The Company :
We are all too familiar with creepy basements. We all know the feeling you get when you turn the lights off before running up the stairs, praying nothing will grab your ankle before the last step. As children, we would dread trips to the cellar, the cold room, and that cramped, dusty smelling spot under the stairs when we would have to retrieve that old box of Christmas decorations. No, creepy does not cut it. Words like disturbing, freakish, and hair-raisingly avoidable come to mind. For me, however, there was one shining diamond that stood out against the endlessly black coal: our newly renovated bathroom. This safe hold pleasantly contrasted the cracked cement floors, dark, musty smelling crawl spaces, and spiders the size of mice, whom you could find in every corner, and if you were lucky, crawling up your sock.
I would descend a creaking staircase, carpeted with short, mold-ridden shag, in a stairway immune to daylight, scurry past a hole in the wall that seemed fit for a grabby hand, and finally step into the serene safety of the bathroom. Here I would shower, morning after morning. Here I would be protected by the solid oak door; the only remaining piece of the old bathroom and the only part of the basement that filled me with feelings other than unease. Naturally, this was the last piece to be taken out. This was the one thing that was not like the others, and this one thing had to go – according to my parents anyway. For precisely one day – meaning one night, one morning, one shower of which the trustworthy door would not serve as my protector – the door would be gone. I would have to wait while the new door was whisked in.
This day is one I will hardly miss. The thought of this one day will later be the reason I decide to go to bed early or keep the light on while I sleep, or more likely, don’t sleep.
I twist the knob, allowing an initial burst of frigid water to spit forth. A few seconds later, calming warmth follows. This shower is just like all the others – or so I tell myself. I step in and slide the frosted glass door shut. I peer through at the warped, glossy objects on the other side, morphed into entropy. With the door to the bathroom removed, I can see into my laundry room. I move side to side and it looks like thousands of tiny creatures squirming around in the darkness, all of them knowing now is the time to strike.
There is a certain feeling that engulfs one’s body when they suspect there is another presence amongst them and one of which they would rather not alert the attention of. It is somewhat akin to the feeling of standing on a freshly frozen pond. Then you hear the ice crack. You don’t move. You try not to breathe. Currently, this is me.
I fully step into the falling stream of heat. I shiver as my body warms up but wince as my frozen toes burn. I squirt some shampoo into my hand, work it into my hair. I wet my head under the water then turn back quickly to the door to make sure nothing has changed. Closing my eyes is inevitable. I shut them and stick my head under the water, rinsing furiously so I can open them again.
With just my four senses against my fears, I begin to panic. It is then the blissful current of warmth changes to an icy blast. My back arches away from it, my mouth instinctively opens to let out a small gasp. I turn quickly and stick my hand out into the stream, half protecting myself, half waiting for the heat to return. I’m still waiting. Still ice-cold.
I would have reached out and twisted the knob further to the left. I would have then waited and been rewarded with the return of heated water. This all would have happened were there not already a hand there.
I immediately open my eyes after what seems like every muscle in my body trying to burst through my skin. Following this is the stinging. All the suds pooling in my eyes send bolts of lightning coursing through my face. I need to open my eyes but can’t.
There is a certain feeling one gets when they know they are in danger but are deprived of their senses. It’s the feeling you get when you wake up in the middle of the night from a strange noise and try to find the light switch. You slide your feet off the edge of the bed and tip-toe towards your door in pitch blackness. Getting the lights on is your only thought. For some reason, the switch eludes you. Your hand frantically searches the walls, your heart beating into your eardrums as you turn in panicked circles. Currently, this is me.
This is all too much for my mind. I’m quivering as I shrink to the floor of the shower, that feeling of spiders crawling over my body as I wait for something to touch my wet, exposed skin. My eyes still burning, I cup some water in my hands from the running stream of ice. I splash it in my eyes, doing my best to open them at the same time. I blink a couple of times with my face pointing down. I muster all my courage to look to the knob. In the cold shower of water, droplets fall and explode into mist off my head as I turn to see the hand is gone. I feel some warm life come back into my body.
I was almost convinced I had imagined the whole thing. I would have stood up and finished my shower in the confidence of a warm flow of water and my newly sound senses. This all would have happened if a cold wind had not blown in and cooled the already frigid layer of moisture on my skin, sending a shiver through my spine and down my arms. I would have been so reassured if that thing would have just remembered to close the sliding door.