The story starts when I was in second grade. My family had just moved into a new house with an unfinished basement. My little brother and I thought it was the coolest thing until we moved in. He immediately became terrified of it, refusing to go down there alone. I thought he was just a scardy cat, and would often go down there just to prove I could, once spending three hours down there in total darkness. Most of the time though, I faked it, keeping the TV my parents had down there for workouts on low, just so I could listen to something. Because the truth was, I was scared of it too.
I should probably explain what the cat has to do with this now. A few months after moving in, we decided to get a cat. We went to the shelter and picked a cuddly little black kitten we named Pepper. She’s important to the story, but later. First we have to do something about the spring under the house. Yep. There was an underground spring under my house. Stupid builder.
Anyway, somehow that spring lead us to having a giant hole punched in the wall, a ‘crawlspace’, although only the people who came to check on the spring draining system went in there. Even before my father made it an outright rule that my little brother and I were not to go into it, we had already decided we were going nowhere near it. My father even put up a plywood board to keep us from even thinking about going exploring, but after the thing kept falling off and he realized we never spent more time down there than necessary, it became just a thing, like a painting or a window: a normal feature of our house that just exists and nothing more. But only to my parents. Between my brother and I, it became an unspoken law that the hole in the wall was something to be avoided. Between its utter creepiness and the orbs and wispy mists that would show up in random pictures, the paranormal occurrences were almost a taboo topic if it wasn’t for the occasional ghost story my little brother, cousins, and I would share.
A few years later, my parents got the bright idea to move Pepper’s food and litter box down there. My brother and I didn’t argue with them over it, but we hated the idea. They put a cat door on the door leading down to the accursed place and told us to move the litter box and food down there. The food went on the landing. It was easiest on us that way. But the litter box was in the “room” (unfinished basement and all) right across from the hell hole. Pepper really didn’t mind the move, she already liked spending time prowling the plank filled ceiling. But she had one place, a little perch where she could look directly into the damned space.
She would spend hours up there, sometimes growling at it. It’s not that I didn’t think anything of it, exact opposite. The only person I could talk to about it was my brother, and even then we didn’t dwell on it. Conversations on it stuck with a pattern, one of us would mention the little ninja growling at the hole, and the other would give a knowing glance. Neither of us would dwell on it, because that would just take us to the creepy corners of our imagination.
A few months after moving Pepper’s litter box, I hosted my eighth grade cheerleading squad sleepover. It was all fun and giggles until around 10. One of the girls noticed the door, and was curious.
“Kady, what’s that?” she asked.
“Oh, just a basement. Nothing special.”
“Oh. What’s down there?”
The hair on the back of my neck went up. “Oh nothing special, just some storage and the litter box.” I replied, Pepper fast asleep on my lap despite the noise.
“Can we go see it?” she asked.
This was an insane idea to me. Not even my cousins who were as brave and adventurous as my brother and I were, who joined us in climbing pine trees, teasing the neighborhood bully, and riding a wheelbarrow down the hills of the golf corse that spread out behind my house went into the basement. Okay, they went in once, and said it was the creepiest place they’d ever been in, and wanted out immediately. I didn’t blame them. But here was this little preppie who had no idea. I wasn’t about to say anything about the cursed ground, not wanting to sound that crazy, but I really didn’t want to take them down there.
“Why would you want to go down there? It’s just an unfinished basement.”
“I don’t have one. Please?” she begged.
I had no choice. All nine of us went down there, ten if you count Pepper, to see the basement. I turned on every light I could, but not enough to be suspicious. Pepper left her normal place as my second, cat-shaped shadow, and went to her perch. The girls were all looking around, but as the energy of the exited curiosity ebbed away, a bone chilling cold took its place.
“See? There’s nothing down here.” I’m pretty sure I was saying that for myself.
“What’s that?” one of the girls pointed to the crawlspace, almost invisible in its cloak of darkness.
A shiver went down my spine “Just a crawlspace.” I say, miraculously keeping calm.
“Man, this place is creepy,” said the same girl who wanted to come here in the first place. I turned to look at her, and recognized the look in her eyes as one I had seen in my brother’s and one he had seen in mine.
Pepper let out a low growl, directed towards the cursed crawlspace.
“Can we go now?” the same curious girl almost begged.
We wasted no time getting out of there, and Pepper shortly followed. We stayed upstairs for the rest of the night, and nobody has mentioned the basement since.
Less than a year later we moved out. My mom had twins and we all just felt too crowded in the old house. Ironically, my new room is in the totally normal finished basement. Pepper is less skittish in this new house, probably for reasons my little brother and I no longer speak of.
Now we have renters in the old house, and I haven’t the nerve to ask about anything creepy I might have missed in the three years since we left. But on Halloween of all nights, as I was walking a group of trick or treaters through my old neighborhood, I could have sworn I had seen a pale face in the basement window. And it was looking directly at me.