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I've never been a fan of basements. They're cold and damp, and they always seem to have that mildew smell. But that's not why I refuse to live in a house that has one. I had one once, when I was three. And this might be my first memory.
We used our basement like most American families: For storing all that useless crap we didn't want cluttering up the house. Laundry machines, old toys, unpacked boxes. We had it all down there, but there was something else, something we hadn't put there.
At first, stuff was moved. No big deal. Occasional noises, stuff you could write off as "basement sounds." And that's as bad as it really got, as long as you were upstairs. But, as my mom would say, we didn't choose a place with a basement to not use it.
One day, I asked my mom about one of my toys. "Where's my green Power Ranger at, Mommy?"
"I think it's in the basement."
"Could you go get it for me?"
"Not right now."
"But, Mommy, I'm scared."
"I thought you were a big boy."
She knew that'd work. She knew it always worked. So I made my way down those decrepit, wooden stairs; jumping a bit at every creak. At the bottom, I fumbled for the light switch. As I flicked it, I knew I had made a mistake.
The room was large. Larger than I remembered it being, and much too large for the house to which it belonged. I turned for the stairs, but they were gone. The stairs were fucking gone, and so was the door. I started to cry.
I made my way through the basement, looking for my lost toy. I knew it shouldn't have been down there. I knew I hadn't put it down there, but I looked anyway.
I was looking through a cardboard box when I heard it. The sound of little plastic feet moving across the cement floor, coming toward me from my right. I turned to look, and there was my toy. Walking toward me. On its own. The toy stopped a few feet away from me.
"Would you like to play with me?" it said.
I shook my head in response.
"But I thought you had come down here just for me." The voice changed on the last word, deeper and angrier than before.
"Toys don't talk," I said.
"Stupid boy, I'm not your toy."
"What do you mean?"
And then I saw it. The black figure in the corner, staring directly at me. It had no eyes or even the definition of a face, but I could feel it staring back into my eyes. It took a step forward, and I whimpered.
"Are you scared of me?"
I shook my head.
"I don't like being lied to."
I saw the figure dash forward. It disappeared inches from my face and the light went out. I sat down, petrified. After what felt like hours, I finally stood up. I felt my way around the basement, looking for the light switch. I heard footsteps and caught glimpses of the monster in my search, and I was in tears before I found the light.
I flicked the switch and... nothing.
"Did you think it would be that easy?"
The voice seemed to come from the walls and seeped directly into my soul. I felt my heart speed up as the laughing began. Then it pushed me over.
"I'm sorry. Did I hurt you?" More laughter.
It circled around me, then the light came back on. But I wasn't in the basement. I looked around me and saw cold, stone walls surrounding me on all sides but one. It had me trapped.
I moved forward and soon found myself to be in a maze of sorts. I made turns until I knew that I was lost; that I'd never get out. At that moment, I found myself in a large room, empty except for a table in the middle. I walked up to the table and found a folded piece of paper and a crayon. I opened the paper.
Are you enjoying my game?
Suddenly a new message appeared.
Can I please go?
Now, why would I let that happen?
I broke the crayon and crumpled the paper. Back on the table, there was another. I opened it.
That wasn't very nice. You can use your broken crayon, you little shit.
I just want to go.
I'm enjoying our game too much.
What have I done to you?
You're in MY house, and now you'll never leave.
At least there are other kids for you to play with.
The note flew out of my hand, and I heard laughter. I was lifted off of my feet, and I wet my pants. I screamed. I screamed as loud as I could, and I heard nothing but laughter in return.
"That's not going to help you any," it said as it covered my mouth.
At that moment, I heard a door open. The light turned on, and I was back in the basement. My basement, not the large room I had originally stepped into.
"Are you okay, Sweetie?" I heard my mom ask. I jumped up and ran to her, my green Ranger in hand. I was sobbing, and she picked me up and carried me upstairs. Needless to say, I never went back down there.
The other day, the strangest thing happened. I asked my mom about that day. She looked at me coldly for a few seconds before she replied.
"You were down there for three hours. About twenty minutes after you left, I decided to check on you. When I opened the basement door, I was met with a stone wall. I cried for a couple hours, until I heard a knock on the basement door. When I opened it, I found you sitting on the floor in the fetal position with the lights off, with a crumpled piece of paper and your toy in your hands. We moved out a week after I read it, and we left everything that was in the basement."
I could see she was concerned, and I gave her a hug. But then she let go and looked at me.
"I've heard laughter every night since."