This story is by Audrey Eiland and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Depression pushed me down a steep staircase. Landing somewhere in the middle, but closer to the bottom, there is only darkness below me; the cellar awaits. The malevolent spirits crawl out of their unlit corners and stare at me. Trapped, as I am too weak to run up the stairs back to safety where I can lock the door behind me. The phantoms approach, reaching out and stroking me with their icy fingers. Surrounded on all sides, I can either face the creatures of my mind or let them consume me. Gradually lifting myself up, my legs buckle and fall from my weight. I cry for help, but there is no one.
The cellar of my mind with its creeping uncertainty has left me paralyzed. When my legs gain stability, I sprint to the top and charge frantically through the door, letting it slam behind me in a thunderous crash. The horrors are imprisoned for the day, but I still hear them calling to me.
A sleepless night leads me back to the cellar door, desperate for answers. I twist the brass knob and hold my breath as the door creaks open. The stairs greet me with a glum stillness as I engulf myself in the darkness. The cold, musty dampness penetrates my bones as I peer below. Hesitant to lift my foot off the first step and place it on the second, I begin my way down. My entire body quivers as I take another step and land on the third. The cobweb covered bulb flickers over my head, only to light the grey cement steps beneath my feet. Struggling to move further, my unease sickens me. Just as I gain some strength, a shadow floats up somewhere from the bottom – Envy.
Envy leads me down to the sixth step, and whispers, “Someone will always be better than you.” Then she disappears into the shadows, leaving only her emerald eyes watching me as they glow provocatively in the darkness.
Shouting fills the air from somewhere in the pit. Envy hisses from below, “Beware of Rage.” Though I cannot see him, he continues to bawl boomingly from below. When his screams cease, I find myself on the eighth step in a fog of anger and discontent. There, another specter spies me and glides out of her corner. Sorrow wails to remind me of every disappointment in my life through each agonizing weep.
She pulls me to the tenth step as I grieve every disappointment; a funeral of each missed opportunity. She lingers by my side, covering me in a blanket of frost. I remain there on the tenth step for a while as time slowly passes.
I await in a sea of suffering for one spirit to finally show himself. I’ve only heard his voice saturating my head and felt his violent push.
Emerging from the darkness, the assailant appears. His red eyes are the only visible feature. He reaches out and grasps my hand, entwining his boney fingers around mine and dragging me to the bottom. Submerged in the abyss, a dim light overhead turns on, barely illuminating the dark room. Depression grins crookedly at me. Then he unlatches his skeleton fingers from mine leaving me free range to wander alone. Every corner is filled with shadows with their glowing eyes guarding each crevice like wardens.
The loneliness fills every space of my mind like a storm is brewing in the distance, awaiting to unleash its wrath. The demons gaze at me ready for me to find something, but I don’t know yet what that is.
Beaming out of the darkness, a glowing light as bright as the sun catches my eye. I begin to follow it and make out a small red jewelry box sitting on top of a dusty wooden shelf. This must be my prize for successfully making it past all the monsters. I notice a gold latch appears to be locking something inside of it but there’s no key in sight. In the reflection of the latch something appears. A sudden tingle shoots down my spine and knocks me to the ground.
“Looking for this?” A cloaked monster towers as a behemoth over me and pulls out the matching gold key. “You’ll never get this,” Fear mocks as he displays his jagged teeth. I shudder back towards the stairs but another phantom creeps out of the shadows and blocks the path. “He’s right,” Doubt mutters. An electrifying bolt shoots through every bone in my body as I find myself trapped between Fear and Doubt. I try to close my eyes and wake up from this nightmare, but it’s no use.
Fear turns his glare on me like a haughty dragon guarding a precious gem. I realize this box is what I came for all along, but am too late because he holds my key.
Just as I am about to give up, the box whimpers and pleads for me to rescue it from its cruel guards. With a slither of courage left, I reach for the box, but Fear tosses me to the cold cement. I lie there disoriented for a moment, but something inside of me demands that I keep trying to free this prisoner, and I begin to stand back up.
This time, I will not let him win. He will not be granted my one last treasure. With all of my power, I force him to the ground. He feebly lifts himself up as I sprint past. Fear regains his strength and charges over to me. I reach for the box, but he slaps my hand away. “You’ll never be good enough. You’ll fail at this, like you do everything else,” he jeers.
“This is all I have left,” I utter and turn my attention back to the tiny jewelry box.
Doubt reads my thoughts and forms a barricade in front of me. “Stupid girl,” she mocks. Fear rotates his head at me and slithers behind Doubt. Doubt presses her skeleton hand on my chest and holds me back as Fear plucks up the glimmering box. “Too late my dear,” He cackles while slipping the box down his cloak and clasping his hand around Doubt’s. They grin at each other and soak up their victory. My eyes fill with tears and blur my vision as they drip down my cheeks. I collapse to the dead ground. They burst into a booming laughter as I lie defeated.
Through my sobs, something immediately draws my head up. My eyes fixate on Fear’s cloak. Hypnotized by the strange glimmer piercing out, I gain strength and rise up towards Fear. My fingers extend out almost touching him. I move even closer and trap him in the darkest corner. Doubt flays her grimy hands towards me in a last effort to defend her king, but I smack her down. With my free hand, I grab ahold of Fear’s icy cloak. Reaching inside his dark silhouette, Doubt clings to my ankles but I kick them free and manage to grab hold of my treasure. Fear starts to shrink down and I tower over the once mighty king. I rip off the gold key that glistens like a ray in the darkness around his neck. They begin to melt. Just as I think I’m free, I notice Doubt’s arm crawling towards me.
I outrun the limb with the box and key held tightly in my grip. I place the key into the lock and twist it open. The luminous light from the open lid blinds my eyes as it brightens the entire cellar and melts Doubt’s last attempt.
The rest of the shadows retreat back to their corners knowing they serve a new master now. I close the lid and let the cellar return to darkness. My mind no longer frightens me. The hope I found sets my mind at ease and allows me to have one thing to hold onto.