The inky blackness enveloped Angela as she went down the stairs. She could hear the groan of the wood as she stepped further into the darkness of the basement. She clutched the rail as she stepped down. The creak of her footfalls seemed to echo into the nothingness around her. After she was sure that she was no longer at street level. She brought out her phone, and flipped a switch on her flashlight app.
The house on Wellington was watched by the police. If they saw flashlights coming from the house, they would burst inside and arrest the trespassers. Since the house was a hotbed for ghost hunters, thrill seekers, and the occasional drug addict or two, the sheriff decided to press charges first and ask questions later. Angela needed to take the risk of using her phone. She had to see the witch marks for herself.
When the flash on her phone lit up the basement with a bright white light, she was startled by an old octopus furnace that looked like a being with tentacles lurking outside her vision. Once she was satisfied that it was just a normal object in a forgotten basement, she turned the light up towards the ceiling. There was a beam that ran across the ceiling from the landing to the depths beyond the furnace. A crisscross pattern etched into the beam was visible near the landing.
The crisscross would look like a random pattern to most people, but Angela had seen it many times before. Hidden in the overall pattern were the letters, k, y, l, and e. It was her brother Kyle’s tag that he created to identify his work. He was a graffiti artist. The angular lines were distinctive of his style. The signature was carved into the wood like many witch marks, so Angela could understand why no one noticed the word Kyle hidden in the markings.
The weird part was that the photograph Mr. Harrison showed the class was from the late seventies. Well before either Kyle or Angela were even born. In order for Kyle’s signature to appear etched in wood to later appear in a fraudulent photograph, he would have carved it himself, which was impossible. The other more likely possibility was that Kyle saw this carving and adopted it for himself. Regardless of how the carving came about, Angela knew that the key to his disappearance was in this house.
Angela took a few photographs of the markings for herself. She was about to turn back when she heard the whine of a rusty hinge from upstairs. Then she heard footfalls on the creaking floorboards of the living room. Angela ducked down near the furnace and turned off the light on her phone.
The blackness of the basement enshrouded her. She could only hear the sound of her shallow, tight, breath. Her imagination ran wild with the lights off, and she did everything in her power to remain calm. She pulled her thoughts from what could be lurking in the darkness to thoughts of her brother.
She remembered sitting under a tree during a sunny summer day. She was in a park with a concrete storm ditch that ran the length of the green space. The tree was right up against the side of the waterway. She was eleven-years-old. Her brother, who was sixteen at the time, was in the ditch with his hoodie pulled over his head. He was spray painting a clunky drawing that he would soon perfect in subsequent years.
“Can I come down now?” Angela poked her head over the side.
“No,” Kyle said. “You’re supposed to be the lookout. Now sit against the tree.”
“But no one is coming! I want to help.”
“Fine, come on. Hurry, before someone sees you.”
Angela remembered Kyle helping her into the ditch. He taught her all about graffiti, the lines, the form, and the technique. His skill wasn’t quite there yet, but it was better than the blob she had made. It was one of the best days she could remember, just her and her brother. She tried to hold on to the memory, so she wouldn’t think about the dark basement around her.
The footfalls came closer. She could hear each step. Each thud was followed by cracks from the aging wood. They came closer and closer. Angela held her breath and sat perfectly still. The hinges squeaked as the door at the top of the steps opened.