The Basement

Marty stood staring at the heavily locked door that opened onto the basement stairs. He drew the keys from the front pocket of his jeans and they jingled together loudly as his hand shook. Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he clenched his fists tightly at his sides and muttered to himself.

“I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”

Sighing heavily, he opened his bloodshot eyes and lifted the keys to the locks. One by one he fitted key into mechanism and turned, hearing the heavy metal bolts slide back with a thump. When the fifth lock had been opened he stuffed the keys back into his pocket. Hand still trembling, he reached for the flashlight that was sitting on the small table beside the door. Pressing the knob on the side of the heavy flashlight produced a bright beam of white light that hurt his eyes. He aimed the beam at the doorknob.

“I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”

He reached out and twisted the knob and with a shove the door swung open over the dark stairwell. Marty shone the beam from the flashlight over the steps and down into the darkness. He swallowed dryly. Reluctantly he started down the stairs. When he’d reached the mid-way point – something he knew instinctively for he’d done this many, many times – he stopped and hunched over, bringing his head level with the ceiling and playing the powerful beam of light around the basement.

As the bright circle of light panned around the pitch black space Marty could make out items in its revealing brilliance: cardboard boxes full of Christmas decorations, the water heater, a card table, the furnace, a stack of board games. He held his breath and listened. One second. Two. Three. Nothing. He continued down the stairs. When he reached the bottom he stood very still on the painted cement floor and listened again. This time he heard it. Sniffing.

Moving very slowly he tucked the flashlight under his right arm and from inside his shirt he pulled out the Ziploc bag with the dead rat inside. Reaching into his shirt pocket he grabbed the vial of blood. Once he had opened the Ziploc bag the sniffing got louder and closer. Popping the top off the vial, he quickly poured the blood into the bag and as the sniffing turned into growls he threw the bag into the far corner of the basement.

Something burst out from under the stairs and ran past him with great speed, focused on the bag and its contents. There were ripping and crunching sounds coming from the area where the bag landed even before Marty had time to point the flashlight at the spot. Once he had found the right place, he let out a strangled moan at what he saw.

The bright circle of light revealed a small figure of a naked child, hunched over and tearing away at the rat carcass with her teeth. At the sound of Marty’s distress, she froze and raised her head, milky unseeing eyes wide, long hair matted and wild about her face. She snarled in his direction and then sprang off into the darkness, taking her meal with her.

Marty turned and ran up the stairs as fast as he could go. Reaching the top he banged the door shut and slammed the bolts closed. He collapsed with his back against the door.

“Oh Gabby… I love you so, so much,” he sobbed into his hands.

He wasn’t looking forward to feeding time tomorrow.

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