This story is by Kim Griffin Russell and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Billy Lawson skipped in through the front door after school, tossed his backpack in his room, and bounded toward the basement stairs. Ever since the middle of summer, the eight-year-old spent all day and some nights in the basement with his new best friend. His name was Fadilaaricsahak, but when Billy got all tongue-tied that first rainy day, he decided to call his new buddy, Frank.
Billy couldn’t go outside on that stormy day in July. Lightning was dangerous. That’s what mom always said, so Billy spent his day practicing pool in the basement. He hadn’t been in the cellar long when he heard a noise under the stairs past the laundry room and decided to investigate. Billy took his pool cue, holding it like a baseball bat, and crept toward the sound.
When he reached the place under the stairs where all the holiday decorations lived, he saw an odd shadow. The dark figure didn’t match the boxes stacked up in the corner and was more the shape of a man.
When the shadow moved toward him, Billy backed up.
“Wait!” The shadow said. Billy stopped. “Can’t you stay and play?”
Billy brought the pool cue off his shoulder and held it in both hands. “Know how to play pool?” Billy hoped he’d made a friend.
He had, and from that day on through the summer, Frank was the best friend Billy had ever had.
Frank loomed about six feet tall and was completely black. He called himself a shadow, and told Billy he’d been shifting into this particular basement through the realm portal for a long time, waiting to find the perfect friend, and Billy was it.
Playing with the humans was strictly forbidden, but Frank was lonely. He could control his anger as long as he was happy, no matter what the King said.
And as long as Billy came to visit him every day, Frank was happy.
Each night, Frank would return from his dark world to wait for Billy to wake, and every day they would play in the cold, damp, dark basement. He loved his new friend and wished summer could last forever.
But the leaves started to change color outside, and it was time for Billy to go into the 3rd grade.
“I have school tomorrow.” Billy racked up the balls on the pool table and took his first shot.
“You’ll come to visit after school,” Frank stated. It wasn’t a question.
“Yup!” Billy sunk the striped two ball into the corner pocket.
Frank had no reason to doubt Billy’s word, so he believed the boy, and when night fell, he returned to his world to sleep.
It was the weekend, and Billy finally had a break from his homework, so he ran downstairs to find Frank.
“Frank!” Billy called as he bolted down the stairs, two at a time, stopping only a moment to wave to the caribou head that hung above the steps.
“Frank? Where are you?” He said as he whipped open the door to the den. The large eyes on the moose head mounted to the wall stared at him blankly. Billy skipped from corner to corner in the basement until he reached the back of the laundry room under the stairs where he first met Frank a few months before.
“You left me.” A voice rumbled in the darkness, and Billy recognized it right away.
“You broke your promise.”
“I had homework. Third grade is hard. Are you mad at me?”
“Are you going to school again tomorrow?”
“Nope! Not ’til Monday!”
Frank hovered above Billy, making him jump off the box of Christmas decorations, spilling the contents all over the floor.
Billy started to walk backward toward the stairs.
“I.. I’m gonna go outside.” He said as he got tangled up in the sheets hanging across the laundry room.
Franks blackness grew until he covered the ceiling, blocking the light in the laundry room. Billy shook himself loose and ran for the door.
Once he reached the stairs, he took them two at a time as he tried to make it to the open basement door.
Frank flew after him, clawing at his clothes to bring him back down to the darkness. When Billy reached the door, he fell through the opening onto the kitchen floor, slamming the door shut with his foot and holding it there.
A guttural growl rose from the open crack at the bottom of the door. Billy ran outside and hid until dinner time.
Months passed, and Billy seemed to forget all about Frank, but Frank didn’t forget about him. Fadilaaricsahak didn’t like rejection, and if anyone did reject him, well, that was the last thing they ever did.
Frank watched Billy’s mother come up and down the stairs to do the laundry. He watched Billy’s father come downstairs to start the pellet stove.
Billy never came down. Not once.
Frank wished he could go upstairs, grab Billy, and drag him down to the basement, but shadows couldn’t travel above ground, so he was stuck.
Being stuck made Frank angry, and being angry made him want to kill.
Of course, Frank could travel back to his world, enter other basements and make a new friend, but he didn’t want to. He thought about going home to his parents, but he didn’t want that either.
He thought about murdering Billy, and his parents.
He thought a lot of things.
For now, Frank thought, he would wait for Billy’s return.
The fact was, Billy never forgot about Frank. He thought about him all the time. The boy wondered if his friend was still in the basement or if Frank returned home.
Maybe, Billy thought, he would spend Christmas break making up with Frank. After all, Christmas was all about love. That’s what his mom always said.
One cold winter morning, Billy decided he was going to find Frank, so he unlocked the basement door and crept down the stairs as quietly as he could.
He was nervous, but he pretended not to be.
He crept past the caribou and the den, into the laundry room and toward the storage place under the stairs. That’s where Frank said his portal was, so if he were going to be anywhere, it would be there.
Billy cleared his throat. “Hello?”
Silence filled the air.
He spoke a little louder. “Frank? You there?”
He took a few steps closer. Maybe he’d be able to see the portal, but there was nothing. Nothing but boxes stacked under the stairs.
Billy couldn’t tell if he was sad Frank was gone or relieved. He relaxed and spun around to head back upstairs when he was face to face with Frank.
The holes where his eyes should be were a fiery red, and he surrounded Billy with his darkness.
“You’ve disappointed me.”
The blackness started to thicken, and Billy was having a hard time catching his breath.
“I…I’m sorry.” Billy started coughing and gasping for air.
“Betrayal.” Frank was tightening his grip on Billy, choking the life out of the little boy.
Billy fell to his knees, onto something soft. Rudolf.
Just then, his mom called down the stairs. “Time for school.”
That was all the distraction Billy needed. He grabbed the stuffed reindeer and pressed his foot. Rudolf’s nose lit up a brilliant red and started to belt out Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Everywhere the light touched, the shadow would fade. So, Billy waved Rudolf around and continued to press his foot so that he would sing over and over.
“Ahhhh! It burns!” Frank wailed, as he recoiled from the light. Billy quickly moved the reindeer in a slicing fashion, erasing large chunks from the monster.
Frank desperately flew the best he could back to his realm portal under the stairs.
Hearing all the commotion, Billy’s mother ran down the stairs and into the laundry room.
“Are you ok?” She said as she scooped him up to check on him. “I heard you coughing.”
“I’m okay.” He said as he looked over her shoulder to the area under the stairs. He held up Rudolf one last time, but the monster was gone, banished to his world.
At least that’s what Billy hoped.
To be sure, Billy convinced his dad to set up lights in the corner of the basement. A light fort, they called it.
The only rule was that Billy had to turn off the lights when he was done playing, but he never did, although it was tempting.
Billy knew Frank was still somewhere in the dark, and part of Billy even missed him and the summer they spent together.
Sometimes he thinks about shutting off the light and calling Frank back, but so far he hasn’t.
Instead, he collects Rudolfs and places them neatly in his light cave, just in case Frank finds a way to return from the darkness.