"Come on, stop being a scaredy-cat."
"I don't see you going down there."
"Five minutes, just five minutes."
"All right, three minutes. And I'll give you my Nolan Ryan baseball card you like."
"You mean the one where he's throwing the football?"
"That's the one. But you have to stay down there, with the door shut, and the lights off."
Brian looked at his brother suspiciously, narrowing his eyes, and then turned them toward the basement door. He already knew, even at nine years old, that monsters didn't exist. So there was nothing to fear in the basement. Even with the lights off and the door shut. And he really liked that baseball card, he had admired it since Jake had first shown it to him in one of his albums. But still......
Jake studied his brother intently, noting his nervous features and shaking posture. He won't do it, he thought to himself. No way. Jake was just about to let it go, turn away and go to his room, when Brian opened his mouth to speak.
"All right, I'll do it."
Jake smiled mischieviously. "Well, that's a shock. But you have to stay down there the whole time, and I don't mean on the steps either, all the way in the basement. When the five minutes is up, I'll let you know."
"Three minutes was the deal," Brian corrected his twelve-year-old brother. "And you better not short me on the Nolan Ryan card."
"Perish the thought, my word is my bond." Jake told him, unlocking the latch on the basement door. Cold air crept up from the gloomy foundation of their house, the stairwell descending into unscrutable darkness, where anything might lurk. The dripping sound of water hitting the cement floor was a faint echo. Jake turned on the light so his brother could see his way down the rickety wooden steps.
Brian swallowed the lump in his throat, looked at Jake with a scared expression that he was trying valienty to hide, and then began to descend into the basement. HIs brother watched him go all the way to the bottom, then yelled, "Okay, you ready?"
"Three minutes," Brian shouted back.
"Yep!!" Jake said, then turned off the light and slammed the door shut. He began to count in his head.
For the first minute, he couldn't hear anything.
The second minute, he thought he heard the light thumping of his brother's footsteps on the stairs, but he wasn't sure.
As he approached the third and final minute, Jake jumped as he suddenly heard a terrified scream from below. He could barely discern his brother's quavering voice from behind the closed door. "Something's down here!! It's grabbing me, Jake!! Please, help me!!"
Sweat broke out on Jake's forehead, until he realized his brother was teasing him, he must be. Monsters didn't exist, even he knew that, and he was sure Brian did, too. "Yeah, yeah. Good one. I'm not going down there, nice try, though. Okay....time's up, come on!!"
But there was no sound of rumbling footsteps careening up the stairs, no panting of breath as his younger brother ascended toward the upper, safer floor.The door didn't explode open, reavealing his brother's pale face and goose-bumped arms. There was nothing. Nothing but silence. And something else, something like a faint slithering sound.
"All right, Brian!!" Jake hollered at the closed door, starting to feel truly scared. "You had your fun, you won the bet. Now come on up, I mean it!! Or you're not getting that card!! Do you hear me?"
There was a nerve-wracking space of five seconds of silence. Then, suddenly and without warning, the door buckled with a massive thrust, barely staying on its antiquated hinges. A small crack ran lengthwise down the top at its center. A harsh, ragged breathing could be heard from the other side. A shadow moved in the space beneath the door, flowing backward to strike the barrier again. The low rumble of a demonic laugh.
Jake screamed. He hurriedly latched the door shut with a sweat soaked and trembling hand. And then he ran, out of the house, into the street, around the block, screaming like a madman, fleeing from the terror that lurked in the basement.
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