Read Part One of this story here.
I’m sorry this has been so long coming. I’ve been organizing what I’ve found into something understandable, or, at the very least, chronological. I can’t say I’m pleased with the results because the results are… well, you’ll see. I think it would have been better if I’d never gone looking for answers I didn’t need.
I also ended up waiting a little longer for my expedition than I’d originally hoped. I had to wait for my brother and sister to go back to their homes – they would have wanted to stop me. They’re sensible, which can be an inconvenience. And then I waited until my mother had finally gotten settled at her new place in town. I don’t now how much she knows about the chicken coop, but she definitely knows something. I didn’t want her around for this. Especially if something were to happen to me.
This time, I went during the day. I held no illusions about daylight – I knew it would be black chaos in that coop – but I thought I would like to see the sunlight when I escaped.
If I escaped.
I threw on a pair of heavy-duty farm boots and grabbed a length of rope. This was all feeling too familiar as I rifled through my dad’s old shop, bulling out a flashlight with a strong, wide beam. For good measure, I took my phone with me – that way, if I hurt myself, I could at least call for help.
Ready as I’d ever be, I trekked out to confront my childhood nightmare.
It was just as dark as I remembered it. I shuddered, feeling as though the darkness was breathing and writhing around me. A wild image intruded into my thoughts, of skeletal claws grabbing me and dragging me into the gaping hole in the ground as I screamed…
I’ve always had a vivid imagination. Not that I needed it in this case. After all, I was going into that hole, anyway. The hole I’d made when I plunged through the floorboards into the basement so many years ago.
I tracked my flashlight over the ground until the floor disappeared into darkness, and I knew I’d found it.
I thought, for just a moment, of bursting through the door and running for freedom from whatever dangerous knowledge awaited me. But my mind went back to that journal and I knew I couldn’t leave without it. And let’s not forget that little tin box.
I moved forward carefully, sweeping a heavy booted foot before each step in the hopes of keeping my path clear. Each step took me closer to the hole, and my passage was marked by an increasing drop in temperature that I assumed emanated from the cool earth waiting for me.
It seemed that it was hours later when I found myself standing at the edge of the splintered floorboards, staring at Nietzsche’s abyss and feeling it stare back into me.
I think it liked what it saw.
I sat at the edge of the hole, my legs dangling down in open space. I pointed my flashlight into the darkness, but I couldn’t tell how far the drop stretched. Standing back up, I took my rope and used the light to search for the wooden beam that my grandfather had used to end his life. Once I found it, I looped the rope over it and pulled hard. The wood held strong, with not so much as a creak protesting the weight. I tied the strongest knot I could remember my father teaching me and threw the other end of the tope into the hole. It snaked to the bottom with a rasp.
I found myself holding my breath as I grasped the rope and began to lower myself down.
It was actually warmer in that basement than it was on the ground floor. I might have spent longer examining that oddity, but I didn’t like the feeling I got as I stared into that darkness. See, I wasn’t scared or nervous or even uncomfortable. Instead, I felt oddly… tranquil. I felt as though I was a puzzle piece that had been snapped into place, and this place had been waiting for me for quite sometime.
It was a comfortable feeling. I didn’t like it.
I took my time, sweeping my flashlight across the floor, until the worst possible outcome that I could have imagined happened.
My flashlight went out.
It just… stopped working. I swore, switching it on and off and eventually hitting it, hoping to force it into submission. Nothing doing. It sat in my hand like a dumb animal – or maybe a dead one – and I finally threw it to the ground in frustration.
I fumbled in my pocket for my phone and pulled it out, only to find that it was dead. Of course. I knew that I had charged it fully before leaving the house, but who knew what weird shit was waiting here in the goddamn chicken coop.
Whatever it was, it didn’t like the light.
Cursing, I got down on my hand and knees and started to crawl. No way was I leaving without my what I came here for. The basement couldn’t be that big – could it? – so, if I was careful about covering the whole area, I’d find it. And then I could make my way back to the rope, pull myself out of there, and get home. I swore to myself that I’d never go into this god-awful place again.
I kept on crawling.
It was going well until I felt a sudden dip in the ground and pitched forward. I had a horrible thought that, perhaps, there was another basement below this, and then another, and then another, all the way to hell, and that I was just one of many hapless victims to die in it. But my face connected – rather forcefully – with the dirt floor just a little below it and I relaxed. My hands sought out the raised dirt and, as my exploration continued, I realized that it was a rectangular dip in the ground. Strange.
I kept moving.
Finally, after what seemed like years in that dark hole, my hand connected with soft damp fabric. I yanked it towards me, feeling around until my fingers trailed over the familiar straps of my backpack. I almost cried in relief as I heard the jangling of my treasures inside it. That was all I needed.
Suddenly, the coop burst into light, so blinding that I had to blink it away for a few minutes before I finally got my wits back about me.
The coop looked absolutely positively normal. The sunlight filtered in through all the rotted holes in the wood, casting light on everything that was once obscured. Whatever weird shit had been going on before seemed to have stopped all at once.
But then I wish it hadn’t.
I looked around at the basement, and my heart began to sink. I saw the hole that I’d fallen into, only it wasn’t really a hole. Like I thought, it was rectangular. It was about six feet long and three feet wide. The dirt had fallen into the ground just a little. There was only one thing that I knew caused a dip like that.
And, yes, plural, because I saw four others. Bile rose up into my throat as I realized that I was in a little cemetery.
I scrambled to my feet, swinging the backpack onto my back, leaving the flashlight – which had turned back on – in the dirt. I lunged for the rope and pulled myself up with a strength I didn’t know I had. A few moments later, I was out of the chicken coop, gulping in gallons of fresh air.
I heard a crashing sound behind me. I turned back to see the chicken coop reduced to crumpled wood and ruin behind me.
Whatever its purpose had been, somehow I fulfilled it.