Tag Archives: door

You know exactly what this is, don’t you?

Ever since he could remember, Jim always felt as if something terrible was right about to happen. And I’m not talking about a bad accident or anything like that, I mean a true sense of dread, that something really sinister was looming just beyond the periphery of his vision. It was a shapeless type of terror, so vague that his imagination had no choice but to fill in the gaps.


Like the house where he grew up, the main basement was scary enough, and sure, there was always that feeling like someone was chasing him up the stairs. But he’d heard other people have similar reactions, and so it was easy enough to write those goosebumps off as the same normal types of fears that everyone else carried around.

But what Jim had inside of him was something else. Like just next to the main basement there was this really small closet, like a much shorter door. It wouldn’t even close all the way because it had been repainted so many times over the years, and so it had to be kept shut with this old latch that had been nailed on from the outside. On the other side of the door, there was a really creepy subterranean crawlspace, something that city officials might need in case there was ever a serious problem with the block’s sewage pipes.

But there were never any problems, so the door just stayed the way it was, just barely closed, but only ninety-nine percent of the way there, it almost looked like it was really trying to pull away from that nail. And when Jim thought about that door, it was like he could see a pair of wrinkly old fingers pushing through that half-inch or so of space, blindly fumbling around in a weak attempt to unhook the latch from the other side.

And whereas the feeling of being chased up the stairs largely went away the minute he made it to the living room and shut the door behind him, he could never quite shake the feeling that there really was something behind that door, a little old man, a really nasty troll, something straight out of a scary movie, with snow white skin and a razor sharp smile that reached all the way up to his ears.

It wasn’t that he was afraid of an old man or a basement troll exactly, but it was that type of lasting horror that seemed to haunt his everyday, that feeling that he couldn’t stop feeling, like something was just out of reach, ready to pop out at any moment, even though it never did, there was that sense of inevitability, like it was just a matter of time.

As he grew up, Jim would try to rationalize his crippling anxiety, and he did a pretty good job leading a normal life considering that the fear was an ever-present companion. He’d tell himself that it was all in his head, even though inside of his head there was another voice telling him that it wasn’t. When it got really bad, he thought, well, at least I’ll see it coming. If something ever does confront me, I’ll have known it all along. But that only provided a fleeting idea of security, because when he really thought about it, what was worse? If that sniper were real, the one he fantasized about targeting him in his crosshairs from some unseen rooftop vantage point, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to live without the fear, regardless of the certain outcome?

And he tried, he really tried to ignore it, when he closed his eyes to go to sleep at night, he told himself that there weren’t a group of ghostly figures standing around the perimeter of his bed. When he walked home from the train at night, he wouldn’t let himself look down, to see if there really were any eyes peering at him from behind drainage grates leading to the sewers. He just kind of continued living his life, because he really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Whether he wanted to believe in it or not, it was irrelevant, it didn’t change the fact that even though his brain held to that steadfast idea that something evil was just about to jump out and nab him, so far, there’d been nothing. And so it was always this way, such a struggle to make it through days, which, despite his apprehensions, kept getting more and more regular.

Until one day he came home and there was a man sitting in his living room. He didn’t look particularly evil, but that’s where Jim’s mind went immediately, sizing up this smallish guy with a docile enough looking face, he felt certain that there was no other explanation as to this man’s presence besides the culmination of all of his life’s worries.

“Who are you?” Jim asked.

“You know exactly what this is, don’t you?”

“So, all of it?”

“Yeah. All of it.”

Jim sat down on the couch, wishing that he might feel a little relief knowing that it wasn’t all in his head. But there was nothing. If anything, the fear took on a new dimension, crossing a threshold that he didn’t know existed when it was all limited to the confines of his imagination. As he sank into the pillow cushions, the man stood up and slowly started walking toward him, very slowly, each step elevating that feeling of panic, exponentially, even as the space closed between them, it felt like he might not ever get there, that was no upward limit to what he was feeling, that maybe he’d never reach him, that this was it, his new eternity, one of hopelessness and despair, like one of those math curves that goes on forever, getting closer to zero, but stretching on and on without ever arriving.

A Way Out

When my wife and I moved into our new apartment, we thought we hit the jackpot. It was almost too good to be true, and I know how cliché that sounds, like it’s the intro to every single creepy story you’ve ever read. “There’s only one catch,” I can just see the real estate agent selling that murder house to the unsuspecting newlyweds on every bad horror movie ever written. But there wasn’t any sort of warning when the broker showed us around.

It was exactly what we were looking for. It was more. It was a two-bedroom, two-story apartment, beyond what we had imagined was affordable for our price-range. The only sort of weird thing was that, for whatever reason, the building’s only access to the basement was through a door in the back corner of our living room.

And that does sound weird, right? But, and maybe this was us just really wanting this to work out, it didn’t look that weird, not really. It was just a regular door, a little old, it was locked and it remained locked, we didn’t even have a key. The landlord assured us that, other than the utility guy coming by to check the building’s gas and electric meter once every month or so, there wasn’t really any reason that anybody would have to go down there.


It took us a while to finally settle in, with the both of us working full time, the boxes from moving day just had a way of blending into the background of our daily lives. But after a couple of months we were mostly unpacked, and that’s when I started feeling it, a little uncomfortable having that door there all the time.

I blamed most of it on my overactive imagination. When I was a little kid, I was always scared to go down to the basement by myself. I’d think about old episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark or scary stories told by classmates at school, and I’d freak myself out. Shadows would morph into monsters and footsteps from upstairs would turn into the muffled sounds of dead spirits. I knew it was all in my head, but the fear, that palpable panic, I’d run upstairs positive that something was chasing me up, reaching out to pull me back down into the darkness.

But I grew up eventually. Every once in a while I’d read something online, an especially creepy story, or I’d see that rare horror movie that kept me up for a few nights afterwards. But I was an adult, I’d grown up. All of those feelings, that mounting sense of dread, I could dismiss it when I really needed to. If I had to go to the basement, maybe I’d have like a sense memory of what it felt like to be terrified of nothing, but that’s all it was, nothing more than residual emotion.

In the weeks after we had unpacked, we started to get more comfortable in our new place. When I came home after work, it would feel less and less each day like I was walking into a stranger’s house and a little more like home.

Except for that door to the basement. At first I tried to will myself to ignore it. I’d tell myself, just wait it out, sure, it’s a little spooky, the idea of a blocked off passageway to a hidden downstairs, but I just had to learn to not pay attention. We set up the TV on the opposite side of the room, so as not to be forced to stare directly at it while we sat on the couch.

Only that seemed to enhance that sense of unease. It was like running up from the basement as a child, that tingling sensation on the back of my neck, like now when I tried to veg out on the couch at night, I’d feel the door, the back right side of my head would have this almost physical awareness of my location, my proximity to the door. There’d be the occasional shuffling sound, almost imperceptible. Which, yes, I was getting a little spooked, but this is the city, it’s a loud place. You hear noises everywhere. It could have been mice, or rats, something legitimately scary.

But it was getting to me, more and more, so I flipped the layout around so the couch now faced the door. And it was better, kind of. I still felt uncomfortable, but not as much, now that I could direct most of my attention toward the TV, pretend like whatever it was I was feeling was a result of whichever show or movie I happened to be watching.


The whole door stood out of place in the otherwise neatly kept living room. While the building itself was old, you could tell that the owner must have renovated this apartment sometime within the last ten years. But that door, it must have been from like way before. Years of paint jobs had accumulated on the top layer, giving it that kind of over-smoothed, rounded look. And the molding around the frame was a little more warped than the rest of the room’s woodwork.

A couple of times late at night I thought I caught something out of the corner of my eye. There was a gap underneath, maybe an inch and a half from the ground to the bottom of the door, and I’m telling you, a few times I’d be watching TV with most of the lights out, late at night, and I could see the reflection of the screen onto the tile flooring, illuminating just maybe half an inch underneath. That’s what I’m talking about, it was like I kind of saw just a tiny movement breaking that glow from underneath.

And each time that I thought I saw it, it happened so quickly that I didn’t even have a chance to really confirm if it had actually happened, or if it was just my mind playing tricks. You know, like sometimes you think you see something out of the corner of your eye, but it’s nothing? That’s what this was like, I’d be staring at the TV, I’d never get a chance to look at it directly, but that flicker, it gave this illusion, like something moving on the other side, something pressed right up against that door.

My wife is easily spooked, and so I didn’t want to say anything to her, not directly, she’d start to panic, I’d have to start accompanying her downstairs every time she needed anything from the ground floor. But she started spending less and less time in the living room. Eventually we set up a smaller TV upstairs, and we wound up kind of just hanging out almost exclusively in the second bedroom. It was this unspoken thing between the two of us, almost like we were afraid to verbalize exactly what it was we might be thinking.

Because what if I told her, hey, honey, I’m getting really creeped out about that basement door? I can’t explain exactly what’s making me feel uneasy, and I don’t have anything to back up my unexplainable but growing sense of dread. What if she said, “Me too?” Would that have made it real? It’s like, I can think about my own crazy thoughts and fears, but to hear them validated like that? No, I wouldn’t want to ever go downstairs again. And what were we supposed to do, break our lease? Find another apartment?


I had this dream one night. I was downstairs watching TV, and the door to the basement was open. There was a man sitting on the stairway, and even though I was conscious of the fact that this was totally out of the ordinary, I still just kind of sat there, hoping that if I could pretend to ignore what was happening, then it wouldn’t be real, that maybe he’d wouldn’t interact with me either, maybe he’d go away.

But he turned his head toward me. I couldn’t make out what he looked like, because he was just sitting there on that first step, obscured by darkness. “Come here,” he said, “I can show you a way out.” And despite the fact that everything in my head told me to get the hell out of there, in my dream my body just kind of calmly stood up and starting walking toward the door, like I didn’t have any control, like I was getting sucked in.

That’s when I woke up, it was the middle of the night and I had a lot of trouble even just laying there trying to go back to sleep. I kind of just waited out the rest of the night under my covers, pulling them really tight, all the way up to my head. I forced my eyes shut, absolutely terrified that if I looked up I’d see something in the room with us, like I’d open my eyes and there’d be a face staring at me from only inches away.

I was getting lost in my imagination, and when the sun finally rose, I took a shower, I packed my stuff up for the day and I bolted out of the front door without so much even looking back toward the living room. “Did you sleep well last night?” my wife asked me on the phone sometime during that day, and I lied, I told her that everything was fine. “Did you?” I asked her back, and she was kind of just like, “Yeah. Me too. Fine.” And I couldn’t tell if she really was fine, or she was afraid, like I was afraid, like maybe she needed me not to be afraid, because I kind of felt like I needed her not to be afraid. It was getting too much, I was starting to feel a little boxed in.

When I got back home, there were footprints coming from the basement door, white, dusty footprints, like from work boots maybe. I froze where I stood and called up the super. “Hey man, did the utility guy come today to check the meter?”

“I don’t know,” he said, “The utility company’s got its own schedule, and their own key to the building, so it should be like I said, like every month or so.”

“But you weren’t around today? Like you didn’t see if they went down to the basement?”

“Look man, I just don’t know OK, I’m sorry, is everything OK with the place?”

“It’s just some footprints, must have been from the basement.”

“Yeah man, that could be it, I’m sure it was the utility guy.”

After I hung up, it took me a couple of minutes to muster up the will or the energy or courage or whatever to move from where I stood. I walked to the basement door, I put my hand on the knob, and I turned. It wasn’t locked. I kept my hand there for a minute, like would I pull the door open? Part of me felt drawn to, but I was frozen, I didn’t want to see what anything looked like, I didn’t want to give my mind anything real to build any more dreams or illusions around, OK, I didn’t want this basement to be any more of a reality than it already was.

I called the super back up.

“You know what? I don’t think it’s going to work out. OK, it’s not enough privacy, not with people having access to our place, I think we have to figure something out.”

“That’s going to be tough,” he told me, “If you want a way out, it’s going to cost you.”

My wife must have felt similarly uncomfortable, because she didn’t tell me I was crazy when I told her I wanted to leave. We agreed to the terms right away, the first and last month’s rent, plus the security deposit, gone. She went with my line, that she didn’t like it that other people had access, but I could tell there was something else.

And now that we’re in a new place, it’s like I still can’t shake the feeling, that mounting sense of doom. Like when I try to sleep at night, I can still sense it, something hovering just right there, like all I have to do is open my eyes. Every noise I hear is something coming to pull me down. And I can’t shake it, right, I’m not getting over it, I don’t think my wife’s herself lately either.

And when I dream, I’m still right there in that living room, or I’m even right here in this bed, and there’s that open door right to my side, a little closer each time. I want to turn away, I want to do something, anything, but that guy is calling to me, “Come here,” always hidden in the shadows, and I’m not sleeping at all really anymore, I just feel like I’m losing it, like I don’t know how I’m supposed to deal with any of this, it’s like I’m totally unraveling here.

I’m committed to this community

I’m committed to being a positive asset to this community, which is why I’m apologizing, I’m really sorry I knocked into your mailbox. And, you know, just think, there was damage to my car also, not that it’s any consolation or anything, I can’t imagine a baseball sized dent on my rear fender would somehow make things a little better for you, but I don’t want you to think that I was taking aim at your property, at you. I’ve just got to get used to this driveway, it’s like, I could have sworn I had it, the angle looked great. You should see the inside of my dash, it’s got one of those rear-facing cameras.


But it’s not important. If anything, I think we both learned a valuable lesson here, that you really can’t rely solely on those cameras. Even though, yes, it clearly says, “Check your surroundings. DO NOT rely solely on this camera,” but come on, of course you’re going to rely solely on the camera. Why have a giant display if not to focus totally on what’s happening on the screen? Am I supposed to somehow crane my neck to get the real view, all while bending toward the front every once in a while just to use the camera as a backup?

What if that mailbox were a little kid? I’m getting ahead of myself. But, like I said, lesson learned, from now on I’m not even going to pay attention to the camera at all, in fact, I’m covering it up with tape. No, I’ll paint it over, just so that way there won’t be any turning back. Because I’m serious about being a good neighbor. I’m serious about that whole commitment to community thing.

Like, I made you this cake. It was supposed to be one part, “I’m sorry for destroying your mailbox,” one part, “I’m serious about my commitment to this community,” and a final part, “No reason, just thought I’d make you a cake.” I even wrote out “Community” in homemade vanilla buttercream frosting. But on my way over to your place, well, I guess this is a testament to what a clean house you keep, but I couldn’t tell that your sliding door was closed, there was seriously no glare whatsoever in the glass, and the cake wound up getting smashed.

And yeah, that doesn’t by itself sound like too much of a big deal, but when I went to find a hose or something to start cleaning it up, I wound up picking up this rake that you had leaning against the house, I don’t know, I thought there might be a faucet in that half foot or so of space you have in between the siding and that big central air box. Look, I’m cutting to the chase here, I swung around with the rake and …

Well, look at the bright side, at least you don’t have to worry about getting the buttercream off of that glass right? Haha. But seriously, I’m very sorry. That’s why I figured I’d start off with the mailbox, which I’m hoping might soften the blow somewhat for the glass. Like if I went straight to the broken sliding door, yeah, I’ll admit it, that’s huge, that’s a hassle, even if you do get a good price on glass, they’re not going to be able to replace that thing until Monday, at least.

Which is why what I’m about to tell you next won’t even seem like a big deal at all in comparison. It’s almost like a joke really, I mean, you’ve got a good sense of humor, right? Well, after I broke the glass, I just kind of reacted, like sprung into action, but I wasn’t thinking, not really, I was thinking about helping, obviously, but not about how I was going to help. It was mostly just pure instinct, a instinct of assistance, and I got hung up on the concept, the word, helping, totally out of context.

What I’m saying is, I stepped all over the cake, I walked into your house, I don’t know why, I thought I’d find a dustpan or a broom or some paper towels, but I think I just made a bigger mess. And then your dog ran out. But he’s chipped, right? Chipped. You know, where they tag the dog with a chip in case he runs away?

Look, I make great flyers. We’ll have that dog back in no time. Seriously, I’m pretty good at the Internet, and I’ll try to get like a viral campaign going, everyone’s going to be looking for that dog. And while I’m at it, I’ll launch a Kickstarter to help you raise funds for that glass, and the mailbox. And can I use your Internet? They haven’t hooked it up in my house yet, and I can’t figure out where I put my phone charger.

It’s just, listen, I know this is an incredibly awkward way to start off this relationship. My name’s Rob, by the way. But I just want to let you know that I’m committed, absolutely committed to becoming an integral part of this community, a force for positivity, someone that people look to and think, wow, that guy is such a great addition to the neighborhood.