There are many things unspoken of in the deep South of the US, cliche horror movie characters like crazed maniacal hillbillies, corrupt cops, lost children and so on, but the scary things, the real monsters are what people are afraid to show to the world in fear of it being taken away from them.
The first time I visited the US, I felt it compelling to visit the rural places of Louisiana and Virginia to see for myself the beauty of the countryside. The things you see in books and hear in movies can't really capture the country of America quite as well as seeing it in person. Simply put, it was stunning. I arrived there sometime in the summer when the golden crops were covering the fields as far as the eye can see, people were friendly and inquisitive and at the same time they kept their distance because to them, I was an outsider. People in the South aren't really that joyous when someone outside of their immediate zone of family and friends interacts, but Christian norms and politeness overruled that in my case.
The family I was staying at was very nice but they kept to themselves in terms of intimate family conversation. A classic picture of a family; the father and husband, Augustus, the loving mother and wife, Margharet, their 19-year old daughter Lucy (who I had a crush on from the moment I saw her), and their 7-year old son, Gabriel.
I was staying at this particular family because they were offering refuge for students in the exchange program. They felt it necessary to help other people from other countries see for themselves what the U.S.A. can really be like. Since I come from the snow covered place of Sweden, the warmth of the American summer was a real refreshment to my skin and spirit. It gets depressing in all that snow sometimes, ya know?
I guess I should really introduce myself before I go any further. My name is Lucas Larsson. I'm an engineering student from Kiruna, Sweden. I am 20 years old. And I came to the US to see what opportunities await me after I'm finished with school. I've never really been that intuitive and intrigued in school, as my parents would tell you, but I am definitely not stupid. School doesn't really interest me on as high a level as what I find interesting, which is the unknown. That probably sounds stupid, right? Like I'm an edgy teen from a bad horror novel. But it is what it is. I'm interested in knowing what really lies beyond the eyes of the average person, what remains unnoticed in the everyday world but is a constant presence waiting to show itself to the common folk. Things like: is God real? Does Bigfoot exist? Where is area 51? All the conspiracy theories people deem to be stupid of childish, I enjoy. I don't know why, but I do.
The first few months living in the Beckett household turned out to be pretty nice. Me and Gabriel got along fine, since he always loved listening to me play the guitar in my spare time. I didn't really know if Lucy was really that into me, most of the girls back home liked being around me, so that was a little strange. The parents were the most normal and kind people you could meet, except they were really, and I mean really devout Christians. There was a cross and a picture of some holy figure in every single room you could find, they prayed for a good 10 minutes before each meal, there was a sort of shrine thing devoted the Holy Virgin and Jesus. I thought these things were all normal since I was under the impression that people in the South were really religious. But one day as I was visiting a friend of mine (it was relatively easy to make friends in school because everyone wants to be friends with the cool foreigner) I noticed that in their house there weren't as many Christian symbols as the Beckett residence, which I found strange, but just assumed there was a difference in religiousness in different households, so I just brushed it off.
One day, as the family finished their dinner prayers and we were dining on the fresh catfish that Augustus brought home from the fishing farm where he worked at, I noticed that in the cabinet standing across from my seat at the table had a family photo on it. Nothing unusual, right? But upon closer inspection I saw that in the picture Margharet was holding an infant, maybe a year old, in her arms. The thing that bothered me was the fact that the infant's face was cut out of the picture. And I don't mean carefully cut out it looked as if the face was gouged and scraped out of the picture in a hurry. As I saw this being strange, of course I turned Margharet's attention by asking her about it.
"So, uh, who's the baby in that picture over there?"
Immediately following my question came sounds of forks dropping to plates and a deafening silence entered the room. After what seemed like minutes at the time a voice penetrated the silence and said:
"That would be Michael, boy. Our son," said Augustus with sweat droplets running down his temples.
"Oh wow, cool, you have a son? Where is he?" I followed ignorantly.
Augustus uttered in the most melancholy and sad tone I've ever had the displeasure of hearing "He... he's dead, son."
"I'm really sorry to hear that."
"He would have been about your age right now," said Margharet in a sad, flat tone, holding back tears.
Lucy was staring down at her half finished plate, trying not to progress the situation in a bad direction by saying anything, and Gabriel was playing with his food. Of course, I apologized for mentioning Michael and we continued to eat under a different subject, more precisely how the kids have been doing in school. After dinner we progressed upstairs to each their respected room and I played my guitar until it was no longer appropriate to. Later, as I was packing the instrument up, I heard a strange shuffle and some rattling that seemed as if it was coming out of the basement. I was sorta interested in checking it out, but I knew Augustus always kept the basement firmly shut and kept the key with him at all times around his neck.
From the day I heard the shuffle I felt a sort of weird presence around me in daily activities. Things would sometimes get lost around the house and stranger things kept happening around the house. I once found my guitar with all the strings taken out of it. It was annoying but I attributed that event with Gabriel being a kid and playing with the guitar. When I confronted him about it of course, he just said that he didn't do it and that his friend did it, wild imagination he had, blaming things on imaginary friends...
After that day things continued to go as they were going. Me and Lucy were talking a lot, just normal small chat, strange things kept happening like my shoes being somewhere other than the place I left them, my clothes were moist from time to time, as if someone was chewing on them, but I blame the damp closet they gave me that was fixed to the wall for some reason. I assumed that Gabriel was playing with my things and misplacing them, but it was happening quite often and I asked Augustus to tell Gabriel to stop, because I didn't want to tell someone else's kid what to do. You often hear of strict parents that hit their kids instead of scolding them in the South, but in the Beckett residence the approach was marginally different. Instead of yelling and spanking Gabriel, he pointed to an old chair in the middle of the living room and said, "Take off your shirt." in a calm and imperative tone.
Seeming as Gabriel was in this situation before, he sat on the old, rickety, hardwood chair, chest against the back of it, bracing firmly with his hands and legs. Then, in a swift motion, Augustus produced a huge old belt that seemed to be a century old and assumed a stance that looked like the motion of a person about to whip a horse into a gallop and said: "You may start now."
With a brief shudder, he started saying The Lord's Prayer aloud, with his face contorting and sweating in anticipation of an upcoming beating.
Ritualistically, August proceeded to whip Gabriel with the belt like his life depended on it, each time after a few words into the prayer.
"Our Father..." "CRACK" "AARGH"
"Who art in Heaven..." "CRACK" "AAAAGH"
It continued until he was finished with the prayer. After the deed was done Augustus told Gabriel to go to his room and seek forgiveness from the Lord in prayer. He, obeying his brutally strict father, marched up wincing to his room. Augustus started walking past me, and, putting his hand on my shoulder he said: "He shouldn't be giving you any more problems, son."
I, responding in utter shock as to what I just witnessed, asked him if that was quite necessary since it was just a small number of things.
In a raspy, tired voice he answered: "Even the smallest sin can lead to damnation, boy. Think of this as being his penance for annoying you. I'm damn past saving, so I try to make my children be the god fearing good Christians they ought to be."
"Do you do this to Lucy, too? What about Margharet?" I asked in a concerned tone.
"They have their own ways of 'repenting'. You don't have to worry about them or Gabriel bothering you, that should straighten him out. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some business in the basement."
His walk crept with harsh steps onward to the old wood door that was ever so firmly shut, looking at it and sighing, he produced the key from his unbuttoned shirt that was sweaty from the brutal ritual that occurred just moments ago, and proceeded to move his strong, vein-covered hand shakily towards the lock.
"What's so important that you need to keep locked up down there so tightly, anyway?" I asked from down the corridor leading up to that room.
In an instant his hand froze and started shaking slightly less obviously, but still enough to be noticeable.
As he looked behind himself, door partly opened, looking at me he said: "Family matters, son. That don't concern you, understand?"
That struck me by surprise because he said that in an almost relaxed tone when his face was clearly enveloped in a membrane of sweat, rage and... fear, surprisingly. I said alright and he gave me this sort of half-smile as he was entering the morbid, dark room. I left the corridor entrance and went to bed since it was around eleven o'clock at night. As I laid my head back into the comfortable large pillow they gave me along with the old family spare bed, I kept pondering one thought until I was actually asleep:
"Did I see a hand under that door?
I hate the dark.
I've hated it since I was a small boy. The uncertainty of the dark and the things that dwell in it really strike fear into me on a spiritual level. But I've never passed up on an opportunity to be in and explore the darkness. Things that may or may not be there really intrigue me. Pretty twisted, you would say.
It had been a month since the beating incident and nothing out of the usual happened in the house. Except for one thing. It was a hot day and after a guitar practice session I decided to open the window of my room to let some air in. I left it as it was and went to get some water. Gotta stay hydrated, right? When I got back to my room I noticed the window was closed as opposed to being open before. Assuming it was just the wind, I re-opened it and was expecting to return to my usual activities, when I noticed some red liquid on the outside window. Upon closer inspection the liquid proved to be in fact, blood. Scared by this I looked out of the window frantically searching for the source of the blood, but, there was nothing. Not a wounded bird, cat's prey, there was nothing. The back yard just as it was any other day. Disappointed, but still freaked out, I went back inside but something caught my attention. I instantly froze, my gaze fixed to the inner corner of the windowsill. There was an eyeball just sitting there. I rushed downstairs to find someone and tell them. Thankfully, I found Margharet and she ran up the stairs with me and was horrified by the sight. She immediately called Augustus and he came home quickly. After getting rid of the eyeball he said:
"Must've been a crow or something. They eat what they can find and sometimes they leave their food somewhere else to come and eat later. Don't need to be scared either, that was a cat's eye."
My eyes widened and I sighed out of relief.
"What's the matter boy? You thought that was a human eye? Hahahahhah!“
Not really amused I let out a half-smile and said, with utter monotony: "I just got scared is all sir"
After that I left the room and went to do some chores to get my mind off of that. But it kept bugging me, the way the eye had been removed almost surgically, no damage or anything and perfectly placed in the corner of the window sill...
I confronted Augustus about the peculiar thing and he replied:
"It would be best not to ask too many questions, boy. Strange things happen all the time. It's the Lord's work."
"Was the Lord's work also you beating your son so brutally over nothing?“ I replied, in anger.
Not flinching at my sudden aggressiveness, he said: "I already told you, people need to be reminded of their place, now you go back to your room now, son."
Annoyed, I left the hallway and went to my room to catch some sleep.
Reminded of their place... quite wrathful, don't you say?
Over the coming days I grew more and more curious about the secret locked tightly in the basement, so in a plan to actually have an excuse to go down there, I asked Augustus where the lawnmower was.
"Down in the basement." he replied, not looking up from the morning papers. "Oh, okay, I'll go and get it out then."
As I was leaving the house and approaching the edge of the back yard where the other entrance of the basement was I heard crashing and slamming of furniture and plates inside the house. Out came Augustus with a furious pace, as if to kill someone or protect something.
He grabbed me by the arms and with fear and anger in his eyes he said:
"UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE ARE YOU TO EVER ENTER THAT ROOM! DO I MAKE MYSELF ABSOLUTELY CLEAR?!"
Petrified by the sudden anger and hostility coming from a usually reserved man, I just nodded my head in scared agreement.
That incident caused me to stay away from the basement for a while, but it didn't quench my curiosity. There was something in that basement, something that left that eye on the windowsill, something that was fucking with my things for no reason, and I would make it my purpose to find out what lurks behind those old doors. Over the coming weeks I tried to gather as much information about the house and the people residing in it, so I decided to talk to Lucy. She was eager to answer any question that I had about their strange religious strictness, the beating, penance, the house, but, when I got to the topic of the basement... she suddenly slapped me. "Why are you so obsessed with that damned place? You have no business messing with things that should not see the light of the Lord's day!" she said angrily. Surprised and in shock, I apologized and decided to do the same thing with Margharet, but I got more or less the same reaction.
Annoyed, I decided to wait for the family to leave the house for Sunday mass, so I could try my luck at getting into that basement. This, of course, proved futile because the old door was far too rusty and aged to lockpick, so my best bet was the other entrance. I crept slowly around the house as to not rouse the suspicions of the neighbors. As I walked up to the other entrance I realized how important this "secret" was to them. The entrance was completely chained up and boarded plus it was locked from the outside. I've never really been able to get up close to the entrance since Augustus stopped me the other time. Proceeding to give up, I started walking back to the house when something caught my eye. "A window?" I thought, surprised as all hell. The thing was boarded up, as the other things but these boards were very, very old. They were so rotten you could almost pull them apart with one finger.
I continued to pry the boards away with my hands until there was only a bit of glass left. I went inside the house and found a small flashlight and came back to the small, maybe two by two foot window. Knocking back the glass and breaking it with the flashlight, I managed to fit through it barely. As soon as I dropped down instantly I heard a *crack*. Shining the flashlight down I fell back in horror and produced a muffled scream. There were bones, everywhere! Small bones, medium sized bones, all appearing to come from various animals were scattered on the floor in an array of patterns. And the smell... the worst possible smell you could imagine. A thousand rotting corpses all stacked on top of each other. Braving this, I somehow managed to muster up the necessary courage to proceed down the putrid, horrible basement. Upon looking around I discovered multiple pictures of holy figures, completely torn up, strung up on the wall. Past these morbid decorations there was a corridor with a single black door at the end of it. I felt an ominous presence the closer I got to the door, with each step it got stronger and stronger. Shining my light on the door I noticed some strange writing apart from the dozens of crosses etched into the chained wood. Just one word. MICHAEL. Immediate feel struck into my heart and I stood frozen for what seemed like hours. "I thought Michael died when he was infant. How the fuck..."
After I eventually found the courage to dare move, for some reason I thought it wise to sate my curiosity and open the door very slowly. An intense feeling of dread and fear poured over the hinges of the door as I opened it. Continuing to enter the pitch black room. Horror. Shining the light on the edges of the room in absolute fear I saw HIM. Now, I don't believe in God or Satan, or demons, but I guarantee you, who ever would see that inhuman beastly monstrosity of a former human would believe even the faintest sign of a higher power. Black, tattered hair under the cover of darkness, almost mixing with the background partially covering a hideous, monstrous half human half goat-like face that was obviously oozing a black-red liquid from years of prolonged torture and punishment. Horse whip marks across the entire beast's body. Nails and chains punctured into its skin and connected to the wall of the farthest facing wall, fingernails and toenails forcefully pulled out and still bleeding. Upon its cursed face sat a repetitively etched cross and other satanic holy symbols, seemed to have been done with a knife. Blood-shed eyes gazed at the filthy floor in a contorted face of rage, pain, sadness and bloodthirst, that is, until I screamed at its appearance in shock. Upon its discovery of me, it started chanting a strange phrase I saw somewhere inside the house:
"Et illumine sedentes in tenebris Et umbra mortis."
"Et illumine sedentes in tenebris. Et umbra mortis."
"Et illumine sedentes in tenebris. Et umbra mortis."
"Et illumine sedentes in tenebris. Et umbra mortis."
Horrified, I started running towards my only escape route- the window. Still chanting that horrible mantra, he went after me but, in its bloodlust it pulled out some of the chains in its body letting out a blood-curdling scream. I managed to somehow get through the window quickly without being cut by the old glass. Upon leaving the wretched back yard I ran with the monster's paralyzing screams right behind me as it somehow escaped the basement and gave chase to me. After what seemed like hours of life-threatening adrenaline-fueled running, I found a police station and the bright lights and loud noises of the police cars scared Michael away.
I'm not sure if that THING in the basement was a human, or some incarnation of Satan itself, but I'm sure that it is loose in the world, armed with the knowledge of torture that it suffered for twenty years, looking for and seeking revenge on the people who did him wrong.
And I set it free.