Under the Stairs at Grandmother’s House
Jessica B. Bell
When I was a kid, the Bookmobile used to come and park at the end of our street in a little cul-de-sac that once had a tree that all the neighbourhood kids claimed as their own. Now there are low-income apartments there, and kids don’t read books anymore, but there was a time when we would all run, or ride our bikes down to the Bookmobile to borrow books from the travelling library. In the summertime there would be contests for how many books you could read, and of course I always won.
One of my earliest favourites was a book titled Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and its many sequels – More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Even More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Bride of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Revenge of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and my personal favourite, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark versus Predator. Okay, so I may have made some of those up, but the point is, there were a bunch, and they contained such gems as Don’t Ever Laugh When the Hearse Goes By, which I can probably recite to this day. It wasn’t just prose stories, but rather, creepy rhyming poems that were part Dr. Seuss, part Shel Silverstein, and part 1960s EC Horror Comics. It was all very tongue-in-cheek, but the laughter was often uneasy, or perhaps, the laughter was a magic talisman to keep the creeps away.
These stories and poems were some of my first experiences with horror, and I knew even at a young age that I wanted to write like that. There was a dark magic to it – so much so that I began writing stories that very summer. Were they fantastic? Not so much. But I was only about 12, so cut me some slack.
Everyone I know was afraid of the dark at one point – I’ll admit, I still don’t like going into the basement by myself – even though rationally, we know there’s nothing there that wasn’t there in the light. But there was always something about the basement in my grandmother’s house that just didn’t feel right to me. I was sure that there was something living under the stairs – it just smelled wrong down there. It was an old, sick, hungry smell, and I was terrified – no, I knew – that every single creak of the stairs as I tiptoed down them would surely wake that creature, and it would swallow me whole. I can’t tell you how many times I went down into that crypt of a basement, only to run back up the stairs, heart pounding in my chest, breath catching in my throat, sure that I could feel its hot, eager breath on the back of my neck.
Not that I dared turn around and look, of course. That’s how they get you, you know.
Under the Stairs is just such a story – about a monster under the stairs at grandmother’s house – and is told in playful rhyme, like in those Scary Stories… books. You can find it in Viscera, published by Sirens Call Publications and available now. Read it in the dark – if you dare.
Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.
Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at whoisjessica.com