Dylan Hartwell, the Digital Orc had a post last week that I somehow missed until this morning. It brought to mind a memory from the past.
Some may call it a memory, others may call it "emotional scarring." Tom-ay-to, to-mah-to.
The home where I grew up had a partially unfinished basement. There was the family room at the bottom of the stairs, then the room doubled back, following the stair-wall to a bathroom and my oldest brother's bedroom. Then there was a door that led to the hallway under the stairs. This area, nearly two-thirds of the basement area--was known as "the messy room."
Immediately inside that door on the left was a series of built-in shelves, attempting to make use of the space under the shelves. On the right was the "fruit room." Straight ahead was the furnace, water heater, water softener, and the laundry. The rest of the space was piled with boxes, clothes, old toys, dad's table saw, etc. There were two pathways through and around "the mess" which led to my father's study.
That room freaked me out.
The whole basement did, actually. The family room was where my oldest brother dragged me on Saturday night to watch "Thriller Theater" or somesuch program with him. It's where I was exposed to great, bad horror movies. It was where I later peeked over the couch as I watched my brothers watching Alien on our very first Betamax. (It was rated 'R' of course so I was restricted from watching it.) But it wasn't just the movies. I was convinced that there was something that lived down there...somewhere. (Actually, I KNEW where it lived. It lived under the stairs, in the space behind the folding chairs and card tables. It lived back there between the decades-old cocktail napkins and paper plates. It lived back there and KNEW, somehow, when you were alone in the basement.)
It also didn't help that the stairway itself wasn't square. One wall gradually slanted inward, so that the bottom of the stairway was narrower than the top. It wasn't really noticeable except to your subconscious mind.
The lights to the entire family room and hallway "complex" were controlled by light switches at the bottom of the stairs, but on the family room side of the wall. Very early in life I mastered the art of hitting ALL the light switches at once as the sprint upstairs began. Just typing this, I can feel on my right arm the sensation of "something about to grab me" that I was always convinced was just about to happen. And you know the worst times? When you'd MISS one of those lights and have to go back downstairs to turn just the one off. Because then, you know, the creature was AWARE that you'd been down there and AWARE that you had to come back down and he was closer to the stairway than he normally was and....
Well, you get the picture.
The basement was finally finished nearly two decades ago. I have a wife and kids of my own. The "messy room" no longer exists. Dad's gone now, but mom still lives in the home. And do you know, even now, some 40 years later, I still feel like my 3-year-old self, fighting the desire to sprint up the stairs as I hit all four light switches with my "about to be grabbed" right hand?