We have a madman living in our basement.
As far as blood-thirsty lunatics go, he isn’t so bad. He mostly keeps to himself. If any dastardly deeds are going on, we don’t know about it. In fact, we have never even see the guy – I mean NEVER. Maybe because he is purely a figment of our 8-year-old’s imagination.
It started about six months ago. Zoe was down in the basement looking for popsicle sticks and glue to make a table for her dollhouse, just as sweet and innocent as can be. As she turned off the lights, she looked back and that’s when she saw it – or thought she saw it. It was the hand of a shadowy figure curling its long fingers around the doorframe of the laundry room.
Her 12-year-old sister was upstairs at the time, so Zoe bolted up the stairs to tell her what she saw. Instead of putting her fears to rest, Amelia egged her on, convincing her that what she saw was real.
And that one little lie has led to this imaginary deranged psycho taking up permanent residence in our home. We should start charging rent.
My husband and I have tried to tell her it’s all in her head. We’ve pointed out numerous times that if there was a madman who lived in our basement, wouldn’t he have gotten to one of us first? We go down there almost every day to do laundry. Does he have something against middle-aged people? Is our flesh too tough or too flabby?
But like a science-denier in a climate change discussion, Zoe refuses to accept logic in the face of zero proof.
If she needs to go down there she will whine, beg and plead for one of us to go down there with her. If she is forced to go alone, she will stand timidly at the top of the stairs, staring down into the darkness, dramatically biting her nails and knocking her knees together like a cartoon character until one of us finally mutters, “Oh, come on already.”
She will then take a deep breath and hurry down as fast as she can. Once she’s finished her business, she hurries back up the steps two at a time, as if a madman is chasing her, which, of course, she thinks there is.
Because her sister made her think there was one. That’s what big sisters do. They are evil. I should know. I have two of them.
Debbie and I are closer in age – we’re only 15 months apart – so it goes without saying that I suffered the most at her hands. She was mean. I need to reiterate the WAS part here, because Debbie is a truly great sister…now. But, growing up, she was my own personal nightmare. You know that bully from “A Christmas Story?” Scott Farkus? Well, imagine you shared a room with pre-menstrual Scott Farkus and you get a rough idea of what it was like to have Debbie as an older sister. I feared her wrath on a daily basis.
But Debbie’s tricks, while cruel and oftentimes inventive – there was one infamous incident where she poured bacon grease over my head – were nothing compared to the psychological damage inflicted upon me by my oldest sister, Christi.
Chrisit is 10 years older than me, and, in general, is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. She was a great big sister to me and Debbie. She would do things like curl our hair, let us play with her makeup, and take us for rides around town at night so she could smoke cigarettes.
The problem with Christi was you would never see the torture coming until you were “stranded” on the side of a gravel road next to a darkened cornfield on one of those cigarette runs and being told the only way you could get home was to go through the cornfield – on foot – after just being told the terrifying true story of a girl who was raped and murdered in a cornfield in your hometown.
Probably the worst thing Christi ever did was make me believe a ventroliquist dummy was trying to kill me.
I was 6 or 7. Christi was home babysitting us. We had just finished “The Love Boat” and I thought were were going to watch “Fantasy Island” next like we always did. Instead, Christi turned off the TV. There was a scary movie on that she and our older brothers wanted to watch and she wanted us to go to bed.
We wanted to watch the movie, too, but Christi wouldn’t budge. We stormed off to bed truly pissed. We weren’t going to go to sleep. Skip that! So, Debbie and I laid there laughing and giggling, hitting each other with pillows, being as totally annoying as we could.
That was when we got our first warning. Christi opened the door. “Knock it off!”
Of course, we didn’t. In fact, we probably ramped it up just a bit.
A little while later, the door creaked open again, but this time it wasn’t my sister. It was my brother’s ventriloquist dummy.
“If you girls don’t settle down, I’m going to get you!”
Now, I was already a little jeebed out by the thing. He lived in a black suitcase at the back of my brother’s closet, and the suitcase was lined with red velvet, just like Dracula’s coffin. When my brother would get him out of his “casket,” his arms and legs would just hang there lifelessly. The only thing that would move was his head. It was quite an off-putting effect.
But I knew the thing was just a puppet. And I knew it was really just Christi in the doorway trying to scare us into going to bed. I’m pretty sure you won’t find this strategy mentioned in any babysitter’s handbook, but I guess you could give her points for ingenuity. Unfortunately for her, it was pretty ineffective. We didn’t quiet down.
A little while later the door creaked open again and the dummy’s head reappeared.
“I TOLD YOU TO QUIET DOWN! NOW YOU’RE GOING TO GET IT!!!!”
What happened next is a little confusing. Again, up until this point in the story, I knew that it was just a puppet and my sister was controlling it. But after screaming at us from the doorway, the thing took flight – its skinny appendages flapping behind it – and the lines of reality began to blur. How could the thing fly across the room like that if it wasn’t possessed? It had to be an instrument of the devil! And then it landed on top of me! I started to scream and flail around, which made it seem like it was flopping around on top of me. I thought it was actually moving of its own free will! And not just moving, but trying to murder me!
I don’t remember what happened next. Maybe I blacked out from terror.
But every night after that was a nightmare. I would wake up in the middle of the night, convinced I could hear the dummy’s wood feet slowly making its way down the hallway from my brother’s room to ours. I could imagine its arms and legs moving in the jerky, unnatural way that puppets move, one hand clutching a kitchen kife, its head moving from side to side to make sure no one was around to witness his diabolic act. I swore I could see its unblinking blue eye staring at me through the peephole. I would lie there frozen. He would reach his hand up to turn the knob and….
I can’t even finish. I’m starting to give myself the heebie-jeebies.
To this day, I hate ventriloquist dummies with their stupid plastic hair and their idiotic bow ties. I’m not supposed to be terrified of them! I’m supposed to find them amusing and whimsical like everyone else. Thanks, Christi!
You know, the more I think about this, the more I think that instead of being afraid of boogeymen, ghosts or ventriloquist dummies, what we really need to fear is our own flesh and blood. They are the real monsters.