I had little qualm with my family, only regrets. I never got to say a proper goodbye to my father before he went off to war, I never stood by my mother as she passed into oblivion, and the list goes on.
I was recently reminded of her when I received her final wishes. I could almost hear her voice as I read the letter.
“My only son, as the last of our family, the house in the country that has been in our family since The Arrival, is now in your possession, but with the house comes a grave past that must remain silent to the outside world. Please, Gerald, if you dare enter the basement, whatever you find in that dark and decrepit place, keep it a secret.”
The rest of the paper was blank.
I reread the note over and over for any hidden message or future clues, because before me was the house. A dark and grim place out in the middle of the northern Ramparts. In the distance, the smoke from the scrapyards rose ominously over the picturesque sky.
The note was the first word of any inheritance I heard since her death. Even after all those weeks ago the grief was still fresh. Just being present at the home made me feel strangely complete, and….
Goose flesh popped up on my arms. A frigid breeze with the hints of smoke blew by. I haven’t set foot in that house for decades, my mother and I left the house right after we found out about my father’s death.
I put the note down to contemplate, and looked right in front of me. The house rose from the barren, grass-covered landscape like a hideous boil on the skin of a beautiful giant. The faded wooden trim was accompanied by dark portal-like windows, leading into some nightmare dimension. The billowing smoke rose from the east, adding a gigantic black cloud on the horizon. The sunset barely shone through the black mass.
I looked behind me to see the transporter driving away in a hurry, it was turning night, i noted. This far north, it was not wise to stay outside. I quickly approached the decrepit porch placed in the front of the old house. It’s roof was drooping sadly and black moss plants grew in the depressions. I stepped up to the porch and looked for the perimeter defense controls. Without a safe barrier around the property, I would fall victim to the vicious Ice Praetors that roamed the land. I spotted the console and approached it, my footsteps creak eerie. Its rusted interior looked grim, but repairable if need be. I pressed the activation switch… for seconds there was no response. I waited, and suddenly previously hidden machines begin to activate. Suddenly there was a faint blue wall ten meters away from the house outlined by long, black poles.
I was safe, for now.
After a few minutes of searching around the perimeter for any damage to the lines, I found the system to be impeccable, aside from a few rust spots.
I wandered back to where the driver deposited me to pick up my things. They lied on the snow covered ground just as I left them, a travel suitcase and an old Hunter’s 32. Shotgun.
I bent down and grabbed my belongings and set off towards the house.
A swift northern gust of wind nearly swept me off my feet as I approached the dilapidated porch.
I panicked threw my things on the ground and retrieved the key to the place. After a few attempts, the door opened curtly and I rushed in, bringing my belongings from behind. I slammed the door, separating me from the blasting cold outside, and bringing me to the one place I have ever felt safe…
Except, this wasn’t the same house.
Of course, it was the same physical structure and the such, it just felt… off.
No joyous mother to greet me, no father to hug and laugh with, just me and the dust filled silence.
No one has been in this house for a really long time, the perimeter made sure of that, I even had to turn it off remotely to even access the place.
The creeping sense of caution began to build up on me.
I grabbed the shotgun and opened the chamber, two cartridges were neatly placed in the firing compartment, just as I left it.
Unlike this house, unlike the surrounding plains, unlike this whole ordeal.
I shuttered off my fear with the comfort of the weight of the weapon in my hands. Not much could survive a full-frontal blast from a Hunter’s.
I pressed on, leaving my stuff at the door. I patrolled the house, looking for any signs of an objective, a guide. The living room and kitchen held no clues, the bedrooms only held dust and disregarded items, and the stairs held nothing but scary creaks. Suddenly, the memory of the note came into my mind,
“…If you dare enter the basement… please keep it a secret…”
I tried to remember any recollection of the basement, but I couldn’t remember any doors leading downward except the shelter in the kitchen.
I headed back there with my shotgun in hand… the eerie feeling of dread had never truly went away, the low grade paranoia constantly gnawing at my awareness.
“Never let your guard down, not even for a second, not until you’re home” my father told me once, a very long time ago. Even the calming effects of holding the metallic, hardwood styled object was dulled over time. I looked down, and there it was, the cellar.
Quickly, I looked behind my back only to see swirls of sunshined dust and empty rooms.
I’m fine, there is nothing here, I tried to reassure myself, there is nothing living within the perimeter except me,
Suddenly a creaking of the floorboards caught my attention,
I turned, pointing the shotgun forward, ready to meet any adversary or threat, and there was nothing.
My finger was tensed around the trigger, ready to fire at any moment.
Panic filled my mind, my eyes darted all around the room to try and spot the source of the noise. Quickly, I bent the knee, opened the latch and threw myself down into the cellar and shut the door.
“A-a-activate!” I shouted with a shudder of fear.
The shoulder mounted light flickered to life, shining life upon the rustic cellar. There was no threat in sight. I felt safe, strangely and suddenly.
Silence radiated from the rooms above, as if some sort of equilibrium was fulfilled again.
The noise came from above the trapdoor.
I shrieked and stepped away, shotgun ready. It sounded like cold metal nails digging into the wood of the trapdoor.
It continued rhythmically, routinely, inhumanly.
I pulled the trigger for the first time since my arrival, and suddenly, all fear left my body as buckshot scampered into the wooden door above. The kick knocked my back further into the unlit cellar.
I hit the ground with a deep thud, the only light I had flickering.
The jolts of fear returned… grimness passed through my body.
The ground below me shifted, then sank, then collapsed.
Several seconds flew by, the light finally returned.
I looked up towards the trapdoor, several beams of light now streaming through new made holes.
There was a deafening silence, the scratching stopped, and everything hurt.
I looked up, and I noted that I had fallen about 12 feet.
The air around me felt cold as the outside frosts and the ground below me was as hard as stone. I tried to look around, sudden jolts of pain erupted from my back.
Scratch, scratch, scratch
The sound returned. I bit my lip and looked around, the shotgun was no longer in my hands. I found it on the other side of the chasm, on a strangely smooth area blanketed by inky shadows. My eyes rose from the gun onto a darker, geometrically shaped area that stretched on for an indeterminable amount of time.
The scratching continued, the shape of an unknown, beastlike form leaked through the holes in the trapdoor.
The creature’s shadow captivated me, its long claws permeated the small holes left behind
Rubble and dirt trapped me, my body hurt and I didn’t have time to think.
I got up in an uncomfortable hunch, I ran over and grabbed the gun and proceeded into the dimly lit unknown.
The passage was lined with purple brick, something I have never seen before, something deeply alien. Behind me the scratching faded into faint echoes, and in front of me was an inky black.
What is this place? My impatient mind wandered among the collection of other thoughts.
Is this what the message talked about?
The scratching which quickly turned into the sounds of violent clawing faded behind me as I sprinted down this passage, ignoring my pain, oh, the pain.
The distant echoes went silent and the sounds became null, while the sounds of my hefty breathing remained.
The adrenaline was beginning to wane, and the pain for compressed muscle was beginning to overtake my senses.
A light appeared on the horizon, the deep rich color of the walls slowly returned. Instinct took over and i shambled towards the light, slightly limping from the pain. It encroached fast, almost immediately.
I stepped into the light… and saw beauty. A green light enveloped me. The tunnel opened up to a circular room and in its epicenter was a crude purple bricked well blasting light out of the its hole.
The distant sound of scurrying came from behind me, from the tunnel.
I turned to see the weakly lit tunnel to see the beast. Its form was all black, it crawled on all fours and spikes of shadow grew out of its back. Its face was just a form, with no features to it. Suddenly without warning the creature leapt in the air.
I fired my shotgun at the beast, but the pellets phased through it. I braced myself for impact, but…
The form phased through me and scurried into the well behind me…
A feeling of cold and dread passed through me, I shuddered to my knees.
The cold grip of the shotgun slipped unwillingly from my hand…
Through tunneled vision I saw the precipice in sight, the coldness pushing me towards it.
My heart began to beat again and the coldness slowly fled. The vision of the edge faded from my sight.
The hallway returned with the strange room.
My body, feeling like another form, was on the brink of the green well. I saw only just a glimpse of the hell that the place contained.
Swirling green flames border the gasoline like lake that resided at the bottom.
I pushed myself away from the horror, landing on the hard floor behind me.
My mind was writhing with questions…
A shadow leapt from the well and planted itself in the air above the well, its form was transparent, made of aerated shadow, its limbs coming to points, and its head a sullen mass with two slits where eyes should have been.
It stared down at me, uncaring and alien and formless it was, it held out its hand-like stub and evaporated.
I screamed as the particles fell back into the strange well and backpedaled back into the mysterious purple alleyway, back into my childhood home I strived to go.
The shadows grew deeper as I crawled into the cave, foot by foot, inch by inch. Until the shape emerged again.