A Light in the Closet

I could see the narrow band of light gleaming from across the open space at the top of the hall closet door that was slightly ajar. My childhood memories immediately conjured up a visage of something that you might see in those 1950’s science-fiction movies. You just knew then when you saw it, that something evil was waiting just beyond the door, waiting for you to be dumb enough to go and open it.

After an adult mind blink, I smiled at the memory. But, I also again wondered if it was me that had left the light on in the hall closet. If it wasn’t me, who was it? More importantly, was anyone waiting beyond that door? A part of me said that he would have to be sort of small and thin to fit in with all of the coats and winter things we had stored in there. Another part of me said “yeah, so mischievous imps and nasty trolls are big?” It was enough to make me do a stutter-step as I approached the closet. Just what the heck was going on here?

My hand reached out tentatively and grasped the handle of the closet door. It was warm to the touch. As soon as my hand made contact with the warm door handle, a gentle vibration coursed up my hand and arm. Uh oh, this isn’t Kansas anymore, I think. Still, Kansas or not, it was my home and I wasn't going to be scared off by childish daydreams of monsters hiding in closets. I pulled on the door handle and it came open quietly, revealing a lighted bulb, in its socket, shining down on a stairway, which led to I know not where.

For a second or two, I just looked down the stairs. We never had a stairway in the closet before. Or did we? True, we had a lower level beneath me, but the entrance to the stairway was several feet across the room. What was this all about? Feeling somewhat apprehensive, I began to descend the staircase in the closet. The walls were made of exposed brick. A single old, wooden railway stretched along the wall and headed down into the depths below.

The air was getting a little warmer as I descended. Did we have a heater installed down here? Maybe this was a maintenance shaft that I have never used before. I stepped on the rungs slowly, because the light was dim down here. The moving shadows seemed like they were everywhere. Over my shoulder, I could see the bright light of the closet now far above me. How far does this thing go down, I wondered? I was already several levels below ground and the stairs ahead of me seemed to descend forever.

Finally, I came to a landing of sorts. It looked out over a large cavern, with tunnels leading from it in several directions. Maybe the builders had excavated this area when they built our structure? But, what did they need all this room for? Tentatively, I stepped onto the cavern floor and walked towards the nearest tunnel. There weren’t any lamps or torches on the walls, but something was giving off a dim, pulsing light. It gave off just enough illumination to navigate by.

The temperature was getting even warmer as I entered and walked along the nearest tunnel. There was plenty of room for me to stand erect. The walls were smooth and well worn. Whoever had built these tunnels wanted them to last. I walked and walked for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only minutes. It was then that I first began to hear that dull thumping sound, like a machine that was hitting metal on metal only very far away. I followed the sound. At this point my curiosity had overcome my childhood imagination. Besides, this was all under my home, wasn’t it? How dangerous could it really be? If this were a movie, I thought, I would be sitting in the audience watching, having some idea of the awful monster that was up ahead and saying “no, noooo, don’t go there, turn around and run!” But this wasn’t the movies, and nothing was going to happen to me, or at least so I hoped. For no reason at all, I began to whistle in the dark, like I had done when I was a boy and had to walk alone down a dark, deserted alley on my way home from some school event.

It was just about then that my nosed twitched. I inhaled the feint scent of burning sulfur. Some one, or some thing, was burning up ahead. Why were they doing that under my house, I wondered? Well, noises, heat and the sulfur smell aside, I was going to find out what this was all about. I walked faster now, with a determined stride. I would soon get to the bottom of this. I didn’t know how prophetic my words were to become.

The tunnel narrowed somewhat as I advanced. The air temperature became warmer and the smell of sulfur more pronounced. Moisture was sweating from the rock walls and the green slime of mold gathered here and there in patches along the walls. It was becoming decidedly tropical in here. Only several hundred feet above me, the ground was covered with the ice and snow of a January in Buffalo, New York.

Continue reading this story in “Christmas Comes to Kevin O’Leary”, available in Kindle and Nook format.