☰ Foundation Problems [Part 2]

On the way to the ‘other basement’, I felt disoriented and confused. If you can imagine trying to go down a ladder while at the same time feeling like you’re upside down, then that would explain how I fell: head first, and into what should have been the ceiling. 

It turns out the rules are quite different in the basement under the basement. I yelled up to Sam, who was just starting to make his way down the ladder after me. “Don't come down Sam, you're going to fall if you do.”

“Are you okay, we heard a thud...Where are you Connor?” I heard Sam say, his voice holding more concern than I would have expected. Don't get me wrong, Sam and I used to get along pretty well before he retired; and we still do, but ever since he's been back to work, his guard has been up and he has been non-committal in most situations. It's almost like he's trying to avoid getting close to me because he's afraid of all the on-the-job hazards we face so often. 

“I'm on the ceiling.” I pointed the flashlight down the hole from my side, and I could see Sam, Ellen and Mr. Cormick all standing around the hole looking back at me with shocked looks on their faces. 

“I'm okay.” I called out to them. I heard Sam let out a breath of relief. “I'm gonna head back up the stairs on this side and see if I can find anything that would explain this.” I called out again. 

Sam muttered something that sounded like an ‘okay’.

The flashlight in my hand shook as I pointed it around the bizarre basement I found myself in. The stairs looked the same as they had in the basement above me (or below me), only darker and dirtier, like the rest of the area beyond the trapdoor. There was black mold climbing the walls and staining the floor and the handrails of the stairs. I made my way carefully up each step and finally found the door at the top of the basement. I gave the handle a turn and the cellar door creaked open.The air on this ‘side’ of the house was musty and stale, as if it had been undisturbed for years and years.

There was no denying that this was the weirdest thing I’d ever encountered, and my curiosity was nearly outweighed by my fear. What else could be in this upside down version of The Cormick's farmhouse? Who else could be here other than me? If it was possible for another version of their house to spawn underneath the real house, then who's to say that there weren't other versions of the Cormick's populating it? I know that sounds crazy, but you have to consider the things I've seen. It seemed foolish to discount any possibility, no matter how unlikely.

For a moment, I stood in the darker version of the hallway outside the cellar door leading to the Cormick’s basement. 

I panicked. 

What if something stopped me from getting out? 

What if I was stuck down here for forever?

I turned on my heel and raced back down the stairs into the darkness, my flashlight searching for the trapdoor in the basement floor. When I saw it, I breathed a sigh of relief, although my heart was still beating a thousand miles a minute. 

“You're not scared are ya?” a deep voice asked me from the corner.

I yelled and turned around to point my flashlight at the voice. It was just Sam, fiddling with his own torch trying to get it to work. 

“I figured you'd be braver than this, seeing as it was your idea to come down here in the first place.” He gave me a knowing look.

“Well maybe I overestimated my bravery just a tad.”

“Ya think?” 

Even though Sam was giving me shit, the fact that he was down here with me was more than comforting. To say I regretted coming down here in the first place was the understatement of the month. 

“What should we do?” I asked him, almost afraid to hear his answer.

“Let's make our way upstairs, and see what the outside looks like, if there even is an outside.”

I nodded. A few seconds later, Sam got his flashlight working. We steeled ourselves and made our way up the cellar stairs together. 

“When we get back upstairs, to the real house, we are going to seal off the trap door for Mr. Cormick.”

I nodded. “That sounds like the smart thing to do.” 

Together, we made it past the cellar door and down the hallway without me freaking out again. Black dust hung in the air and tickled my nose and throat whenever I tried to breathe. Sam didn't seem disturbed by the particles floating around, instead he was more concerned with watching where he was going and making sure nothing was waiting around a corner. When we came to the entranceway that led to the front door, Sam and I stopped and looked at each other.

“Should we open it?” I asked, my voice trembling more than I would have liked for it to. To be as scared as I was just didn't seem manly.

Sam nodded. “We gonna open it on the count of three.” 

I took a deep breath, tucked my flashlight under my arm and rubbed my sweaty palms on the front of my jeans. I let out a long breath of air.

“Okay,” I said. “I'm ready. Start counting it down.” 

“One.” Sam slowly turned the lock on the front door until it disengaged.

“Two.” I held my flashlight up like a weapon. 

“Three.” Sam flung the door open, and a gust of air hit me upside the face from the door swinging open so fast. The air was cold and damp. It smelled musty; moldy, like it was full of spores. I coughed involuntarily and turned my head away from the open front door. There was nothing but a wall of dirt beyond the front door.

“The first story is under the ground, where the basement should be.” Sam said matter-of-factly. That would explain why it was so dark here. Upon a closer inspection, we realized that there was nothing but black dirt on the other side of the glass. 

“Then the second story should be at ground level.” I croaked between coughs.

“We might as well go see if it is.” Sam led the way up the stairs to the second story of the Cormick's house. I followed behind him shining my flashlight in every corner. Upstairs there was a hallway, which had a window at the end of it that pointed towards the same road Sam and I had come down to get here. I went to the window and peered outside.

It looked dusky, but relatively normal. There were trees, grass; the sun was dipping down into the horizon. Normal... only all this was somehow... underground. I knew I wouldn't be able to wrap my head around it, so I didn't try.  I just stood there at the window, mouth agog, waiting for Sam to say something. 

I could see neighboring houses across the fields, some of the lights were even on.  for some reason, the thought that there were other people around down here scared the shit out of me. I felt a cold sweat break out over my skin, and when that happened, I decided I had seen enough.

“Let's go Sam.” I said. “It was stupid to think that there would be any kind of explanation for things like this in the first place.” I scratch at the top of my head and brushed my hair out of my eyes. “Coming down here in the first place was just stupid.”

“I'm inclined to agree, but I think the Cormicks should call someone. Someone important. Smart enough to try and figure this out.”

“Whoever that is, it ain't us.” I said, hoping to lighten the mood.

Sam nodded and popped me on the shoulder as he turned back towards the stairs. Back down, or up, depending on how you wanted to look at it. 

As we headed back downstairs, I felt a cold chill; a sense of dread. I tried to place where this feeling had come from. Why was it worse than the fear I’d felt when I first came down through that trapdoor and into a bizarre remix of The Cormick's farmhouse in the first place? 

What Sam and I had seen outside that upstairs window should have been a little reassuring, in that there wasn't an alien world or monsters underneath the farmhouse. There weren’t any evil versions of Mr. and Mrs. Cormick just waiting to pop up through that trapdoor and into their basement. There was nothing like that, in fact, their house on the ‘wrong side’ was abandoned, and had been for some time. That should have made me feel better, but somehow it didn't. So why was I so…. anxious?

Sam and I went back to the ‘real’ version of Mr. and Mrs. Cormick's farmhouse. When we came through the trapdoor, we fell up, just like we did the last time. Mr. Cormick was more than happy to pay us to seal that trap door shut. We were more than happy to do it for him.

Mr. Cormick asked us what we saw and we told him. When Ellen heard what we had to say, she turned and left the room, clutching her silver cross necklace so tightly her knuckles turned white. 

Sam and I we're done with our work and as we were putting the last of our tools in the back of Sam's truck, I caught him taking one last long look at the Cormick's elevated farmhouse. 

Sam just shook his head and got in the truck. I climbed in the passenger side and buckled my seatbelt. On the way back down that old country road, we passed one of the Cormick's neighbor's houses and I suddenly remembered what I’d seen out that upstairs window that had disturbed me so badly. The neighbor's house sat about 3 ft up off the ground. They’re foundation problems weren’t as bad as the Cormick’s though, all they needed to still be able to reach their front porch was a small step stool.


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My novel, Trigram, is in the works, but in the meantime, I'll probably be working on short stories such as the ones on Wicked Shorts. (Wink)

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