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ym_76_oct19_stegmansbasement.jpg
Art by John Lunar Richey 2019

Stegmann’s Basement

 

by Peter DiChellis

 

 

Am I alive? Dead? Dying? I’m not sure.

I can smell thick, fetid air.

I feel insects crawling on my skin, beneath my clothes, all over me. Tickling me with their tiny legs. Then biting and stinging.

But I can’t open my eyes. Can’t stand or sit up. Can’t move at all. Can’t talk. Can’t plead or scream or even whisper.

And through it all, my mind won’t stop thinking and remembering.

***

Old man Stegmann saw us coming. Saw Tommy and me. Coming to rob him, to rob Steg’s Corner Deli. His neighborhood shithole. Old man Stegmann let us get close, then shot Tommy in the face. I dropped my gun, and a cop rushed into the deli yelling, “Police! Police!” Old man Stegmann shot the cop dead, too. And now, alone with my mind in Stegmann’s basement, I think maybe Tommy and the cop were the lucky ones.

Because when I ran scared through the doorway to Stegmann’s basement, he laughed. “You go down there, you won’t come back,” he hollered. “It’s a special hell down there.”

And then he shot at me, again and again. I heard the bullets zip past and watched them rip open the wall. I stumbled down the stairs to the basement, swallowed by the blackest darkness I ever knew. Heard low buzzing, and slithering sounds, and soft crunching every time I took a step. Then tickling and biting and stinging on my legs. Then numb dizziness and bottomless gloom and the cold concrete floor against my face.

***

Back when Tommy and me were little kids, old man Stegmann terrified us. Fat and mean. Ugly as poison. Dirty and sweaty. We never went inside his deli, of course. Partly because we never had any money. Partly because we didn’t dare. But on summer afternoons, we stood on the sidewalk outside the deli, watching cars go past. Wishing our families could afford cars, too. Some days old man Stegmann would step outside, right onto the sidewalk, to chase us away. We always ran.

One time a neighborhood kid named Dooley said he peeked through the grimy window into Stegmann’s basement. Said he saw dead people hanging on meat hooks, covered with bugs. Tommy and me didn’t believe him. We figured we would’ve smelled dead people, even from the sidewalk. But the next day, the window was covered, and old man Stegmann seemed scarier.

***

Tommy and me finally got into high school, and we decided to rob old man Stegmann because we learned he bought a new Buick every year. And we knew we’d have to ride the bus our whole lives, just like our parents did. But fat, mean, ugly, dirty, sweaty, scary old man Stegmann had himself a Buick. A new one every year. It was just too much for Tommy and me to stomach. I remember it all, every bit of it, and it makes me wonder: Am I alive?

 

***

 

“Stegmann’s Basement” originally appeared at Spelk Fiction, in October 2017.

 

 

Peter DiChellis concocts sinister tales for anthologies, ezines, and magazines. Two of his mystery stories were Finalists in the 2019 Derringer Awards for outstanding short mysteries. For more, visit Peter’s Amazon author page or his blog celebrating short mystery and crime fiction, A short walk down a dark street.

 

***

 

This story is an original work of creative fiction. All people and events described or depicted are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual individuals or events is unintended and coincidental. Buick is a registered trademark of General Motors Corporation.



John Lunar Richey has writings published in Rolling Stone, Genesis, The Mammoth Book of New Erotica, The Journal of Erotica, and The Best of the Journal of Erotica (the latter two published in the UK). Lunar also works with Lunar Ensemble (word & music projections).




In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019