In my house there’s a bathroom off of the laundry room and another down the hall. The last time they came to visit, my sister and I were cooking dinner when I heard my nephew talking to himself as he walked through the living room, giving up on one bathroom to go use the other.
He said, “You want people to use your bathroom, don’t put clowns in there.”
He’s twelve. The clowns he was referring to were actually given to me by his mother. They’re little bath bombs made in the shape of Pennywise from IT. I keep them in a bowl on top of the toilet.
His comment immediately took me back. I remember when I was a little kid and a scary mask on the wall freaked me out at a neighbor’s house one time. Of course it has been a million years since something so innocent could give me a chill. I miss it so much. I want to believe that there’s something under the bed or lurking down in the basement.
A friend of mine doesn’t understand horror at all. She doesn’t understand our obsession with reading/watching things that are designed to frighten. I tell her that we’re practicing with these imaginary threats so we’ll be more able to cope with real danger in the world.
In the past few weeks, I’ve revised my opinion. I think that I find paranormal entities—demons, monsters, and ghosts—alluring because they’re things that I can be afraid of while I know, with 100% certainty, none of it is my fault.
Lately, I’ve been staying up all night wondering how I could have prevented the misery that has visited me. The other night, when I heard a sound from the basement, and my heart began to pound in my chest, the rush I felt was partly fear and partly excitement. I looked to the dog—he heard it too, and he barely hears anything. I put on sweatpants and slippers before I opened the bedroom door.
Maybe like you, I’ve been practicing my social distancing for the past week or so. I’ve barely left the house. For me, that’s not so unusual. Being somewhat of a recluse, I’m already really good at staying home, so this week hasn’t required a huge change in my behavior. The big difference is that everyone else is staying home too, so I haven’t had any company at all. The sound of someone else in the house was shocking and unmistakable.
Finn (the dog) and I stood perfectly still in the kitchen and listened to someone walking through the living room. Even before the footsteps stopped, I knew that the sound was wrong. This is hard to explain, but the floor of the living room was creaking, but not quite in the normal way. If I had to guess, I would say that someone was walking on the underside of the floor, like gravity had flipped and they were walking through an upside-down version of the basement.
Finn and I moved forward, I flipped on the lights, and we saw… nothing.
I mean, what did you expect? You can probably answer the next question for yourself—what did I see when I went down and searched the basement? Nothing. Of course there was nothing down there either. By the time I was halfway done, Finn had already given up on tracking down the mystery sound and he was fast asleep on the couch.
I know this is a completely anticlimactic ending. The reason I mentioned the story at all is because of my nephew. For a few seconds, I was able to remember that paralyzing fear that I used to get when I was a kid. It all came rushing back to me in an instant, and then a moment later it had vanished again. In that brief flash of time, fear took away everything else. I had no guilt, grief, or worry. That’s why I like horror and why I continue to write it.