The next morning wasn't as nice as the previous, but it would do. I got an early start on the plumbing and finished up before lunch. I had a great deal of discarded pipes and furnace parts that was becoming quite a hazard so I decieded to start carting them out to the dumpster. I sorted out the pipes into managable hundred pound piles to be carried out. (Ah, to be young again!)
As I was carring all the old pipes out of the celler the door slammed shut just as the longest of them started to protrude past the door jam. This, of course, transfered the energy down the pipes and into me and sent me sprawling backwards. I grabed a post that supported the stairs and swung out of the way of the falling pipes. My momentum carried me around the post and threw me into the wall. I hit my elbow hard enough to make it bleed. I felt my way to the bottom of the stairs, avoided the pile of old pipes resting there and made my way to the door. It opened to reveal an empty kitchen. I looked around and saw the door to the back yard was open. Of course! I had opened it so I could carry the pipes out. A guest of wind must have slammed the cellar door shut. I cleaned up the nasty scrape and bandaged it. I went to gather up the pipes again but this time I wedged the cellar door open before I went down.
That afternoon I replaced the wood trim and some gutters. Dinner was steak and potatoes with buttered corn. Glory be to the pre-cholestrol days! I stayed up late reading that night. I again found myself reading aloud. This was a habit that I didn't want to carry back to school with me since it would make using the library awkward.
I went to sleep and dreamed the good dreams until I started to detect the first traces of the reappearance of the shadows. You know when your having a dream and you stop it to examine somthing in it? You figure out it's a dream while the dream scene fades away from all around you. This is what happened to me. I remember thinking that I had to wake up now. Something was gooing to happen. I drifted towards wakefulness.
My eyes slowly opened. The house was dark as pitch and quite as a graveyard. I got up and opened the door to the bed room. I waited. The dull ringing noise started. A clanging sound from what I guessed was the cellar. The first dull clang startled me and I shuddered for a second.
It sounded four times, then stopped. I stood in the dark listening, waiting for it to start again. I checked the clock. It was 3:17 AM. I considered checking things out, but I was sure I would find nothing. I waited a short while, then closed the door and went back to bed. Was it the furnace I was supposed to have fixed. Air in the hot water pipes? Or was I fooling myself and the damn house was as spooky as I was begining to think? Or was the isolation getting to me? A smile came across my face. Knowing myself as I did, THAT seemed far less likely than seeing any ghosts.
The next morning came and I slept late. I went down to the kitchen for breakfast and planned my day. Today was panneling day. While I had the walls apart I would do some electrical work. This would be in the den. The work went smoothly and I figured I would be finished by night fall. I lunched on, well, lunch meat. Sandwiches and other bachelor fare. I took a brief break and read some more Tolkien. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the book. But judging from the detail that he put into it, the man had way too much time on his hands.
I got back to work and finished up before dark. Things were coming along well and soon I would have months to just relax in the house. Maybe I could convince the girl friend to join me. I took a walk along the shore of the lake to find good fishing spots. I did notice that there were some pilings at one point. I bet the fishing would be good around them. I originally assumed that they were from a ruined pier, but I noticed that they were too far apart for that. Something in the back of my mind sat up and took notice though. I got that 'I've been here before' feeling. Try as I might, I couldn't remember any place like this that I had been to in my past.
That night I don't remember dreaming anything. I slept like the dead. I did wake up once. Everything was quiet and you could here the water lapping down by the lake.
As I was drifting back to sleep I heard it. The clanging sound. Three times. That bought me back to wakefulness for a while. I thought about that. I would have to see if it was the pipes. I mean, I WAS responsible for maintenance, after all. What was I supposed to tell my friend if he heard the noise. 'Naw, I decided not to try to fix that 'cause I figured it was ghosts.' Right. I went back to sleep.
The next day I got up even later. And that was fine with me. I got to work on installing the new fixtures for the bathrooms. I had new sinks and toilets to install. They were heavy, but I carried them into their respective bathrooms. I took out the old ones and had them outside and in the dumpster with all the other jetsom before I broke for lunch. After I cleaned up the kitchen I was starting down the hall when I heard a sound behind me. I stopped dead in my tracks and listened. All the sounds of the breeze in the trees and the birds from outside came to me. But the sound wasn't repeated. I poked my head back in the kitchen. The cellar door was open. This time the kitchen door was closed. Now, if I were watching this scene in the movies I and everyone else in the theater would be thinking what a jerk this guy is for going into the basement alone.
Right? I decided to go down in the celler and see what was up. I stood in the doorway momentarily to see if I could catch any hint of a breeze that might have blown it open. Nothing. I flicked on the lights and made my way down the stairs. The last step was actually a concrete slab that the stairway was anchored to at the bottom. I stepped off of it. The cellar was it's usual dank, unpleasant self. The bright incandescent lights always seemed brown and dirty down here. And they wouldn't penetrate into shadows despite the 150 watt bulbs I installed. The first room still held the junk that others would probably clean up and sell to an antique shop. Now webs choked with dust and dirt hung from everything. I made my way into the second room and I noticed nothing unusual until I saw that shovel that almost fell on me while I was fixing the water heater. This was strange because the night I found it on the kitchen floor I had put it just outside the door on the back porch. How did it get here? Just as I was thinking of taking a closer look at it I noticed that the lights were getting dimmer. I looked at the bare bulbs and they seemed to be bright as ever. It was like the light wasn't falling far from the bulb. I watched this in awe for a few seconds, trying to figure out what was going on. Then it occured to my less than brilliant mind that I had better find my way upstairs. But before I took five steps the light just faded from view. I was in total darkness in a basement that had not exactly endeared itself to me.
The only thing I can make out at all is the outline of of the light bulb. It was like looking at one of those shapes you see behind tighly shut eyes. Mine always seemed blue-ish. And why was I thinking about this when I was either being haunted or had just gone blind? I stifled a giggle. This didn't mean I wasn't scared, mind you. I was also trying not to wet myself. It's just that when your mind has the truly weird thrust upon it it can react in strange ways.
The jumble of thoughts racing around in my head came to abrupt order, however, when I became aware of The Presence. It was something very close to me, in that unnatural dark. Something not at all pleased with the fact that I was staying here. And something else became apparent about The Presence. It had killed before. I knew it as sure as I was standing there. This thing had taken human life.
I waited for a while, listening. I tried to gather some clue as to what was going on around me. I heard nothing.
The silence rang in my ears. I expected something BAD to happen any second. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. I took a step. Something brushed lightly against my cheek, causing me to startle. The oil furnace started behind me and to my left. That would put the exit to my front about twelve paces and to the right.
I started taking slow, small, carefull steps. My hands were thrust out in front of me feeling for obstacles. My ears picked up a small scraping sound, very near. Close enough to touch. I anticipated walking into something in the dark. My hand touched a wall and identified the door frame just as something scuttled under my palm. I heard the sound again. I couldn't make out what it was because it was masked by the racket the furnace was making.
I was in the room with the stairway now. It was still blackness all around me. The furnace noise receded as I made my way farther from the door. And the noise came again. I was able to hear it better now without the sound of the heating to cover it up. It was the sound of a slow halting tread right behind me. The realization was accompanied by a waft of cold breath that stirred the hairs on the back of my neck.