The Beast in the Basement

Jane’s daughter is convinced that Something sinister is lurking in the basement. (2 minute read, 476 words).

“Mummy, there’s a monster,” Sammy said.

Jane looked down at her angel-haired three-year-old.

Sammy’s face was twisted up with worry. She gripped the shoulder straps of her overalls tightly.

“Where?” Jane asked.

“In the laundry,” Sammy said.

It was impossible to be angry with Sammy. The girl’s face was so soft and round and her tiny fingers were so expressive. She usually waved them when she spoke.

“Don’t tell stories like that, please” Jane said.

The five-day working week was especially tiring now it was just the two of them. She could barely bring herself to cook, let alone clean. She didn’t have the energy to climb out of the couch and walk down into the basement. She didn’t have the energy for games.

“Mummy, tell the woman to go away, I’m scared.”

Jane sighed and placed her book down on the couch. She smiled down at the worried face of her daughter.

“I thought it was a monster?” Jane said.

“It’s a lady monster. It has snakes for hair, skin like a lizard and devil eyes” said Sammy.

She stood and followed the young girl through the brightly painted living room. She wanted to repaint those walls, scrape away all that loud orange and blue and pink. It filled her mind with pictures of him, holding the paintbrush, his rumpled hair, his smile.

Jane sighed and shook her head, trying to clear the memory. They walked through the polished wooden hallway and down the stairs into the basement.

“It’s in the mirror, see,” Sammy said.

Jane walked carefully to the sink. She looked into the mirror. She didn’t recognise the face that looked back.

Her hair was matted in clumps and messy dreadlocks

Her skin was greasy and grey.

Her eyes were bloodshot and dark with sleeplessness.

“See mummy, I told you” Sammy’s voice came from directly behind her, not down by her waist where it should be, but right in Jane’s ear, “make her go away”.

Jane turned back towards the voice. Sammy was gone.

The overalls she was wearing only moments ago lay discarded on the ground, on top of a pile of dirty laundry. They were covered in speckles of orange, pink and sky blue. They hadn’t been washed since before the funeral, she realised.

Jane picked up the overalls and held them to her face. They didn’t smell like Sammy anymore. They smelt like concrete and damp.

She closed her eyes and remembered that day in the lounge room, with the morning sun pouring through the window. He was still alive, so was her girl. He was flicking them with paint. It made Sammy giggle. Jane told him to stop but she was smiling. “Save me from the monster mummy”, Sammy had squealed.

Jane pulled her down onto the couch, made a cocoon with her body to protect her. She leaned down and whispered in her tiny, perfect ear “Monster’s don’t exist baby”.

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