When I was a kid the scariest thing to me was our basement. Well, it really wasn't a basement. I guess you'd call it a cellar. It had a dirt floor and walls made out of real stone. It was also damp and dark and spooky as all get out. The only person who went down there for anything was my father when the hot water heater putzed out. There wasn't even a light bulb down there, you had to bring a flashlight.
One of my first memories is of standing at the top of the stairs, staring into the darkness below. I can still smell it too, that mixture of old dirt and long rotted vegetables. I would go down three or four steps and then my imagination would kick in. I could actually hear something crawling around, making very low scratching noises as it moved toward where I stood. Then I would feel it's hand around my ankle as it reached up between the stairs to pull me down. Then I would run up the stairs as fast as I could till I got to the landing. I'm surprised I never tripped or broke my ankle in my blind panics. Or fell, that would have been the worst: to fall down the stairs and land on that wet dirt. I probably would have had a heart-attack at five years old.
The only time I ever actually went down there was with my cousin Kelly. Or Kel as I used to call her. I was about six or seven and she was almost ten. It was a boring summer afternoon, our parents were at work and our Grandpa was supposed to be watching us, but he fell asleep on the couch watching re-runs of MASH. I had told her about the basement for some reason and of course she wanted to go down there. I told her I didn't want to go and she called me names till I went. Ah childhood. So we grabbed a couple flashlights from the cupboard and headed down the creaky steps, I kept so close that I almost tripped her.
I remember it looking so big to me. Actually being down there did nothing to alleviate my fears, I was so scared I was shaking. I swear I could see things moving around in the corners, or trying to crawl out of cracks in the rock walls. Or course Kel was way past the age where stuff like that is supposed to scare you and she waved her flashlight around and looked bored. We walked to the far wall where there were several boxes sitting. She opened one and took out a book.
"uck ew gross."
She dropped it after several pillbugs and a centipede crawled out.
"let's get out of here, this place is icky." She said, much to my relief.
We started to leave when her light fell on something in the opposite corner. Oddly enough it was a pile of broken machinery, handles and gears and other bits of slowly rusting metal and rotted wood. There was one piece that wasn't broken, an odd looking thing with lots of gears, big and small, and several sharp looking things on top. Kel grabbed the handle and for some reason I almost grabbed her hand to stop her. Slowly she turned the crank and the gears groaned against each other, the sharp pieces on top started to turn. As they turned they moved up and down in a slicing motion. As the rust ground out she turned the handle faster and faster, the gears cries turned from moans to a shrieks, and the blades whirled and dipped faster and faster till they were a blur. It was hypnotic and I found myself moving closer to get a better look at those blades, spinning and whirling and dipping spinning and whirling and dipping...
Suddenly Kelly screamed and gave me a push that landed me on my back. Something warm was running into my eyes as Kelly lifted me up and carried me up the stairs. When got out into the light I reached up and felt the enormous cut on my forehead and started to cry at the sight of so much blood. I had to go to the emergency room to get several stitches and was forbidden from ever going down into the cellar again. I wasn't sad. Eventually it was torn out and a real basement was put in. My Grandpa also never babysat any of us again.