Today, I saw a post at Happy Catholic, giving the rules of lessons learned from horror movies.
These are especially pertinent:
* Do not search the basement, especially if the power has just gone out.
* When you have the benefit of a group of people, NEVER pair off and go it alone.
Now, while these rules are great, they are very general: for you see, the basement may also mean "upstairs", and "pair off" can also mean "solo".
So, with that prelude, let us begin the entrance music, and the narrative laughter of Vincent Price....
Several years ago, I lived in an old house in Minneapolis; an old two-story house that favored darkly stained woodwork, soft pine flooring, and high ceilings. The upper story sported a couple dormer windows that faced toward the street, had window seats to go with the dormers, etc. You are likely familiar with such architecture.
One summer night, my roommate, the homeowner, was at work. A male friend of mine and I had gone out earlier and returned to my house, planning to spend the rest of the evening watching TV. Our show, "Mad TV" was interrupted by the local weatherman tracking a massive severe storm. Predictably, the storm arrived with a huge gust of wind and rain, and of course, knocked the power out. Realizing it was a lost cause, we moved from the couches to a mostly unfurnished area of the room and made ourselves comfortable on the wood floor as we watched the storm rage outside, continuing our commentary on life and technology in the face of nature.
I had already lit one candle and perched it on the top of the piano before seating myself next to my friend. The flame cast small and rapid shadows across the room, shrinking and elongating our own profiles against the walls and the cold fireplace situated on the northern wall, interrupted only by ultra-bright flashes of lightening.
Then we felt a drip from above. Mind you, we were on the first floor and there was a second floor that contained the bedrooms. I raised my hand, seeking the falling fluid, trying to pinpoint from whence it came. I did not seek in vain.
Although I could not see the fluid, logically I realized that a window must be open. Or maybe the roof was gone, taken away by the intense winds. Perhaps the hail had broken a window.
Or...(cue evil laughter....)
...given the red flags above...maybe it was blood. It wasn't as though we could see what was coming through the ceiling. It wasn't as though the foundation for a good horror flick wasn't present in palpable form.
Either way, as we both looked upward, my hand out, catching the drips, I told my friend (a guy, but just a friend) to light the rest of the candles downstairs. I took the first candle and headed for the stairway.
When I reached the bottom step, I stopped, realizing that what I was doing was against "the rules".
"Hey...if I don't come back down...GET OUT!" I yelled as I began to mount the creaky old wooden stairs.
My friend chuckled and continued lighting and placing candles around the room. (That's in the generic script, too.)
Slowly I climbed the stairs into the darkness of the stormy night, holding my single candle, waiting for the draft that would put it out and leave me in pitch blackness, the complete absence of light, with whatever had caused that awful dripping. The palm that had touched the unverified fluid felt tacky; was the roommate really home, after all?
Slowly, with an outward courage I did not feel, I crept into my roommate's bedroom and found my way, via the candle flame and flashing lightning, to the dormer window. Her gym bag was on the window seat, and in order for me to reach the handle, I had to move it. I took care to be sure the light curtains, although soaked with rainwater, did not touch my candle.
Upon grasping the strap, I recognized immediately the sensation of the driving rain, which had, in fact, caused a puddle to form on top of the waterproof bag. Clearly, as we'd surmised, the window was open. I began to relax.
Carefully, I set my roommate's gym bag on the floor and knelt on the window seat so I could reach out and reel the window closed. Mentally I noted that I'd have to return later with towels to soak up the water on the floor.
On my way back downstairs, having so far been unmolested by the creature that lured me to the darkest place of the house via the open window, I watched the closet...ready to fight or flee. But it remained closed. I listened for creaks...but the floorboards never creaked. I felt for the slain body of my roommate...but never tripped in the darkness.
And all the while the storm raged around the house. I sensed that something was laughing at me.
I reached the stairs, waiting for the scythe to whir through the air towards my throat...but it never happened.
Step by step...each terrible, creaking step, I found my way back to the main floor....and there was my friend.....
...In a well-lighted room, all the candles aflame, as he watched the storm outside, resigned to the hail damage to his vehicle.
I joined him, setting my candle on the pinewood floor, and together, we waited for the lights to come back on. When the storm ended, he left and drove back home.
My roommate came home the next morning, exhausted from work, and by then, her room was dry and the power was on, and no one was dead.
I never said it was an interesting story.