I grew up in a small town in New Jersey and attended the local public high school. It was senior year, and my friend Jack was in charge of setting up chairs for an assembly later that day. I got roped into helping him, but it wasn’t too bad because I got to skip my fifth-period math class.
We eventually ran out of chairs, and one of the janitors gave us a big ring of keys and told us to get the rest out of the basement. Ever since I was a kid, I marveled at those rings with dozens of keys jangling together. They could take you anywhere. Jack made the mistake of letting me carry the keys down to the basement. While I was walking over to a stack of chairs, my foot hooked around the leg of a folding table, and I fell flat on my stomach onto the hard concrete, knocking the wind out of me. The keys skirted across the room and disappeared into the behind the row of metal folding chairs.
“Shit!” I groaned, bringing myself to my knees and hoping I would be able to breathe correctly again soon.
“You better find the keys,” Jack warned from behind an armful of folding chairs. “I’m going to take these upstairs. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Turning on the flashlight on my phone, I crawled around on my hands and knees on the dirty floor. Nothing. With a heavy sigh, I began to move some of the chairs out of the way to search along the edge of the wall. The keys were nowhere to be found. Just when I was about to give up, I saw a hole in the floor about the size of two fists behind where a group of chairs had been.
Not wanting to stick my hand into a filthy, strange hole in my school’s basement, I set my phone on top of it and took a picture. The angle was awful, but in the corner of the frame I could make out part of the keyring, which had caught on something jutting out from one side of the hole. Begrudgingly, I stuck my hand inside and fumbled around for a little bit until my fingers wrapped around the keys. As I was bringing my hand back up, I felt a stinging pain on the side of my thumb. I quickly pulled the keys up and wiped my hand off on my jeans. Coating the keys and my hand was a thick gray mucus. I gagged and made a mental note to have Jack return the keys. I discovered that the pain I felt was from a thin, inch-long scratch running up the length of my thumb.
I went to delete the picture on my phone when I noticed a blurry object resting at the edge of the photo. It seemed to be a tiny, hand-like structure with a small palm branching off into three bony fingers capped with razor-sharp claws.
I figured I would take one more picture to prove that my eyes were playing tricks on me, but when I saw the image, it took everything I had to refrain from sprinting upstairs and going home for the day.
My phone screen displayed an image of the hole leading into a small tunnel which soon opened into a good sized room below the basement. There were no doors or windows that I could see, and as far as I could guess, the only way in or out of that room was through the hole in the floor. Hundreds of what appeared to be needles poked out from the walls and ceiling. A few reached up into the hole, which is how I must have cut my hand.
Just as I was trying to think of a place I could go to get about six tetanus shots, I noticed that the large mass on the floor covered with that gray slime was actually composed of hundreds, maybe thousands, of tiny creatures. They were the same color as the gray mucus and had two stubby arms and three spindly legs that looked more like tendrils. Each one had a wide mouth full of rows of teeth that bore an unsettling resemblance to the needles coming out of the walls.
I showed Jack when he came back down, and we grabbed more chairs than was safe to carry up a flight of stairs and hauled ass out of that basement. We showed our friends the picture, which was then circulated throughout most of the school, and rumors about the room beneath the basement ran wild in the halls.
For weeks, I was plagued with recurring nightmares about the hole in the floor. It was always the same: I would find myself in that room of the basement, having lost the keys. It played out almost exactly the same as it did in real life, except, when I reached into the hole for the keyring, my hand was yanked inside. I was laying on the concrete, shoulder-deep into the room beneath the basement, screaming as millions of needle teeth gnashed the flesh on my arm, ripping muscle and skin roughly from the bone. The nightmare was horrifying, but on the nights when it seemed the most real, I often awoke to find small needle marks on my body.
I had this dream for months, and it was really starting to get to me. I began to see more holes in various places in the school. The needles in these reached almost to the mouth of the opening, and I didn’t need to look inside to know that I would find another sea of those writhing monsters within.
Graduation couldn’t come fast enough. While I was packing for college, I found one of those holes in the wall of my closet. I covered it with a whole roll of duct tape and nailed a piece of plywood over it for good measure.
I went to college in St. Louis, and moving halfway across the country helped a lot to put my mind at ease. When I visited home during Christmas break my freshman year, the hole in my closet had been plastered shut and painted over, leading me to believe it was just a normal hole my frightened mind had convinced me was something more.
I live in St. Louis now and have been adjusting to life in the “real world” pretty well. I just got a job I really enjoy and seem to be succeeding at, and I’m planning on proposing to my girlfriend soon.
I had chalked up the holes to stress and paranoia. I’ve had several new phones since then, and I haven’t been able to find that picture again. Maybe my mind had exaggerated the whole thing. I was comfortable believing that the whole ordeal could be explained by nightmares and anxiety, but when I was walking downtown today, I passed through an alley on my way home from a restaurant. There was something peeking out from behind a dumpster.
It was a hole leaking gray mucus, big enough for me to crawl into. The hole, on the side of an abandoned building in the older part of the city, went down into the ground. Long, shiny needles peeked out from inside and shone in the moonlight.
I sprinted all the way home. Leaning on the wall to catch my breath, I felt something sharp poke into my back. To my horror, I found a small hole beginning to form on the wall of my kitchen.
Credit: K. Brown