It was then that I heard pounding footsteps on the first floor. This was a common annoying occurrence when my family was home; every time they passed through the front hallway, past the basement door, I heard their footsteps. This time, fear immediately shot through me at the sound. My reflex was to turn the television off immediately... the basement door was up a flight of steps and around a corner, so whoever it was would not have seen any light.
I heard the basement door handle click and turn as I sat in absolute darkness. I moved slowly so as to be absolutely silent, and crawled behind our large television. As I passed it inch by inch, I noted with panic that its black screen still dimly glowed. I heard footsteps coming down the carpeted but creaky stairs.
I froze in my hiding place, listening. For many long minutes, I heard nothing. Had the intruder seen the television's afterglow, or had it faded in time? Was it standing in the pitch dark listening for me? I seemed to lie there in total silence for an interminably long time. My panic began to fade, and I began to think more clearly.
Had I really heard an intruder? Could someone possibly be standing there in silence for so long without making any noise? The basement was so exceedingly quiet that the silence itself began to hurt my ears. Could the unknown person really avoid any noise from shuffling or breathing or anything else? If there was an intruder, it was still in the basement, because the creaky stairs were incredibly loud, the door handle clicked, and it wouldn't know to mask its footsteps on the first floor so that they couldn't be heard down here...
I began counting in my head trying to pass the time, as drool fell from my mouth onto the carpet—I didn't dare risk the sound of swallowing. I reached sixty seconds once, twice... thirty times... sixty times... by now my fear had faded and I was more confused than anything. I estimated I'd been crouched in the absolute black for almost two hours, and had still heard nothing. If there was an intruder, none of this made sense... finally, I decided I'd have to make a move. If I did nothing, eventually the sun would come up, and shine in through the small basement windows... and, worse, I began to smell something horrible and cloying.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I began inching my way towards the stairs by way of the walls. If someone was standing there in the dark, I should be able to go around them and then make a break up the stairs... meanwhile, the horrible odor grew stronger. Had something died down here in the night? No living person would smell like that... terrible images of some sort of corpse-monster listening for me in the dark erupted in my thoughts, and I moved as fast as I could without making a sound.
Just as I finally approached the stairs, there was an enormous clatter, as of something falling or collapsing on the floor. It was at that moment I leapt forward and crashed up the stairs, running out through the open basement door and my wide-open front door. Now certain that someone was in the house, I called the police from my cellphone and watched my house from afar.
The police came, checked inside the house, and then grimly came back out to question me. They'd found a body in the house—my elderly neighbor, who seemed to have died of a heart attack. Their belief was that I must have left the front door unlocked, and he must have wandered in my house while dying, looking for help. At first, I felt horrible, thinking that I had sat there in the dark while the old man literally died a few feet away.
Then it occurred to me: What the hell was that loud noise of things falling, that last prompted me to bolt up the stairs and out of the house? I asked the police and they confirmed; the back door of my house had been left open as well, near a single bare footprint in the mud. Somehow, for some reason I'll never know, there was someone else in that basement with us... silent, waiting, and listening in the dark over the fresh corpse of an old man.