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There is a secret door in the basement, and Adrianna is about to run into it, headfirst.  But perhaps we should start at the beginning, for that is where all good stories start.  Except of course, when they end at a beginning.  But the narrator digresses.

It was a balmy Sunday in the Northeast, where all great stories take place.  New England sets the tone just right, so you know there will be old money and self-deception and paperweights all at once.  After all, these houses are just a collection of shingles battered by hurricanes and not-quite-hurricanes-but-still-really-bad-storms.  Which lends itself a certain mystique, I suppose.

Anyhow, it was a balmy Sunday in the Northeast.  Clouds rolled in like tumbleweeds, turning ground water into droplets, but adding special spices to make it feel different, refreshing somehow.  Oh, and it left the salt behind.  Clouds hate salt, as their taste buds prefer sweetness, like tiny bits of nectar from flowers, or the water contained in basic fecal matter.

Regardless, it was a balmy Sunday in the Northeast.  Clouds rolled in like tumbleweeds, and Aunt Clara was hiking up her skirt, afraid of dragging it through the mud.  Clara was a specific type of woman, the kind of woman who feared dirt, but lived on a farm specializing in mushrooms.  Mushrooms are the kings of filth, being born of mud themselves, so it was always curious to Adrianna what led her to continue living in such misalignment betwixt her values and reality.  After all, there is no God or money in mushroom farming.

Adrianna followed dutifully behind her, not particularly caring one way or the other about the moccasins she was caking in dirt.  Her shoes only really came in two colors now – brown and blackish brown, depending on the type of mushroom and the breadth of the filth.  A robin landed on a branch nearby, but this has nothing to do with the story.

Clara swatted the flies that swarmed around her, and Adrianna thought she was signaling for her to come closer.  Clara hated human contact, which is why she and Adrianna lived together without husbands or other family members or friends.  Plus, Adrianna was 14 so it would be odd (at best) if she had some husband lying around.  In any case, Adrianna only really liked reading, so she was indifferent to the solitude, and Clara tolerated her for this reason precisely.  Clara had burnt their mailbox last winter, partially for firewood and also so she wouldn’t receive any correspondences, but the narrator thinks it was most likely due to the influx of Victoria’s Secret catalogues.  You buy one pair of panties and then they hunt you like a skulking ex-husband forever!

Anyway, Clara swatted the flies that swarmed around her, and Adrianna thought she was signaling for her to come closer.  So she acquiesced, kicking up chunks of mud as she hurried to her aunt’s side, taking her quite by surprise.  Clara fell to the ground, grabbing fruitlessly for her niece’s arm, and began sliding down the hill.  Have I mentioned the hill? Oh yes, they were at the top of a hill.  In fact, it is quite a famous hill, as there was once a famous painter who had deigned to capture it in all its glory.  One of the Wyeths, I think.  We’re in Pennsylvania, so that makes the most sense.

So anyway, there they were atop the hill.  Clara fell to the ground, grabbing fruitlessly for her niece’s arm, and began sliding down the hill.  Adrianna threw herself down as well, knowing full well that her aunt would need her assistance climbing back up.  As the women rumbled down the countryside, the narrator realized she wasn’t quite sure where she was going with this.

The two women reached the bottom of the hill, Clara screaming and Adrianna slightly smiling.  She had always loved tumbling.  In fact, as a child she would constantly beg to go to open gymnastics day at the local youth center, then dive into a sea of foam blocks and other peoples’ children while Clara grimaced from outside.  She couldn’t let Adrianna go by herself, but she also couldn’t go in the building.  She tried once, for some hot cocoa when it was ten degrees out, but promptly left when she saw a particularly obese child snotting all over the hanging rope course.  From then on, she watched the fun from the window.  Adrianna never minded.  She was a solitary creature.  Who liked reading.

The two women reached the bottom of the hill, Clara screaming and Adrianna slightly smiling.  Adrianna helped her aunt up, apologizing profusely.  They began to walk up the hill, just as the sky began to crackle.  Lightning storms were Clara’s favorite, but she pretended to be afraid of them for Adrianna’s sake.  Adrianna was terrified of storms and loud noises, due to the magic of evolutionary biology, but would never show her fear if Clara was scared.  Clara knew this, and perhaps this was the only sign of love that she ever showed Adrianna.  Nonetheless, the women crept on – Adrianna digging her toes into the muddy side of the hill, her arm draped over her aunt’s slim frame.

The narrator has decided that it is Adrianna’s birthday, purely for the sake of having some kind of story arc instead of a jumble of personality quirks and nothing-to-do-with-anything-ness.  So, as Adrianna opened the door to the tiny home the two women shared, Clara ran ahead of her to the living room.  The living room, which normally houses a fantastic array of plaids and coffee-stained coffee tables, was cleared out for the benefit of Adrianna’s birthday.  Adrianna loved to dance, and so would spend time cleaning the living room and playing old country-themed records.  Her favorite was Paris Swings, which Clara placed on the player at this very moment.  Adrianna was ecstatic – moving all those plaids and coffee-stained coffee tables exhausted her.  Her bones were brittle for her young age, as she decided she hated cows ever since Clara made her milk Thomas Edison (the cow, not the dead inventor) and he had kicked her in the face.

The Parisian music swelled as Adrianna grabbed her aunt’s hand and began to dance.  Clara took her hand back, affixing herself to the large maroon leather chair in the corner of the room.  As Adrianna angularly danced in celebration of her 14 years, Clara clapped tiny golf claps in time to the lightning outside.  When the time seemed right, a sweating Adrianna took her seat across the room – an old fainting couch that her aunt had found in the basement.  She had inherited the house from her mother and always found tiny treasures lurking throughout the place ever since.  Her favorite was a collection of smelling salts, which she sometimes used to wake Adrianna up on the days after she had gone into town and had far too much to drink.  Oh my, we are getting close to that secret door, the narrator thinks.

When the time seemed right, a sweating Adrianna took her seat across the room.  Her aunt pulled herself up from her chair and walked over to the fireplace, where a glittery box was placed.  Picking up the gift, she walked over to Adrianna, who was busy mopping her brow.  She had tried to salsa by herself, which is perhaps more difficult than salsa-ing with a partner.

Picking up the gift, she walked over to Adrianna, who was busy mopping her brow.  Her aunt put the box in her lap, and Adrianna smiled at her.  Clara blushed – she felt awkward whenever Adrianna beamed at her.

Adrianna opened her gift – a brand new set of roller blades.  She squealed with delight, then quickly squealed with fear as a clap of lightning landed not twenty yards outside.  Clara could not help noticing that her niece seemed to be turning into a pig.  She squealed twice in one sentence, and that just seems redundant.

Adrianna took off her moccasins and pulled on the rollerblades.  She had always loved rollerblading, despite being fully aware of their social stigma, and acutely recalled a grade school schoolmate of hers running across her rollerblading at Overfield Park and throwing a stick in her way.  As her knees buckled, Adrianna had let out a shrill scream and the girl, Parker Montgomery, had laughed with contempt.  The next day, bruised in both body and ego, Adrianna had returned to school to find that Parker had told her friends about the incident.  All day, the other girls pretended to fall down, shrieking like they were on fire.  She tossed her skates that very afternoon.

Later, long after this story, sometime in college maybe, Parker will write Adrianna asking for her forgiveness as part of a 12-step program.  Adrianna will not respond.

Adrianna took off her moccasins and pulled on the roller blades.  They fit snugly, much better than her old pair; it used to inflame her sore ankles.  Adrianna lurched forward to hug Clara.  Clara was content.  She had always hated drawing a warm bath for Adrianna’s aching feet.

Adrianna began to circle the room, crossing leg over leg and spinning like a child who had just finished her first soda pop.  Clara watched for a little while, only getting up to flip the record and pour herself a glass of scotch.  No, she wouldn’t drink scotch.  Um, a glass of prosecco.  Yes.  Yes, that’s it.  Pat on the back, narrator.

Adrianna began to circle the room, crossing leg over leg and spinning like a child who just finished her first soda pop.  Clara watched for a little while, only getting up to flip the record and pour herself a glass of prosecco.

All of a sudden, Clara remembered that she had forgotten to take Adrianna’s cake out of the freezer in the basement.  Being of weak and aching hips, she often avoided going down the basement steps if she could help it, and now that Adrianna had inadvertently pushed her down the hill, she decided that she would not be making the trip.  As Adrianna tested out her new gift, Clara requested that she go down to the basement and fetch the cake herself.

Adrianna was ecstatic – she had been watching videos of extreme sports as of late, and desperately wanted to find an excuse to try one of the many tricks she had seen.  Yes, she would jump the six stairs into the cellar.  Although the tumble down the hill had bruised her elbows, her legs seemed to be working just fine.

As Adrianna tested out her new gift, Clara requested that she go down to the basement and fetch the cake herself.  Adrianna acquiesced, making her way to the dark wooden door in the corner of the room.  Steeling herself for her first trick, and ignoring her aunt’s cries of warning, Adrianna leaped down the stairs.

The feeling was marvelous.  For a moment, every fiber of Adrianna’s being felt ignited, her synapses firing, the magic of evolutionary biology filling her with a sense of pure elation.  As she landed, Adrianna momentarily felt the pull of gravity on her heels.  To combat this, she leaned her body forward until-

Steeling herself for her first trick, and ignoring her aunt’s cries of warning, Adrianna leapt down the stairs.  There is a secret door in the basement, and Adrianna is about to run into it, headfirst.

She leaned her body forward until – thwack – she found herself stuck in between two metal shelves against the wall, face against hard wood.  Adrianna could vaguely hear Clara yelling from the top of the stairs, then felt her aunt’s arms pulling her out from under the pile of hatboxes that had fallen.  The shelving unit began to stir, as if on its own accord, and Clara yelped as she dragged her dazed ward (EDITOR’S NOTE: solid word choice, you pretentious fuck. –k) from the scene of the accident.

The shelving unit collapsed, moments after Adrianna was dragged from the boxes.

As Adrianna tested out her new gift, Clara requested that she go down to the basement and fetch the cake herself.  Adrianna acquiesced, making her way to the dark wooden door in the corner of the room.  Clara watched as her niece took a deep breath, bending her knees in a way that looked dangerous.  She jumped up, yelling for Adrianna, nervous she was killing herself on her birthday.  Adrianna leapt, Clara ran to the top of the stairs, just in time to see Adrianna run smack into the metal shelving unit where Clara kept her best Sunday hats.  Her niece was motionless, and light bulb went out.

Cursing Thomas Edison (the dead inventor, not the cow), Clara gingerly climbed down the stairs to collect her idiot niece.  Just as she pulled Adrianna from the pile of hatboxes, the shelving unit began to stir, as if on it’s own accord, and Clara yelped as she dragged her dazed ward from the scene of the accident.

The shelving unit collapsed, moments after Adrianna was dragged from the boxes.

It was only after Adrianna came to, with the help of Clara’s smelling salts, that the two women noticed what she had rammed her head into.

There was a secret door in the basement, and Adrianna had just run into it, headfirst.

Clara dropped Adrianna to the floor and made her way to the strange door she had never noticed.  Her mother’s house had been bequeathed with this shelving unit, so she had never bothered to look past the hatboxes to the wall behind it.

The wood of the door was different from that of the rest of the house, painted a deep burgundy that seemed hellish in nature.  Clara ran her knotted fingers against the wood – the door seemed to breathe under her touch, as though it was waking up from a long nap.  Clara recoiled.  She knew she wanted nothing to do with this door, did not want to see where it led.  As she turned her back to it, the knob started to glow, turning from a deep, soiled bronze to a glowing orange.  Neither Adrianna nor Clara saw it, but the narrator felt herself growing very curious.  Perhaps if she opened it, Adrianna and Clara would just have to deal-

The wood of the door was different from that of the rest of the house, painted a deep burgundy that seemed hellish in nature.  Clara ran her knotted fingers against the wood – the door seemed to breathe under her touch, as though it was waking up from a long nap.  Clara recoiled.  She knew she wanted nothing to do with this door, did not want to see where it led.  Adrianna felt that this door could not be opened, would not be opened.  Suddenly, the narrator whispered into Adrianna’s ear, filling her with a sense of dread.

‘Open it.’  The wind spoke.

‘Open it.’  The shelving shook.

‘Open it.’  The door breathed.

‘Open it.  That’s why it’s there.’

The narrator patted herself on the back as Adrianna pushed past her aunt to open the strange door.

Inside contained the emaciated body of the particularly obese child from the local youth center, her thick white bones poking through what was left of her fat flesh.  Ah, no, too gross, wait a second-

The wood of the door was different from that of the rest of the house, painted a deep burgundy that seemed hellish in nature.  Adrianna ran her knotted fingers against the wood – the door seemed to breathe under her touch, as though it was waking up from a long nap.  Adrianna recoiled.  She knew she wanted nothing to do with this door, did not want to see where it led.  Clara felt that this door could not be opened, would not be opened.  Suddenly, the narrator whispered into Clara’s ear, filling her with a sense of dread.

‘Open it.’  The wind spoke.

‘Open it.’  The shelving shook.

‘Open it.’  The door breathed.

‘Open it.  That’s why it’s there.’

The narrator patted herself on the back as Clara pushed past her niece to open the strange door.

Inside contained Adrianna’s old roller blades, rolling and frolicking by themselves.  Out of the mouths of the shoes flew thousands of sticks with batlike wings.  Out of the mouths of the shoes flew thousands of bottles of expensive Victoria’s Secret perfumes.  Out of the mouths of the shoes flew thousands of mushrooms, the kind that won’t grow in Pennsylvania due to its climate, out of the mouths of the shoes flew photographs of Adrianna’s parents (where are they?), out of the mouths of the shoes flew a thousands cow hooves (Thomas Edison’s, the dead inventor not the cow) and they swarmed the heads of the two women.

No, no. All wrong.  A good story should never end with paper cuts or swarms of cow hooves.

There is a secret door in the basement, and Adrianna is about to run into it, headfirst.

Kristina Felske is the founder and chief editor of the Other Otter and a big, big fan of appetizers. http://www.kristinafelske.com // twitter.com/kristinafelske

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