THE DESCENT

by McCrorie Houston
I tucked my neck as far as I could into my shoulders just in case there were any stray vampires waiting
nearby who were looking for a wee snack.  I took a deep breath, a very deep breath, cursed my fate and
then moved out of the light and into the nauseating darkness.  I knew the stairs were there. Those
wicked, evil, old, wooden stairs, there were thirteen of them in fact and they guarded the path to the
hole that we used as a basement. They waited for me, just as they always did. Inhospitable and clumsy,
the whole house is so old but the stairs -- ah the basement stairs have a life of their own. How my
parents could have chosen such a place for us to live was beyond my comprehension. I licked my dry lips.
I wondered what the builders were thinking of when they put the light switch at the bottom of this dark
abyss.

One step at a time I sank lower and lower into the gloom. Darkness enveloped me. Like a heavy cloak
that was too big for my small body, it weighed me down. There wasn’t even a railing to hold onto. Once
again, as I’ve done a hundred times before, I ran my hand along the dusty, uneven cement wall as I
descended. Imagining a hand snaking through the space between each of the open stairs, I could almost
feel the touch of bony fingers scratch at my ankles. A chill ran down my spine. I counted out loud. At
last, I stood upon the final rung.

“Thirteen.”

I wasn’t going any further than I had to. Who knew what beasties slithered about on that cold floor?
Who knew what mischief they were up to? No, I wasn’t setting foot on that gate to hell until I had some
light. Now, if I can just -- “Ah, there we go.” Hands trembling, I reached out in search of the chain. I
grasped the wonderful ten inch knight in shining armour that would ignite the inadequate light bulb that
barely offered any respite from the sinister beings that lived down here. Dark shadows played havoc on
my overactive imagination. I saw something move in the dark. Plastering my back against the cold wall, I
inched towards the back of the dungeon where my poor mother was forced to do her laundry. She must
have a guardian angel that protects her from the denizens that slink about down here.

Three more steps and I’d reach the second light that would add its pitiable life force to that of its’ mate.
Be careful, I reminded myself. When I pulled on the cord this time I needed to be calm because dad still
hadn’t repaired it from the last time I’d nearly yanked the fixture off its mooring.

I began to shake. I looked around for any new signs of danger. Had any coffins arrived since I’d last been
here? I didn’t see any. Sweat trickled down my brow and into my eyes. My hair was wet at the nape of
my neck. As I inched along the wall, the shadows deepened. Something loomed just ahead of me. I knew
it! I just knew that someday I’d find some foul malevolence seeking shelter down here. Now, there it was.
Big and round, it had square shoulders. I couldn’t see its head. Something stood beside it. A squat
companion, they could be trolls? It too was square at the shoulders and I could see there were ripples in
its armour. I couldn’t make out which way the pair was facing. I heard heavy breathing. It made no sense
for me to turn and run. They’d be upon me in a heartbeat. Why expose myself? Maybe they hadn’t seen
me yet. I held my breath. The sound of heavy breathing stopped.

Above me, a chair or some such thing scraped across the floor. Oh to be up there in the light with my
siblings -- what wouldn’t I give? If God helped me one more time and I survived without becoming one of
the un-dead then I promised myself that I’d never complain again when my younger brother wanted to
watch Gilligan’s Island on our television. I’d help my mother more and I’d definitely make my bed from
now on. There’d be no complaints from me when I had too much homework.

Three more steps. That’s all I needed to take in order to reach the light cord. My limbs were frozen. I
heard the heavy breathing again and it seemed to fill the room. Those creatures must be deaf. Why hadn’
t they moved?

My eyes were growing used to the dim surroundings and I knew that if I could look in a mirror my eyes
would be round as saucers. Anyway, I couldn’t open them any wider or see any better without more
light. My limbs were shaking and my knees felt like jelly.

Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. My unsuspecting family was upstairs -- all of them. I couldn’t let
anything hurt them. They were going about their business totally unaware of the peril that lurked just a
few feet beneath them. I had to save them -- sacrifice myself for them, it was the least I could do. My
Scottish mother always taught me to look after my brothers and sisters and I would do her proud. The
family would remember me always. Even though I wouldn’t be coming for my shortbread and tea, each
New Year’s Eve, they’d set a place for me at the midnight celebrations. I felt a tear trickle down my cheek.
For Bonnie Scotland then I‘ll just...

ROAR!

My reverie was over. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I swear it rippled. My skin, I mean. I absolutely
swear it rippled! The enemy had spotted me. Were they turning in my direction? I looked towards the top
of the stairs. Had no-one heard the giant’s roar? Was no-one coming to check on me? Did no-one care
that I alone had descended into the bowels of hell? Never mind, I loved them anyway.

If I was to save my family, I’d have to take the intruders on with my bear hands unless I could find
something to use as a weapon. Like an old soldier, my hockey stick waited just under the stair case. I’d
have to make a dash for it. Should I turn on the light first or just go for the stick? Maybe I could do it in
one leap? What would G. I. Joe do at a time like this?

The roaring continued. It grew hotter. I could hardly breath. Something tightened in my chest. Quickly, I
glanced into the shadows. My adversaries did not move. They hadn’t seen me yet. I took a deep breath
and inched towards the light. Abruptly, I stopped. They had seen me after all and there were more of
them than I though. Something passed over my face and a knife was held against my throat. I didn’t
move forward lest my captor decided to sink the blade into my flesh. What must have been blood trickled
out of a cut in my neck from where the razor sharp weapon rested. My heart beat like a jungle drum and
threatened to burst through my chest. I had to do something but what? Closing my eyes, I waited for
death.

Seconds passed. Something brushed past me. I was too terrified to open my eyes -- then -- CLICK.

The roaring stopped. The monster furnace whose warm breath heated our house lay back to rest. I hadn’
t realized it was the furnace that was resounding in the murk. Slowly, I lowered my shoulders. I felt the
pressure on my throat relax. A pocket of air escaped from my lips. Light penetrated my eye lids. Light!

Forcing myself to crack open my eyes I saw my younger brother. He was disgusted. Hands on hips he
looked at me sadly.

“What the hell is keeping you? Mom‘s waiting for the potatoes.”

Couldn’t he see the knife that was still held at my throat? The blood, couldn’t he see the….. sweat that
trickled down my neck from the clothes line that my mother had strung across the…

“I was just…I thought there was…”

“Why do you come down here alone? I’ve told you a million times to come and get me. Why do you put
yourself through this every time mom asks you to bring up some vegetables? What’s with you anyway?”
Unexpectedly, Archie jumped over beside me. He looked from side to side. “What was that?”

Pushing the cloths line off my neck I put my arm around my sibling. Fear and frozen limbs kept me from
turning around. “They’re over there. There are two of them. They have no heads. They’re aliens I think
and they’re slow cause they haven’t moved since I first saw them. I’ll have to take the big one down first.
My hockey stick is under the stairs. You get away. I’ll go for my stick and keep them busy while you go
for help.”

Bless his brave little heart. Archie turned. He looked behind me. “The two aliens over there you mean?”

“Yes, the fat one and the little one. I told you. I’ll take the biggest one first you go for help.”

Archie stiffened then he looked at me and smiled. “Let my give you one last hug before you leave us. You
know, you probably won’t come out of this alive.”

“I know. Don’t waist any more time. On the count of three you make a dash for it.”

“One. Two. Threeeeee!”

As I charged under the stair to retrieve my hockey stick I heard my youngest brother. In his haste, he
nearly flew up the stairs.

“Mom, mom! Help, help. Duncan’s goanna attack your new washing machine with his hockey stick. You
better come quickly."

THE END or is it?