The Basement and the Light

This is a non-fiction short story I wrote for a class, I was trying to grasp the fear I often felt going down into the basement of my home growing up.

The Basement and the Light

By: Charles Gilmore

The vacuum is plugged into a nearby outlet and turned on, unfortunately the toaster is running at the same time. Too much energy is called through a single circuit at once by the two devices, and within the span of a second everything goes dark. The breaker has blown and now I must enter the basement to return the power to the house, a terrifying task in my mind, but if I don’t I will be left in the dark.

Going down into the basement and turning the breaker back on wasn’t a new thing for me, it happened all too regularly. The flashlight was even kept out where it could easily be found. I can’t say I ever enjoyed the task, even with my love of horror, my parent’s basement is a creepy place. My brother once claimed to have seen a ghost down there, and I can’t entirely discount that sort of thing as possible. The basement has always felt menacing, like something evil might be hiding down there, waiting to catch me off guard.

In order to get to the basement, I would first need to enter the garage. Generally this involved opening a creaky wooden door in the kitchen, and ducking under a curtain of cobwebs that seemed to return every year without fail, if not sooner. Once in the garage I had to go down some dark green stairs, keeping to the right to avoid tripping over any rusty paint cans stacked on the steps. Even without the paint cans, the stairs could be a hazard on their own. Thankfully the broken step was right at the bottom, so I wouldn’t have far to fall if I did forget about it.

At the bottom of those often dust covered stairs, I would come to another wooden door, or what’s left of one, the humidity in the basement, combined with years of use hasn’t exactly been kind to it.

The basement wasn’t any better than the stairs for looks, worse in fact. Cobwebs hung all over the place, waiting to catch any passersby in the face. In addition, the insulation in the ceiling was never properly secured by the original builder, and my family never got around to fixing it either. So along with the cobweb’s there was likely to be the occasional strip of fiberglass insulation hanging from the ceiling.

It’s cool in the basement, and sometimes damp, and generally not all that well-lit. There’s a sump pump built into a well along one wall, and it often startled me when it roared to life. My nerves Shaken by the noise, I would shoot looks over my shoulder with only the flashlight to see by, half expecting some monster to meet my gaze from the shadows.

Even when the power is on, the light in the basement is spread out, provided by single bulbs attached to pull strings. There are a couple small windows in the basement that normally would have helped, but they are broken, and covered over in order to prevent raccoons and the like from getting inside, so even during the day they provide little to no help.

There used to be an old wooden bar in the basement, left to rot in the damp and serve as a hidey hole for mice and mold by the original owner. We tore that bar out some years ago, and in its place we built a room for my Mom to keep the majority of her pets, mostly snakes and lizards, along with the rodents and bugs she would feed to them. We dubbed the room, the chamber of secrets. Though any of the creatures she kept in there would have been welcome company compared to what my mind placed just out of sight.

The breaker box wasn’t in that direction though, the breaker box was in the opposite corner, past an old dryer that occasionally burned our clothes, if it even worked at all. After passing that, wiping cobwebs from my face, and shooting another fearful glance into the darkness to quiet the fear that something was watching me, finding the blown breaker was a simple matter. By jiggling each switch, I would soon find the one no longer locked into place, and then the power would be restored, and I could return to the comfort of the light upstairs. Until the next time someone plugged too many things in at once anyway, requiring me to face my fears once more and descend into the dark in order to restore the light. Things like this are fears everyone must eventually face in life, if we don’t they may consume us, rendering us helpless and hopeless in an unfriendly world, but if we do face our fears, we often find the world to be a much friendlier place than it originally seemed, plus the living conditions are much more preferable when the electricity is working.

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