[SFX: Beep. Studio]
JUDITH: Good evening. I have been asked to tell you that the following recording is very scary, with stuff that will give your kids nightmares.
OWEN: [talkback] Are you reading your notes or a book of carpet samples?
JUDITH: Anyway, hello, anyone who might be listening. Judith and Owen again, still combing through… so many audio files.
OWEN: [talkback] So many. I know way too much about your life now.
JUDITH: I’m going to have to kill you after this, you know that, right?
OWEN: [talkback] Not if something paranormal does it first.
JUDITH: Good enough. Anyway, I’ve been going through the recordings this week and I found a few that might be of interest. We’re going to give them a listen. I’ll admit, I haven’t really played them back in full yet because… well, I kind of got lazy with the editing. What? It’s tedious.
OWEN: [talkback] Yeah, there were like, seven of them that were just the sound of you guys painting a wall. I think the only thing more boring than watching paint dry is listening to it.
JUDITH: Yeah, I had a habit of turning on the recorder and just… hoping the magic would happen.
OWEN: [talkback] Fair enough.
JUDITH: Ok, let’s get to the first relevant file. I think the best place to start is with the one labelled “Basement 1”?
[SFX: beep. Claire’s living room]
JUDITH: Claire, we have to go in there.
CLAIRE: I know, just give me a second. It’s kind of… dark and creepy.
JUDITH: Well, yeah, but we have to actually look around the basement. Besides, if it really is a man cave, you need to start your new life as a suburban dad.
CLAIRE: You know, you have a weird fetish about “facing things head on.”
JUDITH: Oh, that’s not my only fetish.
CLAIRE: Ok. You got a flashlight in case the rest of the lights don’t work? Because I have mine.
JUDITH: Yeah, no kidding, that thing could break through drywall.
CLAIRE: It’s heavy duty.
JUDITH: It’s heavy. That thing weighs like, 10 lbs. I have… uh…
CLAIRE: An itty-bitty book light by the looks of it.
JUDITH: It’s fine. It works. See! Light!
CLAIRE: I’m just saying, a nice solid flashlight is a good investment.
JUDITH: Gee, thanks Adam. Anyway. Hi again, and welcome back to Yes! In My Basement. Today we are heading into the basement to fully explore its hidden depths, by which I mean we finally got the lights on the stairs working.
CLAIRE: Yeah, we haven’t really been down there yet. The actual basement lights are still on the fritz and we haven’t figured out if it’s a wiring thing or if it’s just the bulbs. Either way, I’ve been avoiding it because- I don’t know, do I really need a reason to avoid a spooky basement? I’ve had other stuff to deal with.
JUDITH: Yeah, like going to the hardware store and straining your neck on my futon, which I’m honestly sorry about. Claire’s been sleeping on my couch while we get this place liveable.
CLAIRE: I swear, I’ll be out of your hair soon enough. It’s just… I don’t know, feels weird moving in here all of a sudden. Too much change at once. Besides, it’s still full of all this old furniture and like… what if they died here?
JUDITH: Like, in the basement or just in the house in general?
CLAIRE: Does it make a difference?
JUDITH: Good point. But nah, it’s cool, I get it, just please be better about washing your dishes. I keep finding mugs everywhere with a thin layer of coffee in the bottom. I found a mug in the shower. Why was there a mug in the shower?
CLAIRE: I needed to take a shower but I didn’t want my coffee to get cold.
JUDITH: … and?
CLAIRE: That’s it. Shower coffee.
JUDITH: [pause] Sure, makes sense. Anyway, today we take a good look at the basement of Claire’s house. There’s an exterior padlock on the door which is… weird, but the place is old and it’s already super weird, so maybe it’s just a holdover from the original build. The door itself isn’t locked, it’s just hanging off the latch.
CLAIRE: Or maybe the basement was filled with monsters. Maybe it was where they kept their eldritch horrors.
JUDITH: Also an option. An unlikely one, but still more possible that I would like to think.
CLAIRE: Alright, is baby’s first flashlight ready to go?
JUDITH: Stop ragging on my light. Let’s go.
[SFX: door creaking open, slow steps down creaky stairs. They are heading into the basement, which is dank and unfinished]
CLAIRE: Whew, this place is chilly.
JUDITH: Yeah, it’s way colder down here. Well it doesn’t look like a man cave, although it does look like an actual cave. Maybe it was just used as a storage cellar? My grandfather used to store everything in his basement. Well, mostly just canned tomatoes and his really bad homemade wine. Apparently you can make wine out of whatever you find in your garden, who knew.
CLAIRE: No idea. It smells weird down here.
JUDITH: Yeah, it’s like… not musty per se… but… smells like dirt?
CLAIRE: Well the floor is concrete. Maybe something rotted down here.
JUDITH: Hmm, hope not. Ok, here’s the lay of the land: The basement seems to span the entire floor plan of the house and there are a few rooms around the perimeter.
CLAIRE: There are three rooms. Two have doors, one just looks like a storage closet or something. There’s some… empty shelves in there, oh! [SFX: pull chain] The light works!
JUDITH: Yeah, but the one out in the main area doesn’t seem to, so maybe it’s just the bulb.
CLAIRE: Ok, so in room one [SFX: door creak]… we’ve got a bunch of old books, ummm… stack of National Geographics, a couple of cooking pots?
JUDITH: That’s a Dutch oven.
CLAIRE: Gross. [SFX: pages shuffling, boxes being moved] Just looks like a bunch of old junk.
JUDITH: We can go through this later. Jeez, I’m cold. Should’ve worn a sweater down here.
CLAIRE: Yeah. Hmm.
CLAIRE: The other door is closed.
CLAIRE: … Yeah, I guess we just… open it. God how many creepy doors does this place have?
JUDITH: Do you want to do the honours?
JUDITH: … do you want me to look?
CLAIRE: Nope, it’s fine, it’s my place and I shouldn’t be scared of a closed door. [pause] Ok, I’m going to open it.
CLAIRE: Right now.
JUDITH: Yeah, that’s what you’re going to do.
CLAIRE: Opening… nowwwww-
JUDITH: CLAIRE JUST OPEN THE DAMN DOOR
[SFX: Door swings open. The audio becomes slightly distorted]
CLAIRE: [quietly] It’s freezing in here.
JUDITH: [quietly] Yeah. Crap, my flashlight is starting to cut out. Stupid cheap batteries.
CLAIRE: Well that’s your fault for bringing sub-par equipment. See, mine’s still working… uh… mostly.
JUDITH: Well, mine’s not working. I’ll just stick close to you. This room smells like wet wood.
CLAIRE: God, I hope a joist isn’t rotting or something. I think this room is empt-… there’s some rings on the wall, [SFX: metal on stone] I guess something was hanging here at one point. Either that, or… that’s where the terrifying creatures who lived down here were chained up.
JUDITH: You know, I still think you’re overreacting, but uh, yeah, I don’t like that. Although it was probably used to hang like… salami or something.
CLAIRE: Made of human flesh.
JUDITH: Ok, you need to stop talking. [shudders] I think we should go back upstairs, I’m freezing and there also doesn’t appear to be a light in this room. I don’t like being down here, because it feels… really eerie.
CLAIRE: [whisper] Judith, did you feel that?
JUDITH: Feel what?
CLAIRE: Something touched me.
[SFX: a hissing noise]
CLAIRE: Something touched me on the back of my leg. Oh my god.
JUDITH: … I hear breathing. Ow!
JUDITH: Did you scratch my neck?
CLAIRE: What? No, what are you talking about.
JUDITH: Something just caught me back there. Ok, maybe we should just head back upstairs for no-…
[SFX: a horrible hiss]
JUDITH: OH JESUS CHRIST RUN!
[SFX: running up stairs, door slams. Back in the living room]
JUDITH: [panting] What the HELL was that?
CLAIRE: It… I… I think it was… a raccoon.
JUDITH: Hang on, what?
CLAIRE: It was a raccoon. There’s a raccoon in the basement. It must’ve gotten in through that broken window before we blocked it.
JUDITH: Are you shitting me? [starting to laugh] Oh my god, this house is literally full of wildlife.
CLAIRE: [laughing] Oh my God, ok, I need to go lie down for a minute and then call animal control.
JUDITH: On the upside, my flashlight started working again. Can you take a look at my neck? I think I’ve got a scratch across the back of it.
CLAIRE: Weird. I felt something like… touch me, but I thought it was you. But, yeah, something down there put a neat little slice in there.
JUDITH: I seriously hope it wasn’t that raccoon. I don’t need to get a million rabies shots. But like… it couldn’t have been the raccoon, but maybe… I don’t know.
CLAIRE: Here, I’ll get some soap and bandaids.
[SFX: beep. Studio]
OWEN: [talkback] When was that recording from?
JUDITH: About two… three weeks after she got possession of the house? Honestly, once the raccoon jumped us, we just lost track of the day and everything else that happened prior to that was forgotten. We got the raccoon out though. In contrast to everything else, that was highly uneventful. Guy just told us it was real chilly down there.
OWEN: [talkback] Right. Hang on, I’m just going to come into the booth. [SFX: shuffling, door, sits down]
JUDITH: Sick of talkback?
OWEN: Yup. Uh, random question, but… how’s your neck?
JUDITH: It’s fine. It wasn’t the raccoon. There’s no way it could’ve gotten that high.
OWEN: Are you sure?
JUDITH: Yes. And this is going to sound kind of weird but… it felt like a hand, and not little spooky raccoon hands. I thought it was maybe Claire in the confusion, but… I don’t think that anymore. I’m sorry, this sounds bonkers but… something didn’t want us in that basement.
OWEN: Doesn’t sound like it was too welcoming in the first place.
JUDITH: That room felt weird, though. It was almost like it was too dark.
OWEN: Ok, uh, explain.
JUDITH: It was like… walking into a cave. It didn’t feel like normal dark. It felt… thick dark. Just wrong. Maybe it’s just hindsight, maybe I’m projecting because of everything else that has happened, but going in there felt like walking into like… a cell. Or just someplace where something horrible was kept. We went down a few more times over the next week after animal control came by, but it was kind of uneventful, just cold and dark. Usually. But it just became a dumping ground for things she didn’t want to keep upstairs.
OWEN: Huh, I wonder what’s down there.
JUDITH: The only interesting thing I noticed was those notebooks. And they’re weird. Some of them had actual diary entries from what I remember when I flipped through a few, but there were like, odd notations, symbols, sigils, stuff in other languages. We found them on a few shelves in the house, but we found at least four in the basement, all bound in thin leather. I read through them but… just trying to figure them out gave me a headache. But Claire, she kept reading them and reading them.
OWEN: Well, if you still have one, they might be worth taking a look at.
JUDITH: They’re still at the house. Claire got really into them, I think. I don’t know, I want to track one down. Can you pull up the file for September 19th? I know she was recording some stuff on her own, I listened to the start of a few of them but there were a bunch I filed away for “eventually editing.”
OWEN: Aw, but I just got in here. Alright, but I’m figuring out a system so I’m not always at the boards. [SFX: footsteps, door open and close. Back on talkback] This should be the right one, no one has opened it since it was uploaded.
JUDITH: Play it. Hopefully there’s something in there of note.
[SFX: beep. Bedroom, at night]
CLAIRE: So… hey everybody listening, one of whom is probably Judith. Hey, Judes! Still at it! I hope you’re proud. Anyway, welcome to the audio-diary of home renovator extraordinaire, Claire Sterback. I’m taking the week off work because, one, I have to use my vacation days, and two, I’m exhausted and might be getting sick – I don’t know. I keep getting these headaches and dizzy spells, and I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Honestly, with my luck, I probably have lead poisoning or something. God, these pipes probably have lead in them. If Judith tries to convince me to repair them myself, I will freak out. Actually, she’s not that determined. That’s too far. I hope. So, we found a bunch of notebooks around the house. I guess Hugh and Minnie were the ones writing in them. Some of them are like, diary entries. I’ve been reading through them to find out stuff about them. There are some bits and pieces about their friends and neighbours, some things about a few groups they took part in? Yoga classes, artist communes or whatever, there’s a few names so I’ll probably look them up to see if these people are like, even still alive. That’s kind of bleak to think about. Uh… oh, there’s a bunch of bits about inner peace and how to use crystals. I think I found a green juice recipe? But there’s a lot more stuff that’s way stranger. Some things even feel like they’ve been written in code. Notes that are just a bunch of numbers, or maybe a series of words which are probably latin? I translated a few, but most of them don’t make any sense grammatically when you’re just blindly looking them up on google translate. There’s also stuff in other languages aside from Latin? Anyway, it’s funny, they’re so obscure and honestly kind of boring, but I can’t get them out of my head. They don’t make any sense, but at the same time, it’s like, when you can hear the tune of a song in your head but can’t remember the lyrics. I don’t know. I’m a little on edge lately. I had a dream recently that something was scratching and trying to crawl up from under the floorboards. It’s probably just rats. Just rats. Rats in my brain! Anyway, so, today, I’m going to finally get rid of all of the crap in these upstairs bedrooms. When I moved in the closets were full of clothes that smelled like mothballs and sandalwood. I took over the master bedroom and shoved everything from there into the spare room and left it alone. But I’ve got a bunch of trash bags and a lot of caffeine running through my veins, so this crap is leaving the house.
CLAIRE: [long silence] Please tell me that’s not another raccoon. Goddamn trash pandas. [calls out] IF YOU WANT THE BASEMENT, YOU CAN HAVE IT, OK? [SFX: footsteps, sits down on couch] Anyway, uhhhh, ok, what was I talking about? Right, so, the books. There’s some bizarre stuff in here. I probably shouldn’t read this aloud, right? I mean, I’ve seen Evil Dead. But whatever. For those out there with an interest in demons and demon-lore, maybe this will interest you. Here’s a passage from the spooky poetry books of Minnie and Hugh, my, uh, apparently occultist-boho grandparents.
From my body take
From my spirit wake
From my blood be born
From my essence take
Of the spirit willing
Of the flesh be weak
I give you my body
I command you, speak
CLAIRE: That actually sounded way more sexual than I wanted it to. Judith, if you’re listening, please delete that. Is this their poetry? God, this really is a bad poetry cult house.
[SFX: something smashes in the distance]
CLAIRE: [nervous] What the… hello? I told you to stay in the basement, raccoon… if you don’t bother me, I don’t bother you! Uh… if anyone’s here, I’ve got a knife. A big one! And I’ll use it … Hello?
[SFX: cautious footsteps down hallway]
CLAIRE: [whispering] Please be nothing, please be nothing, please be nothing… it’s… a bottle broke? Oh my god, what was in it? It smells terrible, Jesus.
VOICE: [very quiet, heavy distortion] claire
CLAIRE: Holy Jesus what-
VOICE: [very quiet, heavy distortion] Hello
CLAIRE: [terrified] Who’s there? Oh my god oh my god [SFX: running, slamming door, heavy breathing] Ok, ok – shit. Where’s my phone? Oh god, where is it? Oh my God.
WOMAN: [heavy distortion] HELLO CLAIRE
[SFX: heavy static builds, cacophony, the audio is cut off]
[SFX: beep. Studio]
OWEN: [tb] Holy shit.
JUDITH: Holy SHIT.
OWEN: [tb] Was… was that another person?
JUDITH: I don’t know! I… I don’t know. I never heard that before. It’s…
OWEN: [tb] It’s like the first recording. What the hell happened?
JUDITH: I DON’T KNOW. That must’ve been… it must’ve been earlier in the day, because I got there that afternoon. That’s the other recording from that day. I need you to play the later one. I think this explains… why she was acting the way she was…
OWEN: [tb] I don’t like where this is going.
[SFX: beep. Judith is walking up to Claire’s front porch]
JUDITH: Hello, everyone! Judith here for Yes! In My Backyard! I’m walking up to our favourite Parkdale haunt to meet Claire for some invigorating… uh, floor sanding! It’s an obscenely hot day in late September and the air conditioning at this place is not operational, so I’ve also brought along supplies – a million liters of water and a bag of ice. [SFX: ice in bag] I’m sure this will help for about 5 minutes before we both sweat to death. I’m pretty sure Claire has some beer kicking around still. I think there’s an LCBO around here?
[SFX: Footsteps up the stairs and door opening]
JUDITH: [SFX: door opens a bit] Claire! Hey! I brought ice! Do you need me to do a beer run? Snack run? [SFX: door opens the rest of the way, Judith steps inside, door closes behind her] Do you want to give up on this and just go for a jog?
[SFX: Distant angry voices from behind a door. Judith starts heading towards them. Living room]
CLAIRE: [distant] Stop- just stop. I don’t know what you think you’re doing here. I’m so sick of this. You need to stop. Just leave me alone.
ADAM: What are you talking about? You called me, Claire. You left a message! I played you the voicemail, that’s you.
CLAIRE: Well I don’t remember calling.
ADAM: Well then something is seriously wrong. You said that someone was in the house with you. You said that someone was coming for you. Of course I showed up. I came as soon as I got your voicemail.
CLAIRE: And I told you. I didn’t call you. I don’t know what you’re talking about but just stop lying to me.
ADAM: What?! Come on, Claire. This is so incredibly unfair. You can’t keep doing this. You can’t just call me in a fright and then tell me to get out. You don’t just get to decide that our relationship is over. You don’t just get to walk away without talking to me; without giving me a chance.
CLAIRE: Yes. I do.
ADAM: Oh, sure. So what, you’ll just keep running away? And then you’ll just call me randomly in an absolute panic and then lambaste me for caring about you? And if anything gets hard for two seconds you’ll just run away and – is that a cigarette? I thought you hadn’t smoked in years. Besides, you know I’m very sensitive to smoke, both cigarette and vape.
CLAIRE: Screw you!
[SFX: door opening]
JUDITH: What the hell is going on?
ADAM: Judith, hi, thank god you’re here. Claire has gone bananas.
CLAIRE: I HAVE NOT.
JUDITH: Whoa whoa whoa, what is going on? Claire, are you ok? And… are you smoking? You haven’t smoked since we were like seventeen. [sniff] Are those clove cigarettes?
CLAIRE: Oh, shut up Judith. I can’t deal with this right now.
ADAM: I give up. Maybe she’ll listen to you.
JUDITH: OK, I usually don’t want to be on team Adam here so I’m gonna need you to work with me – hang on, are you bleeding? There’s broken glass everywhere. Why does this place smell like wet garbage? Come here, let me see your hand-
CLAIRE: DON’T TOUCH ME. Just, leave me alone. Both of you!
ADAM: Do you see what I’m talking about?
JUDITH: Shut up, Adam. [To Claire, softly] OK. No one’s going to touch you. But can we sit down in another room that’s not covered in broken glass and doesn’t smell like a… swamp fart?
CLAIRE: Fine. Fine. Whatever. I just, I don’t feel well.
ADAM: Well that cigarette isn’t going to help. [exaggerated cough]
JUDITH: This is so not the time.
CLAIRE: [SFX: thick distortion on Claire, flat and low] Don’t touch me. I am fine.
CLAIRE: [SFX: thick distortion on Claire, odd] It is coming.
JUDITH: Who is coming, Claire?
ADAM: Is it just me, or is it cold in here? Ow, oh shoot. Judith, can you help me find a broom or something? Oh god, I think I have a piece of glass under my skin. This is definitely going to become infected.
JUDITH: Claire. [snapping fingers] Claire, can you please look at me? I think she’s running a fever, her skin is so hot.
CLAIRE: [SFX: thick distortion on Claire] She has come home.
ADAM: What are you talking about? This could be a side eff-
JUDITH: SHUT UP, ADAM.
[SFX: Thump as Claire collapses]
JUDITH: Claire! Oh my god. Don’t just stand there, Adam, get her a glass of water, or somethin-
CLAIRE: [dazed, but more normal sounding] Judith? What… what’s happening? I feel awful… am I bleeding? Oh my god, look at my hand…
JUDITH: [softly] It’s OK, it’s OK.
ADAM: Oh wow, that’s a lot more blood than I thoug-
[SFX: Thump as Adam collapses]
JUDITH: Are you kidding me right now?
CLAIRE: [weakly] He’s not good with blood, we better help-
JUDITH: Ok no, you stay here. Here’s a clean towel for your hand – keep the pressure on it while I call an ambulance or like… a cab, OK? Shit, I think it costs money to call an ambulance so I might just call a cab. Uh…
CLAIRE: [SFX: thick distortion on Claire, low and distorted, teasing]
You can’t help. Leave.
JUDITH: … Claire?
CLAIRE: [normal, scared] Judith, help me, I feel like my whole body wants to throw up.
JUDITH: [shaken] Ok, it’s ok. Let’s get this cleaned up. Adam, get up, let’s get her out of here.
ADAM: What happened? Oh my god, Claire, you’re bleedi- [SFX: faints again]
JUDITH: Oh my GOD.
[SFX: beep. Studio]
JUDITH: You know he fainted like, three more times, right?
OWEN: Like one of those videos of people passing out on fair rides?
JUDITH: Yeah. Adam is no good in an emergency, apparently.
OWEN: What happened with Claire?
JUDITH: We took a cab to the emergency room, she got a couple of small stitches in her hand, nothing particularly serious, but she had no memory of what happened leading up to that. She thought that maybe she slipped and banged her head, but she apparently didn’t have any other signs of a concussion or anything, so we just… went home. By the next time we got back, the weird smell was gone.
OWEN: You said it smelled like a swamp.
JUDITH: Yeah, it reminded me of being around rotting wood. Why?
OWEN: [disquieted] I don’t know, but something about that bugs me more than it should.
OWEN: So now what?
JUDITH: I don’t think you’re going to like it.
OWEN: Yeah, you’ve got a look on your face. I don’t like that look.
OWEN: Please don’t say what I think you’re going to say.
JUDITH: We have to go to the house and get those books.
OWEN: I noticed that you said “we”.
JUDITH: Ok, well, I will go to the house, and then, if I survive, you can listen to me recount my haunted house story.
OWEN: Ok, yeah, right. [sigh] I’m almost 100% going to regret this, but I’m coming with you.
JUDITH: It’s ok.
OWEN: What if there’s another raccoon? Or a spirit with sharp fingernails, except this time she goes for the eyes?
JUDITH: Well, I’m already frightened, so thanks for making it worse.
OWEN: Sorry, sorry. But if you want a second person…
JUDITH: Normally I’d say no, but… extenuating circumstances.
JUDITH: I’m just scared.
OWEN: There we go. So when are you thinking?
JUDITH: Tomorrow night.
OWEN: Oh, ok. I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?
JUDITH: Honestly, I think we both will.