I’ve heard it said before that if you believe in angels, you must believe in demons as well. I’m not sure if I truly believe that either really exist and my leanings change from mood to mood. But there are times when I wonder if there is something there watching us, cloaked in the dark, hating us. When I’ve felt the presence of something I couldn’t see, when instincts overrode logic and I couldn’t close my eyes or turn my back to it because I just didn’t know.
I can say with a certain amount of confidence that everyone has felt this way at some point in their life with varying degrees of intensity and frequency. But that’s not what this is about, not entirely anyway.
When I let myself believe in such things, I realize that it started around 10 years ago when I spent a week at my aunt and uncle’s house. They lived several hours away from my own home and this was something I had always hated, seeing as their children were the only ones in the family anywhere close to my age.
There were plenty of movies, games, and other activities to keep me occupied during my stay, bookending my experience in a way that nearly erased it from my thoughts altogether. Afterwards, it had seemed such a small thing to me that I mentioned it to no one.
It was late at night at some point in the middle of my stay. I’d woken quite suddenly in my bed for seemingly no reason at all and couldn’t get back to sleep, even after what seemed to be hours of laying in the dark. Defeated, I decided to get up and move around, maybe get a glass of water before trying again. I looked to the clock and noticed that it was very late, early morning in fact: three-something it said. But what could I do?
As I walked out into the hallway, I noticed that I didn’t feel quite right – a bit sick in my stomach and slightly… anxious? Unsettled? I turned on every light I came across, but maybe that was only my childish fear of the dark getting the best of me. I was only eleven at the time after all.
Despite my attempts to reason my dread away, to banish it as I had done the dark, the feeling persisted all the way to the kitchen. I needed to calm down if I was to get any further sleep that night. I got myself a glass, filled it from the tap, and sat down at the kitchen table. I felt a bit lonely, knowing that I was the only person awake in the house and I disliked looking at the empty chairs. So I turned my gaze to the large glass doors instead, the impenetrable pitch of the night blocking the backyard from view.
I couldn’t see anything out there, but I froze instantly, instinctively; I was being watched. Something was approaching the door, the windows – I couldn’t see it but it could see me clearly. With all the light flooding the kitchen, I was bathed in it, completely exposed but I couldn’t see out.
Everything was awful. I wanted to run but I couldn’t make myself move an inch, not even to look away. And these flimsy, hateful walls – a thin pane of glass – what good would any of that do? None. Nowhere was safe. And it was coming.
Soon enough, I could make out the shape. It was at eye level with me on all fours. I couldn’t see it with my eyes, not physically, but something in me inexplicably knew it was there, knew what it looked like and how it moved. Closer still and I could distinguish its features; thick, matted black fur against the black night, a chain around its throat, and yellow eyes that stared in at me through the glass. Its teeth and maw were dripping with saliva. It was a large dog and it wasn’t at the same time. It stopped just outside the door and glared at me. Snarls ripped from its throat, but I couldn’t hear any of it, not really.
I was too terrified to move, paralyzed by its malevolent gaze.
‘It’s not real,’ I thought, ‘Just get up and walk away. Go back to bed’.
Eventually, I did. I left my water on the table, full and tepid, and crept quietly up the stairs. It felt as if any sudden moves might set it off, so I did everything slowly and carefully until I was lying in my bed. Despite my expectations, I was able to fall asleep relatively quickly. I don’t think I even dreamed.
In the morning, with the light of day and the presence of other people around me, the whole thing could be written off as a figment of my imagination. I was obviously spooked by something from the moment I got up, so it wasn’t that far-fetched that my mind would play such a trick on me. I didn’t say anything to anyone, simply because I didn’t think it was anything significant. I mean, what even happened?
I didn’t exactly forget about it, but I didn’t let it worry me either. It wasn’t even something to move on from, just a strange thing that happened.
Life went on.
The next few years were difficult and rather hard on my family – financially, emotionally, and health-wise as well. We got along well enough even after our house was foreclosed on. We switched towns, switched schools, and moved to a much smaller house as we waited for things to get better. I was fourteen and starting high school when things started to settle down again.
I didn’t exactly approve of our new home. My brother and I lived downstairs in the basement and our rooms shared a wall. We enjoyed each other’s company well enough, so it wasn’t that bad spending so much time together, but there were times when he could get on my nerves. I would often stay up rather late reading in my room, and I eventually came to notice a strange clicking noise coming from his bedroom every couple of nights around midnight. It sounded as if he was flicking his light on and off… but why would he do that?
I decided to just leave him be for a while. But, the thing is, the more I noticed it, the more it started to bother me. I came to expect it to happen almost every night. A couple of weeks later, it was keeping me up at night wondering what my brother thought he was doing, waiting until it would eventually stop.
After a bit of internal debate, I decided to just ask him to ‘please stop’ (perhaps not so nicely though). However, when I knocked and opened his door, I found the room dark and my brother himself in bed, apparently fast asleep. How strange.
I closed the door and returned to my room. The odd noise persisted.
The next day, I decided that I was going to do a little experiment. Something must be making that noise after all. I told my brother what I noticed and asked him to go around the basement rooms and click various things – lights, doors, anything – while I waited and listened in my room for the sound that matched the one I was hearing at night.
Turns out, it was the light in the little closet with the boiler that was attached to his room. There was a bare light bulb inside, and the pulling of that chain made the noise I had been hearing at night. There was no further explanation to be found.
Soon after, my brother started reporting strange dreams and the eerie feeling that he was being watched, even during the day. I assumed this was in response to our discovery and mentally dismissed it while outwardly showing my support and sympathy. Until I started experiencing the same sort of thing. I would wake up at night paralyzed with fear, sometimes coming out of disturbing nightmares, other times out of perfectly normal sleep. I could no longer fall asleep with my back exposed. I found myself unable to bear leaving my door open at night. During the day, I felt paranoid, always looking over my shoulder and waiting for something to hurt me.
Weeks later, something finally happened to me while I was lifting my foot to climb the stairs and join my family for a meal. Not a single thought in my head, I was suddenly awash with terror. I just ran to the door at the top of the stairs, frightened out of my wits for no apparent reason. When I stepped into the daylight, I turned around and looked behind me. It was there, at the bottom of the stairs, watching me. That dog. I knew it was there, but I couldn’t see it – just like before. I closed the door and walked into the kitchen. No one saw or heard anything of my momentary panic and I didn’t feel like enlightening them. Not even my brother. Strange noises are fine, a creepy unexplainable thing, but you’re seeing phantom dogs now? Liar.
Stupid overactive imagination. Calm the hell down.
I didn’t want to go back down there – ever – but eventually, I just got back into the habit of it. Feeling constant dread? That’s just normal. Cringing away from empty air? Normal. Nightmare again? Totally normal.
My parents started arguing a lot. Dad would leave, going out on walks to ‘clear his head’, gone for so long we’d start to wonder if he was ever coming back. We moved again, switched towns, switched schools. My grades went down the toilet. My real life problems chased the unnatural fear away. Everything sort of peaked and then slowly started to get better over the course of the next year.
My aunt and uncle came to town and we went out to lunch one day. The conversation was light-hearted enough between my siblings and cousins until my brother brought up the weird happenings in our old house. My cousin latched onto this and told us a few paranormal stories of her own. One day, she said, she was playing with her friends in their old backyard when she ‘heard’ a noise. She said she didn’t really hear it exactly, but she knew the sound.
When she looked up, she saw a great big dog with a jingling chain around its neck. She had screamed and run inside to her mom, crying uncontrollably and completely inconsolable. She said she didn’t really understand what had happened.
Feeling distinctly unsettled, I asked her what the dog looked like. Big and black, she said, with shaggy fur. Yellow eyes? I asked. Yes, yellow eyes and it was bigger than a normal dog, taller.
“I saw that dog too, when I was staying at your house.”
I told them the short little story of how I woke up and saw a big, scary dog through the doors in their kitchen. We thought it was fun, this strange coincidence. Apparently, it was around the same time as well. What was going on then? I wondered aloud.
Well, that was right around the time a close relative started to get so dangerously sick.
That was right before Mom and Dad’s business started going down.
And Uncle lost his job.
And my various family couples started fighting.
And then we lost the house.
But then things started to get better… until it showed up again.
No. No way.
This was just a figment of my imagination and hers, a coincidence. There was no demon dog following us around and bringing misfortune to our family. No way.
Demons aren’t real.
Angels… aren’t real either.
There’s nothing watching from the shadows, waiting while people sleep. There can’t be. Because, if there is, I don’t think I could ever feel safe again. I –
‘Shhh. There’s nothing there…’
Saying it doesn’t help much when I can feel it so strongly, watching, its gaze prickling all along my spine. What if our eyes aren’t seeing everything that’s really there? And there is something in the dark that just wants to spread pain and misery?
There would be no reasoning with such things, no fighting.
So they can’t be real.
Credit To – Amanda