You are renting a room in someone’s house as you transition to living in a new city. The owner tells you that basement is absolutely, 100% off limits. You don’t bat an eye at this request, until you start hearing noises from the basement at night. After several week of this, you sneak downstairs...
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Robert stared at his surroundings in disbelief. He had finally made it to the city of his dreams. Chicago was a scary place to most, but Rob felt like he was meant to be there. It was truly a gorgeous sight, at least in his eyes. When he was a young boy, he saw pictures of the city. It was a scene that was lit up at night. Rob believed it to be a million tiny stars, forever burning in the night.
As he began to grow up, he realized that the tiny stars was just lights glowing in buildings. This didn’t change his mind from wanting to live there. He graduated from Yale with a degree in Journalism. His life was all falling into place. He even found a place to stay for a few months. The owner was a really nice guy. He didn’t seem like he could do anyone harm. After talking on the phone, the two decided it was time for Robert to head to Chicago. Rob was grateful to find him on such short notice. He lived a short drive out of the main part of the city. After he finished packing everything he owned, he jumped into his car and headed for his new home.
After many hours of traveling on the road, Robert finally arrived at the guy’s house. It looked like a historic kind of place. It was a two-story house with a roof that had tall arches and points that seemed to go on forever. The veranda wrapped around the house with beautiful railings surrounding them. The front door seemed so inviting, due to its exquisite glasswork inserted into it. Everything about the house made Robert feel welcome. He stepped up to the front porch and with one last long look, began ascending the steps to the front door.
As he was walking up to the front door, he heard the latch click and the front door began to open. He paused to see who was coming out, trying not to be rude. An older man stepped out and paused when you saw Robert standing there. After eying him for a long minute, he finally broke his cold stare. He exhaled heavily and asked Robert who he was.
“Well sir,” said Robert as he stepped to shake the man’s hand, “My name is Robert, but feel free to call me Rob. I called you a few days ago about a place to stay. Your ad said you had a room available. I finally made it here.”
“Ah yes, the young man looking for a big city kind of life. My name is Samuel. Pleased to meet you son. Do you have the money we discussed over the phone? Can’t get anything for free in this world. Please pay so we can get this deal rolling.”
Rob reached into his duffle bag and pulled out his envelope with all his savings in it. After counting out the amount they agreed upon, he handed it over to Samuel.
“Wonderful, wonderful. Now that business is taken care of, welcome to my home son. This was the house that my wife, Annabeth, and I built together. We started decades ago. Once we finished, we spent twenty-five beautiful years inside these walls. Sadly, cancer took from me just over a year ago. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to face.” Samuel started mumbling under his breath. His face seemed to tell a tale that went back many years. He was lost in the world that was surrounding his wife. Rob felt his heart ache as he watched this man relive so many memories in such a short span of time.
Finally snapping back to the present, Samuel shook his head to clear the memories. Flustered and somewhat disoriented, he spoke up, “Ah yes where was I? Oh yes, I remember. Your room will be at the top of the stairs. It is the first door on your left. The bathroom is down the hall on your right.”
“Thank you sir. I really appreciate the opportunity that you are giving me.” Rob said clearly overjoyed. “Are there any rules that you would like me to be aware of? I wouldn’t want to insult your hospitality.”
“Well you sure are a polite one aren’t you, Son? There are a few things that I do ask. I understand that you are an adult, so I won’t limit you too much to what you can do. I just ask that you don’t have parties or too many guests over. I go to bed around eight, and I do not want to be woke up. You can come and go as you please, just respect the house and everything in it. One last thing, and this is the most important one. You are not to step foot into the basement, under any circumstances. I do not care if the house is burning down and the only way out is through there, you do not go, understand?”
Rob couldn’t help but look confused at the old man. After a brief hesitation, he muttered, “You got it, Samuel. Now if you will excuse me, I have quite a few bags I need to get upstairs.” After departing ways, Rob carried his belongings up his room. As we began to unpack, he couldn’t help but keep thinking about that final rule he was giving. It seemed so strange for that to be such an important place that he couldn’t even enter if the house caught fire. With a shrug, Rob shook off the strange feeling he had about it and continued to unpack. He did not want to worry about what Samuel or anything to do with where he was going to live for now. He had to go into the big city and find a job. He had to start living his dream. He began to rush and unpack, eager to leave the now slightly eerie house. After twenty minutes of rushing, he jumped in the shower and got ready to leave.
° ° ° ° °
A month and a half had gone by since Robert had moved in with Samuel. The two guys had settled in to each others life style. It was a comfortable arrangement between the two. Samuel stayed out of most of Rob's personal business, and Rob returned the favor. After a week of relentless searching, Rob finally landed a job at a small time newspaper company. It was named “The Sunny Times.” Rob worked as an intern mostly, but he was working his way up the corporate ladder at a steady rate. He was loving everything about Chicago. He spent his night's hanging out at a bar with a few of his buddies from work. Everything was going great for him. He was finally doing everything he had hoped to do. This was what he fought for. It took him years to get to where he was, but everything was worth the effort. There was only one point in his life he seemed to be unhappy about.
He was lonely most nights. He went on a few dates, but none of them seemed to get to a second or third date. It wasn't helping when he would talk to Samuel. Every time those two would carry on a decent conversation, Samuel seemed to always bring up his late wife and how they were so great together. He would go on for hours about Annabeth. Rob really felt the love between Samuel and herself. It made him that much more sad every night when he laid down for bed. He tried desperately to forget about his heartache and focus on work till he could find a girl. He said his best to avoid Samuel for the time being. To make matters worse, Rob began losing sleep every night.
Samuel began spending a lot of his night’s in the basement. Rob did his best to ignore it. It was an impossible task. Sam was banging so loud that it sounded like he was in the hallway banging on pots with a spoon. Rob did he best to ignore the noise and to respect Samuel's privacy. It grew more difficult to do after a week of sleepless nights. Rob began to slip up at his work because it not getting good sleep. This was the last thing he wanted. With much regret for what he was about to do, he crawled out of his bed. He was determined to figure out what Samuel was up to. It had to be pretty important if it took him all night to work on it. Rob did his best to sneak quietly through the old house. This was quite hard to do however. With every step he took, the house seemed to crack and creak in protest to what he was doing. It was a real pain on the neck when someone was trying to sneak around, unheard. He managed to get to the end of the hall and down the stairs without making too much noise. This seemed to be going well for Rob as he crept through the kitchen to the basement door.
His heart began to race as he crept closer and closer to the basement door. Samuel made it very clear just how important it was to stay far away from the basement. Rob couldn’t believe he was doing this, especially after the great hospitality this man had shown him. This was beginning to feel more and more like a huge betrayal. Rob felt sick to his stomach, but he knew that he had to figure out what was going on. He needed his sleep. Finally reaching the door, he turned the nob as quietly as he could. The only sound that was heard was the faint click of the latch slipping past the smooth metal of the door frame. Rob stood still for a long moment to see if he heard any deviations in the crazed hammer wielding guy below his feet. He began to go down the stairs, slowly as he could to prevent the wood from cracking. He saw it happen too many times in the movies. People try to sneak up on someone, just to be given away by a creaking board or step. It never fails. Rob stepped down as slowly as he could. It was a painfully slow process. He made his way half-way down before he tried to peak through the railings. What he saw was a beautiful sight, for the most part.
His vision was blocked partially by Samuel and an assortment of boxes and cabinets stacked up against the staircase. What he could see, however, was a gorgeously built replica of Chicago. It seemed to match pretty good, compared to the still somewhat fresh images in Rob’s mind. It must have taken years to build such a work of art thought Rob. He felt compelled to get closer. He tried to make his way lower on the staircase, but the steps began to get louder. The bottom steps seemed to not want him to plant his feet on the floor. This didn’t seem to stop Rob though. He still kept going down, getting closer and closer to the city in the basement. He made his way to the last step before the cold concrete met his bare feet. As he stepped to the final step, he knew something was wrong. He just got this terrible feeling in the last seconds, though they were too late.
He dropped all his weight to the step. A loud snap filled the small room. Rob stared in horror as Samuel snapped his head around to catch the intruder. With fire in his eyes, Samuel screamed, “What are you doing in here!? I thought I told you this place was off limits.”
“I... I... Samuel I am sorry. Ple... Please let me explain.” Rob managed to say, through frightened stammering.
“No I will not.” Proclaimed Samuel, tears welling up in his eyes. “You have crossed a line. You will not get away with this.” He picked up different tools and threw them at Robert. He threw them so hard that they slammed through the wood of the wall behind Rob. Samuel's face was twisted with rage as he screamed, demanding Rob leave immediately. Afraid of the tools that were flying past his head, Rob ran up the stairs as fast as he could. He could feel tears forming in his eyes. He didn’t want to believe that he was so upset by what had just happened. He made his way out of the basement. As he ran through the house, he could hear the old man screaming through the walls and floor. It sounded like his was in agonizing pain. Rob did his best to ignore it as he made his way up the stairs and into his room. He closed the door as soft as he could. He felt like he was walking on eggshells after what he had just done. His heart sank as he realized that it was time for him to move on from this place. He was not ready to leave though. He didn’t have enough money saved, and even worse than that, he was starting to grow pretty close to Samuel. Although, now he felt like he just drove the biggest wedge through their friendship.
With his head hung low, Rob began packing his belongings. He knew he crossed a line that could not be forgiven. He didn’t understand what was so bad about the city that was sitting in the basement. It looked great just sitting there. Trying to figure out what was so bad about what he did, he continued to pack. He spent most of the night packing everything he had. He felt exhausted. At least it was a Saturday night though. He didn’t have to work for another day so he could recover. He just hoped that, in time, Samuel would learn to forgive him.
Just as the sun starting to peek through the curtains and fill the bedroom with a beautiful warm glow, Rob heard his door open. Samuel stepped into the room. He didn’t say a word. He just eyed Rob with a stern look. It was the kind of look a parent gives their child right before they punish them for misbehaving. That is exactly how Rob felt too. He felt like he was eight again. Without saying a word, Samuel motioned for Ro to follow him. They walked down stairs and say in the living room. After a long silence, Samuel finally opened his mouth.
“What was you doing down there? I told you that the basement was off limits. That means you don’t go down there, boy.” explained Samuel, clearly still fuming.
“Look Sam, I’m sorry ok?” said Rob. “I didn’t want to go down there. I have tried to respect that rule for weeks now. You are keeping me awake at night. All I hear is banging and loud noises. I can’t sleep through that. What are you doing down there anyways?”
“That is none of your business. You just don’t go down there anymore. Try a stunt like that again and I will see to it that you don’t get away so easily.”
Rob couldn’t believe what he had just heard. The old man threatened him. At first he was really concerned for his health. Sam seemed to be serious when he said that. The more Rob thought about it, however, the angrier he got. He didn’t care if it was Sam’s house. He was not going to stand there and get threatened.
“Who in the hell do you think you are? You can’t threaten me like that. I don’t care how highly you think of yourself or your precious basement. I will not sit here and listen to you threaten me, old man. Let that happen again, and we will see who ends up on the floor.”
.With that final statement, Rob got up and left the room. Once he was out, he almost fell in the floor. He couldn’t believe he was so harsh on Sam. He felt remorse like he had never before. Feeling overcome with exhaustion, he went up to his room and laid down to take a nap.
It was only a few hours that he had slept when Sam came into his room. He woke up Rob and asked him to come downstairs. They walked downstairs and walked up to the basement door. Before Sam turned to handle to enter, he turned to Rob and asked, “Can I trust you with this secret? This is a big one. I need to know I can rely on you.”
Without a word, Rob shook his head yes. With a deep exhale, Sam turned the handle and they walked down to the basement. Once they were down to the bottom, Rob couldn’t help but feel the same amazement he felt the night before. The city looked so beautiful.
“This started as my wife’s project. She loved the city, almost as much as I have seen you to.” Samuel began to explain. “She wanted to show the word just how much she loved it by building this replica. She was taken by death before she could finish though. So I have made it my life’s work to finish it for her.”
“Well this is truly incredible. Why would you want to hide this though? I can’t figure out why. You flip your top about anyone seeing this, yet it is beyond cool.”
"Well that is the best part. It was my wife who wanted it that way. She didn’t want anyone to see it till it was complete. She fusses all the time about it.” Explained Samuel.
“Wait a minute,” said Rob, with a questioned look on his face. “I thought you said she died. How does she keep fussing at you about it?”
“She did pass away. She is still with me though. She lives on with me.”
“Oh that’s a relief. I thought you meant something else. What am I thinking?” asked Rob, to himself, as he chuckled about it.
“Yeah she is here with me. I loved her so much, you see. I just couldn’t let her go. She was the love of my life. I built everything I had with her at my side. Could you imagine how hard that is to let go?”
“Well no I can’t Sam. I have never had what you had. I am truly envious of what you had.”
“She was really great. I miss her all the time. Whenever I’m not in this basement, I am missing her.”
“I get that. This city keeps you close to her, doesn’t it?” asked Rob with longing wonder for love in his eyes.
“There is that, sure. I also have her in the other room. Would you like to meet her?”
Rob felt his heart drop. He hoped with all that was holy that Sam was lying. Without his controlling, he felt his head move up and down. Sam motioned for him to follow and for some reason, his feet began to follow without his brain telling them to. His mind was too busy racing around the idea that there might actually be a dead body in the next room. They came to a door and Sam turned the handle.
The door creaked open ever so slowly. Rob’s anxiety grew and grew as the door opened. Once it was fully open, Rob stood in the doorway, too afraid to enter. Sam gave him a little nudge, and he reluctantly stepped into the room. He looked around the room very slowly. He did his best to take in every detail. It looked like an old bedroom. The furniture was bigger than the normal stuff today. It all looked rustic, almost like they were antiques. They were quite the sight to see. Rob’s heart dropped when he made his way to the corner of the room. There sat an old rocker chair. It was beautiful. The part that freaked him out was who was sitting in the chair. It was an old withered corpse. The flesh looked like old dried out leather. Sam told the truth when he said his wife was still around. It was horrifying. The eyes had sunk in and began decomposing. The smell hit Rob as he witnessed this violent act against the natural course of things. Rob freaked out and bolted for the door. He could hear Sam calling for him to come back. He wasn’t going to stop for that crazy man though. He ran as fast he could for the door. He had to get out of there and get the police involved.
Rob made his way outside and ran towards his car. He noticed the tires had been flattened. This was not good. Sam was prepared for this to happen. Rob slammed his car door and began running down the driveway. It didn’t help that the driveway was almost a mile long. He had to keep running though. He ran, hoping he would see the neighbors house soon. As he glanced back, he saw Samuel jumping in his truck. Despair filled Rob as he kept running. He knew if he didn’t make it to the neighbors house, all would be lost. He could never outrun a pickup truck. He wasn't ready to give up yet. He ran faster than he ever did before in his life. He got another hundred feet before he decided to look over his shoulder and see where Sam was. The truck was halfway down the drive by then. Rob noticed the truck was slowing down then. He hoped it had a flat or something. Desperate and full of newly found hope, he kept running, even though his lungs felt like they had been Set on fire.
He couldn’t believe it. He could finally see the end of the driveway. He felt like it was all over. His freedom from the madman was so close. Just as he was about to be out of the driveway, he heard it. A shot fired from a rifle sounded off around Rob. He ducked, trying to avoid flying bullets. He was less than one hundred feet from the entrance when his leg exploded in a burning pain. The sound of the shot finally caught up with Rob as he fell to the ground, screaming. He could hear the truck rolling down the driveway in between his agonizing moans. He gathered up his strength and started to crawl. He had to make it out of this alive. He was so close to the end of the driveway, he felt like he could reach out and touch it. He wasn’t fast enough however. The pickup's tires rolled up right behind him. He could feel his hope fading from existence. It was all over. Samuel stepped out of the truck with a smirk on his face.
“Well I must say,” said Sam, “ you made it farther than any before yourself. That is quite impressive. The only problem with your plan, Robert, is that you wasn’t fast enough. Time for you to come back up to the house.”
“What is wrong with you? I won’t tell anyone. Just please let me go, you deranged old man.” Demanded Rob.
Sam had nothing left to say on the matter. He began walking towards Rob. As Rob crawled away, he could see the crazy in Sam's eyes. He was terrified. Sam looked more pleased than ever as he stared down his next victim. He flipped his rifle around in his hands and slammed the stock straight into Rob's nose, knocking him out cold. Sam picked up his limp body and threw him in the back of his pickup. The only sounds that were heard after that was the gravel crunching under the tires as the truck made its way back up the drive.
Samuel snatched up Rob and carried him down to the basement. He did his best to hurry. Rob was waking up. They made their way down the stairs and Sam dropped Rob in front of a huge iron cast door. It looked like it was made to hold a giant inside of it. With a solid click, Sam slid the lock out and swung the heavy door open. With all his strength, Sam tossed the limp body inside. Rob began to stir when he hit the floor. With a groan, he rolled over and glared at Sam.
“Why are you doing this to me? What did I do so wrong?” asked Rob through a trembling voice.
“You ran, boy. Do you really think I would let you run away and tell the police? You must be stupid to think that.” mocked Sam. “Look around you. Do you think you are the first one to be in this situation?”
Rob froze in fear. He didn’t want to look around the room he was sitting in. It seemed like too much to take. The light was not very good. He only had the solid bar of light that was coming from the open door. He could see very faint figures in the dark. After a few seconds his eyes adjusted to the lack of light. Surrounding him was piles and piles of bones. Some still had decaying flesh attached to them. It was mortifying. Rob screamed and crawled to the door. Sam raised his foot and gave him a solid kick to the head. Rob rolled back, cracking bones as he landed.
“Give it a rest. You cannot be trusted. You will rot in the hole until you are dead. I will not have you taking my wife's work from me. I have worked too hard to have you rip it away from me.” said Sam, his voice stern and unyielding.
Rob could feel tears swelling in his eyes. He knew this was it for him. He had no way out of this place. Sam blocked the only way out, and he made it clear that he wasn’t going to move. Rob felt his last bit of hope fly from himself. He knew he was going to die here. All he could do at this point was scream out in agony at the man that put him there.
“It was a pleasure to meet you, Rob. I am truly sorry that it had to end this way. You should have listened to my one and only rule. May your death be swift, so you not might suffer very long. Goodbye, friend.” Said Sam, as he closed the door. The lock slid into position, sealing Rob in for good.