I can hear them getting closer.
In the back, where it’s warm up against the boiler, I can smell the tang of must and mold; if I breathe heavy, it curls up in my mouth and nose, something like a big, dumb, wet dog that I don’t hate but wish would die so that it would just stop pawing at me.
Boots coming down the stairs. Heavy things, clunky soles, shiny material, gleaming buckles. Except there’s no shine, no gleam in the dark. And the thick of their soles don’t pound on the stairs — they float down on frightened feet, half-dancing down creaking, rickety stairs. They want to be quiet.
Basements are the lairs of monsters, you know.
They didn’t turn the upstairs light on, so there aren’t any dancing shadows to point them out, and they didn’t bother with flashlights this time.
Maybe they’re learning.
I can hear their breathing, drawn through pinched nostrils and grim lips. They’re tasting the basement air for the first time, and the big, dumb, wet dog has just leapt to press both paws into their chests, caving them in with the scents of cold and rot.
They’re getting closer.