The Basement – Part 4
I was feeling old and moldy like a paper box left in a damp basement for a decade. I could literally see the black mold creeping up along the seams of my shirt. Dirt was sifting over the color of my jeans, and my skin was rotting off my bones, sloughing off slowly over the years, dripping fat and ichor into the drain. My vision began to float above my body, and I could see I was not myself. I was actually the rotting corpse of a little girl, maybe around 8 years old, with rusted chains around her feet. The vision was so gruesome, so realistic, I woke up nauseous and faint, my heart pounding.
My strange apartment was dark and still, silent and unbearable. I stood up out of bed and sat down on the edge of a nearby couch, my head in my hands. I blamed the mushrooms from the party, but this had been occurring for weeks now. I wake up with the sounds of sobbing in my ears, screaming in my heart, I can’t breathe, I can’t write. I have gone through two jobs in as many weeks, and I shake if I am alone for to long.
The worst part is I have a sneaking suspicion I know why I am having a hard time. The cry for help resounds through out my entire being. I have always been one to stand up for those who can’t, a geek who grew up tough and strong in a ghetto neighborhood. I would fight for the limp-wrist friends, the skinny weak friends, the friends who had brains bigger than their arm muscles. I was never a bully, I instead turned that caveman emotion onto the only qualified recipient I could think of, the bully himself. I would never strike a friend or a lover, but a bully can usually only be handled by brute strength that he respects, and I was the man to give it to them. I had this same feeling the whole time I have been disgusted and feared into a shaking leaf.
I started looking through the separate rooms for clues. That I lived in a haunted place was no longer a question, but instead, why was it haunted? What specter will not leave rest until its secret is found? What smaller pup had its life torn apart by a wolf? One thing stood out above all others, there were collections of toys yes, but any boy would have been disappointed instantly. Stuffed animals filled on room. All kinds of cloth animals, soft and cuddly to old and worn. The small room was maybe 3 meters by 4 meters, and there was no furniture. The next room was all baby dolls. All sizes again, all qualities, old and fairly new. Then the woman dolls, commonly called Barbie dolls, all the same general doll, but thousands of outfits.
Eight rooms, all of toy collections, all girl toys. I asked the maintenance men about the guy, and they all said basically the same thing, quiet gay man, never really talked with him much. Mostly they avoided me, and I then knew they knew about the haunting as well. I was not losing my mind after all, but instead started to become more like a detective, hot on some trail that was elusive and old, misty and hidden, and mostly wanted to be forgotten.
I had been at the library for days in a row. I was both looking for another job and researching the hotel. The labyrinths under Denver were known by very few, but there was a long tradition of tunnels dug by miners, governments, rich and poor alike throughout the entire city. I went down to the city park, where the punkers and the youth who had lost hope and homes hung out. One of them agreed to take me to a tunnel, after I promised to purchase some of the medical marijuana for them. We met up at night, and hiked down to the river that ran through the city.
He was an ok kid, smart, not to criminal or thuggish yet, and he enjoyed taking an adult out for a tour of secrets. We pulled on an expanded metal grate on what looked like just a water drainage tunnel. after about a block crouched over almost double, the pipe opened into an angled hallway. We followed it, using our LED flashlights, the blue-white light giving everything a ghastly tone. After about an hour, I asked if there was anything down here he liked in particular.
‘Oh man, let me show you tha Shrine!”
“The Shrine?” I asked, a bit off and tired of smelling musty air.
“Yeah, a little girl disappeared some years ago, and she has had a shrine down here ever since.”
I nodded, trying to look impressed but uninterested, but the reality of it was that my heart was in my mouth.
He took off and we ended up fairly close to where we started. A door made of tin sheathing and discarded lumber hung off what looked like hinges made of an old baseball glove. I had to duck a bit when I entered the small antechamber, and almost immediately got sick to my stomach. there were about ten pictures of a little girl, all on a small table that had old flowers and toys and stuffed animals. One of the pictures showed the young girl on the knee of Curtis the man I had rented the room from. She was in the room of Barbie dolls, her face showing excitement as she held what must have been her favorite. My guide must have thought I was getting sick of the smells, because he asked of I was ok. I nodded and begged a full stomach was not the way to see the rest of the trip, and had him guide me out. I ended our business with a good-sized portion of some of the green smoke I had procured from my last paycheck, and weakly stumbled on my way.
I sat down hard at the first park bench on the street I could find. It was one of the main bustops of the city, but no one was there at the moment. I sat down and then began to throw up, my stomach and brain putting the whole sordid affair together. I knew beyond a doubt, I knew what was making things so bad, and I knew how they were all connected. I had no proof, but I knew, Curtis must have done some nefarious deed, something horrible, and the reason I could feel the specter of someone, that someone was the little girl who had but one buried shrine in the dirt of the city to remember her.