It was July 19th, 1978 when a lonely, middle aged woman named Meredith moved into 728 West Grove Avenue. Meredith had just lost her husband to cancer, a kind man to whom she had been married to for 27 years. Meredith had no children. Her only remaining family was a sister who lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, more than 1,000 miles away from the lonely old house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So Meredith was all alone, a broken woman, in her new, very old house.
The only company she had on the first day of her new life was her young neighbor, Mrs. Anders and her two children, a five year old boy named Carter and his eight year old sister, Jenna. They had decided to welcome her to the neighborhood with some fresh baked cookies. Meredith didn’t have the heart to tell Mrs. Anders that she had diabetes.
It was only after Meredith began unpacking her collection of porcelain dolls that she began to notice some strange happenings within the shabby old house. Back aching, she noticed that a couple of her dolls had been turned around. She thought nothing of it. A wind or a careless arm could’ve done it. But then, one day while Meredith was coming up from the dark, moldy basement, she heard the distinct sound of porcelain shattering against hardwood. Meredith ran upstairs to the little shelves where her dolls were so lovingly placed, only to find that the very first doll she'd ever bought, a beautiful, Russian-style girl with long dark hair, was in smithereens on the floor.
Meredith was more sad than scared. She swept up the remains of the shattered little doll, and not being able to throw it away, put the scraps in a cardboard box and pushed it deep into the darkest, loneliest corner of her bedroom closet. Meredith had heard rumors of strange phenomenon in the house. The older man she'd bought the house from had told her to be careful. Told her that the house could have some strange effects on the mind. Meredith had thought, at the time, that the man was old and confused, he must’ve been in his late eighties, after all. But now she began to think and ponder on what the man had said. Especially the curious statement he had made last: “There’s something wrong with the basement.” The basement was dingy and wet, yes, and perhaps there was some mold or fungus growing in the darkness, but this didn’t bother Meredith. That's what basements are like, after all.
As she exited the basement again, a knock sounded at the door. It was a fast, frantic knock. Meredith slowly walked towards the door, cautious. She was an older woman living alone, and a robbery wouldn’t be unheard of. She opened the door. It was Mrs. Anders, her neighbor. She looked panicked, her eyes bloodshot and her hair a mess. “Oh, Meredith,” she began, her voice shaking, “please tell me you’ve seen Carter today?” Meredith thought hard, her mind wasn’t what it used to be. Her memory had started to fade faster lately.
“No, I can’t say that I have,” said Meredith, as she stood wracking her brain. A look of disappointment and fear washed over Mrs. Anders. She looked up at Meredith and let out a small gasp.
“Meredith, are you feeling alright?” she asked, concern in her voice. To tell the truth, Meredith hadn’t been feeling alright. The last few days she hadn’t slept much. She was so tired, and her joints were screaming. She could feel her bones scraping together with every move she made.
“I’m fine, dear,” said Meredith.
Mrs. Anders left and went to the next house. Meredith creaked her way out of the basement and up to look in the mirror in her bathroom. She looked dreadful. Her eyes were sunken, her hair was thin, and it her skin had gone ashen-gray. She felt her forehead, expecting to find fever, but she was cold and clammy. “There’s something wrong with the basement,” she muttered to herself, echoing the old man.
As she left the bathroom, she felt a sharp pain in her foot. She sat down on her bed and brought her foot to her lap. A large shard of porcelain was protruding from her heel. She felt dizzy. Grasping the shard, she began to pull it out, wincing in pain. The shard drew cleanly from her heel, and a small trickle of blood followed it.
As she came up from the basement, the front door rattled in it's frame from a loud, frantic pounding she had never heard before. She made her way to the door, her back brittle, her joints corroded and stiff. It was Mrs. Anders again. “Meredith!” she shouted, her previous patience and kindness had completely evaporated. “I know you’ve done something with her, you witch!” Her hair was stringy, her eyes sunken. She hadn’t slept in days, “Where is Jenna? I know you know where she is!”
Meredith remained calm, almost absent, with these screams of anguish. “Please calm down, dear. Come in and I’ll make you some tea.”
“I don’t want tea!” shouted Mrs. Anders, tears running down her face, “I want to know what you’ve done with my children!” Meredith looked puzzled. She leaned in close to Mrs. Anders. Her putrid breath smelled of metal. In a harsh whisper, she uttered, “There’s something wrong with the basement…” Mrs. Anders shoved past Meredith, knocking her to the floor. Mrs. Anders stormed through the decaying, decrepit house, or what used to be a house. Dust and mold was abundant. It stunk like a rotting animal. Mrs. Anders approached the threshold of the basement. She opened the thin door separating the house from the rotting underbelly that was the basement. She stood, staring down into the abyss, her legs shaking and her stomach turning. She already knew what she would find in the moldy darkness.
Just as Mrs. Anders’ foot touched down on the first step, she felt a sharp push from behind. She tumbled down the stairs, bashing her head on the banister several times. Her head hit the wet concrete floor before she came to rest at the bottom. She held her hand up in front of her eyes, and recognized blood in the dim light. Blood that wasn't hers. At the top of the stairs, she recognized the silhouette of Meredith. Speaking with the voices of twenty at once, she solemnly said, “Mors tua, vita mea.” and shut the door.
As Meredith walked up the stairs to her bedroom, her dolls, broken, battered, and dusty, littered the hallways. Her bedroom was close, she was so tired. She did what it had asked. She was sure she'd done what it had asked, but she couldn’t seem to remember it, not anymore. Maybe now it would grant her the peace of death. Maybe it would release her husband so they could be together… after. As Meredith lay in her bed, she felt a sharp pain in her chest. She smiled as her vision faded “There’s… something wrong… with the basement,” she muttered as she slowly and calmly faded away, her heart beating more erratically until it finally stopped, and she was free.