I was desperately broke. I suppose that was why I decided to suck up my pride and apply for a job at the Hindlewood Mansion. They were always in need of housekeepers at that big old place. In high school, a few of my friends had worked there, but never lasted more than a week before quitting. They all said it was because of the way the old man treated them, but they way they acted when we rolled past that house in our beat-up cars told me otherwise. Something was just…weird about that place.
My appointment for a housekeeping interview was at 9 o’clock at night; a strange time, but I had heard that old man Hindlewood hated company, and we were only to clean house at night when he was sleeping. I did not really mind, my nights were normally pretty uneventful. The small town I lived in hardly had any night-life, and the only gatherings the younger people had were drinking in the corn fields or hanging out at the local gas station. I preferred to stay home and read.
The interview was conducted by the lead housekeeper, a woman who looked a little too old to still be working. She was small and frail, very sweet, but a little strange. The questions she asked seemed a little irrelevant to the job. She mostly wanted to know if I was afraid of the dark, since the old man could not sleep with the slightest light. I did not really understand how, in such a huge place, one light could bother him – even at the other end of the house. We were permitted candles and a flashlight, not exactly ideal for dusting the small nooks and crannies of the old place. Despite the irrationality of it all, I obliged to her request for lack of light; I was never afraid of the dark.
Mrs. Levingston also requested that I never visited the Southern-most wing of the house, where the old man slept, because she deals with that area herself. Hindlewood did not like strangers, and would likely fire me on the spot if he so much as saw evidence that anyone was in his wing.
I suppose I answered all of the odd questions correctly, because I was hired on the spot. I was to work that night, and began immediately after getting my uniform from the maid’s quarters. She walked me to the room with the cleaning equipment, near the kitchen, told me to work the Northern wing for the night (the same wing which the harbored the Maid’s quarters), reminded me again not to enter the South wing, and said goodbye for the night. She was to return at dawn where my session would end, and hers would begin.
I changed and began performing the duties explained to me; mostly dusting an array of antiques. I was about half-way through my shift when I hear a high-pitched whistling. Not like a person whistling, more like the wind spiraling through a small window. I figured a window must have been left open somewhere, so I followed the noise, with my flashlight, checking all of the windows as I passed them. It was oddly still out, and my heart began to beat a bit harder as I noted how eerily quiet it was outside. It did not seem windy at all, so what could this sound be?
Of course, the noise was coming from the Southern wing. I stood at the threshold to the Southern hallway wondering what to do. I did not want to go down there, but could feel a dreadful draft coming from that direction, and was afraid the poor old man could catch pneumonia from the open window. I did not want to be the cause of the old guy’s death, even though he had a reputation for being quite the grouch. I’m sure he would understand, and if not, the worst that could happen is that I get fired, right?
I took my first step into the hall, half-expecting the old man to come charging out garnishing his cane like a crazed dementia-induced madman, but nothing happened.
I slowly walked down the hallway, listening. I could still hear the whistling, but nothing else. I came to Hindlewood’s doorway and put my ear to the door: nothing but the whistling which was clearly coming from the room. The door was nearly closed, yet was open just a crack, and I could see some light coming in from the crevice. It was not artificial light, but a dull blue light, like from the moon.
I slowly opened the door, which creaked loudly as the room slowly came into view, with my flashlight pointed at the floor of the dark room in front of me. The room was large and mostly empty with a very large curtained bed at the center. I could see a lump in the bed with the flashlight, which I assumed was the old man. He looked to be sleeping, but the hairs on the back of my neck told me I was being watched.
As I inched towards the bed, I remembered my purpose for entering: the window. I looked around at the barren walls and out of the corner of my eyes I noticed what was above me. The light poured in from a large skylight above me, yet cast in the light was a shadow; it seemed as if a figure of person was highlighted on the floor from above, yet its shape was unnaturally large and twisted. What would have been the head was shaped more like a V, and where its shoulders would be, there were large pointed protrusions.
I panicked. As I went to turn and look at whatever was standing in the light of the moon, I dropped my flashlight. As I tried to catch it from my tumbling hand, it rolled across the room and under the bed. I watched it fall out of reach, and spun around to check the skylight. There was nothing there, and the shadow on the floor was gone.
With my heart pounding in my chest I got on my knees to seek out the flashlight under the bed. I could see it shining out from the darkness. It had rolled underneath and I crawled in to retrieve it when I noticed that the whistling was gone.
I grabbed the flashlight and held it to my chest trying to calm myself for a second. I told myself I was probably seeing things; the darkness was beginning to get to me and I was seeing false shadows. I needed to check on the old man, who was likely sleeping soundly directly above me.
I took a deep breath and began to scoot my way towards the edge of the bed when the whistling started again. I could immediately feel the cool air whirling around the room. I stopped where I was, still underneath the bed but close to the edge. I peered out, hiding the light of the flashlight in my hands, in the direction of the ceiling with the window. Something was standing there, covered in shadow. I could only see the muddy red gloss of it’s eyes as it stared at whatever was above me. It was then that feet dropped inches away from my face, old veiny and wrinkled feet, and so I tucked my head back into the darkness. The feet lifted into the air as if they were floating, and the whistling was then accompanied by larges gusts of wind, like the flapping of large wings.
Then all was quiet.
I stayed in that spot for what must have been two hours with my heart pounding in my chest. Was I crazy, or had something taken the old man out of his bed while he slept? My mind raced as I lay there, frozen in fear. It was not until I could see the first indications of sunlight that I was able to summon up enough courage to get out from under the bed and look around the room. The bed was empty, like no one had ever slept in it. The room was tidy, the window closed.
I walked to the maid’s quarters, feeling numb and bewildered, and waited for Mrs. Levingston. I did not say a word to her. I took especially long to change, as I knew she would be making her way to the South wing. She came back only a few moments later, and as the maids room was next to the kitchen, I saw her making breakfast. When she saw me, surprised I was still there she says “Oh, glad you are here honey. Mr. Hindlewood worked up quite an appetite last night and I could use your help, would you like to stay for breakfast?” I was not quite sure what was on the menu, so I said “No thank you” and left.
I am still not quite sure what I saw that night. At first I thought Hindlewood was taken by some evil creature, but I saw him walking the gardens the next day by Ms. Levingston. He looked normal, perhaps even more spry than usual. Now, I’ve been working at the mansion for over 10 years,and somehow, the old guy is still alive and looks like he has not aged a single day. Whatever has been going on, I don’t really mind because it gives me a job and good pay. All I know is, I stay out of the South wing, and I’ve learned to ignore whatever it is I hear in the night.
Credit To – B. Paige
There were too many doors in the upstairs hall. Sarah told her parents, but they couldn’t see it. They told her not to worry. They told her there was nothing there. But there was an extra door, at the end of the upstairs hall. An extra yellow door, and it didn’t belong.
It was the color of disease, jaundiced and infected, with spidery black veins across its face. One perfect silver knob gleamed in its center above a shadowy keyhole, and it didn’t look right. The doorknob shone with a mirror’s finish, and caught the light from any angle, begging for Sarah to look its way. Sarah did her best to ignore it, but the door knew her name, and it whispered it when she drew near.
“Saraaaahh . . . ” the door would rasp with a voice like dried leaves as tiny claws scraped against the other side. Tears would well in Sarah’s eyes as she’d hurry past, her arms laden with everything she’d need to get ready for the day.
“Saraaaahh . . .” it would call again before she’d shuffled out of range and closed the bathroom door, cutting off its paper-thin wails. When she’d creep from the bathroom to head downstairs, the door’s voice would follow her with a furious flurry of scraping claws and tormented howls. They lingered and gnawed in the back of her mind as she’d rush through breakfast so she could leave the house a few minutes sooner.
School became a blessing, an excuse to be someone somewhere else. At school she could forget the door. At school she could pretend her house was like everyone else’s, with the right number of doors and no eerie whispers. But at the end of the day it was still waiting for her at the end of the upstairs hall, with it’s mirror-ball knob and yellow face. She hated coming home and knowing it was there, but even more than that, she hated going to sleep, because in her dreams, she opened the door.
Every night, she stood before it, fighting the urge to reach out. Dread knotted her belly in anticipation of pain when her hand rose anyway, to grasp the silver knob. Some nights it burned her like the driest ice. Other nights it seared like a red hot iron. Very occasionally, it did neither, instead turning and turning without ever opening the door, and she couldn’t stop turning it until she woke up.
When the door did open, it revealed a swirling vortex of shadow and sound, with a thousand voices crying in the darkness. The voices curled around her, crawling through her hair like spiders. She thrashed and swatted at their skittering whispers, but the words still tingled across her skin.
She never should have listened.
“He sees . . . ” they said. “He hears . . .” they moaned. “He hungers . . .” they wept, and burrowed in her mind like worms. “The Hollow Man, the Hollow Man,” they echoed in her mind and screamed to her from the gaping vortex. “The Hollow Man . . . he hunts!”
Sarah shot up with a scream, gasping and sweating, but alone in her bed. The clock’s crimson face said midnight had passed, but not by much. Darkness enveloped her room, except where a vestigial nightlight illumined the corner by her desk; it wasn’t a lot, but it made her feel better.
She covered her face with shaking hands, and pushed away the chitinous echoes. “I’m fine,” she swore. “It’s just a dream.”
“Sarah?” Someone whispered.
Sarah froze. Tears welled in her eyes.
“Sarah? Are you Sarah?” It was the voice of a girl, not at all like the voice she usually heard from the door at the end of the hall.
“Who . . . who are you?” Sarah whispered back.
“My name is Lizzie. Are you Sarah?”
Sarah rose from her bed slowly, clutching the sweat-damp shirt she’d worn to sleep, and moved toward her bedroom door, moved to where the yellow door waited. When she stood before it, her stomach lurched, and for a moment she couldn’t tell if she was going to vomit, or faint.
“Please,” the door said in a young girl’s voice. “Please, are you Sarah?”
Sarah opened her mouth to respond, but her voice crackled when she couldn’t find the breath to speak. Shaking all over, she struggled to calm down enough to answer. She pressed her palms to her cheeks and smeared away the tears as she forced herself to take a breath and speak.
“Yes,” she said at length, her voice tremulous and weak. “. . . I’m Sarah.”
“Please, let me in!” The door’s silvery knob shook violently, rattling as if locked, and jostled by someone on the other side. “Let me in, Sarah, please! I can’t stay in here, please help me! Let me in!”
Sarah stared at the door in shock, backing away a moment before her knees buckled and she fell to the floor, where she screamed.
Level with the shadowy keyhole below the rattling knob, she stared directly into a very human eye. Wide and white with fear, it darted around, as if searching through the hall, but seemed not to see her. Tears shimmered in the other eye, as they shimmered and spilled from Sarah’s. Then the silver knob stilled, and the keyhole became shadow, and Lizzie began to cry.
“Please, Sarah,” she pleaded. “He’s almost here.”
“The Hollow Man?” Sarah whispered as a chill slithered up her spine. Lizzie sobbed quietly. Sarah scooted closer to the door, fear allowing room for tentative concern when the girl from the other side failed to respond. “Lizzie?”
Silence came without warning, and concern became sharp fear again.
“Lizzie?!” Sarah sat up on her knees with both hands braced against the door. She trembled under the weight of growing horror as not even a sniffle or a whimper came from the other side. “Lizzie, please answer me!”
Sarah’s head and heart ached, each throbbing painfully through her tension, and the world was a little fuzzy around the edges; it was getting hard to focus.
“He’s here . . .” Lizzie whispered at last. Her words were barely audible, and came as though her lips pressed tight against the keyhole. “Please, let me in . . . .”
Though she still hesitated, her hand was upon the silver knob before she even realized it.
“Please, Sarah . . . .”
Rising from the floor, she turned it.
The door opened noiselessly beneath her hand, gliding open without resistance. As it did, she cautiously peeked around the edge.
A lonely expanse of normal wall inched into view, and she felt sick. She worried at her thumb in confusion, and extended a trembling hand to touch the wall behind the door. It was solid. As solid and as normal as the wall at the end of the upstairs hall should be, but her stomach churned.
Something wasn’t right.
She closed the door, which issued a soft click as the latch sprang into place, and waited. She hardly dared to move or breathe as she listened to the night, waiting for the door to speak again. When her muscles ached, and her eyes were heavy with sleep, she finally relented. Fatigue sucked at her limbs — she hadn’t realized how exhausting fear could be until the last traces of adrenaline had finally bled away–, and though she didn’t look forward to her dreams, she simply had to sleep.
The crimson clock was broken when she rolled herself into bed, its face declaring 12:16 AM to a room that only vaguely felt familiar, but she couldn’t bring herself to care when her eyes and body felt so heavy.
“Sarah . . . ,” Lizzie whispered. But it couldn’t be a whisper.
“Sarah,” Lizzie whispered again. “Sarah, don’t wake up.”
Sarah groaned a little. Don’t wake up? But she hadn’t even fallen asleep.
“Don’t wake up,” Lizzie said, her voice echoing in Sarah’s mind.
Sarah frowned, and rolled on her back. She didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to sleep! Don’t wake up, don’t wake up. Lizzie didn’t need to tell her not to wake! It was the furthest thing from her mind!
For a long time all was silence, and Sarah began to drift toward the strange warmth of sleep.
“He’s here . . .” Lizzie whispered at last. “Please, don’t wake up . . . . ”
Who’s here? Sarah wondered as sleep pulled her further down.
“His hollow face, an eerie mask. With hollow voice at doors will ask. To be invited in to bask. Above his favored midnight task.”
A strange tingling worked its way up her body as Lizzie recited the haunting rhyme in a disconcerting monotone. Clarity inched its way toward Sarah, slowly melting away the fog of sleep. Wasn’t she still dreaming?
Something was wrong.
“He’s waiting inches from your face. To be the first thing your eyes grace. But keep them shut, or else embrace. A hollow shell to take your place.”
Cold dread seized Sarah’s heart with each new stanza, and she trembled with the weight of her mistake. For a moment, she swore she could feel the air stir above her, stale and strangely warm against her cheeks. Don’t wake up! Don’t wake up! She squeezed her eyes closed extra tight to keep them from opening, slowly surfacing from her vivid night terrors at last.
“The yellow door, you always keep. He follows you to where you sleep. Into your room he then will creep. Your life and dreams for him to reap.”
Lizzie’s voice became little more than a breath within Sarah’s mind, and a pressure lifted from her chest when the air cooled around her. What had she done?
“The Hollow Man, above your bed. With hollow eyes, deep slumber fed. His hollow dreams may fill your head. But never peek, or you’ll be dead.”
Everything was wrong.
Distantly, Sarah registered the sound of her parents screaming in their room, and felt tears sliding down her cheeks. Why did they sound so far away?
“. . . Mom,” Sarah whispered, the sound paper-thin. “Dad,” she rasped with a voice like dried leaves. “Lizzie?” She thought, probing for her presence, but Lizzie did not respond.
Silence fell over the house and Sarah knew nothing would ever be right again.
From the hall outside her bedroom door, Sarah heard the soft click as a latch sprang into place, and waited.
Several hours passed before she felt safe enough to open her eyes. Sunlight peeked through the curtains, and the crimson clock said it was 7:45 AM. The yellow door, with it’s mirror-ball knob, stared at her from the wall at the end of the upstairs hall.
And Sarah knew she would never sleep again.
Credit To – Death_by_Proxy
It was his first time in Karachi. The coastal city seemed to sprawl on forever, and for a little while he was concerned about getting lost there. But, fortunately he had a lot of friends accompanying him. One look at his them as they stood gathered there outside the bus station and he felt neither alone, nor afraid.
“Take one of these whistles with you!” said one of them, handing him a smooth silver whistle and moving on to the next person, handing him a whistle as well.
“What are these for?” he called to him.
“Well, since we’re dividing into small groups to explore, I thought it was a good idea for us to have a quick way to calling out to each other”
He looked back down at the whistle and then to everyone else slowly forming groups of different sizes. He was the only one travelling alone; Since he had a few relatives he wanted to meet, and a few traders he had to discuss terms with. ‘I had best get going’ he thought.
It was all a very boring affair. He wanted to finish his visits as quickly as possible so he could meet up with his friends and maybe go around the city seeing the sights. The British had left only a few years ago and the city had since become a model city for development and growth. It was called ‘the city of light’ and he wanted to see exactly why it was so.
It was already evening by the time he finished all his ‘work’. He was considering where to start looking for his friends when he was approached by a weak, aging woman.
“Could you help me carry these son, son?” she said, gesturing to a sack of rice. It looked heavy even by his standards and he was surprised the woman had actually managed to carry it at all.
“Sure gran. Where is your home, exactly?” he said, lifting the sack onto his back.
“Not far from here” she said, smiling sweetly.
There was something off about her smile but he kept following her anyway, dismissing it as his imagination.
It took him five minutes to toil to get to her house and he was grateful for it not being any farther. She offered him food as he sat on the threshold of her tiny house, trying to catch his breath. He tried to refuse, thinking he should probably be joining his friends soon, but she insisted.
“I really can’t let you go, son. You have helped this old woman. Besides, I have a real treat for you if you can do me just one more favour.” she said earnestly.
“What’s that?” he asked her, wondering if the favour was more donkey work.
“Well, you see… my son died last night”, she said, her face serious and strangely impassive. “…I am but an old woman and I do not have the strength to bathe him for the burial”
He felt shaken by the woman’s request, and a little embarrassed at wanting to get away from there. The helpless old woman was simply preparing for her son’s funeral.
“I’ll be honoured to help”, he said after a moment, resigning himself to do another good deed.
She thanked him profusely led him through a narrow corridor and into what appeared to be a rather austere lounge, seating him on a rug.
“I’ll get you some food first. You will need your strength” she said, bringing him a tray full of pilaf rice. “Let me know when you’re done” she said, and left him to go elsewhere.
He was grateful for the food. His stomach had been aching for a while now and some Pilaf was just the thing he needed. So, he dug in eagerly, searching the rice for some meat. He found a finger.
His body gave a shudder and he immediately spat out the rice he had been chewing. He held up the finger he had found to the light and realized beyond doubt that it really was a human finger. That woman was a cannibal. The horrifying realization hit him like a hammer and he dropped the finger out of shock.
And then, he realized that he had probably been lured there to be eaten.
He looked around him, searching for a way to escape. The woman was waiting outside, he knew, and he did not want to risk running through her. She could be carrying any number of weapons and he needed to be very, very careful about how he dealt with the situation from then on. One wrong move, and he could be the next guy to be made into pilaf rice.
So, the first thing he decided to do was to take all the rice he had scattered over the rug in shock, and sweep it all under the rug along with the finger. He threw some more rice under the rug to make it appear as if he’d eaten his fill and then called out to the woman, and told her that he was ready to bathe her son’s dead body.
She led him out back to a courtyard, where a dead body was indeed placed, covered by a large white sheet on a wooden bed. He wondered if that was really her son. Did she intend to eat her own son as well? Perhaps, the body was simply another one of her victims, and he was actually helping her clean him up for her next meal. The thought was chilling.
He was treading in dangerous territory he knew, so his senses became extremely alert to every single move the woman made. She was carrying an oil lantern and went over to stand by the body’s head holding up the lantern for light. He brought some water in a large steel bucket, and began to bathe the body, keeping an eye on the woman as best as he could.
The first thing he noticed was that the body was not very cold to the touch. Fresh kill, perhaps, he thought. Though a cold shiver ran through his spine, he concentrated on not letting any emotion show on his face. He required every single bit of concentration he could muster to stay in control of the situation, pouring water over the body slowly, and trying to adjust his eyes to the dark.
He quickly became aware of an advantage he had. With the woman standing at the head of the body, she cast a very sharp shadow across the walls and he could see if she moved slightly even with his back turned to her. He thought about it a bit and decided that if the woman really wanted to kill him then he might as well try to lure her into an attack.
So, he deliberately started working on the body with his back turned to her, keeping both eyes on her shadow as he worked. At any moment, he would see hand move, and would immediately counter-attack.
He saw what happened next quite clearly as shadows started to shift. The woman’s left arm slowly drew out something from within the folds of her clothes and raised it high to attack. At the same time something else happened just as slowly though. Something he had not been expecting. It felt like terror creeping up his limbs as he saw the body’s right arm move as well, drawing out something long and blunt from under the shroud.
He jumped away from them reflexively. Fortunately for him the old woman chose to strike at the same moment; her iron rod missed him by mere inches as she brought it down. Her son, who had sat up to reach him, was not so lucky. Her full-blooded swing hit him to the side of his skull and he was knocked out immediately from the hit.
He could not let her recover, either. He jumped right at her and delivered a kick straight into her chest. She was lifted clean off her feet and flew back into the wall. That was it. He did not check to see if either of them was still conscious. He ran out of the house as quickly as he could, covered in cold sweat and short of breath as he was. And as soon he reached the street, he found the whistle his friend had given him and started blowing as hard as he could.
It did not take very long for him to gather a crowd. Some of his friends arrived as well, and he quickly told them what had happened. The police arrived soon after, and began searching the house for the the woman and her son.
The search resulted in a few shocking discoveries as bones of over 50 people were found from the basement of the house. The woman, and her son were arrested. Apparently they had been luring people to the house and eating them for quite a while. Also, according to them, they were not the only ones. Not by a long shot.
Writer’s note: This true story comes from my maternal grandfather, and has been told from his point-of-view. I have tried to keep all the details intact.
Credit To – Salman Shahid Khan
I buried my grandfather last week. A deplorable man who made the lives of everyone around him miserable. He left me with nothing but bad memories and debt. I wished him dead every day till he passed away at the overdue age of ninety one. I was the one that cared for him, and I was the one that found him in his bed. He was sitting up, back against the headboard. His heart had given out on the spot, killing him before he even went to sleep. His eyes just seemed to stare at me, an angry stare he often gave in life. I was left with his estate, and I made sure that his funeral be as cheap and short as possible so that it cause little intrusion to the lives that were obliged to attend.
In ages past my name meant something. That name died with time, however nothing damaged the family name more than my grandfather. Spending the dwindling family coffers on occult artifacts and our reputation on the eccentric. With my parents untimely death when I was young, I am the last of my line. Yet because of my grandfather, all am left with is a decaying estate and near empty coffers. Yet even after I left him rotting in the ground of a cheap grave I could not get him out of my mind. My dreams kept bringing his memory back. I dreamed of darkness, I was laying down on my back my arms folded on my chest. I tried to move but found walls on either side of me, and another not six inches from my face. I still remember the smell of fresh earth and rot. I could feel my arms as they rubbed together, dry sagging and wrinkled. I tried to scream but my mouth was dry and my lungs refused to take in air. I tried to strike out with all my limbs but I found hard wood encompass me.
When I awoke from my nightmare I found myself on the floor of my bedroom. I felt my night terrors must have moved me out of my bed, but I could not get the dream out of my mind. I was resolved to rid myself of my grandfather once and for all. I sold every last item the man had owned. All the artifacts, all the books, and every bit of occult nonsense that he wasted his time and money on. I took any price I was given for I did not wish to spare another thought for him. The dreams did not stop, but grow worse. I was visiting an old school friend when another dream, or vision happened. Again I was in the darkness, the smell and feel of the cage I found myself in felt more real than ever. I could feel myself, every inch felt different. I could feel the age on me, and know this was the body of my Grandfather. In desperation I clawed at the wood in front of me, I could feel shocks of pain as my fingernails tore off my hands. When I awoke from this dream I saw the concern on my old friends face. He told me that in the middle of our conversation my personality changed. That I grow agitated and tried to leave in a hurry. He said it was like I forgotten where I was. It was only with his skill in diplomacy that he managed to get me to sit back down for a few moments more till I came out of whatever possessed me. I bid my friend an apology and left his company not a few moments after I assured him am myself again.
By the time I made it home I felt a weight on my mind. I felt I understood what was befalling me. Even after death my grandfather seeks to take what is mine. The horrors of my fate were not lost on me. His grave will be my grave, his rotting corpse will be the new home of my soul. Again that night I experienced the vision, I refused to sleep till it came. I could feel it coming, as if something was pulling my head, and my sight away. The Silence I felt that night drove me to madness, kicking and hitting as if having a tantrum.Yet it was all for naught as I could not escape. When I awoke after, I know my time was growing shorter. It was coming soon, the final switch. I refused to let that be the end, my Grandfather will not have his victory.
The Switch would be soon, I have little time to prepare. This letter will be my final testimony. By the time I finish writing I will have taken a number of medications that will put me in a deep sleep. I arranged with the last of the money in my name to be buried in the woods. I will not give the names of who I conspire with for such a task, but I know them to be trusted as long as the money is correct. When I awake, or when Grandfather awakes he will find that his cage is complete. I won’t let him win, he will share my fate and be trapped under the earth till our corpses rot!
Credit To – BlueHero
I was one of those frail, sickly children for the vast majority of my early years. I was constantly being shuffled from physician to physician with one ailment or another; asthma, perpetual tonsillitis, severe allergies to everything. You name it I dealt with it at one point or another growing up. This meant that I spent a great deal of my formative years at home, in bed, miserably sick and more than a bit morose. There was an upside to this however, my father would often take time out of work to sit in my bedroom and read to me.
Some of my fondest memories as a child involved my father sitting in a chair next to my bed with one science fiction novel or another spread across his lap. I can’t count how many days were spent in such a fashion. I look back on it now and can’t help but smile when I picture that large man with his bushy beard, reading those thick novels to take my mind away from whatever was ailing me at the time. I was fortunate to come from a very loving home. My mother and father were extremely doting and focused all of their collective time and energy on raising their only son. I was particularly close to my father. We’ve all heard the old adage about Daddy’s girls and Momma’s boys, but that simply wasn’t the case in my experience.
Of course, every boy views his father as some larger than life, lantern jawed superhero, and I was no exception. My father was an enormous man, maybe six foot two and well over 250 pounds. He was an intimidating figure, and my childhood friends would often remark on just how large he was. He had very intense grayish blue eyes, brown hair that was slowly receding, and a thick red beard. But as intimidating as he may have appeared his demeanor, especially towards me, was always so calm and relaxed. He never once raised his voice within earshot, nor did I ever witness him use that great bulk of his to bully or intimidate. He was a kind soul, and spent all of his time letting his only son know just how much he was loved. He’d spend hours of his evenings after work in my room, sitting on the floor playing with my toys. I can’t help but chuckle when I picture that large man sitting cross legged on the floor with whatever superhero or mutant turtle I was interested in at that point. He even kept a small journal of all the funny little things I’d say and do, with some of his own musings remarking on just how quickly I was growing. I recall years later, when I was a man myself, reading that journal and being moved to tears by how deeply this man loved me.
Now my father was not a particularly religious man, in fact, if I had to peg his beliefs I’d say he was atheistic now that I have a grasp of such things. This was in direct conflict with how he was raised. He’d grown up in a very small town in North Carolina and was brought up in a very strict southern Baptist family. He remarked in the journal, just days after my birth, about how he found the Bible to be even more preposterous now that he had a child of his own. In particular the story of Isaac and Abraham did not sit well with my father. He couldn’t imagine any scenario in which he’d be willing to sacrifice his only son to some voice in his head. He was a very straightforward “logic and reason” type of guy. In addition to religion he absolutely abhorred superstitions and myths he made several comments about being leery of anyone that claimed to believe in aliens or ghost stories. Now he never made these statements to me directly he wanted me to come to my own conclusions regarding religion, superstition and the paranormal. But he did jot down all of these thoughts in that journal of his with the intention of giving me this book when I became a man myself. Unfortunately he never did get that opportunity.
As you can imagine, his death had a devastating impact on the course of my life. I remember vividly my mother coming into my room with tears and makeup streaming down her face. She cradled me in her arms and for the longest time simply rocked back and forth while sobbing silently to herself. Eventually she pulled herself together enough to tell me that my father’s small pickup truck had been struck on his drive home from work. The other vehicle involved was a semi, being driven by a man with too little sleep and too much alcohol in his system. He didn’t even know that he’d been involved in an accident until the officer responding to the crash pulled him from the wreckage of his own vehicle.
I was in shock, I was beyond consoling and honestly, I was furious. I was only five or six when my father passed, and in my mind all I could focus on was the fact that my dad had broken his promise. He would say to me, as he tucked me in at night, that I was his favorite thing in the world and he would always be there to make certain I was safe. It was repeated so often, night after night, that it almost became a mantra of his. But he made that promise and now he wouldn’t be around to keep it.
After my father’s death my mother was unable to afford the small three bedroom home nestled in the foothills of the mountains that I’d grown up in. We were forced to move to an older, run down part of town and needless to say it was just another factor contributing to the overwhelming sense of loss I was dealing with at the time. I hated the town, I hated the new school that I was required to attend when my health permitted, but most of all I hated our new home and the empty feeling it seemed to exude without my father’s presence. He’d never lived in that house, those walls had never heard that big guttural laugh of his, or sat idly by as he read to me during one of my many tilts with sickness. The house was a source of anxiety for me in those days. It was old, built sometime in the 1920’s my mother had told me. It was ancient, it was cold and everything about it seemed to be in a constant state of disrepair. The white paint was chipping in numerous spots on the exterior; the hardwood floors were warped and pockmarked throughout, even the grass outside remained a dismal brown year round.
The house only had two small bedrooms, a bathroom, a tiny dated kitchen and a musty little living room that seemed to be an afterthought in the builder’s original designs. I loathed that house; the floors creaked as everything settled at night, the windows were so old and grimy that they permitted very little light. My room was situated in the very back of the home and was so small that I had just enough room for my twin bed and a little dresser.
We’d been in the house for about six weeks when I started noticing some odd things happening, especially at night. I would come home from school to find that my bed, which had been made that morning, was in complete disarray. The clothes in my closet would sometimes be strewn across my room, much to my mother’s disapproval, and other small things like doors and windows seemingly opening and closing of their own volition. But the first truly unnerving occurrence that I can recall was just after my mom had tucked me in one night. I was staring at the ceiling, trying to decide if the water stain above my bed resembled a dog or something a bit more equestrian. I was beginning to nod off, catching myself closing my eye lids for a bit longer than was required to blink. My thoughts were slowly spiraling towards something that were closer to dreams when I heard a small scratching sound coming from the foot of my bed. At that time my bed was nestled in the corner of the room parallel to the doorway on one side and opposite my small closet that was a few feet from the foot board of the bed. I dismissed the sound as one of the many unexplained noises the house emitted at night and began drifting once more when I heard the noise again. This time it was louder and unmistakable as scratching, it was with a bit more purpose it seemed. I held my breath, closed my eyes, and focused all of my attention on deciphering that sound.
This time when it happened it was definitely louder and seemed to have a rhythm to it that just couldn’t be naturally occurring. It was almost like Morse code, like the scratching was meant to convey some kind of message. I got the feeling that it wasn’t trying to say “Ship in distress” or anything as mundane or typical as that. I can’t explain why, but the sound began to make me very uneasy as though it were malevolent in nature. The hair on the back of my neck began to rise without prompting and I found myself pulling the cover closer and closer to my chin. It would stop sporadically and then begin again with more fervor each time and always that same rhythm, scratch, scratch, scratch followed by a short pause and then scratch, scratch. I was frozen, completely fixated on this noise, but unable to call out to my mother whose bedroom was on the other side of the wall.
My mouth was dry and I was constantly moving my tongue around, swallowing to force something resembling moisture back into my mouth. Suddenly the scratching stopped, mid-sequence this time, and was replaced by the rattling of the closet doors. The closet was that old accordion style sliding type, with the wooden slats. I was amazed that the sound hadn’t prompted my mother to come in and see why I was out of bed. The rattling became more insistent, violent even, and that’s when I rediscovered the ability to scream. I yelled at the capacity my little lungs would permit until my room was flooded with light and I could make out my mother’s silhouette in the doorway.
“What’s wrong honey, what is it?” concern evident in my mother’s sleepy voice. I sat up in bed never taking my eyes off of the closet doors. “There’s someone in there mommy, in…in the closet”. She blinked a few times to clear the remaining fuzziness that sleep offers from her eyes and walked over to the closet. She flung the doors apart with a horrid screeching sound, and when it was clear that no boogeyman was immediately apparent, began shuffling the clothes hanging from the rod to show me there was no occupant. “See sweetheart, there’s no one in here it was just a bad dream”.
She closed the doors again crossed the hardwood floor and arranged herself at the foot of my bed. “It’s no surprise that you’re having nightmares son, considering…considering all that’s happened recently.” She patted my leg, and then reached up to smooth my disheveled hair. “I promise you, there’s no one in there”, she said. I was finally able to peel my attention away from the closet and meet her eyes, “I know there was” I said “there were some weird scratching noises and then the doors started to shake.” She stifled a yawn behind her fist and then patted my cheek as she rose from the edge of my bed. “Just a dream son, there’s no one in there, and there’s no one in the house but us.” “Now please, try to get some sleep, you have to go to school tomorrow and you don’t want to be nodding off in class.” She crossed the room and told me she loved me before she turned my bedroom light back off. I heard her mattress springs sigh as she got back into her bed and I laid down again myself.
I maneuvered myself as close to the wall and headboard as I could manage, pulled the cover up to my nose, and shut my eyes with such force that they squeezed tears down my cheeks. I tried to control my breathing and focus everything my sense of hearing had to offer for that sound. My heart was pounding so loudly in my ears that I barely heard the first scratch when the noise came again. I stopped breathing all together and waited for the next series of scratches to begin again. The minutes dragged by but the sound did not come again and at some point I fell into a rather fitful stage of sleep that was accompanied by nightmares.
Over the coming weeks the sound would come and go. There didn’t seem to be any pattern to it at all. There would be several nights in a row with absolutely nothing unusual occurring and then there would come a night when the scratching would start up as soon as I began to drift off and last until I screamed for my mother. This became something of a pattern, I wouldn’t say I became accustomed to it, but I knew that on those nights when the scratching started that all I had to do was yell for my mom and after she came in to take a look around I’d finally be able to sleep.
It had been three or four nights since the last time I’d heard the rhythmic scratching. I’d managed to fall asleep that night without event, maybe I’d been lulled into some false sense of security as it’d been several nights since the last “closet incident”. It was about 1 or so in the morning when I awoke with a start. I had fallen asleep on top of my covers and as soon as I became aware of being conscious I wrestled with trying to crawl underneath them. After much effort, I was finally able to get underneath the comfort and security of my sheets when I began to wonder what exactly had stirred me from the throngs of sleep. It was a cloudy night, so the limited amount of light permitted through my bedroom window was at an absolute minimum that night. I controlled my breathing, listening for that ominous sound and forced my eyes to scan the bedroom. And that’s when I saw it. Standing at the foot of my bed, in front of my slowly deteriorating closet doors was a very large form. It was so dark that I couldn’t make out whether this thing, this being, was facing my direction or not.
I couldn’t move, I couldn’t scream, I could barely even draw breath. All of my attention was on that form at the foot of my bed, I couldn’t look away, it’s as if my eye lids were taped open and I was forced that look in that direction. The form never moved, never even shifted from foot to foot. It simply stood there, massive and dark and seeming to fill the whole room. There was no scratching sound, no rattling of the closet doors, just this form standing stoically in the middle of my room. Amazingly I fell asleep. I can’t begin to imagine how that came to be. I just know that one minute I’m fixated with every fiber of my being on this figure in my room, and the next minute I’m opening my eyes to sunlight trickling in through my window and birds chirping outside as they went about their daily activities. What’s even more amazing is that I didn’t awake with that sense of terror that I’d grown accustomed to after a run in with the scratching sound, I even felt rested for the first time in months. This same thing happened again several times over the next couple of nights. I found myself waking in the middle of the night only to be confronted by the image of that large silent form at the foot of my bed. Again there was no scratching sound or rattling closet doors, just this figure standing there a few feet away. I never worked up the courage to yell for my mother or try to get a closer look at this shadow like form. I still wasn’t even certain if it was facing in my direction on the nights this occurred. I even began to wonder if perhaps this thing standing in my room at night had simply tired of causing a ruckus in my closet and accepted my presence in the house.
The next few weeks went by without anything of note occurring. I ate breakfast, went to school, came home and then went to bed. My health had hit a relative high point during that period of time and I was attending school on a regular basis for the first time in memory. At some point I even befriended one of the boys a few houses down and spent my evenings playing video games and the like at his house. I went to bed absolutely exhausted each night and woke the next morning well rested and looking forward to what the day might hold. I began to discount those terrifying events that had occurred in my room in the weeks prior as nothing more than my imagination.
My mother had taken on more hours at the furniture factory where she worked to help pay off some of the debt that accrued after my father’s death. On the nights she worked late I was to spend my evenings over at my new friend Ryan’s house until she returned home. I didn’t like to see my mother so tired from all of the extra work she was putting in, but I did enjoy getting to hang out with my friend and his rather expansive collection of video games (a luxury my mother simply couldn’t provide for me at the time). This routine of staying with Ryan’s family until my mother got off of work lasted for several weeks until my mother had an accident at work. She broke several bones in her right hand and wrist and was unable to work at all for the next few months, let alone pick up extra hours. She was obviously dismayed because just as it seemed our lives had begun to take on the normalcy that everyone expects, some unforeseen event once again caused that pattern to veer off course. She received some pretty heavy duty pain medication along with the cast on her arm and retired to bed early the night of her accident. I was permitted to watch television after I’d completed my homework, and then I went to bed myself after my favorite cartoons went off,
I’d been in bed for about half an hour, listening to the unusual sounds of my mother’s snoring from the next room when I thought I heard that all too familiar scratching sound from my closet. Initially I tried to ignore it, going so far as to covering my head with my pillow and forcing myself to sleep. After a few minutes I realized that this wasn’t working, the scratching sound never abated and only seemed to increase in tempo as the minutes passed. I was more angry than frightened at this point. It had been many weeks since the last time I’d had to deal with this and I’d begun to hope that it had stopped altogether.
After a few more minutes I finally came to the decision that I would open the closet door myself and finally put my mind at ease. It had to be a rat or something, there had to be some explanation and I was determined to find out. I pushed the cover towards the foot of my bed and began moving my feet towards the floor. As soon as my bare feet made contact with the cold hardwood the scratching sound ceased all together and was replaced with the violent shaking of the closet door. I let out an involuntary yelp as it had been a long time since I’d heard that sound, and I’d never seen it be so violent. The closet doors were rattling around with such force that I was afraid they would tear loose from their hinges. I lifted my feet back into bed and worked up the courage to begin yelling for my mother. “Mom…Mom please come here” I yelled with as much volume as I could muster. No response, not even the slightest break in her snoring, she was out cold. I yelled again and again, but to no avail. The moment I began yelling the shaking of the closet doors had ceased, as they usually do in this situation.
But my yelling wasn’t followed by the sound of my mother’s footsteps this time, and the doors began shaking once again. I didn’t know what to do, I was far too scared to get up and make a mad dash for my mother’s room, but my fearful screams seemed to have no effect. I began to sob, I’d reached a breaking point and I couldn’t help but pull my knees up to my chest and whimper. Suddenly the doors quit their frantic dance, they just stopped shaking altogether. I managed to lift my face from the protection of my knees and to my horror I saw the closet doors begin to slide apart. No more scratching, no more rattling, I was finally going to come face to face with my tormentor.
The doors finally opened all the way and I could see now that my clothes and the darkness within were shifting. I could just make out a hand part the clothes on the rack and felt bile rise in my stomach as I realized the skin on that hand was absolutely putrid. Gray and mottled and I now became aware of the most horrific stench I’d ever encountered. I wanted to spring from my bed and through my window, or pull the cover over my head and will this nightmare away. But I was completely transfixed, rooted in place, I couldn’t budge a muscle. I could now make out a torso in the space that my clothes once occupied it was covered in that same rotting flesh as the hand of course. Next, and most terrifying, I could make out two pools of absolute darkness that constituted the eyes on this nightmare. They were sunk down deep into the sockets of its face and were completely void of any emotion that I could discern. Just two black pits of emptiness. The creature had finally emerged from behind my shirts and jackets hanging from my closet rack.
It paused for a moment at the entrance to the closet, and seemed to size up the room. It was tall and impossibly skinny, almost to the point of being emaciated. The fingers and toes ended in long black ragged nails, nails that were almost talon like. Bits and pieces of flesh were missing over various parts of the creature’s body. I could clearly make out what appeared to be ribs in its torso, and the yellowing bone of one elbow. It had a few tufts of jet black hair protruding from its grotesque and bulbous head. Its mouth was wide and filled with small rows of teeth that came to points so sharp they looked like they’d been filed. Its nose was two little slits with absolutely no protrusion that I could discern.
It just stood in the doorway of my closet, smiling at me with those little sharp teeth and that unnaturally wide mouth. It stared at me as if it was trying to convey that it had all the time in the world and intended to drag out whatever horror was about to visit me. Suddenly the creature jerked its head to the side and seemed to sniff the air with that horrible little nose. The sniffing became more frantic and the creature kept jerking its head from side to side as if it’d caught a scent it wasn’t fond of and was trying to ascertain exactly where this odor was originating. That’s when I noticed movement from my peripheral, I was able to tear my eyes away from this monstrosity long enough to look to the corner of my room where I’d seen the sudden movement. And there, standing just feet away from me was that large dark ominous form.
It seemed even more massive than it had in previous encounters, and it also seemed to be radiating an intense anger. To my amazement this anger did not seem to be directed towards me, but at the creature now standing in front of my closet. The creature let out a hiss and then a sound akin to a whimper and took a step back when it noticed the large form standing in the corner of the room. I looked back at this dark figure standing so very close now, and for the first time I could make out distinguishing features. I realized that before this form had stood with its back to me on those nights it had appeared in my room, because now I could clearly make out a face, a face that was covered in course red hair. I could now see that this figure was a very large man with pale white skin and a receding hair line. But the most noticeable feature were the intense grayish blue eyes that I could make out even in the darkness of my room. Those eyes left the monster in my closet for just a moment and made contact with my own. This great big man standing in the center of my room, this great big man that I thought I would never see again, he smiled and then winked at me.
And with a burst of movement that my eyes could barely track he dove into the beast, driving it back into the depths of my closet, while the doors closed on them both. I sat on the edge of my bed, with tears in my eyes, and my mind racing to process what it had just witnessed. I finally broke my stupor long enough to race to my mother’s room and wake her. After a few moments of frantic shaking on my part, she finally swam to the surface of consciousness. When my face came into focus she immediately sat up out of bed and took me in her arms. “What is it sweetheart, what’s going on?” At this point I had begun to sob uncontrollably as she rocked me back and forth in her arms. I pulled myself together long enough to say “He kept his promise…he said he would always be there for me and he meant it”. My mother tried to get me to explain, but I just continued to cry into her shoulder as she rocked me back and forth. At some point I managed to fall asleep with my mother whispering words of comfort until I drifted off.
I never did hear another odd sound from my closet after that night, or any other part of the house for that matter. From that point forward things returned to normal and I felt as though a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, I’d received some form of closure from the events that took place that night. I also knew that no matter what obstacles I might face in the years ahead, I would always have someone looking over my shoulder, ever ready to fulfill a promise made to a small sickly child.
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