I want to tell you a story. This story is very personal to me and my family and I believe it is time to share it. Come to think of it, the word story doesn’t quite fit with what I am about to tell you, since this actually happened. So let’s just call it a tragedy. My family has not been the same since, honestly it tore us all apart. My father drank himself to death six years back and my mother has become a shut-in. She hardly speaks or interacts with anyone anymore. My older sister Sarah moved away, probably thinking she could outrun reality. My name is William and I am 27 years old. I had a twin brother named Oliver and if you are a twin yourself, you know the special bond that goes along with it. But what I hope you never have to endure, is the feeling of that bond being severed. He was taken from me some years back. Allow me to tell you what I know.
My family never knew wealth, in fact we were on the line of poverty. My father was a struggling door to door salesman for a cleaning company, and my mother worked at the local grocery store as a cashier. My sister Sarah was in high school and between that and cheerleading she was hardly ever home, not to mention all the sneaking out she did to see her boyfriend. My brother and I were in elementary school at the time. We didn’t have many friends but didn’t care; we were all that we needed. Life was a struggle but we made the best of it. My father received a job offer in the state of Louisiana. A desk job that would really help with the stack of bills that had piled up. As with every
move, it was hard on us kids, especially Sarah. Unlike me and my brother, she had many friends and that boyfriend of hers. We lived in the state of Oregon at the time so the move was a long one. The drive was never ending and due to the lack of money, we had to sleep in the car several times instead of hotel rooms. When we finally arrived at our new home, excitement flooded over us. It was slightly bigger than our last home and was much newer, a definite upgrade. This new chapter in our life was looking bright. For once we had a light at the end of the tunnel, but that light faded.
My brother and I raced each other to the front door and waited while our father walked slowly over to unlock it. Once open, we raced inside to look at the new space. It was a two story home with an unfinished basement and we flew through every square inch of it as fast as we could, calling out the bedrooms we wanted. We ended up at the door to the basement which Oliver slowly opened. It was dark and had a strong musty smell coming from below. The steps that led down were made from old wood and were very steep. It was impossible to tell how far the descent was because of how dark it was. Only a few steps were visible. We both stood there, peering down into the darkness. Finally I dared him to go down and investigate to which he immediately objected. I felt around on the wall which was cold to the touch until I found the light switch. A very dim light became visible halfway down the stairs, barely illuminating the remaining steps. The light bulb hung from the ceiling on a long, tangled strand of wiring, dangling just a few feet over the steps. Oliver and I looked at each other with no exchange of words, then turned to head down the stairs at the same pace. The overwhelming musty smell became more powerful with each step we took. The stairs were very weak and felt as if they would fall out from underneath us. We reached the bottom and stepped onto the concrete floor, coming to a sudden halt.
The basement was rather large and completely empty except for the water heater and hundreds of cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. The light bulb wasn’t bright enough to illuminate the entire room, blanketing the corners in darkness. My brother was especially scared of the dark and I could tell from his energy that he wanted nothing more than to run up the stairs. I can’t lie and say that I wasn’t scared because I was. We both jumped as the sound of our mother’s voice called down to us, asking us to come up and help. Neither of us were going to argue. We both turned to leave but stopped dead in our tracks. From behind us came a whisper, clear as day. It said “Oliver”. We looked at each other and I saw the color disappear from my brother’s face. We both leapt up the stairs without looking back, skipping a step or two trying not to fall down. Once we made it all the way up I hit the light switch and slammed the door. We vowed never to go down there again for as long as we lived. Unfortunately that wasn’t up to us.
Months had passed as we settled into the home. Oliver and I hadn’t even attempted to look into the basement, let alone go back down there. My father had used that space for storage but never said anything about voices. We knew what we heard but didn’t want to say anything to our parents, we knew they wouldn’t believe us if we did. My brother was having a harder time with it than I, since it was his name that was whispered. I told him not to worry and that everything was fine. To this day, I feel horrible for not being able to stop what happened. That haunts me the most.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night feeling strange, like something was missing. I rolled out of bed and headed to Oliver’s room which was right next to mine. His door was open and his bed was empty. I peeked my head in, calling his name quietly as to not wake anyone up, no response. I headed down the stairs thinking that maybe he had gone to get a drink of water. I got to the kitchen but still no sign of him. I turned around and froze. There was a faint glow coming from under the basement door. I closed my eyes thinking that I was just imagining it, that I would open my eyes and it would be gone, but when I opened them again, the light was still there. I slowly crept towards the door, twisted the door knob and opened it up. The musty smell filled my nostrils making me cough. I looked down the stairs and found Oliver, standing at the bottom with his back facing me. I called his name and he quickly turned around to look at me. The look on his face was of pure terror. I yelled at him to come back up but he didn’t move. He beckoned me to go to him, and I did solely because I didn’t want him to be alone down there.
I cautiously descended the stairs which were cold on my bare feet. I got to the bottom and asked him what he was doing down there. He told me that he didn’t remember how he got there, saying that he must have been sleepwalking. I grabbed his arm to pull him back up, only to be stopped by another whisper, much louder than the first time saying “No”. I pulled Oliver’s arm and started heading for the stairs when the lightbulb exploded, sending glass everywhere and making it completely dark. The door at the top of the stairs slammed shut making Oliver cry. The sound of his wailing hurt my ears. He ripped his arm free from my grip then turned and grabbed my forearm, his nails digging into my skin. I told him to calm down and to walk to the stairs with me but at that moment I was jerked backwards a few steps. I yelled at Oliver telling him to stop fighting me. In between his choking cries he told me that something had ahold of him and was yanking him back. He started screaming at the top of his lungs, begging me to help him. The next tug pulled me to my knees while Oliver fell face first on the floor. Whatever it was that had him was grabbing him by the legs and pulling with all its might. Oliver’s nails were sinking deeper into my skin and I could feel the warm blood trickle down my arm. With each tug, his nails dug deeper and sliced down my arm bringing tears to my eyes. I started screaming for my parents with all my breath. How could they not hear what was going on? The final tug sent me to the floor on my back, dislocating my shoulder and knocking the wind out of me. Oliver held on for as long as he could but was torn free. I heard his screams as he was dragged away from me. The last thing Oliver ever said was “William help” followed by silence. No more screaming or crying, just complete silence.
I ran as fast as I could up the stairs, slicing the bottom of my feet on the shattered bulb, then up the second flight to my parent’s room. They were both sound asleep as if nothing had happened. I shook them awake, trying to stop myself from crying so that I could tell them what happened. My mother noticed the claw marks and blood covering my arm and asked what had happened. I was in hysterics and was worried for Oliver’s life. I just grabbed my mother’s arm and told her to follow me.
The rest of the night is blurry to me. My father grabbed a flashlight and headed into the basement, following the bloody footprints that I had left, cursing under his breath. He called for me in a panic but I didn’t want to go down there, not after what happened. My mother walked down with me so I didn’t have to go alone. There were drops of blood on the steps and the floor where I had previously been standing. My mother looked at my arm making the connection, then looked back to the scene. Leading away from where Oliver and I had been standing were long, thin streaks of blood from where Oliver had clawed at the ground in an attempt to save his life. His fingernails scattered on the floor next to the bloody trails. I could only stare, replaying the events that just happened. My parents hoarded me with questions. What happened? Where did Oliver go? Were you fighting? My father followed the trail with the flashlight and to our surprise it ended right at the wall. He pointed the flashlight around the rest of the room not seeing any other signs of blood. Oliver was gone.
My parents called the police and they arrived quickly. They took my side of the story, asking all sorts of questions along the way. They asked if I had hurt him and where the scratches on my arm came from. I became angry at the questioning; it wasn’t me. Why the hell would I do this to him? I refused to answer any more questions, I had already told them what I saw. The weeks following were full of search parties, starting with our area, then branched out to the entire state. Missing person signs and posters hung on every street corner with my brother’s face on them. He was never found, even to this day, and as I discussed earlier our family diminished. We sold the house a year later and moved to a much smaller house on the other end of the state; the years following that were hell. I have never returned to that house. I don’t dare relive that horror. The scar on my arm is still there, a constant reminder of what happened that night. I find myself running my fingers along the scarring every so often, thinking of where he might be. I know this sounds crazy, but wherever he is, he’s alive and he’s in pain. I can feel it.