02 Mar Come and Play
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"Come and Play"Written by Pablo Dickens
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Estimated reading time — 33 minutes
I know how this is going to sound. I know that it sounds impossible. Insane. Bat-shit crazy.
God knows I’ve been over it again and again. I’ve thought of every possible explanation. But I’ve come up empty every single time. Which means that what happened really did happen.
I need you to believe me. I know it won’t change much. What happened, happened – there’s no going back or changing that. But I still need someone to believe me – anyone. For me. For my sanity.
I am not crazy.
This might be my last chance to tell anyone what happened. Tomorrow I’m going into the “Attitude Adjuster” – as they call it here – and no one is ever the same when they come back out of that room. I probably won’t even be able to remember my own name, much less the crazy shit that went down seven months ago.
So I’m writing down everything in this little book. Call it a journal of sorts. I don’t know if they’ll actually send it to you like I asked, but I have to try. And I have to hope that they will.
Don’t feel guilty after you’ve read it. You wouldn’t have been able to change anything. You wouldn’t have been able to help. This is for me. Closure.
I hope it reaches you though.
It started when I moved to that new place in the old part of town. Remember how excited I was? God, if I’d only known. But at the time it was my second chance. My last chance. I had a new job, my debt wasn’t as crippling and I was sober for the first time in three years. Katy had even said that if I stayed sober for 6 months, she’d let me see the kids over weekends.
The place was pretty run down, but it was big. I’d figured I’d start restoring it, getting it back into shape after I’d saved for a couple of months. New paint, replacing the tiles, fixing the ceiling and putting in some new roof tiles were the major things I’d have to address. I’d rebuild the porch and replace the deck in the backyard for the family barbecues I dreamt we’d have. It had a large backyard for the kids and even a big, open basement I’d have liked to convert into a nice gaming area – once I’d installed a new floor.
The house was fairly isolated. Right at the end of the street. Number 113 Harriet drive. The closest neighbours were about a kilometre away, as most of the surrounding places were empty. It wasn’t the greatest neighbourhood, but I’d lived in worse. It was right on the edge of the woods, and there was a path that led down to a small stream where I’d have liked to take James fishing.
Moving in didn’t take long – I didn’t have much. A few pieces of furniture, my bed, my clothes and the kitchen stuff you sent me when I got out of rehab. It only took me half a day, even on my own. Two days later everything was in its place and I was settling in nicely. I’d even bought an extra chair and some cheap paintings to give the living room a more homely feel.
I was happy. It genuinely felt like I was getting my life back on track. I worked hard, and I was exhausted in the evenings, but it felt good. I was working on my second chance. Weekends I slept in, worked on the house through the day and watched old movies on the DVD player you sent me.
It was a simple life, but an honest one. I hadn’t really craved a drink for months and not at all since I had moved in. Like I said, I was happy.
About two months after I moved in, I took some time off. I had built up a considerable amount of vacation time and I wanted to really get cracking at getting the house into better shape.
Saving for the materials also went quicker than expected, since I didn’t have a lot of expenses and I still had some of dad’s money he had left me.
So I bought the materials and got started. I painted first. The whole house, inside and out. I hired a labourer – Kevin – to help, and I was surprised we managed to finish the first coat in one day.
Three nights later was when it started.
I had just finished making myself dinner when I heard it. A light knocking. I stopped, cocking my head and listening again. Nothing. Thinking someone might be at the door I headed over and opened it, but there was no one there. Shrugging, I closed the door and got my dinner. I was just about to sit down and put on another movie, when I heard it again.
This time I could more or less pin point where it was coming from and it sounded like it was coming from down the hall. Setting my dinner down, I walked down the hallway, straining to hear the knocking again.
I was just passing the basement door when I heard it again.
It was the basement door being knocked on.
I recoiled. Someone was in my house.
I slowly retreated back to the living room, keeping my eyes locked on the basement door. I reached for my phone on the kitchen counter and called the police, keeping the basement door in my sight.
A woman operator answered, asking me what my emergency was.
“I think there’s someone in my house. In the basement.” I whispered, picking up the large knife I had cut the chicken with.
“What is your address, sir?”
“113 Harriet drive, the Willows. My name is Derick Reid.”
“A unit has been dispatched. Are you able to leave the house?” she asked, just as I heard the knocking again.
“Yes. I’m moving to the door now.” I whispered, and started to the front door. Moving slowly, I tried to keep the basement door in my sights for as long as I could, and when I couldn’t anymore, I sprinted to the door, ripped it open and jumped down the dilapidated porch.
I stopped at the street, turning to look at my house. With the door standing ajar, it almost looked like a great monster was about to devour me. A chill ran up my spine at the ominous thought.
“Sir?” the operator asked.
“Yes, I’m outside. I’m standing on the street.”
“Ok, a unit was only a few blocks away, they should be there any second. Please wait for them.”
She had barely finished her sentence when I saw a police car turn the corner up the street, heading in my direction.
The car pulled up and two officers got out – a young woman and an older man.
“Are you the one who called, sir?” the woman asked, quickly summing me and the house up.
“Yes, there is someone in my basement.”
“Ok, sir. Please stay here.” she replied and they started toward the house. “It’s the third door on the left.” I called after them and she raised her hand in thanks. They stopped on the porch, pulled their weapons and entered the house.
A few minutes went by and I nervously watched the front door, every now and then scanning the area in case the intruder had managed to elude the police and make a run for it.
Soon the officers emerged from the front door. The older officer was talking into his radio and the woman approached me.
“It’s all clear, sir. There is no one in your house.”
I was relieved, but also embarrassed.
“Are you sure? Did you check everywhere?”
Patiently, she nodded. “There is no other exit from the basement except the door and all the other windows and doors in the house are closed and locked.”
“Sir, I’d like you to please put the knife down.”
Looking down I was surprised to see I was still clutching the knife. I was gripping it so tightly that my knuckles had turned white.
I dropped the knife on the sparse grass of my front lawn.
Looking up at the officer, I saw her eyebrows were raised.
“I’m sorry. I – I guess I was really scared. I just grabbed it. God knows what I thought I would do with it.” I ran a shaky hand through my hair.
“That’s ok, sir. Why don’t we go inside and you can tell us what happened.”
We went into the house, and I was somewhat cautious. Looking down the hall I saw that the basement door was open.
The officer placed the knife which she had picked up on the counter.
I took a seat in front of my cold dinner and the two officers stood opposite me.
“Tell us what happened.” I identified her as Julie Rossi by her name tag. The man was Greg Rickards.
I took a deep breath and told them about the knocking.
Officer Rickards raised his eyebrows.
“So you heard a noise coming from your basement and called the cops?” It seemed as if he wanted to grin.
“No! Well… yes. But it wasn’t just a noise. It was distinct knocking. Three knocks and then nothing. Then three knocks again. Against the door. What could have made that noise?”
“Well, any number of things. But my first question would be why an intruder would knock against the door in the first place.”
Officer Rossi gave him a disapproving glance, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“Sir, while we can’t tell you what made the noise, it most certainly wasn’t an intruder. Maybe it was the wind, or the house settling down. Do you live here alone? Perhaps you have somewhere you could possibly stay? Just for tonight?”
“No, no, that’s ok. I’ll be fine. Thank you for responding so quickly.”
I walked them to the door and I actually heard Rickards chuckle as they crossed the lawn. Asshole.
Closing the door I turned and rested my head against the door. Taking a deep breath I crossed the living room and made my way down the hall.
I stopped in front of the open basement and looked into the darkness. Nightfall had come pretty quickly, but the basement was a dark place to begin with.
I flicked the light switch for the basement and waited as the fluorescent light bulb slowly flickered into life.
Taking another deep breath, I started down the stairs. The old wooden stairs creaked loudly as I made my way down. Everything was the way I remembered it. Nothing seemed out of place or odd.
Shaking my head a little I walked back upstairs. I switched off the light and pulled the door shut.
And just as the door latched the knocking came again. Loud and clear. There was no mistake.
I jumped back from the door, slamming into the opposite wall.
How? What? What the fuck? I was just down there! There was nothing there!
The knocking came again, this time much louder than before – and then it was followed by a giggle.
It sounded like a child – maybe a girl.
Without thinking I jumped forward and yanked open the door.
There was nothing.
I stood there, utterly flabbergasted, gripping the door and panting like a wild animal.
Slowly I closed the door and immediately the knocks came again. Before the third knock fell I opened the door and was met with the same sight as before. Nothing. Even the knock had been cut off.
I slammed the door and backed away into the living room. Collapsing onto a couch which had a good view of the basement door, I groaned a little out of fear and frustration as the knocks started up again. It seemed the pauses between knocks were random. Sometimes it was seconds and other times it was minutes. But it was always three.
Every now and then I could hear – or thought I could hear – a little girl giggling.
What the fuck was going on? What was doing that?
What I wanted to do was get out of the house, but I had nowhere to go. The knocks were freaking me out, but the laughter was pushing me to the point of absolutely losing my shit.
I could have gone to a motel, but then what? I had bought this place. I couldn’t stay in a motel indefinitely. Call someone. Who? Katy? Kevin? And say what?
I got up, and moved to the door. I opened it and then retreated back to the living room again.
I waited for almost five minutes, but nothing happened. So the knocks only happened when the door was closed?
I stood up and retrieved my cold dinner. Hungrily I ate, continuing to eye the doorway to the basement. Placing the dishes in the sink after finishing, I also drank a glass of water.
It had been almost half an hour since I had opened the door, and there had been no knocks since – and no giggling. I was feeling a little relieved, but apprehensively so. As if it was too good to be true.
I gathered my phone and headed to my upstairs bedroom, making sure to never turn my back on the basement. Running the last few stairs and the short distance to my room, I quickly turned and slammed the door, locking it for good measure.
I had left almost all the downstairs lights on, but had decided that this was a necessity. Breathing a sigh of relief at being seemingly safe and secure, I went about my pre bed business. It was still early, but I was tired. And besides, I didn’t want to be downstairs.
I got into bed and grabbed the book I was reading, planning to read for a few minutes and then go to sleep, but I must’ve fallen asleep almost instantly.
I woke to a bright and warm morning and for a few moments I had forgotten about the weird events of the previous night. I stretched and yawned, but mid yawn it came back to me. I stopped, and then actually laughed out loud. In the bright morning sunshine the curious knocking and giggling didn’t seem nearly as scary. I mostly convinced myself that it didn’t happen at all and that it had been the work of my over tired imagination.
You called the cops. Well… yeah, that was embarrassing.
I got out of bed, planning to go down and make myself a big breakfast – when I noticed that my bedroom door was open.
I stopped mid stride.
I locked it last night.
I stood welded to the ground, suddenly as cold as ice, despite the warm morning.
I nervously glanced around the room, and spotted footprints. They were small, barefoot and human – it could only have been left by a child. They were pitch black, as if whoever left them had walked through tar. They made their way in through the door and up to the side of the bed. They then turned around and headed back out the door. I stood motionless for several seconds more, trying to make sense of the bizarre scene in front of me. I looked down at myself for some reason, and I sucked in a breath. My torso, arms and legs were all covered in blood red scratches. I felt along the scratches on my left arm, but there was no pain – only the weird sensation you get after your leg or arm has stayed in the same position for a long time. Almost like pins and needles but not quite.
I was scared. Someone or – and before I could stop the thought – something had been in my bedroom while I slept. Someone had managed to open my locked door, come into my bedroom and do something to me. While I slept!
Slowly I crept forward, deciding to follow the tiny, black footprints.
They led away from my door and down the stairs. I followed, first gazing down the stairs for a few moments before taking the first step down. The black footprints never diminished as they would if you stepped in mud and then walked a few steps on. Each one was as black as the previous one, and the footprints going to my bedroom and those coming back were exactly the same shade of black.
I reached the first floor landing and saw that the footprints led to the closed basement door – the same basement door that I had left open the night before.
Fear had completely enveloped me, but curiosity drove me forward and before I could talk myself out of it, I had opened the basement door. I switched on the light and I could clearly see the footprints coming up the stairs and then going back down again.
My feet seemed to have a mind of their own, for they started down. My breath was coming in quick gasps.
The basement was stuffy, which was nothing new, but there was an underlying … smell in the air. A rotten smell – the smell you would get down by a creek or swamp. I was positive I had not smelt it the day before.
Reaching the basement floor, I saw where the footprints had started – and where they stopped.
They led to the middle of the room and then vanished.
I stood staring at the spot where they had started and stopped. There was nothing close enough which could be climbed upon, so that was no explanation.
Suddenly the basement door slammed and the light went out at the same time.
I screamed – literally like a girl. I tried to turn and run up the stairs, but in my rush I somehow tripped over my own feet. I went down hard and for a moment just lay there.
My heart was pounding like a jackhammer and my breathing was wild, but all else was deathly quiet. I could not see an inch in front me – I was in absolute darkness.
I was about to try to get to the stairs in a more calmly manner, when I heard a shuffle behind me – roughly where the footprints had started and ended.
I sat up and turned around. Another shuffle – this time it sounded like a wet footprint. A high pitched moan escaped my throat and I caught my breath, somehow thinking that if I stay quiet, that whatever it was would leave me alone.
A giggle came out of the darkness, a sound which caused tendrils of panic to run through my already tense body.
“Deeee-rick…” came the sing song whisper out of the darkness.
“Come play with me Derick.”
A cold and clammy hand gripped my wrist and I lost it. I ripped my arm away and sprung up, blindly scrambling toward and up the stairs. I stumbled again and again and almost fell back down the stairs, but finally I reached the basement door. I flung it open and tumbled into the hallway. Jumping up I quickly slammed the door shut, and collapsed against it. I heard another giggle coming from the other side of the door and then three soft knocks.
What the fuck was going on? A little girl? Was my house actually haunted? This shit doesn’t happen in real life!
Get out of the house, a different voice in my head said. Why are you still here? It almost pleaded.
But no. Something strange was definitely happening, but I had nowhere to go. This was my home and I was stuck with whatever was going on.
Eventually I got up and went back to my room. It was only then that I noticed all of the footprints were gone. I sighed. I had planned to phone someone – maybe the cops – but no one would believe me now without at least some sort of evidence. I quickly showered, deciding that it would make me feel better and while drying myself I saw that the scratches on my body were fading too, but a blue, almost black, hand print was forming on the spot where I had been grabbed. It was a small hand – like a child’s.
I was exhausted and it was only ten am. I decided to head out for breakfast, to clear my head and to try and make sense of what had happened.
I called Kevin to tell him that we wouldn’t be working today and headed off to a cafe close to my house.
I didn’t have much of an appetite, but I forced myself to eat a considerable breakfast, and after a couple of cups of coffee I was beginning to feel a little bit like myself again.
I went through all of the events of the previous evening and that morning and I could only come to two possibilities. Either my house was actually haunted; or I was going insane.
Exiting the cafe, I noticed a bar down the street, and something awoke in me which I hadn’t felt for a very long time. I had always called it the Thirst. Heaven knows the things that had happened – or which I had imagined – were cause enough to sit down and have a nice relaxing drink.
But it wouldn’t just be one, would it?
No. It wouldn’t.
Turning my back on the bar I headed back to my car.
I spent the day window shopping and eating something small at almost every cafe or restaurant I saw. I was wasting time – I didn’t want to go home.
I was on my way to the next eatery I had Googled, when something occurred to me: Sooner or later I would have to go home, did I really want to get home at night?
This made me stop, and I knew I would have to get home before dark.
I sighed, said a small prayer and headed home.
Nothing was out of place. Everything was as I had left it and all the lights were still burning.
I was full from basically eating the whole day, so I decided to just head to my room.
I first stopped in front of the basement door once again. I opened it quickly and flicked the light switch, and to my surprise it came on. I debated about going down, but quickly scrapped that plan. I closed the door, leaving the light on and headed up stairs.
I locked the door again and moved the dresser in front of it. Looking at my makeshift blockade, I again pondered my sanity.
I took another scalding hot shower and brushed my teeth. It was still early, but I was exhausted.
I had just slipped into bed when three loud bangs erupted from downstairs. Not knocks. Bangs. As if someone was slamming with an open hand against a door or window.
I threw the covers off, but then froze.
I listened and waited and after a few moments the bangs came again. One-two-three. This was followed by a girl laughing.
Even the giggling has escalated, I thought.
I reached for my phone on the table but then paused. What if I called the police and they again find nothing? They would think I was wasting their time. Or that I was crazy. Maybe you are, an unfriendly thought answered.
Bracing myself with a couple of deep breaths, I got out of bed and walked to my bedroom door. I put my ear against the door above the dresser and listened, but I could hear nothing. Everything was deathly quiet.
I was just about to move the dresser and unlock the door when three more bangs slammed into my bedroom door. I yelled out and fell back. The bangs made the entire room and windows shake, and a photo frame of the kids I had on the dresser toppled over. I crawled backwards toward the bed, as another set of bangs rattled the door. And then another. The pauses between them were getting ever shorter, until there were no pauses. It was deafening. A girl was screaming on the other side of the door – hysterical, maniacal screaming. The room shook and the windows rattled and it seemed that the door would explode inward at any moment along with my eardrums. I pulled my knees up and hugged them and soon I was screaming at the top of my lungs, pleading for it to stop.
And suddenly it did.
With tears streaming down my face, I waited for the next set of bangs. But they never came. It felt like hours went by before I could summon the courage to get up. Slowly I moved to the door and listened. Again all was quiet.
Waiting several more minutes, I moved the dresser and unlocked the door. Peering out, nothing seemed out of place – except for a trail of small black footprints leading to and away from the door. The one picture I had hung in the upstairs hallway had fell from the wall and lay in a pile of broken glass. The other upstair doors were all closed, just like they had been before I went to bed. I slowly stepped around the broken frame and moved toward the stairs, trying to look everywhere at once. Reaching the stairs I stood there for several minutes, looking down. The footprints seemed to mock me.
I realized I was still gripping my phone in my hand and debated once more if I should phone someone. Anyone. But again I struggled to come up with an explanation or a scenario where I wouldn’t seem crazy. Surely the footprints would disappear again?
Just go look. If you don’t like what you see, get out of the house and then you call.
Slowly, I descended the stairs.
Everything was quiet. Reaching the first floor landing, I saw that all the downstair doors were open – except the basement. Moving cautiously forward, I glanced into every room I passed, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Again I did not turn my back on the basement, but rather turned and walked backwards toward the living room.
The living room was in disarray, with pictures and small ornaments on the floor and even the small table I ate my dinner on was toppled over.
I stood still for a moment, trying to figure out what to do when three more knocks came from the basement door. They were soft again, like the knocks I had heard the first time.
I turned to face the hallway, and was just in time to see the farthest door just before the stairs slam shut. And then the one next to it. And the one next to it. The doors slammed shut with a violence that seemed unreal and I found myself retreating for the umpteenth time that day. The final door slammed shut and all was silent again. But then the basement door clicked open. Slowly – painfully slowly – it swung open, its rusty hinges protesting.
And that’s when I heard it. The sound that made me lose the final bit of self control I had – the basement steps creaking. Someone – or something – was coming up the stairs. At first I was frozen. I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t move or think or scream. I just stared at the open doorway to the basement. Another whimper escaped my throat and new tears started rolling down my cheeks. Whatever it was had reached the final couple of steps and I could hear shallow breathing coming from the darkness. Two eyes appeared, and it seemed that that was what I needed to regain control of my limbs.
I sprang toward the front door, reaching it in three bounds, but it would not open. I yanked and pulled at the door, while simultaneously trying to look back over my shoulder at the thing that approached. Looking down, I saw that the door was locked and cursed my own stupidity. I quickly unlocked the door, but it would not open. I could hear the thing approaching down the hall, the shallow, rattling breath getting louder. Despair almost overtook me then, and I knew in my heart that whatever was coming, was somehow keeping the door closed. With every ounce of my strength I pulled, and the door came unstuck. Spilling out my front door I risked a final glance over my shoulder but saw nothing.
I went sprawling. I had tripped on the edge of the sidewalk and I heard a girl giggle again.
“Deeeee-rrriiiiick,” the girl’s voice sang, though I knew that it was no girl. “Come play with me Derick.” I was up in a flash and went sprinting down the street.
When I thought I was far enough and relatively safe, I stopped under a street light and made the decision to call the cops. I explained that someone was in my house and that I would be waiting a couple of blocks down the street.
They took much longer to arrive this time, and I was surprised to see it was again officers Rossi and Rickards.
I was sitting on the sidewalk inspecting my wounds from the tumble I had had when they pulled up.
“Mr Reid. Are you alright?” Rossi asked as she approached me and saw the blood on my knees and elbows.
“Yes, I’m fine, I fell running.” I got up and she asked me to tell them what had happened.
Now I’m not an idiot. I knew how it would sound, especially after I had called them the day before. So I left out the part about me opening the door after the knocking to find nothing. I left out how I had found a child’s footprints in my room and that a girl was talking to me about playing with her; I left out the part about said girl grabbing me in the darkness of the basement – how my bedroom had shook from the banging and that a girl had been screaming hysterically minutes before. I left out how the downstairs doors had all slammed shut. I left out how the basement door had opened on its own and something had come trudging up the stairs.
I shortened it to me hearing something downstairs after I went to bed and seeing someone heading down to the basement.
So they put me into the back of the car, radioed the situation into HQ and headed down the street to my house.
Pulling up, they told me to wait in the car and they once more headed into my house, weapons drawn.
A couple of minutes later they reappeared and they then quietly spoke to each other on my front porch. Rickards then spoke into his radio and Rossi came and got me.
“There’s no one inside.” she said. And she looked at me as if she felt sorry for me.
“Are you sure?” I stammered, hugging myself like those grief stricken women you always see in the movies.
“Positive. We went through the whole house and nothing seems out of place.”
At this I cocked my head to the side.
“Nothing’s out of place? When I left here a while back the house was in shambles. Furniture was knocked over and pictures I had hung were on the floor!”
Rossi looked at me curiously. “Follow me.” she said and led me back to my front door.
I didn’t move.
She turned and saw that I was frozen to the spot. Her face softened – perhaps she could see I really was frightened.
“Come on Mr Reid, we are still here – you’re perfectly safe.”
After another moment I reluctantly followed her.
She led me into my living room – which was completely spotless. All the pictures were hanging where I had hung them when I moved in and all the furniture and ornaments were in their correct – and upright – positions. Even the dishes which I had failed to do the day before were clean and on the drying rack.
“What the f-” I whispered.
“Mr Reid, are you feeling alright?” Rossi asked me and laid a hand on my arm. My mind was running at a thousand miles per hour and when she touched me it brought me back to this horrible unreality. I jerked away from her touch, and she held up her hands.
“ Whoa, take it easy Mr Reid, we’re here to help.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just…”
She nodded her head that she understood. She sighed and looked me in the eyes.
“Mr Reid, have you been drinking?” she asked gently.
“What? No!” I cried. Having heard that question a million times before – what followed was never good.
“Are you on any strong medication?” she asked a little more firmly.
I sighed, suddenly angry. “No, I am not drunk, I am not on drugs and I’m not crazy!” I said a little more forcefully than I had intended.
“Ok, calm down.” Rossi looked over at Rickards who was still outside and he shrugged.
“Sir, I would really recommend that you stay somewhere else tonight. You have obviously had a very emotional day and getting out of the house, even if just for a night might be a very good idea.”
I was about to protest – to tell her to go fuck herself, but then I saw the logic in what she was saying. Tomorrow would be a new day and Kevin would be here to start on the second coat of paint. If something crazy happened again, at least I wouldn’t be alone.
“You might be right. I’ll go stay at a motel. Would you mind waiting for me so I can just throw a couple of things in a bag?” I asked, genuinely not wanting to be alone for even a second in this house.
She agreed and I quickly headed upstairs. I noticed that the broken frame was somehow repaired and hanging on the wall again. I paused in front of it, a shiver running through me. Was I going crazy? I put on some clothes and threw some more clothes, my toiletries and a book into a bag.
When I returned downstairs they were waiting for me in the living room.
“Ready to go?” she asked with a small smile.
“Yes, and thank you for waiting, I appreciate that.”
She smiled again and we headed outside. I locked up, thanked and apologized to the officers and then got in my car.
I headed to a nearby motel and checked in for one night. Walking to my room, I saw a bar across the street. Shaking the thought off, I entered my room and headed to the small bathroom. I splashed my face with water and looked at myself in the mirror.
Was I going crazy? What was going on?
A drink would help calm you down.
I straightened, frowning at the tired looking man in the mirror.
It was not the first time I had a thought like that since I got out of rehab, but I was always able to brush it aside. It never had any real power over me.
But this was different. It wasn’t just the silly, weak voice that had tried to get me to drink after rehab. This voice had substance. Power. I found myself actually considering it. A drink would calm me down. After what I had just experienced – or believed to have experienced – maybe a drink wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. And if I only imagined it, I was pretty much fucked already.
I stared into the mirror for a couple of seconds more.
No, you’ve been doing so well – been sober for so long. Don’t throw it away.
I sighed. I walked over to the bed and fell down on it. I would not go for the drink I so craved.
Switching on the TV I found an old documentary about crocodiles and settled in, hoping I might be able to forget about what was happening at my new house – or in my mind.
The night wore on. I couldn’t shake the memories of what had happened earlier and the more I thought about the police – the way Rossi had looked at me – the more I thought that I might have imagined it. Could it be? Could I have imagined everything? Was I going through some sort of psychotic break? A mental breakdown?
Suddenly I was back in my living room. I was standing at the kitchen counter again, staring down the hall at the basement door. Slowly it creaked open. Fear overcame me, and I was paralysed. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out.
A hand emerged from the basement. A black hand, with inch long nails. My legs gave in and I collapsed to the floor. A moment later, a great monster had stepped into the hallway. Its skin was black, and wrinkled, like old leather. Large horns grew from its forehead and it had flaming red eyes and long fangs.
It stood glaring at me, and a guttural growl rose from its throat. It sprang forward, moving as quickly as nothing I had ever experienced before. Bearing down on me I cowered into a small ball – and awoke as I fell off the motel bed. I sat up, taking in my surroundings. I was soaked in sweat and my breathing was heavy. Taking deep breath after deep breath, I waited until my breathing returned to a semblance of normality before getting up.
I stood in the middle of the hotel room, indecisive.
“Fuck it.” I said out loud. I headed out the door and across the street.
It was a dive bar and it was empty, save for two men sitting at the bar. The Eagles were softly playing over the speakers and the news was on mute on the small TV behind the bar.
I walked up to the bar and the bartender came to take my order. He was a young man – early 20’s – with a silly looking goatee and an earring in his left ear.
“What can I get you?”
“Double Jameson, neat.”
He turned around and poured my drink.
He served it to me in a tumbler and was about to move away again, but I stopped him.
“ Wait.” He turned around again. I drained the glass in a single gulp. The whiskey burned on its way down, but it was a familiar, comforting burn. Relief washed over me, and I immediately felt better.
I gestured to the bartender with the glass to pour another. He smirked, but took the glass and refilled it.
I savoured the second drink. I sipped at it, while going over the night’s events again.
Every drink was followed by another drink and soon I was drunk. It was a comfortable feeling, one that I knew well and I realized that I had missed it. The disturbing events of the evening didn’t seem as important anymore and the constant fear I had felt since those first knocks had melted away.
I kept pouring the drinks down, not wanting the feeling to disappear.
I awoke, fully clothed on the bathroom floor of my hotel room. I had a crippling hangover – my head felt as if it would burst at any moment. Shame filled me almost instantly. I had thrown away my sobriety. Taking a moment to gather myself I carefully got to my feet. Looking in the mirror I saw vomit on my chin. I looked at the toilet and saw more vomit on and around it. Disgusted with myself I flushed the toilet and immediately took a shower.
Feeling a little better, I cleaned the bathroom and got dressed, popping a couple of painkillers I always kept in my toiletries bag.
It was already two o’clock. I went to check out of the hotel, and thought about getting some food in me. Next to the bar across the street was a small burger joint and I decided a greasy burger was just what I needed, but when I sat down I had entered the bar and was ordering a beer.
I sat staring at the golden liquid bubbling away in front of me and an internal war waged.
You might as well drink it. You already pissed away your sobriety last night.
No, get up and leave. Go home. Kevin will be working by now, wondering where the hell you are.
This continued for some time. I ordered a burger while the debate went on, and even finished most of the meal without touching the beer.
But the burger was really greasy. And the bun was dry. So I became very thirsty. At least that’s what I told myself. So I took a sip. And then another. Soon the half finished burger stood forgotten on the far side of the table and I had finished two more beers.
I had just started on my first whiskey of the day when my phone rang.
“Mr Reid? Where are you?” Kevin.
“I – I just went out this morning for breakfast and a couple of things, but I got held up.” I shook my head at myself, ashamed – but not ashamed enough to not take another sip.
“Oh, ok…” he sounded distracted. Almost upset or…. scared.
“Kevin? What’s going on?” I asked, setting my glass down.
“Nothing. I started painting again, because the door was open – I assumed you left it open for me. But…”
“What is it?”
“It’s just that I keep hearing this knocking. It sounds like it’s coming from the basement. I went down to go check, but I didn’t see anything. But it keeps happening. And I could swear I heard a girl laughing down there…”
My entire body went cold and my mouth dried out. A thought then occurred to me.
“Kevin. Listen to me. I didn’t leave the door open, I locked it. Get out of the house, now.”
There was a pause. “Why?” Kevin asked, clearly confused.
“Just do it. Please. Get out and wait for me down the road at the intersection.”
“Mr Reid, are you ok? You’re not making a lot of sense.”
“Just do it goddamnit!” I cried and the other patrons of the bar turned to look at me.
There was another pause and then I heard three distinct bangs in the background. Kevin cried out and I could hear the terror in his voice.
“What the hell? What’s happening?”
“Get out of the house Kevin!” I yelled into the phone, getting up from my table and heading to the exit.
“Hey, buddy, you didn’t pay!” It was the same bartender from the night before.
I stopped, taking out my wallet and tossed all the money I had on the table. Quickly I exited the bar and headed to my car across the street.
The noises coming through the phone were not encouraging. I could hear the banging, though now it was the same consistent explosion of noise that I had experienced the night before – I could hear a girl screaming through the chaos.
Kevin was screaming in terror, but I figured as long as he was still screaming, that it was a good sign.
I got into my car and was soon speeding back to my house.
Suddenly there was silence from Kevin’s side.
“Kevin? Are you ok? Where are you?”
“I – I think I’m ok. I locked myself in your room.”
“Ok, that’s good. Now listen to me very carefully. You have to get out of the house. Now. Go. Get out. Run down the stairs, and get out. Don’t wait, don’t stop, don’t do anything – just get out.”
“What is happening?” Kevin asked again.
“Kevin! Go now!” I screamed into the phone.
“OK, I’m going!”
“Stay on the phone!” I ordered him as I sped across a red light.
I could hear his heavy breathing and whimpering through the phone. Faintly, I heard a door open and I assumed he was exiting my bedroom.
“You can do this Kevin.” I encouraged him.
“I’m going down the stairs now. I’m in the hallway. What the – there’s footprints all over!” he whispered.
“Just keep going, you’re almost there.”
“I’m in the living room now – wait. What’s that?”
“Don’t stop! Get out!” I urged him.
“The door… the basement door is opening… oh, my god, something is coming up the stairs!” He was petrified.
“Kevin! Run! Get out!” I screamed again.
There was a pause, a moment of absolute silence broken only by our panting.
And then Kevin screamed. It was a blood curdling shriek and I heard the phone drop to the floor.
Kevin’s scream continued for what felt like an eternity, and then he was silent.
What had just happened? Was Kevin dead? Killed by what? If he was alive, what had just happened?
I still had the phone to my ear, when I heard a noise.
It sounded like footsteps, but they were uneven. Almost like something was limping. They also sounded like it would sound if you were walking through mud. Squelching is the word that came to mind.
Terror seized me and I almost lost control of the car.
Finally, I heard shallow, rattling breathing coming through the phone. The same breathing I had heard the night before. I wanted to hang up, to end the call, but I was paralysed. How I did not cause an accident, god only knows.
The thing on the other side of the phone then said something. It was barely a whisper, but I had heard those words before: “Come play with me Derick.”
Suddenly the phone crackled, static shot into my ear and the line went dead.
I pulled over. I gripped the steering wheel in a death grip, my knuckles turning white and I took a few deep breaths.
I had to decide what I was going to do. Call the police?
I was sure if they showed up again and there was nothing to find they would haul my ass off to jail.
But what if this time there was something?
I had to go check first. To make sure Kevin was … ok.
I pulled off again and a couple of minutes later I turned onto Harriet drive.
I slowed down and approached my house at a crawl. The front door was closed and all seemed quiet.
Parking the car, I left the car running and the door open. I wanted a fast getaway if the need arose.
I slowly walked up to the front door and I paused on the porch, listening. I couldn’t hear anything, even after I pressed my ear against the door.
Reluctantly, I opened the door, and pushed it open. I stood on the threshold of my own house, afraid to enter. The smell of paint was clear, but there was a faint swampy smell underneath it. Except for the painting tools leaning against one wall, everything looked exactly like I had left it the night before.
There was no sign of Kevin. He had said he was in the living room, but I couldn’t see him. Shaking my head at what I was about to do, I took a few tentative steps into my house. I still couldn’t see Kevin anywhere. I took a few more steps and slowly the basement door came into view. It was closed.
The front door slammed behind me with a force that caused the windows to rattle and I screamed.
Fuck this, I’m out.
I turned on the spot and ran to the front door, but again I could not get it open. This time it wasn’t locked, and no matter how hard I pulled, yanked and groaned, it would not budge.
Without thinking, I grabbed the extender pole that we used to paint the high, hard to reach places and scrambled to the window. With all my might I swung the pole into the window, but the pole bounced harmlessly off it. A gasp escaped my lips.
“What the fuck?”
I went to town on the window. I swung again and again and each time the pole bounced off the window without leaving so much as a crack. I tossed the pole aside and lifted the nearest chair I was able, using all my strength to throw it at the window, but it had the same result. The chair crashed to the floor in a pile of broken wood as the window held firm.
Panic took hold of me.
I was trapped.
Standing in the middle of my living room, I tried to think of something I could do. I had to escape. I reached for my phone, and as I punched in the emergency number, I heard it.
A scream of fear, anger and frustration burst from me involuntarily.
Louder than before.
The knocks were coming faster and faster, and I heard the girl giggling again.
I pressed the call button on my phone, my eyes locked on the basement door.
The operator answered and I rambled off my address and that I needed help.
Before the operator was able to respond, the phone was ripped from my grasp by an unseen force, and flung against the wall where it shattered into pieces.
I whirled around like a mad man, trying to see everywhere at once.
The knocks drew my attention back to the door. I waited, panting. Then the bangs came again. It emanated from the house itself this time and it was deafening.
Soon the pauses had disappeared as before, and the house was shaking and roaring. I held onto the nearest chair for support. The volume of the bangs increased and I felt a warm liquid trickling from my ears. The girl was yelling again and I swear I was hearing her inside my head.
The bangs stopped, just as suddenly as the previous night, and the ringing in my ears told the tale of my damaged ear drums.
A moment later I was flung across the room, as if a wire had been attached to the back of my pants and had been pulled with extreme force.
I slammed into the wall opposite the hallway, and I bashed my head against the wall, causing me to crumple to the floor in a heap.
Dazed I lifted my head and a searing pain tore through it. Blood was pouring from the back of my head. Faintly, I heard it.
I heard the basement door open again. I was directly opposite the hallway and I had no line of sight on the door itself. Groaning, I tried to get to my feet, but slumped back against the wall.
Again I heard the creaking of the basement stairs as something ascended.
Again I tried to get up and this time I managed it by holding onto the kitchen counter.
I heard the top of the stairs creaking and this was soon followed by shallow, rattling breathing.
A giggle came from the basement as I staggered for the front door again, using the furniture to support me, completely forgetting that I had tried the door already. Reaching the door I collapsed against it. I tried getting it open from the floor, but it wouldn’t budge.
I heard the footsteps reach the top of the basement and turn toward the living room. The steps were uneven – as if it was limping – and it sounded as if it was walking through mud.
I gave up on the door. It seemed that there was no escape.
I tensed as the thing neared the corner, and pulled myself into a ball.
Finally, the thing turned the corner – for that’s what it was. A thing. It was not of this world. I saw a very pale, almost white figure rounding the hallway corner. It looked like a little girl of about nine or ten, frail and thin. Snow white hair topped a sunken, haggard face. Its mouth was open as if it was trying to suck in all the air it could and yellow, rotten teeth protruded from behind its blue lips. But the worst thing was the eyes. Pitch black eyes stared back at me. There was no white to be seen in those eyes – no pupils, only solid black. There was only one emotion in those eyes – hate. Pure hate. Those eyes seemed to look into me and a coldness I had never known before washed over me, causing my body to go limp and to untangle from the ball I had retreated into. My bladder let go and urine streamed down my leg. I could not look away. It was moving in a staccato, jumpy way – as if all its joints were rusted and getting them to move required force, which then suddenly caused them to shoot forward. A thick, black liquid covered its feet, but where it came from I could not say. The thing lifted a hand and pointed at me. “Deeee-rrriiiick,” It sang, though now it did not sound like a little girl’s voice at all. It was a high pitched whine, like a conveyor belt moving too fast, moments before it snaps. “Come play with me.”
In a blink of an eye it was right in front of me and it reached down and gripped my arm.
A pain I had never imagined shot up my arm. It was a cold pain. A cold burning pain – like when you hold a big piece of ice for too long. The cold moved through my body, and in an instant I was shivering. I tried to scream, but the cold had robbed me of my voice. Breathing was becoming difficult, and I saw a faint vapour rise from where it held my arm – almost like smoke.
It lowered its face to mine and I thought it attempted to smile, but it did not work – its face seemed to crack at the attempt.
It was only inches from my face, and I gagged on its foul breath. It smelled like death.
The thing then seemed to inhale deeply, and inside of me there was a pull. It felt as if something was trying to leave my body. Physically it felt like I would vomit, but it was a more intense, disturbing feeling.
It straightened and turned, starting off back the way it had come – dragging me behind it like I was a bag of potatoes. I assumed it was heading for the basement, but I was absolutely powerless to do anything about it. We reached the dark doorway of the open basement and it looked down at me.
“We’re going to play forever, Derick.” Its voice grinded inside my head, scratching away at the last threads of sanity I had left.
A bang on the door behind me interrupted the thing and it let go of my arm.
It looked back into the living room and for just a moment it looked as if the thing was debating its next course of action. Another bang on the door made it decide, and in an instant it was gone.
I suddenly had control of my body – and my vocal cords – again and after taking a deep breath I screamed. I screamed like I had never screamed before. I think I would never have stopped screaming, had the police not kicked down the door. I was dazed and barely conscious as Rossi and Rickards stormed into my house, guns drawn.
Rossi quickly found me while Rickards jumped over me and went into the basement. She knelt beside me and inspected my injuries and I saw her recoil when she looked at my arm. I looked as well, and saw that a large black handprint was on my forearm similar to the other one, but much more severe. It looked like frostbite.
Rossi instructed me to stay still, and that an ambulance was on the way.
I heard Rickards yell something, and Rossi went to look. Moments later handcuffs were being slapped on my wrists and I was being told that I was under arrest for murder.
“What? What… talking… about?” I mumbled as another flash of pain shot through my head.
Rossi replied, but darkness took me.
You mostly know the rest. I blacked out and was treated for a concussion and frostbite on my arm. My hearing was also severely damaged – I was almost completely deaf in my left ear.
They found Kevin’s body in the basement. They had shown me pictures in the interrogation that followed. He seemed to have been drained. Not a drop of blood or water was found in his body. He looked like a mummy. It was like he had been sucked dry. They charged me with murder. I don’t really blame them. I had a shit ton of alcohol in my system from the night before and had been drinking that very day. What were they supposed to believe? Although whenever I brought up the question of how I killed him – how I would have drained them, they only mumbled softly about an accomplice.
The marks on my arm were also explained by that same excuse. As was my damaged ears.
Basically they didn’t know what the fuck happened, but they sure as shit didn’t believe my story.
When they realised that my story wasn’t going to change, that I wouldn’t slip up because I truly believed what I was saying, they transferred me to the psych ward and soon after that, the mental hospital where I currently reside.
I don’t know what I expect you to do with this story, even if you do believe it. I think I just needed to tell it to someone other than the cops or head doctors. The one thing I do know, is do not go into that house.
I can hear them coming to take me to that room, so I don’t think we’ll speak again.
I didn’t kill Kevin. If you believe me about nothing else, please believe that.
I’m sorry about everything.
I love you sis.
Credit: Pablo Dickens
🔔 More stories from author: Pablo Dickens
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