It was July 19th, 1978 when a lonely, middle aged woman named Meredith moved into 728 West Grove Avenue. Meredith had just lost her husband, a kind man to whom she had been married to for 27 years, to cancer. Meredith had no children, her only remaining family was her sister who lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, more than 1,000 miles away from the lonely old house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So Meredith was all alone, a broken woman, in her new, very old house.
The only company she had for the first day of her new life was her young neighbor, Mrs. Anders, her five year old son, Carter, and her eight year old daughter, Jenna. The kind woman brought her new neighbor some cookies that were fresh baked. Meredith didn’t have the heart to tell Mrs. Anders that she had diabetes.
It was only after Meredith began unpacking her collection of porcelain dolls, her back was aching and she was tired, but she had to get it done, a hobby that she took up to keep herself busy, that she began to notice some of the strange happenings within the old, shabby house. At first, she noticed only that a couple of her dolls had been turned around, she thought nothing of it, a wind or a carless arm could’ve done it. But then, one day while Meredith was coming up from the dark, moldy basement, she heard the distinct clashing sound of porcelain shattering against hardwood. Meredith ran upstairs to the little shelves where her dolls were so lovingly placed, only to find that her very first doll, a beautiful, Russian-style girl had been in smithereens on the floor.
Meredith was more lamented than scared, she swept up the remains of the shattered little doll, and not being able to throw it away, put the scraps in a cardboard box and put it in the darkest, loneliest corner of her bedroom closet. Meredith had heard rumors of strange phenomenon in the house. The older man from whom she bought the house from had told her to be careful, that the home can have some strange effects on the mind. Meredith had thought, at the time, that the man was old and confused, he must’ve been in his late eighties, after all. But now she began to think and to ponder on what the man had said. Especially the curious statement he had made last “There’s something wrong with the basement.”
The basement was dingy and wet, yes, and perhaps there was some mold or fungus growing in the darkness, but this didn’t bother Meredith. And as she exited the basement again, a knock came to her door. It was a fast, frantic knocking sound. Meredith slowly walked towards the door, cautious, she was an older woman living alone, and a robbery wouldn’t be hard to do. She opened the door. It was Mrs. Anders, her neighbor, she looked panicked, her eyes bloodshot and her hair a mess. “Oh, Meredith,” she began, her voice shaking, “please tell me you’ve seen Carter today?” Meredith thought hard, her mind wasn’t what it used to be, her memory had started to fade faster lately, she had noticed.
“No, I can’t say I have,” said Meredith, still wracking her brain for her lackluster memory. A look of disappointment and fear washed over Mrs. Anders. She looked up at Meredith and let out a small gasp.
“Meredith, are you feeling alright?” she asked concernedly. To tell the truth, Meredith hadn’t been feeling alright, the last few days she hadn’t slept much, yet she always felt tired, she had always had some joint pain, but it was as if her bones were scraping together with every movement her body made recently.
“I’m fine, dear,” said Meredith, lying.
Mrs. Anders left and went to the next house, she must’ve been going door to door looking for Carter. Meredith creaked her way out of the basement and went to look in her mirror in the bathroom. She looked dreadful. Her eyes were sunken, her hair was thin, and it seemed her skin had gone a shade of ashen-gray. She felt her forehead for a fever, but felt the opposite, she was cold and clammy. “There’s something wrong with the basement,” she muttered to herself, echoing the old man.
As she exited the bathroom, she felt a strong pain in her foot. She sat down on her bed and brought her foot to her lap, a large shard of porcelain was protruding from her heel, she felt dizzy. She grasped the shard and began to pull it out, wincing in pain, the shard drew from her heel and a small trickle of blood followed it.
As she came up from the basement, the door shook with a knocking she had never heard the likes of before, pure fear. She made her way to the door, her back brittle and hurting, her joints corroded and stiff. She opened the door, It was Mrs. Anders again. “Meredith!” she shouted, sounding less patient than she had been a few weeks ago when she last knocked, “I know you’ve done something with her, you witch!” shouted the irate woman, her hair thin, her eyes sunken, she hadn’t slept in days, “Where is Jenna? I know you know where she is!”
Meredith remained calm, almost absent, with these screams of anguish. “Please, calm down, dear, come in and I’ll make you some tea.”
“I don’t want tea!” shouted Mrs. Anders, tears running down her face, “I want to know what you’ve done with my children!” Meredith looked puzzled. She leaned in close to Mrs. Anders, her putrid breath smelled of metal, in a harsh whisper, she uttered, “There’s something wrong with the basement…” Just then, Mrs. Anders shoved past Meredith, her shove was forceful enough to knock the old woman back on her hips. Mrs. Anders stormed through the decaying, decrepit house, or what used to be a house, dust and mold was abundant, it stunk like a rotting animal. Mrs. Anders approached the threshold of the basement. She opened the thin door separating the dilapidation of the home from the rotting underbelly that was the basement. She stood, staring down into the abyss, her legs shaking and her stomach turning. She knew what she would find underneath the rotting house.
Just as Mrs. Anders’ foot touched down on the first step towards the basement, she felt a sharp push on her back. She tumbled down the stairs, bashing her head on the banister several times on the way down. She lay at the bottom, her head hit the wet concrete floor. As she looked up at the doorway on the top of the stairs, holding her hand up in front of her eyes, in the dim light she saw blood, not her own. At the top of the stairs, she saw the silhouette of Meredith. As if she spoke with the voices of twenty at once, she solemnly uttered, “Mors tua, vita mea.” She shut the door.
As Meredith walked up the stairs to her bedroom, porcelain dolls, broken, battered, and dusty littered the hallways, her feet were now numb to the pain of stepping on countless shards of porcelain. Her bedroom was close, she was so tired. She did what it had asked. She knew she did what it asked, but she couldn’t remember, not anymore. Maybe now it would grant her the peace of death. Maybe it would release her husband so they could be together… after. As Meredith lay in her bed, she felt a sharp pain in her chest. She smiled as her vision faded “There’s… something wrong… with the basement,” she muttered as she slowly and calmly died.