Submitted by Tara Fox Hall
My mother Chris loves to retell this story in our family. I would think it was fiction, if I hadn’t been there the night it happened.
Chris had been in her early thirties, sure of herself, one divorce already under her belt. The apartment had been a godsend: cheap, easy to heat, and no yard to mow. There were no stairs, unlike the apartment above hers with a whole flight to transverse. The only drawback was that the laundry room for both apartments was in the cellar.
She’d never liked the cellar. It was raw earth, one wall just rubble and soil where the excavators had stopped working. There was one bare bulb for light, its illumination never reaching the corners. Worst of all was that against the far wall was a sub cellar with stone steps. Down there was the worst, because the weak light didn’t reach that far. There was no electricity. If you ventured down those steps, you had to have a flashlight.
That night she’d been folding laundry, cursing the landlord and his refusal to buy a dryer. Idiot had said dryers shrunk sheets. She’d been hurrying, tired from a long day at work. She had reached down to put the laundry in the basket. When she’d looked up, against the wall in front of her was the cast shadow of immense unfurling batwings.
Bat, she thought dumbly. It’s a big bat.
The wings continued to unfurl slowly.
She turned, and then stared with wide eyes. Dense black smoke floated a foot off the ground, wafting slightly.
That was no bat!
Screaming at the top of her lungs, Chris had fled the basement, locked the cellar door, run upstairs and locked her own front door. She huddled at the kitchen table for a few minutes, trying to pull herself together with the aid of a beer while her 8 year old daughter Tara played with her horses on the kitchen table. Then she had gone upstairs to her neighbor’s apartment and asked him to help her with a bat in the cellar.
Her gracious neighbor had come to the rescue, telling her to stay upstairs while he got rid of the bat. He’d gone downstairs alone, whistling, while she waited in fear upstairs, trying to decide what to do if he didn’t come back.
However, the worst hadn’t happened. Her neighbor was back in ten minutes. A thorough search of the cellar had revealed nothing out of place. With a smile that managed not to be condescending, he’d assured her that if any bat was still down there, she was safe, as he’d locked the cellar door.
It had taken Chris three days to work up the courage to get her clothes. When she had finally ventured downstairs, it had been in the day, the weak light streaming into the cellar through the two narrow dirty windows. The minutes had seemed like hours as she slowly crossed the cracked cement floor, her eyes on the sub cellar that remained in inky blackness. A sudden subtle noise had come, as if some creature had shifted its weight, getting ready to pounce. Stifling a scream, Chris had grabbed her laundry basket quickly, then hauled ass upstairs.
She’d stayed there another few weeks, always making sure to make trips to the cellar during the day. She’d never again seen whatever it had been in the cellar that night, or heard any more noises. To her knowledge, no one else who had lived there over the years had ever reported seeing anything, including her cousin, who’d moved in when she’d left.
Her fear lingered over the unsolved mystery, haunting her thoughts on dark nights. As the years passed, she’d theorized the black smoke was a vampire or maybe a ghost. The place had been a bar long ago; maybe someone had been murdered there, or murdered someone else.
Tara Fox Hall is an OSHA-certified safety and health inspector at a metal fabrication shop in upstate New York. She received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a double minor in chemistry and biology from Binghamton University. Her writing credits include nonfiction short stories, flash, short and novella-length horror stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She also coauthored the essay “The Allure of the Serial Killer,” published in Serial Killers - Philosophy for Everyone: Being and Killing (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). Her first E-Book, Surrender to Me, was published in September 2011. Tara is the author of the Promise Me vampire romance series and the Lash action adventure series.She divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, target practice, and contemplating—though not committing—murder for hire.