When we moved into 119 Saber Lane I was thirteen and my little sister was five. She was the first one to hear the voices.
Dad had left our family for a co-worker and 119 Saber was all Mom could afford. It was an older house, in a very rural neighborhood and a bit run down. But there was a room for each of us and Mom did her best.
Because the house was small, all of Leddie’s toys were moved into the basement. I didn’t like it much down there – concrete floor, cement walls, and a smell that can only be described as “wet”. Mom put some fun rugs down there for Leddie to play on. Unlike me, my sister loved it. She called it her “second bedroom”.
About a month after we moved in, my sister turned six. We were further away from her school and Mom had a hard time getting anyone to make the drive for her birthday party. We threw her one, anyway, a little party, just the three of us. Leddie smiled and clapped her hands but I could tell she was sad that none of her friends showed up.
A few weeks later Leddie started talking about “new friends” that lived in the basement. Mom told me I had had imaginary friends at that age, too, and not to bother Leddie about them. But I thought it was weird that hers only lived in the basement. So I decided to ask her about them, anyway.
I waited until a Saturday when Mom was working – which wasn’t hard because she worked most Saturdays. I found Leddie in the basement, as usual, sitting on a green and purple rug, racing her toy horses around a track.
“Hey.” She smiled back at me. She had a cute little cherub smile, with big dimples and a toothy grin. I remember that.
“Are you playing with your friends?” I asked her.
“No.” She shook her head, black curls swinging around her shoulders. “They’re not here.”
“Oh.” I sat down next to her and picked up one of her little horses. “Do they play horses with you?”
“No, Andy, don’t be dumb.”
“Why can’t they play horses with you?”
“Because they live underneath us.”
I frowned at her and set the horse down. She picked it up and immediately began brushing its hair.
“Underneath the floor?”
“Yeah! I hear them sometimes especially at night.”
My eyes fell to the concrete. “You can hear voices underneath this floor?”
“Yeah. You could, too, if you wanted to play down here with me.”
I stood up and slowly walked around the room, looking for vents or something that could be filtering the noise from the TV down here. But there was nothing. Nothing but a drain in the floor.
“Do the voices come through this drain?”
Leddie shrugged but didn’t look at me.
“What do the voices say?” I asked.
At that she finally paid attention, jumping up from the floor and then jumping around the room as if she’d been waiting for this question for years.
“All sorts of things! They say ‘Hello’, the say ‘Don’t’, they say ‘I didn’t! I didn’t!’.” Her voice dropped into a whisper. “Sometimes they even say bad words.”
“Bad words like what?”
She giggled and then did a spin and sat back down. “I can’t say! I’m not allowed.”
“Is it…is it more than one voice? Different voices?”
“Yeah! A lotta different ones!”
“What else do they say?”
But she had lost interest in the conversation. “All sorts of stuff! Do you wanna play with me?”
“No, I’m gonna go watch TV.” I stood up.
“Mom always finds out when you watch bad movies!”
“Mom is my problem. Listen, will you come get me when you hear the voices again?”
“Yeah, okay.” She shrugged. I started up the stairs, more confused than ever. Did Mom need to know about this? Was Leddie okay? I decided to google it.
“Andy!” I heard my sister call when I got to the top. I walked a few steps back down and then bent my head under the railing so I could see her. “What?”
“Do you want me to come tell you if they’re just screaming? But not saying words?”
“Sometimes they just scream?”
“Yeah, sometimes.” She said.
“Yeah. Tell me the next time you hear anything.”
The following Tuesday afternoon started pretty normally. I had pretty much forgotten about Leddie’s “friends” and middle school was going to be over in a couple weeks.
That day, I saw Mom as soon as I got home from school. She was on her way out the door to her second job. God, I couldn’t wait until I was 16 so I could work. I wanted to help my mom and my sister but Mom said I could do that by just keeping my grades up and staying out of trouble. But I wanted to do more.
As soon as the door to her car slammed shut, Leddie came running down the stairs. “Andy, you missed them! They were talking while you were at school!”
I dropped my bag on the kitchen table. “What were they saying?”
“Some were saying bad words, but a heard a lady saying ‘I had to do it. You weren’t here’.”
“What else? What else did they say?”
“I heard a loud noise, like banging.”
“Like a gun?”
“No, like a thump. Thump, thump, thump.”
“And then what did you hear?”
“A man saying ‘no’ a lot. He sounded sad. I didn’t like it.”
Leddie shrugged. “I don’t know. I can’t remember.”
“Next time you hear anything, Leddie, you come and get me.”
She frowned. “You were at school.”
“Then you get Mom.”
Leddie looked at the floor and she shook her head. “I don’t wanna get Mom.”
I took her by the shoulders. “Leddie, look at me.” She did. “It’s very important that we figure out if other people besides you can hear the voices.”
“The people under the floor can hear each other.”
“Yes, but can anyone elseup here hear them? Or just you?”
“They’re my friends. Maybe they don’t want to talk to you.”
“Just promise me you’ll come get one of us.” Silence. “Leddie?”
She pulled away from me. “Fine, I promise.”
That night I made Leddie Dino nuggets for dinner and then put her to bed at 8. Mom wouldn’t be home from work until almost 1, so I decided to do some investigating on my own. The things Leddie said she was hearing didn’t seem to be from the mind of a six year old. I knew in my gut that she was hearing something. I just needed to figure out what and where it was coming from.
I decided to do some gaming since it would be so boring sitting in the basement for hours so I brought the laptop down. The wifi strength was pretty weak but it was better than nothing. All was quiet. I decided it must be a TV she was hearing, filtering down from upstairs somehow. Because all the TVs were off now and it was silent. No voices or anything.
So, silent, in fact, that I fell asleep on the beanbag chair. Sometime around 1, I was awoken by the sound of someone stomping down the basement stairs. “Mom?” I asked, totally out of it.
She appeared at the bottom of the steps, a small but mighty woman. I sure never messed with her. “Andy, what are you doing up so late? And who were you talking to?”
I sat up and rubbed my eyes, letting the laptop slide to the floor. “Nobody. I fell asleep.”
“Yes, you were. Do you have a phone I don’t know about?”
“No. I told you, I was sleeping.”
She raised an eyebrow at me. “You’ve never been a sleep-talker.”
My mind started to clear. “You heard a voice?”
“I heard you. I heard talking as soon as I opened the door to the basement.”
“What did I say?” I asked, jumping up off the bean bag.
She sighed, leaned her body back against the railing, a bearing of pure exhaustion. “I don’t know. It was too quiet. Now, please go to bed, I gotta be up at 7.”
I laid awake the rest of the night thinking one thing. Mom had heard them too.
The night I finally caught them was a month later. I’d been down in the basement occasionally but still hadn’t heard shit. Leddie did, but it always seemed to be while I was at school – until one day it wasn’t.
My sister shook me awake at 2:37 in the morning. Her eyes were wide, and her cheeks pink with excitement. “Come on, they’re talking!” She said. I was out of bed and running – as quietly as I could – down the stairs to the basement door. As soon as I shut the door behind us, I turned to Leddie on the stairs.
“What were you doing in the basement in the middle of the night?”
She frowned at me, pulling her cute little eyebrows together. “That’s when my friends are awake.”
“They’re not your friends.”
“Yeah, they are.” She nodded eagerly. “Come on, come down the stairs.” She she took my hand and led me to the bottom. Her toys were spread out everywhere as if she had indeed been playing down here at 2 in the morning.
“You shouldn’t be out of bed in the middle of the night. How often do you do this?”
Leddie shrugged. “When I don’t wanna be alone and I wanna be around my friends.”
“When you’re lonely?”
“Shhhh. You have to be quiet if you wanna hear them.” She pulled me to the center of one of her rugs and we sat down cross-legged and facing each other.
“What were they saying?” I whispered to her.
“They were talking about their babies.” She whispered back.
“They have babies?”
Leddie nodded. “Sometimes I hear the babies cry.”
We sat in the silence for a few moments.
“Leddie, do they ever talk back to you?”
She looked at me and frowned. “Sometimes.”
“Does it ever seem like they can hear you?”
“I don’t think they can.” She said, and then put her little finger to her lips.
I didn’t have to wait very long. It came up through the floor beneath – just like she’d said – a long, slow wail. And not as quiet as I would have thought. It was the keening of something suffering.
“What is that?!” I jumped up from the floor and Leddie grabbed onto my hand, pulling me back down.
I waited again. There was nothing until I could make out a woman’s voice. She was hysterical. “The baby is dead! Why? The baby is dead!”
And then a man’s voice, flat and uninterested. “It is dead.”
Leddie picked up one of her barbies and began changing its clothes, as if she heard this shit everyday or something.
I listened for a few more minutes but there was nothing. Another hour, but all silence. Leddie had already fallen asleep on the rug beside me. I carried her to bed, then tried to fall asleep in mine. But all I could think was – there were people living under our house.
I hemmed and hawed about telling Mom. She was under a lot of stress, dealing with so much, and on no sleep. I didn’t want to worry her until I had evidence to back up my claims. I spent all my nights in the basement.
She noticed. My grades started to slip. I barely acknowledged my own 14th birthday. And when I did, it was the ask for something. Even though I knew it was hard for her, I begged Mom for a cell phone for my birthday that year. She picked up extra shifts to get it, but I got it. I felt awful for my mom. But I needed something that could record.
And over three weeks I collected the following recordings:
A man: “His body was…know it’s missing.”
A man: “I didn’t know him. You tell him!”
A woman: “Where am I? …can’t you?”
A man laughing hysterically.
A man: “Wrong way. Where is that? …show up.”
A woman: “He can’t hear you.”
A woman: “It just goes down.”
A child: “Where am I?”
A man: “Fuck you, bitch. …you never will.”
A woman: “Is it forever? Where?”
A woman: “What is that thing?!”
A child: “I don’t wanna go.”
A man: “Where am I?”
A woman: “No!”
A man: “We can’t.”
A crying woman: “Where am I?”
And screaming. Lots and lots of screaming.
I started to think that maybe there was a tunnel under the house. Like maybe people used the tunnels to cross our rural area. I asked our neighbors and my teachers but everyone said there were no underground tunnels.
I thought I could hear the voices best through the drain but I recorded from a few different corners of the room and it didn’t seem to matter. They were all just coming up through the floor.
And then one night, I heard someone die. I know that’s what I heard. I wasn’t recording at the time, but I still remember every word.
“Please…please…. No! Let me beg!”
And then a man laughing.
The man tried again. “I’m only one and you’re several!”
Then noises of a scuffle. “You can’t!” He yelled. And he kept yelling it the whole time. But I guess they could. I don’t know what they did to him but he went from yelling, to moaning, to what I would later understand was a death rattle.
And then a few minutes later a man said: “He’s back.”
I was scared. I was confused. And I suddenly realized I was screaming “stop!” at the top of my lungs. The basement door banged open and my mom came running down the stairs in her pajamas. She shook me, like she thought she was rousing me from a nightmare.
And I kept screaming “Stop!”
Just before she picked me up off the floor, I heard two words come from underneath the cement. Two words that started everything, two words that I would hear in my nightmares for the rest of my life. Words that really don’t mean a whole lot, except through a basement floor.
After Mom left the next morning I took Leddie by her tiny shoulders, looked into her eyes, and made her promise not to talk to the people under the basement anymore. I told her they were bad people who would hurt her. She nodded, watery eyes blinking rapidly, and then promised she wouldn’t.
“Even if they talk to you or try to get your attention, you don’t talk back, okay?”
“Okay. I promise.”
“I’ll be your friend. You don’t need them.”
“Will you play with me?”
“I’ll play with you. And I’ll start taking you to the park so you can meet some kids your own age.”
“The park is too far away. Mom has to drive us.”
“Then I’ll carry you. Just promise you won’t talk to them anymore. And no more going into the basement in the middle of the night. Okay?”
But it didn’t matter what she said. Because two days later Mom came home and wanted to talk to me about something.
She made good points, but I argued anyway.
“It’s just temporary.”
“No. I won’t live with him.”
“Just until the end of the school year.”
“No! Leddie needs me here and so do you!”
“And what about what you need? All the nightmares, the screaming… Your grades are horrible, Andy! Maybe being at Dad’s for a few weeks will help center you. His new place is much closer to your school, and you can see your friends more. It won’t be so bad, right?”
“This isn’t up for discussion, Andrew. I’m worried about you.” She rose from the kitchen table as if that was it, we were done. No. Way. In. Hell.
“I’m not leaving you guys here alone! Mom, there are people living under our basement. I’ve heard them through the floor. Leddie’s heard them, too!”
“Oh stop it, Andy. Don’t bring your sister into this.”
“It’s true! I have recordings! That other night when you heard me screaming? That wasn’t a nightmare! They were- they were killing someone down there!”
“Listen, if you just, if you listen, you’ll hear! Wait, let me get my phone.”
“I said that’s enough!”
“Just listen Mom, please!”
She said nothing – but she didn’t move either – so I ran to get my phone from my room. I played her the recordings. All of them. She told me they were so clearly from a gangster movie on TV or a crime show. She accused me of trying to trick her, scare her. Scare my little sister.
“Please Mom, just ask Leddie. She’ll tell you I’m telling the truth!”
“And your version of the truth is that there are people living in a room underneath our house.”
I hesitated. “It might be more like a…tunnel or something.”
Mom laughed. “My god.”
“Why won’t you believe that? Maybe it’s leftover from the underground railroad!”
“Andy, that is not what the underground railroad is.”
“How do you know?!”
“And this is Oregon.”
“Mom, please! Next time I hear them I’ll come get you!”
Mom sighed, and in that relaxation of her face I saw her collapse a little inside. Her sadness. Her desperation to take care of us.
“Please, Mom. Don’t make me go live with them.”
“Lauren is nice.”
“Lauren is a bitch.”
“Andrew.” I saw her try to find the swell of energy she needed to yell at me for what I’d said. But her reserves were gone.
After letting my name linger limply in the air for moment she closed the argument. “Go pack.”
“Go. Your Dad will be here in an hour or so.”
Out of sheer pettiness I packed as little as I could get away with. Dad’s house wasn’t my home and I didn’t plan to stay long. I would beg him. And he didn’t really want me or Leddie around anyway. It wouldn’t take much. I knew it wouldn’t.
“Andy, where are you going?”
I looked up from my bag of boxers and t-shirts to find Leddie hanging in the doorway. “To Dad’s. Just for a little while.”
“Am I going too?”
I licked my lips. How could I tell her I was leaving her alone when I’d just promised not to? “I’ll be back really soon, Leddie.”
Tears filled her brown eyes. “But I don’t want you to go.”
I walked over to the doorway and knelt down to give her a hug. “Do you remember your promises?”
She nodded her head fervently and buried her head in her stuffed dinosaur.
“And never at night, right?”
“Okay. Mom said I’m coming back this weekend to stay over Saturday night so she can work. So I’ll see you Saturday, okay?”
I hated my Dad’s. He paid no attention to me, which was just fine, but Lauren kept trying to engage me. She was younger than my Dad and her desperate attempt to play “mom” was obvious. I ignored her, like I ignored everything else in that house.
I called Leddie – or she called me – every day. I knew she was getting lonely out there. Mom had had to hire a sitter for when she worked nights and Leddie didn’t like her much. I worried a lot about my sister. But to be honest, it was nice to be so close to my friends again. Sometimes I forgot about Leddie, and the people under the basement. To this day I can’t remember what I was doing that was so much more important.
My first Saturday back Leddie gave me the biggest hug her little arms could manage. She wouldn’t leave my side. Even when Mom tried to make her so that she could show me something.
“I asked our landlord for the most recent survey of this property. She gave it to me, and I want you to look at this, Andy.”
Mom turned the laptop toward me. I had no idea what I was looking at. “What does all this say?”
“It says that there’s nothing underneath our house. There are no rooms or tunnels. Just dirt.”
“I showed you this in the hopes that you would drop your prank. Do you really want to scare your little sister?”
“I’m not scared.” Leddie piped up. “They’re my friends.”
“They are not your friends!” I snapped at her. She pushed away from me and her chin started to wobble.
“They said you’re not my friend! They said you left me and that they never would!”
“I had to leave you! Mom and Dad made me! Are you seriously talking to them? Did you break your promise, Leddie?”
“I’m all alone all the time! You’re mean to take away my friends!”
“Stop! Both of you!” Mom pushed out of her chair. “Now I don’t know who started this, but I want it to end. We have a two year lease here and we have to manage. If you two are scared of the basement-“
“I’m not scared!” Leddie yelled. Mom gave her a cutting look.
“If you two are scared of the basement, then we can board it up. Move all of Leddie’s toys to her room.”
“But there’s no room-“
“We’ll make room, Leddie. Now, go outside. Both of you.”
“Fine. Come on, Leddie.”
Leddie had a stash of plastic fairies in the dying garden no one had time to take care of. I hated being outside here. We were surrounded by forest, but it was sparse and brown and ugly. I walked into it anyway. I remembered when we first moved here I’d wanted to explore it. See if there were any secret caves or treehouses or clubhouses or old abandoned cars or crashed planes. I’d never found one interesting thing, though.
As I walked around swatting the flies and sharp tree branches from my face, I began to feel like someone was out there with me. It was just something I felt. Our neighbors were far. But the voices under the house belonged to someone. And I didn’t know who they were or where they were or how they got in.
I’d done my research, you know. I decided maybe it was a secret tunnel for kidnappings or human trafficking, whatever that meant. Secret, illegal slavery, I think. I could hear the things they said and the things they did. They were all bad people. And now it sounded like maybe they were talking to my sister. Like they were now AWARE of her.
The girl came out of nowhere. One minute I was walking and talking to myself. And then I looked up and she was there. She was older than me, maybe in her early twenties, and she was filthy.
“Whoa.” I said.
“Are you lost?” She asked in a surprisingly deep voice.
“No… Are you?”
“Of course not. I live here.”
“In the forest?”
“No, idiot, down that path.”
I looked to where she was pointing. “That’s a path?”
She shrugged. “It is to me.”
I looked her over again. Torn, muddy jeans, ripped sweatshirt, a rat’s nest on her head that had once been strawberry blonde hair. “Why are you so dirty?”
She shrugged again. “I like to dig.”
“Aren’t you too old to be playing in the woods?” I asked.
“Aren’t you too young to be alone in them?”
I watched her sit down, and – honest to God – start digging a hole in the dirt with her hands.
“What are you digging for?” I asked.
“Treasure, I guess.”
“You ever find anything?”
“Nope.” She just kept digging. AIF she wasn’t answering my questions, I’d have thought she was oblivious to me. Truly in her own world.
“Then why keep looking?”
“Dunno. Something to do.”
I kicked at her little pile of dirt. “Don’t you want a shovel or something? You could dig a lot deeper.”
At that she looked up. I pulled my foot away from her dirt pile. “Sorry.”
“You don’t wanna go digging too deep around here.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Why not?”
“Because you might fall through.” She went back to her digging.
“To what?” I asked. “Are you sure you don’t want a stick or something?”
“Why would I need a stick?”
“Okay… what could you fall through to?”
She didn’t answer.
“You know we’re renting 119 Saber Lane?”
She nodded violently. Kept digging. “‘Course I knew that.”
“There’s voices under the basement sometimes.”
She nodded. “There’s voices under a lotta basements. Don’t talk to them. They can’t hear you unless you talk to them. They don’t even know you’re there.”
“They already…well, I think they know about my sister and me.”
She stopped digging but didn’t look up at me. “You talked to them?”
“I thought I heard…and then I realized I was screaming through the floor at them… My sister said they’re talking to her now. Telling her things. Telling her lies.”
The girl started pushing all the dirt back into her hole. Then she turned sideways, and started digging a new hole.
“Who are they?” I asked.
“They seem like bad people.”
“You would be, too. If you were down there as long as them.”
“Why can’t they come out?”
She snapped her eyes to mine. “Who said they couldn’t?”
“The earth is thin here. Don’t go too deep.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’re not for you to hear. It’s unnatural.”
I stepped back from her. “You’re crazy.”
The girl stood up, wiped her hands off on her dirty jeans. “No, I’m not but doesn’t matter what you think.”
“Yes, it does.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Because if they want to get out, they have to pull someone in and maybe it’ll be you.”
“You showed them where the earth is thin. You shouldn’t have done that.”
“What will they do? Dig into my basement?”
“They don’t have to. They can pull you down. One for one. They’ll be up here and you’ll be down there. Forever.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I don’t care.”
“I have to go.”
I left the digging girl there and ran – and I mean sprinted – back to my house. Mom was in the kitchen making Leddie lunch. I fell into a chair beside her. “Leddie, look at me.” She did. “No more going in the basement. EVER. Okay? You can keep all your toys in my room. Play with them. Will you do that?”
“I think your brother’s right, honey. I want you two to stay out of the basement.”
“We will.” I nodded at her. “We will. Right, Leddie?”
“But my friends…” She whispered quietly.
“They’re not your friends. Okay? They tell you nice things but they don’t mean them.”
She stared at her Mac and Cheese, kicking her feet back and forth under the table. “But then I’ll have no one.”
“You’ll have me.”
“You promise to call me everyday?”
“Pinky promise.” I swore. “Now you. You promise not to go in the basement.”
“Yes,” she giggled. “I pinky promise.”
Leddie and I had never broken a pinky promise in our lives. We would both break this one.
I was at Dad’s for another two weeks and I was good to my word. I talked to Leddie every morning and every night. And then, just before middle school graduation – and the weekend I would be coming home – I forgot to call Leddie. Jason was having a party at his parent’s house. It was my first cool party, since the parents wouldn’t be home. Dad didn’t care, so I didn’t mention it.
I had my first beer and my first kiss that night. I got high. I forgot about our call. I had no idea what it would cost Leddie.
The nest morning, a little hungover, I packed up my things, excited to go home to my mom and sister. Dad said she was picking me up at noon.
But she didn’t show up. Dad was annoyed, I could tell. And then he got mad. And he blew up her phone. And then finally – finally – she called him back.
Leddie was missing.
Dad drove me over there looking both afraid and irritated. I’d never seen him care about something enough to be scared. It made me more scared.
As soon as we got there, Dad sent me to my room so that he could talk to the cops with Mom. I tried to listen, but an officer spotted me and took me to my room to interview me.. He asked me a bunch of questions and I was honest. I didn’t tell him about the voices.
There was yelling. I could hear Dad yelling at Mom about how this was her fault. The cops tried to calm him down, threatened to arrest him. I heard him yell that now all his “plans for the day” were shot.
I’ve never liked my Dad much.
Most of the cops left to interview the neighbors. Dad went home. Mom sat in the kitchen crying. The officer that had interviewed me told me what he knew: Leddie didn’t know anyone in this area and didn’t like to leave the house. I already knew that. Leddie had bugged my mom about using the phone to call me. Mom had let her but I didn’t pick up. Leddie went to bed sad. Leddie was not in bed the next morning. Nothing was out of place. No one seems to have broken in. He didn’t say it, but I knew what they thought. Leddie missed me and had left to go find me.
But I knew it was worse than that. She hadn’t left the house. She was under it.
As soon as he left, I pulled out my cell. One missed call.
“You said you would call every day and you promised. Today is a day and you didn’t call. I have no one to talk to. Can you call me? Bye.”
And that was it.
Mom went to bed, or at least, went to her room around midnight. I crept down the stairs, across the main floor, and into the basement. The cops had been down there. They’d dusted and photographed looking for anything, any clue, any answer.
But the answers were beneath the floor.
I laid down on the concrete and waited. But there were no voices that night.
“Leddie.” I said. I called to her many times throughout the night, but she never answered. Weeks went by. I was dead inside. I slept in the basement. Mom was beyond caring.
And the voices are back, but I no longer recorded them. I yelled at them to ask about Leddie. But they never heard me. And I never heard her.
So then I wondered, maybe she had run away to find me. Maybe some nice family took her in and she’s still too scared to tell them her real name. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
I saw the digging girl again, about a month later. Mom had gone numb and I hated being at the house with her. She wasn’t even sad. Just empty. So I had to get out.
I went out into the woods because I’d been thinking about what the digging girl had said. The earth was thin here. Don’t dig too deep.
Well, maybe I wanted to dig deep. Maybe I wanted to fall through.
Just like last time, I found her digging. It took a couple days, but I found her.
“My sister is gone.” I told her, no emotion left in my voice.
“I know.” She said.
“From the news?”
“My friend told me.”
“How do I get her back?”
She laughed. I noticed the hole she was digging was much deeper than before. “You can’t get her back.”
“Well then maybe I’ll dig a hole deeper than yours. Did until I fall through. And then I’ll find her.”
“Even if you fell down there you would never find her.”
“Because that’s the point, dummy.”
I watched her for a moment. “What is that place?”
She stopped digging and looked up at me thoughtfully. “It’s sorta like…Hell, I guess. If you’re lost or angry, you go there.”
“What does it look like?”
“I don’t know. It’s hard to see. Like a cave system, maybe. Really dark and cold. And it’s a terrible labyrinth. You never know where you are or if you’ve been there before.”
“How do you know all this?”
“And the souls down there with you. They’re lost too. Sometimes they’re cruel. Sometimes they’re indifferent.” She paused thoughtfully. “It’s much better up here.”
I swallowed. “Were you one of them?”
She started gigging. It was a hysterical sound. I backed away from her. Turned when I had enough distance and started running away. But I heard what she called after me. Just before the wind took it.
“Don’t talk to the man in the woods. He doesn’t know where he is yet!”
But I didn’t see any man in the woods.
Two months later, our landlord gave Mom permission to break the lease. She couldn’t be there anymore, in that house. But we were in town, because Mom wanted to keep close. Everybody understood. The town had been through it. Someone else went missing a few years back.
Everyone knew what had happened at 119 Saber Lane, so no one rented it. I snuck out of our apartment at night sometimes and walked there. I did start to see a man in the woods. But his back was always to me. And he was never moving. Just standing, looking at something. I avoided him.
It was almost a year before I finally heard Leddie through the basement floor. I was laying on the concrete, empty of rugs and creature comforts now. Strumming my guitar on my stomach. I’d learned Leddie’s favorite song. I put her name in the lyrics.
It was near 4am and I was strumming lazily. Singing her name. Nodding off.
My eyes snapped open and I pushed the guitar off my stomach and flipped over. “Leddie?! Leddie?”
“Andy, where are you? I can’t see you.”
“I’m in the basement! I’m above you! Can you hear me? Leddie?”
“Yes. There’s nothing above me.”
“Leddie are you okay? Are you hurt?”
“I don’t know. I’m very, very lost. And I can’t see anything and it’s cold and I don’t know what time it is. Are you moving home today?”
Christ, she had no idea how long she’s been gone.
“Leddie, how long have you been down there?”
“I don’t know.” She started crying. “Every time I die I get confused.”
“Everytime you die?”
“Yeah, I die a lot. Fall down the holes a lot. Something follows me like an animal. I stay away from people now.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Leddie, why did you go down into the basement, you promised!”
“I’m sorry, I got lonely. You didn’t call me. You pinky promised that you would.”
“Listen, the earth is thin here. Can you feel that? Can you pull yourself up? Pull me down there?”
There was silence for a moment. “How do I do that?”
“I don’t know, but you have to try. Listen to my voice. Pull me down.”
“There’s something coming.” She said, and then she was gone.
And everything was silent. I didn’t hear her again for awhile.
The house eventually got rented and I couldn’t sneak in anymore. I looked for the digging girl a lot but she was rarely around and barely answered my questions before breaking into insane laughter.
The man in the woods started to face me. He started moving. He even tried smiling eventually.
When I turned 18, I rented 119 Saber Lane. When I turned 25, I bought it. But I never had a family or even a girlfriend. I spent most of my time in the basement, talking to the floor. I wanted someone to hear me, to pull me down there. But the earth didn’t seem as thin anymore. They never heard me. And no one pulled me through.
My mom got remarried when I was 30. I was happy for her. But I skipped the wedding. Instead I stayed home with expensive digging equipment I’d rented that weekend. I turned up the earth, dug as deep as I could on my property. But it was just dirt and more dirt. Digging girl showed up the second day, on the edge of my property watching me. Interested in the dig, I suppose. She was older now, almost 40. But still dirty.
When I told her what I was doing, she laughed.
“That’s not how you fall through.”
I never did figure out how you “fall through” and digging girl eventually moved on. The man in the woods left, too.
I talked to Leddie about four times over thirty years. I lived for those days. And they were so few.
She was always six years old and she was always confused. She never stayed underneath the basement because she said “bad things live up here”. Every time I talked to her it was harder to hear her. The earth was thickening. The veil was closing.
Our last conversation was the saddest one. I was almost 50 and Leddie thought I was our dad. I told her how much I loved her and missed her, but she just kept asking for Andy. She wouldn’t believe I was Andy. She thought I was lying to her, tricking her. She started crying.
She told me that Andy must have abandoned her. And if he didn’t love her anymore that she was never coming back. She said some other things I could’t understand because she was crying too hard and her voice was so faint.
She was right. she never did come back. And within a year the voices were gone all together.
So I guess if there is a lesson here it’s this: if you hear voices under the floor, don’t talk to them. Board up the house and move away.
I live in an apartment in Portland now. Far from the thin earth of the countryside. I still sometimes wake up to screams.
But they’re always mine.