This story took place two weeks ago. I’ve had a fear of basements since I was a kid. Though the fear has diminished with age (I just turned nineteen), I still feel a pang in my chest whenever I turn to ascend the basement staircase, looking back to ensure there’s nothing behind me. I still get butterflies when I’m in a basement alone.

Well, I found myself alone in the basement just two weeks ago. I was home from college—spring break—and my parents were out with friends. I wanted to spend the night by myself—living in a 13’x13′ space with a roommate, a relative stranger, had taken a toll, and I wanted some time to be on my own. During my first year of college, my parents finally got around to finishing the basement. It was now, rather than a dingy laundry room, a beautiful second living room complete with a television, gaming system, and refrigerator. I was journaling and listening to music with headphones on.

Even through my headphones, I knew I heard a noise come from behind me. It was a thump. I took off the headphones to examine the back of the basement—there was nothing there. I could have done some more investigating, but I didn’t really feel the need; I knew that my perennial fear of basements could be to blame, so I slipped the headphones back over my head and continued to journal. I didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about.

After a few minutes, I heard the noise again. This time, I was sure something had made the noise. It wasn’t just my imagination. I tore off the headphones as the noise happened again—a low, metallic clang. I walked slowly to the back of the basement, phone in hand ready to dial 911. What I found was, actually, not that surprising—an air vent.

I suddenly realized that this, the metal air vent, was creating the metallic clanking sound. I got as close as I felt comfortable and peered through the vent’s slats. With horror, I saw a shadow moving in the darkness.

A hand appeared.

I gradually stepped backwards, mouth agape, shaking my head in denial. The hand tried to grab the slats, but they were too thin to facilitate a solid grip. I screamed and ran upstairs, grabbing a knife on my way. I called the police, and they assured me that help was on the way. My panic escalated as I heard a door bust open downstairs.

A few minutes later, two police cruisers pulled up to the driveway. They came into the house, immediately apprehended the man, and knocked on the door to the room I had chosen as a sanctuary. Apparently, the man who had snuck in was a business associate of my father’s—my dad later explained that they were both up for the same promotion, so he likely snuck into the house looking for dirt on his opponent.

Even though I can rationalize the break-in and understand the reasons for its occurrence, I will never spend time alone in a basement ever again. I’m back at school in a dorm which, thankfully, has no functioning basement, but I can only imagine the trouble I’ll have trying to do laundry in my first apartment building…