There is a man in my basement.
He is always down there, waiting for me to make a mistake. He knows what I am doing. He knows where I go. I do not know how he knows, but he does. He always does.
Mary says I worry to much, that I imagine things that aren’t there. I say that I agree with her, that I’m probably overthinking things. I tell her I don’t really believe there’s a man in the basement. But I lie.
On Tuesday, Mary did not come home. I know this because I woke up in an empty bed. Little Alice had not been fed, or even woken up to catch the school bus. This worried me greatly.
I think the man down in the basement took her.
He has sharp knives that he grinds every day. They make a horrible noise when he sharpens them, the sound of stone on metal. I hate the noise. He grinds and grinds when everyone else is out of the house. No one else ever hears it, but I do.
Mary didn’t come home the day after that, either. Alice asked me when mommy would be back, and I told her Soon, Soon. I don’t think Alice knows about the man in the basement.
I know I can’t call the police. They will think I’m crazy, think I’ve gone off the deep end. I just know, somehow, that when the show up, the basement will be empty, and they will laugh at me. Laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more. I can’t stand it when people laugh at me. I won’t call the police.
The next day, Alice did not come home from school. I know this because the bus did not stop outside our house to drop her off. I called the school, but they said they had no idea where Alice was. This makes me very worried. I am afraid the man in the basement has her.
I can hear him humming, sometimes. He hums to himself when no one else is around. He wants to be heard, I think. He wants someone to open the trapdoor and climb down there with him. Maybe he just wants to talk, but I think he wants more than that. He’s hungry, that man.
Two days later and the neighbors are starting to talk. They haven’t seen Mary or Alice in a long time, they say. When are you coming over for dinner, they ask. I slam the door in their faces, one after another. I don’t want to talk to them.
One night, I heard footsteps in the basement. I hear him stomping all around, in a fit. I think he knows people are catching on to him. He knows that he can’t hide his secrets forever. I can’t call the police, but I don’t have to. Someone will do it for me. All I have to do is wait, and hide.
The police do come, of course. They knock, first. Then the pound at the door. I can hear the door frame splintering as they kick it down.
“Downstairs!” I shout, hoping that they’ll find him. I hear them searching the house, and finding the trapdoor. I smile, as the light from the first floor hits my face, and begin to hum, quietly, to myself.
Safe, at last. He won’t hurt anyone else.