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“You see, we realized that it was drawing its power from us. That our fear was its strength. Every time we saw it, heard it, we made it more potent. The solution was obvious to us then: ignore it. Pretend it didn’t exist. So we just locked the door.”

She stared at me, at my wife, back at me. “How long ago was this?” Her tone was incredulous. I could hardly blame her.

“Four years,” my wife said.

“Four years?” she practically sobbed. “You’ve been avoiding the basement for four years?”

I couldn’t understand why she seemed so upset by this. Why the color had drained from her face. Why her eyes seemed hollow. Then my wife gasped. I looked at her, and she had cupped both hands over her mouth as if in awful realization.

“What?” I asked, a growing dread writhing in my stomach. “What’s the big deal—”

And then I realized too, and my knees turned to jelly.

Four years of avoiding the basement.

Four years of skirting past the locked door.

Four years pretending we weren’t afraid.

There was a heavy thump. From the direction of the basement door, a loud creak.