My Dear Strangers,
A mint-scented envelope was left on my study’s desk overnight. Inside was a note from Mr. Gormly, the small man living in my basement.
You may enter the basement.
I was delighted by his cordiality after weeks of hostility and entrenchment, and I wondered if, after all, his heart had been tenderized by the Viscera Perfuma.
Having avoided the basement since Mr. Gormly infested my hair with insects, I descended the stairs slowly with my pocket light aloft.
I approached my tenant’s corner of the basement with optimistic bonhomie, surveying the quilted cobwebs, puddled floor, and spore-blackened joists with eager rediscovery.
I had just begun to notice the peculiar emptiness of the space when I turned a corner and jolted at the sight of an unexpected wall.
“Wall” is not the word. The structure was more of a rounded barricade, rising floor to ceiling and entirely surrounding Mr. Gormly’s quarters.
The basement’s curious emptiness was instantly explained—the barricade had been constructed with bricks, rocks, chunks of wall, old pipes, plaster board, tables and chairs, a ruined upright piano, shovels, lamps, antique signage, and ancient scrap wood that had probably not be used since the brownstone’s construction in 1898.
This was my basement rubbish, cobbled up without permission.
“Gormly!” I exclaimed. “I’m here, come out and face me!”
Clamping an urge to dismantle the wall barehanded, I scanned the basement for a tool—a crowbar or sledgehammer, anything with heft—that would do the most damage.
I had just lighted on coal shovel when the floor began to rumble. My innards quaked, and my attention turned to the pit in the rearmost portion of the room, where a stairway led to the mysterious cellar under the basement.
An envelope shot through a fissure in Gormly’s barricade, whisked past my face, and papercut my cheek. I tore it open and read the note.
Dark, fat smoke billowed from the pit, and yet my eyes did not perceive it. The smoke was pure sound. It was the opposite of white noise—a droning of the void. My thoughts began to suffocate in auditory blindness, and my consciousness was swallowed by the comprehensive black.
I woke an hour later on the kitchen floor. The basement door was locked and the dreadful noise-cloud was nowhere in evidence, aside from tendril-like wisps at the edges of my brain.
Mr. Gormly must have dragged me upstairs. Another envelope was lying on my chest. The note inside read:
Future warnings should be heeded more swiftly.