"The Basement" by Mark Healey
The next thing I knew, I was traveling in this shuttle at incredible speed! I thought I was home! I guess I wasn't?!"
It has only been two days since I moved into the remarkable Victorian mansion in the Toronto suburb of Oakville, Ontario. Just seconds from its charming downtown core, I had spent the better part of my life living in this thriving community. The house itself was the kind of house I had dreamed of owning; its spectacular architecture; its sparkling aura and its unique splendor of the past that I could feel and smell the air of a simpler time when the house was first built. I had to pinch myself pretty hard to believe that I was the proud owner of something so priceless and yet, so mysterious. And it was definitely mysterious and it is also where my story begins.
It was spring when I moved in. The inside of the mansion had a unique flare for both the present and past. As I looked at the walls, there were signs of the past - the White mantel fireplace, the hanging chandelier and the wood burning stove that stood in the kitchen - a definite reminder of what the house once symbolized - beauty and of a time it had once been borne into. The house also had a modern feel to it - the updated laminate flooring, the fresh white paint and hanging drapes that even an adolescent would cherish. But It was the house's mysterious aura that attracted me to it.
There was also something else.
There was nothing unusual about the house's exterior but there was something quite quaint where the basement was concerned! In spite of the house being well over a hundred years old, the basement was fully finished with beautiful beige carpeting, a rather large sitting area which included a sectional brown sofa, a 50 inch LCD TV with a black stand ( which was included in the price of the house) and bar that stretched almost halfway through the back corner of the room, along with four stools which could entertain a number of guests. There was also this door - this unusual door situated to the left of the bar. Its place in the room completely mystified me that I had this sudden urge to see what was behind it!
My attempts to open this door were not successful in the beginning. I made more attempts within the hour, tenacity over taking me, so much so, it became an obsession to get that door opened and I simply was not going to give up! A whole hour had passed before I had any success.... I kept trying to pry that door open....turning and twisting....turning clockwise, counter clockwise, over and over, my face turning three shades of red with over several more attempts and finally - the knob began to turn and slowly, the door opened and what I saw on the other side, astounded me!
With my heart rate beginning to accelerate, I shut my right eye and took a quick glance out of my left one and all I could hear was a loud roar, a roar that became increasingly louder as I gradually opened the door inch by inch. My eyes began to widen as I took notice of what appeared to be a subway station. How could this be? As I slipped through the door with extreme caution, curiosity quickly set in and I as closed the door behind me, I could see hundreds of people getting in and out of a subway which appeared to be running underneath my house! A subway line underneath my house? How cool, I thought. The mystery that I thought was unraveling, completely consumed me with excitement. I decided to get in one of the cars and go for a ride. The next thing I knew, I was traveling in this shuttle at incredible speed! I thought I was home! I guess I wasn't?!
I didn't know where I was going nor did I understand what was happening. As the train continued to increase in speed, I looked out of a window and all I saw was darkness outside of the car with about twenty or so passengers who were riding along with me. The subway had several compartments which included several restaurants, a bar and even an internet cafe, which by the way, were filled with mostly brainy types who were in deep concentration, never once looking up from their computer monitors. One such passenger was a young woman with a young child who wouldn't stop crying. The woman and I looked at each other hard and although she did not speak directly to me, I was not certain if she was aware of my presence. As I looked around the car, there were teenagers, perhaps students and also business men who appeared to be on their way home from work. Nobody else for that matter seemed to be aware of me. I continued to slowly gaze around the room, my brain trying to rapidly absorb all I was seeing, fully in awe and trying to process this incredible experience when I soon realized we had stopped. I decided to get out. The station looked somewhat similar to the one I had first encountered earlier in my journey. I decided to walk along the platform. I saw more restaurants, a miniature golf centre, a bank, and even a small amusement park - all underneath my house! There didn't seem to be any evidence of a world above me. I was presumably far from home yet I knew in the back of my mind that I was practically at the foot of my own door step!
And I still wanted to see more. I wasn't sure if I wanted to end my journey as I was completely awestruck - like a kid in a candy store, immersed in a lucid dream, I wanted to explore further - probe further into my whereabouts and surroundings and to understand how such a place could exist. As I continued to walk along the same platform, I took notice of the quick pace, the intense look on everyone's faces coming to and fro, the loud pounding of the pavement, the hustle and bustle, so electrifying, it was deafening! There were all kinds of people; young and old, big and small - most of them consumed with their own thoughts, no apparent conversation amongst each other, almost like looking at a silent 3D movie, but instead of being on a set with actors, there was real life here! It was all so enigmatic and a big part of me suddenly becoming more mystified in what appeared to be a strange world and yet, it was completely normal in other aspects as well. Everyone seemed to be going about their own business and yet, there didn't appear to be anything social about these people. I even made attempts to speak to several people along the way to try to get a clearer understanding as to where I REALLY was. But nobody would engage in any sort of conversation with me and I felt as though I was intruding in on a far off world, completely cut off and alienated from those around me, unable to connect with anyone and everyone who might appear to be approachable. I continued to walk a half kilometre down the platform, seeing a few small shops, the ticket agents staring at me with blank expressions, no emotion in their faces and completely unaware that I was even there. I soon realized that I did not exist to these people - there was no connection and what would appear to be an exciting world, was in fact, not so exciting, quite dull and perhaps, contrived to some extent. I was now trying to find my way back home, searching high and low for that mysterious door, never once looking back.....
And then I found it - the door that would allow me to re-enter my basement. I slowly turned the knob, leaving this mysterious world behind me, and I knew I was back in the comfort of my own home.
My journey was brief - I hadn't taken enough time to fully take in what I had seen, fully absorbing the fact that I had indeed encountered a world similar to my own, but in some way, very different and incomprehensible. And then I asked myself over and over, " What just happened? Where did I go and what did it all mean?" It took minutes perhaps, hours to finally come to grips with this odd situation and around this strange world and to justify over and over in my mind if any of this could be real. As I shut THAT basement door behind me for the once and final time, I could still hear the sounds of activity in this strange world and I wondered over and over if it merely existed only in my mind.
The days would quickly pass and so would the mysterious door in my basement. It was no longer there! And I didn't know why! Despite the fact that in the days I spent looking for that door, I would receive many visitors throughout the years, all claiming to hear strange voices, footsteps and even that haunting, loud roaring within its walls. In time the activity would eventually fade away, like a bird leaving its nest for the last time....never to return again.
But one day, as I ascended from the basement to the main floor of my house, I opened my front door, stepped out onto my front porch and gazed up at the clear blue sky. The first signs of spring were everywhere! I soaked in the cool breeze, the birds chirping, the leaves sprouting on the tall Oak trees, the rich green grass and the daffodils blooming off into the distance. It then occurred to me that it is THIS world that I loved and that perhaps, just perhaps, the mystery that plagues us day after day, and night after night, can only be attained and understood in a world that only exists directly in front of us and within our reach.....