Jag har skymtat hans skumma, jordgrå drag Redan jag trodde min vandring slutad
Över min säng stod han redan lutad
efter mitt sista andetag Döden; Gustaf Fröding (1891)
As I am in the later stages of the sickness that has been ravaging my body I feel it is only fitting that I now reveal the truth behind what has happened to me. The doctors are baffled and can do nothing, every avenue has been pursued and every treatment tried, but to no avail. They believe it’s hereditary, since my grandfather passed, no more than a year ago, from the same affliction and in a way they are correct, but this is not the whole of it. I believe I know what this plague is that has befallen me, or rather the source of it and I have tried to convey it to my family and the medical staff, but have time and time again been ignored, my ramblings attributed to yet another symptom of my illness. I have asked the nurse for my laptop so that I may tell my story before it is too late and so it may serve as a warning to others who might unlock the secret that inevitably led to the horrible state that both my grandfather and I became victims of. I will name this document confession and leave it on my desktop and I have removed the security password from the computer so that everything is easily accessible. Everything I write herein can be corroborated by my good friend Spencer Hayle at the Royal Library and every single document, save the piece itself, that I refer to is in his possession. This way my story might be heard.
It was the hottest summer in ten years the year my grandfather fell ill and eventually died. It was painful and drawn out, he more or less withered away and none of the doctors could tell us what it was. He had been a tall, strong man and by the end of it his muscles had atrophied and his back had bent him into the shape of a question mark. Very much the way I, myself, am heading now.
In the beginning of the summer I had gone to visit my grandparents at their home. My girlfriend was away for a week and my Grandmother had called and inquired if it was possible that I might come stay with them to help with some odd jobs that needed doing. My Grandfather was an architect and had designed many buildings, mostly churches, around the country, but was not a very skilled craftsman, oddly enough. My Father always said that he was better at drawing a house than actually building it. Since retiring my Grandfather had ceased doing housework by and large and spent most of his time reading murder mysteries or books about World War II. This aggravated my Grandmother to no end, but since he had worked his entire life to provide for her and two kids she rarely nagged him about it. Instead my siblings and I were charged with the task of dusting books, moving furniture or general maintenance with my Grandfather coming out from his study sporadically to put in his two cents.
Upon my arrival at my grandparents’ one story house I was given a list of things that needed to be done and the first one was to repair the hatch in the kitchen floor that lead to the basement. The heat had caused the wood to swell and now the hatch wouldn’t close properly. This was actually beyond me and knowing full well that the wood would go back to its normal state once winter came I was reluctant to do anything, but my Grandmother was adamant that I sand it down so it would fit and arguing with her was futile.
My Grandfather was, to my great surprise, eager to help and he gladly held the hatch as I went to work on it. The heat was causing us some discomfort, but cool air came up from the basement and at least chilled our feet and legs. Soon my Grandmother came by with jars of jelly and placed them before us.
‘I need you guys to put these downstairs’ she said. And that was basically it. We had to stop what we were doing and now proceed to carry jars of jelly down to the basement.
I had never been down in the basement before and to me it had always felt a bit creepy. First of all there was only the hatch that hinted at its existence and then there were no real stairs only a rickety wooden ladder. Once past the ladder there were no lights, only whatever you brought with you down into the gloom. I climbed down first with a flashlight tightly gripped in my hand and let the light from it scan the dampness. It was odd, not much like a basement at all, more like a cave. One cold, dark room with natural stone floor like one would find in any grotto, barring the stalactites. There was the smell of dampness throughout the dark and as the light danced from side to side I swore I could see my own breath.
‘What is this place?’ I asked.
‘A basement’ my Grandfather answered in a very matter of fact tone, one that he had perfected and was all his own.
I shrugged my shoulders and turned to the shelves lining the only flat wall. I placed the flashlight on one of them so that it illuminated as big an area as possible. My Grandfather was only a few rungs down on the latter so that he could be the half-way point in a chain of jelly jars. As the movement of the jars began I started to notice that my Grandfather acted distracted. I would time and again wait on a jar from him and he would be focused on something in the gloom. I would cast my eyes in the same direction, but couldn’t make anything out other than the shape of the cavernous wall with its craggy surface of rock. As the ferrying of jars wound down I picked up the flashlight and cast its brightness on the spot we both had been eyeing. To my astonishment there was indeed something there.
It was difficult to make it out exactly, but it looked like a lattice work of wood set together to create a square and sitting on the wall as if it was covering something. I managed to tap my Grandfather’s leg before he vanished up the ladder.
‘What is that’ I said pointing to the square as soon as he bent down again.
‘That’ he said, did I detect a shiver in his otherwise so calm voice? ‘It’s just a door.’
‘Where does it lead?’
‘That’ he hesitated. ‘Another part of the basement; a crawlspace, nothing more’ he climbed back up the ladder before I had time to ask him anything else.