15-Through The Keyhole
I’m not a pervert. Not in the societal sense of the word. Oh I look through the keyhole but I believe everyone does or has at sometime in their life.Ye who have never peeked through the keyhole cast the first stone! I cast no stones and it would be much preferred if no stones were cast at me. Though I can’t control others actions, I can control mine, so I stay to myself.
Some things are better left unseen and unsaid for that matter, but once bitten, well you’ve got to go back for more. It’s not the occasional bare breast or stocking clad thigh supported by the mysterious garter belt I’m talking about. The femme fatale with blue smoke rising from her freshly lit cigarette hanging from blood red lips is enough mystery for any eight year old boy.
Grandpa was an artist with his studio set up in the large added on room in the back of our house. The old victorian style monster size structure was well over a hundred years old at that time. With walls over a foot thick it is no wonder this house still stands despite the elements pounding away at it year after year trying to reduce the evil it represents to rubble, all to no avail. It has a life of its own, an evil life but alive just the same.
After he came back from Paris and all his easels and tables and velvet covered chairs and painting supplies were delivered, he disappeared into his studio. I didn’t see much of him except the back side as he sat looking at his model and than back at the canvas, and his cat. He had a black cat with a white stripe down its back and he appropriately called it skunk. In every painting, skunk would be lurking somewhere. I saw all this through the keyhole.
Chastity watched too. She was the only foster child to show me any kindness, and she was the only one allowed into Grandpa’s studio. I never knew what happened to her, she just disappeared one night and in the morning she was never to be seen again.
That wasn’t all I saw. Light can illuminate darkness but sometimes darkness follows you no matter how much light you try to let in. There were dark things in Grandpa’s studio but you had to see them between the blinks, between the breaths. It’s the place of equilibrium where everything is in a suspended animation. That empty space after the lungs relax and the air is released waiting for another breath. Like the feeling of weightlessness as you go over the crest in the first or last car on a roller coaster ride. When you’re in between, that’s where you see them. The dark things flittering past the keyhole, not allowing you to see them though you know somewhere deep in your soul, they see you. Then the hair rises on the back of your neck and you feel one might be watching you from behind. It’s no longer contained in the sanctuary of the studio, but has broke free and followed you into your dreams, both daydreams and night dreams till they all become nightmares.
My forty-eighth birthday was two Friday’s ago so it’s been forty years since I first looked through that keyhole. It’s been thirty some years since I’ve seen any of the dark things but last night, they returned.
Just a glimpse, a quick movement from the corner of my eye and I knew immediately it was one of the dark things. It rattled the cage in my mind I had locked so many years ago. It rattled it so hard, I eased myself down off that wagon and stopped for the old familiar pain reliever you can only find at the nearest liquor store.
I don’t know if the room was spinning before passing out or that numb zone between unconsciousness and re-entry into reality that I remembered the clown. As with most clowns in peoples subconscious’ this one had the painted on exaggerated smile distorted with traces of dried blood or what appeared to be dried blood. The pointy teeth, sharp like razor blades and dripping with fresh blood, always the bright red blood. Seeing it dripping conjured the image of the femme-fatal with her drooping cigarette and dark eyeshadow.
Maybe it was an over active imagination or my memory was on steroids but as I drifted in and out of consciousness I recalled a time looking through that same keyhole. The model with her lipstick stained cigarette and her much to heavy makeup and eye shadow, turned and looked straight at the keyhole and at me. I felt a good forty thousand volts surge through my body and I actually passed out from the initial shock. Was this a dream, or did it really happen?
When I came to, all was quiet and serene. The sunlight streamed through the slit in the curtain and rested on the floor where I struggled to pulled myself up. I went to the kitchen and flipped the switch on the coffee maker and sat staring at the pattern in the linoleum.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the kitchen and I resisted the thoughts of the studio, the keyhole and the models. I fought hard to not allow the clown or the dark things entry into my coffee filled kitchen or my mind.
“I am the master of my mind.” I repeated several times. It worked because all I saw was the refrigerator and the electric stove and the cat clock with its eyes that went back and forth synchronized with its tail. The whole house was quiet, I liked it that way.
Tracing back through the timeline of life a pattern emerged and with every puzzle piece becoming clearer. My parents ran a foster care household and I was their only paternal child. The others were transients, products of drug addicts, prostitutes and rape victims. A well balanced mixture of a modern insane asylum society on a miniature scale. Never really fitting in or even trying to, I became known as The Loaner but nicknamed, The Looser. I stayed to myself, played by myself and learned to survive on my own.
I am still to this day with no family and no friends yet able to survive a life of solitude. Habits run deep. No prison ever built with its steel reinforced walls can compare to the power a habit carries.
I went back to the house, where it all began. Not in a dream but actually tracing my footsteps back down that tree lined street with its cracked sidewalks and dirty gutters lined on both sides with yesterdays news and discarded trash, its colors bleached from the elements.
Abandoned and alone as time passed it by, there standing before me, the womb from whence I came. Feelings of rage blanketed by a severe sadness welled up as I stood there sinking into the past.
The front door was locked with a large padlock and a warning from the owners No Trespassing Do Not Enter.
The cellar door was cracked and dry rotted and easy to break open. I stepped down the cement stairs and broke open the door leading to the basement. The musty smell of wet leaking rock walls filled my lungs with a nauseous mixture of death and decay. Climbing the stairs leading up to the first floor was done by rote memory. There was a darkness that cloaked the air I breathed as I made my way through the damp cool basement.
The old wall paper was dying a slow death in every room except the studio. There were traces of pink and green mold growing on those walls. A black fungus was in a mad pursuit of the pink and green, overtaking it on every wall and every corner of the abandoned room.
After a few minutes my eyes adjusted to the semi-darkened studio and I saw it scurry past my feet, not from the corner of my eye but right in front of me at an angle. It was like a bats wings fluttering across the floor and into the corner of the room and swallowed up in the darkness. Then another and another. The walls seemed to breathe as the black fungus pulsated and as it increased in rhythm the floor became engulfed in these fluttering wing dark things.
Light from the overhead window grew in brightness like an angel from heaven entering the room. I felt anything but heavenly when one of the dark things raced across the floor and clawed its way up my right side. Once batted away it fell to the floor and went immediately to the ouija board now visible in part shadow lying in the corner.
I remember the day he dripped different colors of paint to cover up the letters and numbers on the board. He would then arrange his model and with one hand on the board and one hand with a brush. The ouija table would move across the board to point to a particular color and he would apply that color to the canvas. I witnessed this through the keyhole.
This is the second time I ever entered this room. The first time I was probably five years old and when discovered, he screamed like a madman waving his arms and knocking chairs and easels over on their sides chasing me reaching out trying to catch me with his long gangly bare arms.
I stepped outside the studio careful to not let any of the dark things follow and closed the door. I heard the latch click and looked down to the familiar keyhole. When I peered through, to my surprise I could see him sitting at his easel with Chastity sitting on the model stand in a red shawl and a bright yellow scarf draped around her neck and shoulders. She was his favorite foster child and stayed longer than any of the others. I watched as he painted trying to process this scene from so many years ago when after all, I had just exited the empty studio with its foul smells and black fungus growing. I stood and ripped the door open to see the decaying room once again. Was I hallucinating?
Retracing my steps back down the stairs into the darkness of the basement, I felt along every inch of those walls but could find no door leading up to the outside. I counted three times around the entire basement and still no door. Then I heard them. The cry’s of the children, wailing and crying unceasingly. Then I heard Chastity’s voice up close in my ear. She whispered, “You can’t help us. Get away from here. Run.”
I couldn’t run, I couldn’t find my way out. Where there had been doors, now there were none. I went back to the studio though I wasn’t quite sure what I would find or if this was even a good idea. After all I’d seen there within those decrepit walls and nothing to protect myself from whatever was inhabiting that room, I put my hand on the door knob and hesitated. There was a constant drone of voices but increasing in volume and I sucked in a deep breath of stale air and jerked open the door. Everything went silent. I think if it would have kept up the noise of the voices it would have been better. It’s like everything inside this room was in suspended animation staring at me. I felt hundreds of eyes trained on me, though I could only see the debris strewn about the room.
As I stepped over the threshold I caught something in the corner move. I stopped my movement to detect anything that floated or crawled or clawed it’s way up the wall. I recognized it immediately. The distorted face, the dried bloody smile and the bright red dripping off those fangs. The clown was still here.
I whirled around to my left side and could make out a long ladder leaning up against the wall partially covered with tarps and old rotting cardboard boxes. I looked up to the skylight and back down at the ladder and thought this must have been how he cleaned the windows in the ceiling.
I began franticly pulling at the tarps and debris covering it and as I did those little fleeting flapping dark things came charging out of the corner where the oujia board lie. First one then ten then a hundred were charging full force as I stood the ladder up just under the dirty skylight. The clown was now running haphazardly from corner to corner and waving his arms wildly and screaming this blood curdling cry.
I heard the voice of Chastity again telling me to climb up and get out. “Hurry.” She said. As I climbed each rung the dark things were clawing their way to the last rung I pushed off from. Half way up the ladder one of them sunk it’s teeth into my pant leg and I could feel a sharp shock of pain. I reached down and batted it off. The clown was now running around at the base of the ladder. He did this maybe three times and then I looked down to see he was on the first rung of the ladder. He slung his head back and forth and drops of blood went flying through the air and splattering on the ladder, the walls and the floor around me. I was able to get to the top step, the one that all warning signs say not to stand on. I had to stretch on my tiptoes to reach the handle of the skylight. It was rusted shut. The clown was now two rungs below me and I could hear Chastity’s voice in my ears. “Run Danial, run.”
I said out loud, “I’m trying to get this window open.” With one more fist blow to the handle it gave way. The window was designed to come down and as it did I felt the long boney fingers wrap themselves around my ankle. I grabbed hold of the window casing and looked down and kicked his face with its blood soaking his ruffled collar. His hand loosened its grip and he fell backwards and I looked down to see him lying, floating on a pool of thousands of those little dark things. As I narrowed my eyes on the clown it’s face shape shifted between the bloody clown and my old Grandpa and back to the clown again.
As I pulled myself up and out of that room my feet tipped over the ladder and it went crashing back down to the floor and swallowed up by the dark things. Once on the roof out in the sunshine, I climbed down an eve spout and lowered myself to the ground. In partial shock I walked for miles and it took me a good three hours to reach home.
Something evil happened there and the house remembers. At this point I’m not sure I want to know, but I may go back some day to find out what happened to Chastity. What happened to her through that keyhole? You have to ask the house.