When they found me I was catatonic from terror and exhaustion. Easy to end the story there. My mom found me and the EMTs pulled me out of the crawlspace, semi-conscious, covered in spiderwebs and my own piss and all out of tears and screams.
But I didn’t get to skip the day I spent under the house in the dark, so neither will you.
I cowered in the dark for about ten minutes before I decided the people in the truck must have given up and that maybe it was safe for me to come out and tell my mom what had happened.
When I pushed on the crawlspace door, it would not move. I threw my whole weight against it, I pounded and kicked, I screamed for help, and when I exhausted myself and lay shuddering against the frigid dirt ground, that was when the bones of the house began to creak around me.
There is a kind of strange and terrible silence in pitch darkness. It isn’t silence at all, but more a kind of vastness, a sudden yawning awareness of all the empty spaces around you that could be filled with noise. You start reaching for the tiniest noises, because quiet, real quiet, is so desperately lonely and empty that you would do anything at all to fill it.
The soft rasp of my own hair on my face, the scrape of my shoes on the gritty, frozen ground. My own breath. The longer I spent in the dark, the more desperate I got for any sound, any sound that wasn’t made by me. Some sign that other things still existed.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I held my breath, kept perfectly still, and listened.
I don’t know what I was hoping for, or how I could have expected anything other than the high-pitched scrabble of roaches in the dark, the prick of their tiny legs on my ankles and neck. There was more screaming and crying from me that nobody heard.
I think I hoped, deep down, that the closing of the crawlspace door was a sign that there was something unseen and undisclosed in my house that cared about my safety. Maybe even the house itself. It closed the door because it didn’t want the strangers to kidnap me.
I was ten. Of course I was wrong. The house didn’t want to save me.
I think it wanted to eat me.
While I languished there in the dark, coming to the slow and horrible realization that I might, truly, never crawl back out from under the house, the silence wrapped around me so completely and lovingly that it became more a presence than a vacuum.
Nothing is coming, the silence seemed to say. Nothing is here. Nothing will consume you.
I was catatonic when my mother thought to look for me under the house. I was so numb I didn’t even feel relieved, I never had that snap moment where everything broke and I dissolved into tears or something and sobbed until all the trauma seeped away.
Instead, I cried a little and spent the night in the hospital, and by the time school started up again I was back to normal. Except there was still this rotten, hollow ball of something in my chest.
Until now I’ve never really had a reason to revisit all that nastiness. It’s not like there’s an anonymous group for kids who get trapped in crawlspaces. If there is, I never got a memo.
I’m writing all this to provide some kind of explanation. Most people probably wouldn’t have thought to do what I just did, I think. But Eli’s story and getting trapped under my house and all the baggage that comes with that has made me prone to searching for things in weird places. It’s why I got into urban exploration, in retrospect.
I had my suspicions that the house was hiding things from me, and it turns out I was right.
There is something inside the walls of Madigan Manor.