when the door slammed shut.
Alex screamed and ran back to the door. “Let me out!” she cried as she pounded against the wood with the hammer.
Frightened beyond belief, she turned back to the room keeping her back pressed against the wall. There was a sound to her left, and some force threw her across the room. Her back hit the side of the bed and she cried out in pain. Somehow, she had managed to maintain her grip on the flashlight, but the hammer had slipped from her grasp. Desperately, she shone the light in search of what had tossed her.
The room was quiet except for her breathing. She stared at the spot where the door was meant to be, slowly moving her flashlight from side to side.
A strange shadow caught her attention. Heart in her throat, she watched petrified as the shadow began to shift. It horrified her to watch the scene, but she feared looking away.
The shadow grew until it took on the form of a twisted man. The creature’s empty eyes stared at her, and she knew in that moment its dark intent. It ran at her and she screamed.
Adrenaline and fright told her to move. She didn’t know what she was doing; she simply tried to get away.
The thing grabbed her ankle and pulled her back.
Screaming, Alex kicked and flailed as wildly as she could. Her heel connected with something and she found that she was free. Crawling as quickly as she could, she hid herself under the table. The flashlight had been lost to her, but it’s light still shone on the room. Like this, she waited, eyes darting back and forth in search of the creature.
There was an angry screech, and the desk was suddenly overturned. The book landed on the ground not far from where Alex sat. She stared at it. That was the reason why she’d come in here in the first place.
At an agonizingly slow pace, Alex reached forward. She felt tears running down her cheeks, but she forced back her sobs. When her fingers found the book, she paused, listening for the other entity. With extreme caution, she lifted the diary and brought it close to her chest. Now all she had to do was find a way out.
There was a roar and the chair next to her was suddenly gone, having been thrown against the far wall. The table then lifted, and Alex scrambled away as fast as the adrenaline would allow.
The creature was faster and pounced on her.
Alex screamed as she was pinned to the floor, the book beneath her. With her free hand, she struggled to grab anything within reach that might be used as a weapon.
The creature kicked her so that she flew against the wall. She felt her shoulder jar, but she refused to let go of the diary despite the pain. What made it worse was landing on something with an unmistakable shape. At least she knew where her hammer had ended up.
A coldness wrapped around her throat and she screamed again. The sound was gargled as the creature tried to crush her windpipe.
Her fingers wrapped around the familiar handle of her hammer, and she swung this with all the force she could muster. It hit the creature in the head, forcing it to release its grip. Free, she ran to the wall and pounded on it. “Let me out!” she screamed. “Please! Get me out of here! Help! Help me!” She knew there was no one to hear her, but that did not stop her from wishing someone would come.
She screamed all the louder when she was dragged back into the room. Though she fought as best she could, she knew she would not overcome this beast. Her head hit the ground and her strength failed her. She could do nothing as the creature leaned over her.
Though it had the face of a man, it gave off the impression of an animal. The face it wore twisted in a victorious grin.
She wasn’t sure exactly what happened next, but something hit the creature in the head, forcing it away from her. Another something grabbed her under the arms and lifted her to her feet. She thought she heard someone calling her name, but there was a ringing in her ears.
The creature got back to its feet just then. It hissed venomously and charged.
“Alex! We’ve got to run!”
Still holding the diary, she bolted for the now open door. She tripped in her desperation and turned to see the twisted man running for her. Then, the door swung shut. She stared at it, waiting for it to burst open, but it didn’t.
“Alex, are you alright?”
That’s when she saw that someone was crouched beside her. “Trevor?” she said, her voice cracking. “How?”
“Yes. It’s me,” he said helping her to her feet. “Let’s get out of here.”
She nodded, allowing him to guide her back upstairs. With her body in so much pain, she leaned on him for support. “Why are you here?” she asked when they reached the safety of the upstairs.
Trevor shut the basement door before responding. “I had only gotten a few miles when I noticed I’d forgotten my wallet,” he said. “Plus, from the moment I left the drive a got a nagging feeling that something bad was going to happen.”
“But how did you find me?”
He looked past her. “She showed me.”
Confused, Alex turned to see the nameless woman’s ghost.
“I thought I was seeing things at first, but then I heard your screaming.”
She felt fresh tears running down her face, these ones of relief.
“Hey. It’s okay now.”
“I know,” she said with a smile. “I just can’t believe you came. I really thought I was going to die.” She tried wiping away the tears with the palm of her hand. “Thank you.”
“What were you doing down there anyway?”
She glanced down at the book she still held pressed against her chest. “This,” she said turning to the ghost. “It’s hers. It’ll tell us what that thing was and why it’s down there.”
“And how to get rid of it, I hope,” Trevor said eyeing her worriedly. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Alex nodded. “I’ll be fine. I won’t be able to sleep tonight, but I’ll be fine. I’ll distract myself with some reading,” she said indicating the diary. “Just, please don’t tell Vanessa.”
He smiled at her. “Fine. But I hope you know I’m not leaving you alone in this place. Not with that thing down there.”
“Thank you,” she said glancing at the basement door. “We might need coffee if we’re going to stay up to read this.”
“I completely agree.”