I ran in the direction I though the stairs were. It was an inspired guess too, 'cause I hit them and went sprawling onto them. Without knowing exactly how, I launched myself through the door to the kitchen. I heard rather than saw the celler door slam shut violently behind me. I didn't regain control over myself until sitting in the pickup truck in the drive way. The keys were in my hand when I stopped them from fumbling with the ignition.
I was breathing heavily. Blood streamed from a cut in my lip. I had some good sized splinters in my hand. There were bruises forming on my forearm. I got out of the truck and looked back at the house. It stared back at me. The place didn't look so attractive and comfortable as it had. I checked my watch. It had been a grand total of seven minutes since I entered the celler. It seemed like years.
I thought of leaving. Just driving down the road and telling my friend to forget it. (His name is Jack Brandt in case you were wondering). I'm not sure I could think of something to tell him that would make sense. Any fool could see I was almost done with the repairs and I would be giving up some well earned vacaton time in a nice summer home. But it didn't matter what I told him. What ever was said would be spoken by someone who was scared.
Jack wouldn't know why, and he wouldn't say anything anyway. But he would know I was scared.
In the end, I went back inside. Maybe I was more afraid of what I would be if I let myself be chased out of the house than of what was in it. Maybe something deep in my noggin knew what I would eventually figure out later. But I went back in.
I finished the bathrooms. That was all I was supposed to do, really. But I had also decided to paint the hall on my own, kind of an extra 'thank you' for the hospitality. That would be tomorrows project.
That night the alarm went off at 3:00 AM. I got up and quickly dressed. I went down stairs to the kitchen, pulled out a chair and waited. A short time later I heard it. The hollow clang of a shovel blade being struck against stone. It struck twice. I waited in the dark for another twenty minutes before going back to bed. It took two hours before I got back to sleep.
The next day I was up at noon. The bedroom didn't have the familiar comfortable feeling that it had before. An anxious sense of waiting pervaded the whole house now. It was waiting, I was painting. The hall led from the kitchen and dining room in the back of the house to the living room and den in the front. I put a nice coat of light blue on it that matched the wall paper in the dining room and the tile in the kitchen. I heard the cellar door open and close a few times. Softly. On it's own. But I had work to do. And it didn't end with the painting.
While I worked I thought about the events that had been occuring. Bugs, screams, doors opening and closing, killer spaghetti sauce, sudden darkness. And something that liked to play with shovels.
Not shovels. A shovel.
And it stayed in the cellar. Which had a dirt floor. That sort of fit. There could be something buried under the the floor. If there was, how would I find it? The cellar had an area as big as the house. Maybe a metal detector?
My thinking was interrupted by a soft sound from the up stairs. I was going to ignore it as well but it was different this time. I was due for a break anyway so I wiped my hands and crept upstairs. At first I couldn't locate the sound. The bathroom was clear. I went down the hall and determined the source. My bedroom. As I approached the sound stopped. I pushed the door opened.
The bed, which I made this morning, was now dishevelled. I searched the room. Everything else was as it should be. Closer examination of the bed revealed that the pillow was wet. I was puzzled. The thing in the cellar drooled on my pillow? I sat down on the bed. It was still warm. It occured to me that the sound was crying. A womans crying. The moisture on the pillow was her tears.
I guess I wasn't the only one who was being tormented by The Presence. I added the new information into the swirl of thoughts. A faint scent of perfume was in the air. The smell seemed comfortable, and I realized that I had been catching wiffs of it for weeks. But always in my room.
My glance strayed to the night table and the hide-a-holster that held the Colt automatic at night. And something else sprang to my mind.
A door slammed violently down stairs. I excused myself and started down. There was a faint tug on my sleeve. I glanced back and saw nothing. When I got to the hall I stopped. I had to look for a minute before I realized what I was seeing. The walls were covered with beetles. They stuck to the drying paint, some struggling weakly. They covered the walls. I walked though and entered the kitchen.
The door to the cellar stood open. The bright daylight from the kitchen was choked and defeated before it fell on the first step. The darkness was there again. And something moved in it. The Presence regarded me with hatred from the shadow. The memory of blind terror started to well up inside my chest, causing my throat to constrict. I tried to control it. The blackness seemed to bulge out toward me, like it was trying to burst through some unseen damn that held it in the cellar and smother the house and it's contents. Naked terror pressed against my reason. Maddness stared at me from the dark. I looked back and saw my future. then the door slammed shut with a sound like thunder. I was released.
I shook for a few minutes and my knees felt weak. Then I turned and took a few unsteady steps towards the hall.
The beetles were all dead now. Their struggles finished at last. I gained strength and confidence as I made my way toward the stairs. As I climbed them I thought about The Presence. It had displayed the ability to effectively blind me. It could move physical objects. It could see in the dark.
It appeared to have a problem with me, to say the least. It also had a few chances to kill me. Like the time I fell down the stairs with the pipes. It could have grabbed one and brained me in the dark. For that matter it could have slipped the Colt from it's holster and drilled me in my sleep. Why try to dump a pot of sauce on me? The worst that could have done was land me in the burn unit for a few days.
By this time I had returned to the bed room. I sat down on the bed again and wrestled with the puzzles of the situation. Eventually I picked up the book again and purposly read aloud. I had an audience after all.
That night 03:00 AM found me wide awake and still clothed. I went down stairs to my least favorite spot in the house and stood in front of the closed cellar door.
I fought against fear as I reached forward to open the door. It was black as the pit down the steps. Shapes that were darker still seemed to move slowly about in front of me. I waited, listening.
A single metallic 'clang' sounded. The noise was in front and to my right. I tried to envision where that would be from my mental layout of the room. As I turned away from steps the hairs on the back of my neck raised again. I half anticipated a violent blow from behind. I swung the door closed and started back. As I was going throught the hall I paused and looked at the paint and beetled walls.
'Naw' I muttered to myself. 'It'll never catch on.'
The next day I woke in the afternoon. I was still clad in my painting clothes. I took a shower and changed. The air held a little chill outside. I wandered around by the shore and through the surrounding woods. The smell of the pine was pleasant but the trees seemed to cast shadows when seen out of the corner of your eye. As the sun went down I went inside. After a small supper of sandwiches I dragged one of the kitchen chairs to the bedroom. I set it at the foot of the bed facing the entrance. I picked up the book and read out loud while the few lights across the lake winked out and the stars wheeled overhead. At last I finished and closed the book.