A monster lived under the basement stairs. This was according to seven-year-old Davy Murmite who constantly badgered his mother about this fact. It all began when Rosaline Murmite—a stern Italian-American mother of three—decided it was time for her youngest child to learn how to do laundry. If only she knew this simple act of parenting would create a lifetime phobia of the basement in young Davy.
That evening had a desolate and heavy air about it. The clouds outside were unusually dense for Autumn and brought upon an early darkness to the city. Periods of rain hit sporadically, leaving the streets devoid of people. Mrs. Murmite and Davy had stayed home while her husband and other two kids were off enjoying a Friday night double matinée at the Rotunda Theater. Davy was highly upset about having to miss out on the excursion, but he wasn’t yet old enough to watch scary movies—at least according to his mother. Mrs. Murmite was more than happy skipping out on what she considered to be mindless drivel; she always had a propensity for the reading of non-fiction. Anything else she thought of as useless entertainment that rotted the brain. This was much to the chagrin of little Davy who frequently coerced his father into buying him horror comics from Gladiators Comics and Collectibles. This was their little secret. If Mrs. Murmite knew her husband was buying the boy such “smut,” she would throw a fit. And even though Davy was only seven, he was a much more advanced reader than the other kids his age. While this should’ve been seen as a blessing, it was the boy’s wild imagination brought on by his reading that drove his parents crazy.
With the dreary overcast sky it was much too dark for Davy to play outside, but it was still too early for him to go to bed. Since the family had little in the way of toys for Davy to play with, Mrs. Murmite decided it would do him good to help her with the laundry. And once she decided on a course of action, it was next to impossible to get her to change her mind.
“Can you carry these down the steps?” Mrs. Murmite asked Davy with a sweet, motherly tone.
Davy nodded enthusiastically and took a ball of clothes from his mother. Then he proceeded to follow her down the dimly lit basement stairs. Until that moment, he hadn’t realized this was his first time going into the basement. The boy’s heart began to beat with an unexpected harshness.
“What’s wrong sweetie?” Mrs. Murmite gave a reassuring smile. “There’s nothing to be scared of.”
Davy focused as much as a seven-year-old boy could and took each step, one by one. The old wooden steps creaked dreadfully and it seemed to get darker the farther he descended. In his mind, it was like he was entering a dungeon. Images of tortured prisoners chained to dirty walls flickered through his head. With each passing step the pictures from his horror comics were becoming a reality.
“It’s okay Davy, I’m right here.”
Mrs. Murmite set her basket of laundry on top of the washing machine, then walked halfway back up the stairs to where Davy was frozen in place with fear. The poor boy didn’t even notice that he had stopped walking.
“Okay, I promise there’s nothing scary down here.” Mrs. Murmite flashed a warm smile and placed a gentle hand on Davy’s shoulder. Reluctantly, he followed his mother the rest of the way down.
As soon as they reached the bottom of the stairs the darkness gave way to a soft white light. Davy studied the basement and the blandness of his surroundings calmed his nervousness: There was a single light bulb with a pull-chain hanging from a wooden ceiling beam, a beat-up washer and dryer, a huge yellowish plastic sink, and a drab concrete floor that formed a perfect square. In total, the basement was no bigger than a small bedroom.
Mrs. Murmite began the lesson by showing Davy the proper way to load the washer and what buttons to hit, but the boy was more focused on the one thing he couldn’t see. For while the entirety of the basement was visible at a glance, there was a single section hidden away in the shadows.
“Mommy, what’s over there?” he asked, pointing to a nearly black alcove under the stairs.
“Huh?” Mrs. Murmite’s eyes followed Davy’s pointed finger to the stairs. “Oh, that’s just some space for extra storage.”
She proceeded to show him the different types of fabrics that should and shouldn’t be washed together, but he had become fully engrossed with the space under the stairs. There was something about it that reminded him of one of the comics he’d read; a story about a scientist who kept a giant, mutant, wolf-human hybrid in a cage under the stairs of his laboratory. It was one of the books he took from his brother Alan’s room without asking.
The longer he stared at the dark space the more he saw. He swore he could make out the image of something crouched under the stairs—lurking in the darkness until the lights were turned off and it could be free to roam again.
“Alright, that’s enough for now. Time to go back upstairs.”
“Mom, can I see what’s under—”
“It’s nothing,” Mrs. Murmite snapped in irritation. She knew he hadn’t paid attention to what she was teaching him. “Now go.”
Davy thought about pleading once more, but the look on his mom’s face was more frightening than any monster. And the way she dismissed his question about the space only cemented the fact that there was indeed something there. Was she the one hiding it? Did she even know about what resided in that dark alcove? He needed to find out the truth.
“Mommy, what’s over there?”
As he walked up the stairs ahead of his mother, he began to concoct a plan. He had to see what was under the stairs, but he couldn’t let his mother catch him. This meant he had to go down in the basement when everyone was asleep. The thought sent shivers down his spine. Even more so when he reached the middle of the stairs and felt a hot gust of air rising up from that space. And for just a moment, he thought he heard a growl. But before he had a chance to listen, his mother was behind him, nudging him the rest of the way up the stairs.