I know, I know… I don’t post on here for four months and then I post twice in one week! I wanted to write this partly just so I could reuse a line from an old story I deleted but also for a challenge on a Discord server I’m part of (hi guys if you’re reading this!) So, get a cuppa and settle in for a Halloween short story set (mostly) in a basement…
The smell of petrichor hung in the air when Everly arrived home, this was the first time it had rained for a while. If only she’d realised it was going to rain before leaving the house that morning, she wouldn’t have worn her new shoes, her new not very waterproof, now pretty much ruined shoes. Everly left her car and dashed across to the front door, glad of the overhang while she scrabbled around for her keys in her bag. Red and yellow leaves were dotted along the path.
When Everly stepped inside her house, she pulled the front door shut behind her, after kicking off her shoes and leaving her bag on the side she pulled another door open and set off down the steep stone steps into the basement. It was dark, she used the torch on her phone to guide her, the light bounced off of the walls and steps, eventually reaching the floor below as she stepped down onto the concrete. She felt around the wall for the light switch, she switched it on but the room stayed in darkness, brilliant the storm must have sent the power out. Thunder echoed across the sky but the lightning that must have preceded it was invisible in the basement.
Cardboard boxes were stacked around the room, she’d been meaning to sort through them ever since she’d moved in three months ago. Using the torch on her phone she started to sort through one of the boxes.
Everly turned in the direction of the stairs as the front door above slammed shut, she froze as footsteps sounded beyond the basement door, one, two, three, a floorboard creaked on the third step, “whose there?” she shouted, shining the torch up towards the door. No response. Thunder rumbled in the distance.
Everly nearly jumped out of her skin as her phone started to ring, Rosie’s name was on the screen, she pressed to answer the call, Rosie’s voice came straight through the phone before she had chance to say anything, “where are you? I thought you said you’d be back by now.”
“I got back about half hour ago, wait, listen, there’s—”
Rosie cut her off, “I’m stood in your kitchen right now.”
“That’s you here?” Everly sounded incredulous, “I thought someone had got in.”
“No, just me, where are you?”
“I’m in the basement,” Everly headed towards the basement stairs.
“Your coffee machine isn’t working.”
“The power’s out,” Everly went back up the stone steps to the hallway beyond, she cut the call as she reached the kitchen, “next time you’re going to let yourself in can you try and sound less like an intruder.”
“Hello to you too,” Rosie put her bag down on a nearby chair and hugged her friend, “it’s great to see you.”
The fire crackled in the fireplace as Everly joined Rosie on the sofa with two mugs filled with hot chocolate. Rosie took a mug, curling her fingers around it, the warmth from the mug warming her hands. The power had come back on a while ago, the thunder had faded out too.
“So how long are you staying for?” Everly asked her after a while.
Rosie shrugged, “a few weeks maybe, it’ll be longer if get this job I’ve applied for.”
Everly put her mug on the side, “you know I found something interesting in the basement,” she started to tell her of an old notebook she’d found when she was searching through stuff earlier.
Rosie went back down to the basement with her to see it, Everly went further back, checking in one of the other boxes quickly before getting the notebook to show her, the power went out again, “what the,” Everly said, startled, she must have disturbed something next to the other box, she backed into the wall as a screen came to life in the darkness beside the box, puzzle 1 was written across the top of it with a doodle of a pumpkin underneath it.
“Come on, I know it’s Halloween and everything,” Rosie said, thinking she was playing some sort of practical joke on her.
“This isn’t… I don’t know what…” Everly went closer to the screen, she’d never seen it before, to be honest she’d never gone that far back into the basement before today to check out her boxes that had been put there, perhaps the previous owners had left it there.
The words puzzle 1 disappeared, a second later they were replaced with a puzzle on the screen full of shapes with numbers on them, underneath it said level 1 of 10. Then in smaller words she noticed another line of writing, “according to this the basement door won’t open until the puzzles are complete.”
“Puzzles?” Rosie joined her in front of the screen.
Everly went back up the steps to the door, she tried to open it but it was either stuck or locked, defeated she joined Rosie back down in the basement, “might as well do this if we’re stuck here.”
Rosie didn’t look convinced, “who would leave this here?”
“Previous owners? Perhaps it was their idea of a Halloween game,” Everly picked up the screen, they took it in turns trying to solve the puzzle, it was harder than it looked, starting off with ten lives they had already lost three by the second level.
Each level seemed to be different rather than harder though so at least they had the chance of getting easier ones later on. By the time they got to level nine they only had one life remaining, if they messed up now they weren’t sure what was going to happen, surely the door would just unlock anyway? What if it was just stuck not locked, it did do that sometimes.
“Come on, you’ll be better at this one than me,” Everly said, handing the screen to Rosie.
“What if I get it wrong?” Rosie looked down at the puzzle.
Everly looked at the screen Rosie was now holding, “you’ve got this.”
“Then what about the next one, there’s still one to go remember,” Rosie started pressing things on the screen, trying to get through this level. “Wooo,” she shouted as she passed it, now they just had level ten to contend with which actually looked a lot easier than the other levels.
Rosie passed it back to her, “come on, your turn, I did the last one,” Everly took the screen back, she took a deep breath and tried to rearrange the shapes in front of her, seconds later, she was sure she had it but one wrong click and game over flashed up on the screen.
“No, you didn’t…” Rosie took the screen from her as it went dark, they’d become quite competitive with each level. She passed it back to Everly then went up to the door, trying to pull it open, it was still stuck, or locked, she wasn’t sure of anything right now, Everly followed her up the steps to the small landing space at the top of the stairs, “let me try again,” she tugged at the door, nothing, she tried to pull harder, still nothing, a third attempt and the door swung open, “see it was nothing to do with the screen.”
Everly went out into the hallway, glad to have left the basement, Rosie followed, Everly picked up her phone as she saw a message on it, ‘how’s your evening going?’
‘Apart from getting stuck in the basement with a weird screen you mean’ she replied.
‘Oh you found it then’
‘That was you??’
‘Left it in the basement when I was over last week’ then another message came through, ‘you’d been saying for ages you were going to tidy down there, figured with your day off work…’
Everly showed Rosie the messages, “that’s the last time I let my sister in the basement.” They had been playing pranks on each other ever since they were kids, apparently her sister still hadn’t grown out of it yet.