There was a peck on the door. Not a knock, but a gentle rapping that wasn’t sure of itself. This was not the beak of a raven, but that of a hummingbird. Yawning in the hallway, I thought I’m not putting my pants on for that.
The tapping stopped, whoever it was. The Jehovah’s witness had second thoughts about sharing their beliefs with someone with such an unkempt hallway. The vacuum cleaner salesmen doubted his product would do me much good. The petitioner doubted someone with that many bottles on their porch cared about wildlife preserves.
The stairs creaked as the mysterious solicitor slunk back to the sidewalk from wince they came. I shuffled over to the kitchen to attend to the pressing matter of eating ice cream straight from the tub.
My roommate had asked if I’d borrowed any of the cash on his desk. I’d helped myself to some of his razors, deodorant, and clean socks, but I wasn’t aware that he’d left any money out.
I caught movement out of the corner of my eye; a shadow beneath the back entrance. A key clicked into the lock. There came a rapping, so faintly came a tapping, and my ice cream hit the floor. I squeezed my knuckles into fists and positioned myself in front of the door.
It screeched open to reveal an intruder. His face was slick with sweat. His skin was sun dried, red enough to hide the cysts along his hairline. He was shirtless, an emaciated golem. His skin left none of his rib cage to the imagination. His shorts were a patchwork of grass and blood stains.
His hand shook, wielding the key like a prison shank.
I stepped forward. “How’s it going?”
The intruder leapt back. “Is, um, Mike home?”
Shaking my head, “Nope.” I put my hand out, “Can I see that key?”
Feigning to set the key in my palm, the intruder dropped it on the floor. Lowering my eyes, I missed his getaway. The intruder slid down the railing, tapped one foot on the mezzanine, and leapt down the stairs. He was ghost.
So it turned out this was the tenant I’d been brought on to replace six months ago. He’d been stealing DVD box sets and pawning them for drug money. Here he was to make another rental from my roommate’s library.
Running down the stairs, I saw no clear sign that the intruder had left the building. My hunch was that he hid in the basement. Flashlight in hand, I made my way through the cobwebs and the mouse traps. Shattered glass cracked under foot, announcing my position to the darkness. I scanned the abandoned storage closets. There were deflated bike tires, doors stacked against the walls, and circular saws in the laundry room sink.
There was a color crayon picture on the work bench, a crudely drawn man with a handlebar mustache. A series of violent lines sliced through his gut, a gash of black across his middle. A caption down the side read:
I DIDN’T DO IT, BUT I KNOW WHO DID.
He’d been living down there. Who knows for how long? In the coming months, I would jump whenever the wind rattled the doors, put my ear to the walls, listen for bumps in the night, look for silhouettes through the blinds, and drudge into the basement to check for boogeymen.
Though the intruder never returned, the intrusion haunted me. Continue reading The Boogeyman in My Basement