Author: Many Midnights PM
A man, who loves spending time in his own personal space his "Man Cave" finds out just how it might save his life or end it .Rated: Fiction K - English - Horror - Words: 2,014 - Published: 03-01-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2895559
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Scotty took a step back and gazed at his creation. It was his own personal
space, off- limits to everyone, including his wife Janine- especially his wife. He had
the only key, the only means of entry. He would populate his space with items from his youth (meaningless to other people but treasures to him). Books, cassette tapes, his drawings. Each and every time he entered he wanted to experience a part of his life, past or present, and in certain cases, future. His upcoming endeavors would be housed there for all to see, or perhaps for none to see. He frankly didn't care which.
He took in the sights: built-in mahogany book shelves lined with numerous paperback novels, reference books, and periodicals; his Silvertone acoustic guitar perched majestically on its stainless-steel stand; his enormous, if outdated collection of vinyl records and cassette tapes (sometimes he just refused to update certain things); his personal computer; and various odds and ends, each with its own special place, each with its own history.
And at the center of the far wall, dangling from a near-transparent length of twine, was a slab of beveled wood with the name of his place carved into its façade: Man Cave
The space was all his. He felt complete when he was in it. All the trials and tribulations of everyday life, even he small, inconsequential ones, couldn't touch him when he was in his man cave. Car repairs, dealing with his jerk boss (Mr. Tagert) at the factory, being at the factory with its monotonous droning of machinery and oil-slicked floors, even feeling sick or tired. None of it mattered when the comforting walls of his man cave enclosed him within their welcoming embrace.
And he would welcome them right back.
Scotty found himself retreating to his man cave more and more as time went by. His wife grew resentful of his frequent seclusion, using it as a springboard to launch numerous arguments against her husband, laden with threats and warnings.
"You never listen to me; you never take me out anymore; I want a new car; the lawn needs mowing."
But he found it difficult to deal with life's everyday requirements. Of course he'd get up every morning and go to work, fill the car with gas, and mail out the bills, but more and more even those staple functions of an everyday Joe such as himself seemed to fade into irreverence. Little by little, day after day, the only thing that offered peace of mind was his man cave.
The sudden noise interrupted Scotty's train of thought. It came from upstairs, swiftly cutting through the peaceful solitude, which until then had only been tainted by the constant humming of the second refrigerator in the laundry room. It was another thing that Janine had insisted on having.
Scotty froze where he stood, focusing intently on the origin of the noise, listening closely for any further sounds. His mind swam with possibilities, most of which were frightening, and all were rooted in the disturbing fact that he was the only one home. Janine was working late; she had called him only an hour earlier from the woman's clinic where she was a medical assistant.
"Janine?" Scotty called out even though he knew his wife wasn't home. "Is…is that you honey?"
Predictably, no answer.
Taking a few reluctant steps forward Scotty entertained the notion that a burglar might be in the house. But he dismissed the idea because he knew all the doors and windows were locked (one of his idiosyncrasies), and the chance that someone could have slipped into the house without him noticing was slim at best.
Scotty glanced around the basement for something that would serve as a weapon; his eyes immediately focused on a set of stainless-steel knives. Janine was going to store them in the laundry room; she'd bought a brand new set.
Slipping the largest blade from its slot Scotty turned to face the staircase. The knife instilled a bit of courage in him but only a small amount. And even that quickly vanished when he heard the sounds.
They were different from the other ones. They were more pronounced, deeper, messier. It sounded as if someone…something was crawling down the stairs. And whatever it was it moved slowly, but deliberately, causing the steps to creak beneath its bulk. A slight but definitive groan punctuated each movement.
Scotty started to panic. His blood pressure shot through the roof; he began to sweat; his heart felt like it would burst out of his chest.
What was he going to do? His cell phone was upstairs, as was the front door. He had no way to call for help or escape. Slowly, his only option settled over him like a cold winter day: he'd have to defend himself.
The thing on the stairs was getting closer and closer. It repeatedly bumped into the walls, creating wet scraping sounds as it moved. With each passing second it let its presence be known more and more.
And then Scotty heard it. It was barely audible but there nonetheless. It sounded like a…
a car's engine. And it was sputtering as if badly in need of a tune up.
The impossibility of what he was hearing latched onto Scotty's mind, taking root there, refusing to be denied. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind.
Was he imagining it?
No, it was there, a misfiring engine moaning along as it tried to avoid stalling. And in the middle of a growing cacophony of other noises, each and every one vying for prominence: a small explosion, akin to fireworks; heavy machinery clanking along, accented by pressurized air escaping from exhaust tubes; a person coughing and sneezing in a vain attempt to clear their sinuses; and probably the most puzzling one of all: Mr. Tagert's voice, guttural and distorted but there nonetheless. It was spewing out instructions about being punctual and the proper way to run a press machine.
Scotty edged forward slightly. Numerous other sounds were ringing in his ears by then: a woman's voice (Janine's?) arguing about bills and spending time together; car horns blaring as if impatient drivers were stuck in traffic; a gusty wind howling, announcing an upcoming tempest of blustery, cold weather.
These sounds and more swirled around in the unnatural chorus of the seething monstrosity approaching the basement. Approaching where Scotty stood.
Suddenly a mere kitchen knife seemed useless. Sharpened stainless steel would obviously be no match for whatever nightmare was making its way down the staircase. So Scotty reluctantly dropped the blade, the soft thud as it hit the carpet further straining his already weakened resolve.
Scotty backed away from the approaching thing on the stairs, slowly at first, then more hurried, almost frenzied. He nearly tripped over his own feet in his attempt to escape.
But escape to where? How would anywhere in his basement possibly be able to offer any type of safety?
Suddenly all he could think of was Janine. How he would miss her; how she would cope without him around; just how she would deal with her husband dying in such a strange and frightening way.
With each step he took Scotty felt his impending fate descend on him. The thing was nearing the bottom of the stairs, and although apparently taking its time (perhaps to prolong its victim's suffering?) it would undoubtedly reach him very soon.
And then it hit him.
His man cave!
Maybe, just maybe he would be safe there. It had been a sanctuary for him in the past, a secure location where he could gather his thoughts and flee from his worries, so maybe he would be safe there. And besides, he didn't have much of a choice. And so without a second's hesitation Scotty turned and literally flung himself into his man cave.
And then the lights went out.
And then the smell wafted into the darkness of the basement.
And then Scotty heard something that instilled a brief flicker of hope into his otherwise hopeless situation: Janine voice.
"Scotty? Are you down here?"
Before he could help himself Scotty blurted out a response.
"Janine! Thank God! I'm in my man cave!"
"Why do you have the lights off?"
"Please, just turn them on!"
The click of the light switch flooded the basement with light. Scotty peered out of the doorway, his eyes painfully adjusting to the fluorescent glow from the lights.
Janine sauntered over, a look of confusion and irritation on her pretty face.
"Why on Earth are you doing down here in the dark?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
Scotty breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm so glad to see you honey. Did you see…I mean, did you notice anything when you came home?"
Janine looked at her husband sternly With hands on hips she replied, "I honestly don't know what you're…"
The phone ringing upstairs interrupted her. She glanced over her shoulder at the sound, her face growing pale when the answering machine clicked on.
"Hi honey, it's just me. I don't know why you're not answering but I just wanted to let you know that I'll be home a little late. Dr. McKarn had to go to the hospital on call so Dr. Teneas is covering for her. Which means I won't be home for dinner. I'll call later when we're done here. Love you."
Scotty felt his blood freeze in his veins. Slowly, he looked at the person standing in his basement. Its eyes were solid black.
"Eventually you'll have to leave your, as you call it, your man cave. Inevitably life's problems will catch up with you. You can't hide from your problems, from life's problems forever."
The thing masquerading as Janine smiled then, a grin so devilish it sucked the warmth right out of the room.
Scotty cringed further into his room. Apparently, he ignored the difficulties life had thrown at him one time too many, and now it…they wanted to be addressed.
Suddenly his possessions in his man cave, all the things he'd grown to love over the years, the things that in many ways defined him, now seemed cold and distant, like unfamiliar objects one would pass by in a department store window. They had somehow abandoned him, thrown him to the dogs, or more appropriately, to the thing standing in his basement.
"If you survive depends on you and you alone," the Janine thing said calmly. "How you will deal with your own problems, with your own stress, is entirely up to you." Its black eye narrowed considerably, becoming thin slits but losing none of their potency. "But remember, the next time your boss yells at you, or your car breaks down, or you receive a high utility bill, I'll…we'll be there, watching and waiting. Life is full of difficulties, both real and imagined, and it directs me to hand out consequences for those reacting to those problems."
Scotty huddled in the far corner of his man cave, wedging himself in tightly between his keyboard stand and a stack of books he had yet to file. He wanted to block out the thing's words, but he felt helpless to do so; he was a prisoner in his own house.
The Janine thing sauntered over to the man cave entrance. It paused there briefly, its black eyes roaming over the space and its contents before locking in on the lone occupant.
"It's really quite simple," it mused in a tone laced with threat. "It basically boils down to how a person deals with stress." Its face tightened into a scheming visage. Curved fangs slid out of the corners of its mouth. "Or," it added, "in your particular case how stress deals with the person."