It’s time again for this weeks 600-word story. I have decided that this week’s Writer’s Digest writing prompt is pretty interesting and immediately sparked my imagination (and curiosity). Since this is true: I have just moved into a new house and we are still fixing it up the ideas seemed flow easily.

Secret Passageway
You’ve just moved into a new house and are fixing it up. In the process of painting you find an odd crack in the wall. As you explore further, you find out it’s a secret passageway—and you have no idea where it leads. You decide to grab a flashlight and go exploring.

When we first saw the small bungalow in the country we wondered if it wasn’t the perfect little spot for us. It had all the amenities we wanted. The house was perfect. The only things we always wondered about were the strange cut-outs in the basement. An inspector suggested they were just following the space of the house and seemingly explained away each one as replicating an upper level feature.

Weeks later we were starting our renovations. Nothing big. The plan was to add our own color preferences and fix a few minor housing issues. We stood staring at the inset shelving unit in the basement. It was the most awkward of furnishings. The long expanse of the wall was cut into only four feet from one end. Originally the inspector suggested it corresponded with the gas fireplace above. We measured. It didn’t. The whole unit was displaced by a couple feet.

The wood of the unit was also a strange detail we came to notice. In the light of day it was a golden hue but at night even in the bright lights of the basement it became a dark feature along the green paint.

Two anomalies broke the otherwise featureless surface. One was the hole at the base for an electrical plug. The second was a square of wood at the back of the shelf at eye level.

We thought it was the strangest of additions. My husband touched the wood that did not look secured at all. He took a firm grip and pulled. The wood slid slowly as if restrained from behind.

A faint click sonded.

He pulled a little more.

A scratching noise assaulted our ears.

Looking at the margins of the bookcase, we noticed it had slid from the wall. We looked at each other and in a silent thought each took hold of a side. We pulled.

Stale air wafted out as the seal broke. It had a faint underlying scent of damp moss. It reminded me of the smell of the local beaches of the river.

The passage behind was dark. From the light of the basement room we could see the old wooden struts that held a dug out earthen tunnel.

Frozen where we were, even the sound of our heartbeats seemed to be holding still. Finally the silence was broken by my words. I recognized the sound but didn’t even realize I was speaking. Nor could I figure out how my body moved taking the stairs two at a time.

Flashlights in hand we ventured down the long endless corridor. My husband and I had to both duck a little due to the low ceiling. The walls were damp to the touch, the mud slippery. The timbers amazingly looked strong and unaffected by the hanging moisture.

Within a few minutes we reached an opening on the left. A calculation suggested we were somewhere under our backyard. The roar of vehicles moving on the highway was sporadic but amplified in the underground cavern.

The corridor continued as far as the light from our flashlights could reach. On each side of the walkway we could see other openings like the one that stood before us. I was reminded of the ghost tour we had once taken under the city of Edinburgh. I hoped the ghosts that lived in these dwellings would cause us no harm, but to admire our shoes as we had been told those many years ago.

Redirecting our light we peered into the cave.

To our surprise it wasn’t a cave at all. It was a square cemented structure, there was furniture and other human belongings scattered in the small space. In a corner a decrepit staircase led to nowhere.

I knew we had stumbled on the old basements of the town once moved during the building of the dam, but I couldn’t understand why it was adjoined to our house. There was a reason of that I was sure.

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Secrets to be Explored (orig. Apr 15/12)

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