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Demented Marionette

Demented marionette


Estimated reading time โ€” 24 minutes

I watched the fog creep along the ground and through the treeline at the edge of the property in a daze. I had been staring for a while, slowly realizing that I was still tightly gripping a mug. My hand trembled as I brought the tepid coffee to my lips, almost causing it to spill. I closed my eyes, taking a sip; the contrast of the warm liquid to the chilly morning instilled a slight, temporary sense of relief. As I opened my eyes, the feelings of fear and uneasiness began to re-emerge.

My other hand was still clinging to my phone, the screen now black from timing out. I knew that I needed to unlock it and keep watching the camera footage from last night, that I had to check and see if anything else happened, but the overwhelming feeling of dread was paralyzing. Eventually, I managed to push through and open the video, gulping down another swig of coffee before pressing play.

I slowly tracked through the few hours of familiar and utter stillness that always permeates the house after Magdeline goes to sleep. The recording showed the hallway, adorned with portraits of her loved ones passed; my door, the bathroom door, and the door to her bedroom at the end of the hall. Her door had been left ajar, just like it always was. Then it happened; the old, heavy oak door began to slowly open. The squeak of the hinges sent shivers down my spine and stirred a wave of anxiety in anticipation for what I knew was coming next.

Through the darkness, a figure started to take shape in the doorway, making its way toward the camera. It appeared to be walking backward, hunched over forward towards the doorway, with its arms hanging limply. The floorboards creaked steadily with each slow, lumbering step. As it drew near, I could now begin to make out the floral pattern of a nightgown. I began to press backward into the old porch chair, almost as if instinctively trying to get away while it continued to approach the camera, my heart drumming intensely as I prepared myself.

Now only about ten feet away, the upper half of the figure began to move into a straight, upright position, almost as if being manipulated externally, its arms still dangling freely. It then started to convulse slightly and contort backward in a jarring, unnatural way, accompanied by the gut-wrenching sounds of cracking and popping. The limp arms adjusted accordingly with the angle of the torso, again hanging towards the floor. I could now see its long, stringy, extremely thin & patchy white hair dragging along the floor between its legs as it continued to move toward the camera, never skipping a beat. It was now face-to-face with the lens. A faint, ominous voice crackled forth, almost inaudible, like the sound of the final escaping breath of death, “I know you’re watching.”

A shriek escaped my lips, and the coffee mug slipped from my hand and shattered across the concrete porch. My eyes were still locked on the terrifyingly gruesome face, the head convulsing as it slowly swung from side to side like a pendulum. Viewing the footage again confirmed that this was real, that I hadn’t imagined it.

“Cheryl, are ya alright, deary?” Magdeline asked through the screen door.

“Ye- yes, I’m fine,” I replied without looking in her direction, hitting the lock button on my phone as I stared off into the distance. I heard the old spring on the door creak as it opened a little, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see a small section of a floral print nightgown gently swaying in the breeze.

She spoke again, “oh my, so that was the commotion. Well, once ya get it cleaned up c’mon in and we’ll get ya another.”

“Okay, Magdeline. I’ll get breakfast started too, but it’s awfully chilly out here this morning I don’t want you to catch a cold.”

“Yer sweet, deary, don’t know what I’d do without ya heh heh.”

She retreated inside, the rickety screen door closing behind her with a dull thud. I took a moment to collect myself as best I could before picking up the shards from the mug, and reluctantly made my way inside.

I’ve been Magdeline’s live-in caregiver for the better part of a year now. She’s been a close friend of my family for many decades, starting with my late grandfather and great-grandparents when he was just a young boy, and over the years has always been an all-around kind, reliable, and supportive neighbor. I use the term neighbor loosely, as even though her property was the closest to ours, it was still almost a half mile away.

I look back fondly at my memories of playing in the woods with my brother, and always seeming to somehow end up on her property. We were always invited inside for fresh cookies and stories of the “good ol’ days,” but I digress; we have all always had a close relationship with her, and would do anything we could to look out for the old widow with no family of her own… which brings us to the topic at hand.

When my mother informed me that Magdeline (now ninety-six years old and in a progressed state of dementia) needed someone to look after her, but was unable to afford professional services, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer for the job. My mom would have readily taken the position herself if she wasn’t the main source of income for our household, and was elated that I chose to do so. We wanted nothing more than for her to be able to live comfortably in her own home until it was either “her time,” or until she reached the point that she required admittance into a nursing home.

I may not be professionally trained, but I know how to cook, clean, and sort medicines, and my mother taught me how to check vitals using the devices she was able to procure for Magdeline. I also have nothing going for me in my own life; no husband nor children of my own, no career, no attachments. I’ve basically just been going with the flow my entire life, and felt that some routine and purpose may help me to figure out a path in life.

Magdeline is one of the sweetest old ladies you could ever meet, and I wholeheartedly believe the woman has never felt a single ounce of hate or malice toward anyone in her life. I fully expected her to not recognize me, or at the very least not be able to remember my name, but she never seemed to have issues recognizing who I am. Being a caregiver is in no way an easy job, and progressively takes its toll, but to me, it was worth doing for her. Everything was going smoothly until a few weeks ago.

Late one night, after what I refer to as her “bedtime mumbling” had ceased, signifying that she was now fully asleep, I laid awake in the dead silence, thinking about life. All of a sudden, I heard what sounded like the steps of bare feet passing my bedroom door and going towards her room… only there was something off about them; it sounded as if the feet had long nails that were clacking against the hardwood floor with each step. I quietly sat up in bed, now listening closely.

It wasn’t at all uncommon for her to get up and go to the bathroom on her own during the night, and her dementia hadn’t progressed to the point of having to worry about her wandering off just yet… but I knew it wasn’t her. Not only had I not heard her get up and leave her room (the creaky door as well as dragging her feet always being dead giveaways), but I also had just clipped & painted both her finger & toenails earlier that day.

The footsteps approached the door to her room, and were followed promptly by the sound of her door creaking open. I was slightly startled, but admittedly I was also curious, and obligated to investigate. I slowly moved the thick hand-made quilt to the side and quietly crept towards my bedroom door, placing my ear against it in an attempt to better hear whatever may be happening on the other side…

Silence. Utter stillness. There was no doubt in my mind that whoever was walking around was still standing in that doorway, as I hadn’t heard any more footsteps after the door opened nor the sound of Magdeline getting back into bed. I hesitantly wrapped my hand around the doorknob and began to turn it, trying my best to not make a sound. After opening the door just a crack, I peered out into the darkness towards her bedroom.

Against the pale light of the moon beaming in through the gap in the curtains adorning her old bay-style window, I could make out what appeared to be the silhouette of a tall, brooding figure, stooping down as if looking at Magdeline. Her bed was situated beneath the window, with the headboard against the adjacent wall. The shape wasn’t beside her bed, nor was it on it; it appeared to be hovering above Magdeline. I could see her laying there in bed, still sleeping.

“Everything alright, deary?” I heard Magdeline call out, followed instantly by the click of the lamp on her nightstand turning on. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

There was Magdeline, now sitting straight up in her bed, her eyes locked onto mine as if she had been awake and watching me the entire time. The silhouette seemed to have disappeared.

I stared at her for a moment, mouth agape, before finally responding, “oh, um, yes, everything is fine. I thought you were asleep, I was just checking on you.”

Magdeline smiled, that same genuine smile that never faltered even without her dentures in, “I’m quite alright, don’t ya worry. Ya better go on and get yerself ta bed, I’ma do the same heh heh.”

“Alright. Goodnight, Magdeline.”

“Goodnight, dear.”

She turned off her light and laid back down as if nothing had happened. As for me, I returned to my room and tried to reason away what I had just witnessed as my tired mind playing tricks on me.

A few days of the typical routine of housework, doing check-ups and answering Magdeline’s repetitive questions passed without anything strange or noteworthy occurring. That is, until the night before my mother was due to stop by for a check-in.

I had put Magdeline down for bed a few hours prior to this occurrence. Her nighttime mumbling had already ceased, and I was finally at ease enough to call it a night myself. That’s when I heard it; the sound of her mattress squeaking and bare feet hitting the hardwood, shifting under the weight. This, of course, roused my awareness and I began listening intently.

Those footsteps… I recognized the sound. Not only were they Magdeline’s lumbering steps, but they were accompanied by that same sound of long nails striking the floor. I sat straight up in bed as quietly as I could, a sense of uneasiness beginning to overtake my body. I heard the old oak door creak open, and now the footsteps were steadily coming closer… closer… and closer still, until they stopped right outside of my bedroom door. My eyes wide, ears sharp, I took in a breath and held it, listening intently for any noise that may pierce the now dreadful silence. I was waiting for what felt close to an hour when all of a sudden…

*Tap. Tap. Tap.*

The noise, though barely perceptible, was enough to make me jump a little, and sounded as if someone was tapping on the door with a rigid object.

“Ma- Magdeline?” I finally managed to call out through the darkness… but there was no response.

*Tap. Tap. Tap.*

I didn’t know what to think or what to do. I knew in my mind that Magdeline could have simply progressed to a new stage of dementia, maybe something akin to a wandering stage. I’ve been told that the condition of individuals with dementia can change suddenly (even overnight in some cases), but the anxiety that was now beginning to afflict my body would not allow me to investigate. So, I continued to listen, and that’s when a new sound emerged…

Mumbling. It was reminiscent of her bedtime mumbling, though something seemed off about it. Normally I could make out a few of her murmurings here & there… but now, even though she was just on the other side of the door, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It was more difficult to discern than her speech when she was laying in bed, further away.

*Tap. Tap. Tap.*

Then, as abruptly as it had begun, the mumbling ceased, and the house again fell dead silent. I continued to listen for any more patter, murmuring, or footsteps for what felt like an eternity, before finally mustering the courage to investigate.

I made my way over to my door as quietly as the floor would allow, held my breath, and opened the door… nothing. All that was looking back at me from that hallway were the faded old portraits. I stuck my head out and looked towards Magdeline’s doorway, which had been left wide open, and there in the bed… was Magdeline. Sleeping peacefully just as I had left her, although I had never heard her return to her room.

The next day, my mother came to visit and drop off some supplies. Magdeline had just laid down for a nap a couple of hours prior, so we decided to have some coffee on the porch to avoid disturbing her.

“Everything alright, Cheryl? You look exhausted, baby,” My mother asked, bringing her mug up to her mouth.

“Yeah, just tired I guess. You know it hasn’t exactly been easy, but it could be much more difficult. I think that Magdeline may be getting worse, I fear she may have started the wandering phase last night.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Sometimes she’ll get up to go to the bathroom, then go right back to bed, but that’s not what happened. I heard her moving about after bedtime, luckily she didn’t go too far. She stood outside of my door for a while murmuring to herself, then eventually went back to bed.”

“Awh, the poor thing. I know it’s hard watching this happen to someone so dear to us, but you’re doing a good thing here and I know she appreciates everything you do for her.”

“Yeah, I know. But what can we do about the wandering, what if I’m asleep when it happens?”

Mom finished her coffee, gently sitting the mug down on the old rusty table situated between us, “hmm… I think I have an idea.”

“Tripwires and tin cans?” I replied jokingly.

“Hahaha don’t be silly. No, I think I’ll order you two of those motion cameras like the ones we have outside to keep watch on the chickens, and you can set them up in the house at night before bed. That way, she’ll never even know that they’re there and it won’t disrupt her routine.”

“That IS a good idea, mom, but there’s one problem; Magdeline doesn’t have wifi.”

“You won’t need it, they can run off of your mobile hotspot. Just make sure that your phone is charged at night.”

“That Jodie I hear out there? Heh heh. Ya want some coffee, dear?” We heard Magdeline call to my mother from the screen door.

“No that’s quite alright, honey, I was just about to leave. How are you?” My mother replied.

“Oh, I’m fine just fine thanks to yer girl here, heh heh. Don’t know what I’d do without ‘er. Ain’t no use runnin’ off so soon now, would ya like some coffee?”

My mother and I chuckled to each other, “alright, Cheryl, be good, I’ll bring those to you as soon as I can tomorrow. Call if you need anything.”

The rest of the day proceeded as usual, utterly unremarkable and monotonous… until night fell. Magdeline was in bed, now fully asleep as I laid wide awake, the previous night still replaying in my mind. Then, it happened again.

The bed creaking, feet hitting the floor, the tapping of nails; exactly how it happened last night. Only this time, the footsteps didn’t stop at my door. Instead, they continued down the hall. As they passed, I heard what sounded like fingernails being dragged across my door, accompanied by that same low, almost inaudible mumbling… and what sounded like an impersonation of Magdeline’s signature chuckle, “heh heh.”

The footsteps continued down the hallway, seeming to stop in front of the stairs to the second floor. Magdeline hadn’t been able to ascend them in many years due to her weakened state, and I only did so on occasion for cleaning and to store or retrieve supplies. Lo and behold, they began to creak as if supporting someone’s weight.

It sounded like whoever was ascending them had stopped after three or four stairs, as if they were just standing there midflight. As unsettled as I was, I knew I had to get out there and see what was going on, that Magdeline’s safety may be at stake. Not wanting to potentially startle her and cause her to fall, I made my way out into the hall as stealthily as I possibly could.

I leaned against the wall opposite the stairs in an attempt to take some of my weight off of the old floor, and it helped considerably in reducing the creak of the boards. I then made my way towards the stairs, making sure to avoid knocking any of the old portraits off of the wall.

I continued my approach, slowly and methodically. I heard no sounds coming from the stairs themselves, only the same low murmuring that I had heard as the footsteps passed by my door. I almost gasped as the stairway finally came into view.

Standing not midflight as I had assumed, but on the middle landing, was Magdeline, bathed in the light of the full moon. Her dark silhouette was a stark, eery contrast to the pale brilliance. I couldn’t fathom how she managed to get to that point in her feeble state, as well as without me hearing anything, but that was the least startling aspect of the situation.

Magdeline was facing the window of the landing, almost completely erect instead of taking her perpetually hunched posture. It appeared as if something unseen was steadying her, holding her up. Her head was still drooping between her shoulders, slowly rocking from side to side, almost in rhythm with the mumbling. All of a sudden, I heard a sickening pop accompanied by the sounds of bones crackling.

She was no longer hunched over whatsoever, now arching slightly backward, arms back and bent at the elbows as if being restrained. Her head snapped back, almost as if forcefully pulled, and I could see the light from the moon now streaming through the thinning hair on the top of her head… then I saw it.

It was extremely faint, but I could now make out the shape of the same silhouette I saw in her room, towering over her like a giant. I threw my hand over my mouth to prevent myself from screaming, but in doing so I accidentally knocked one of the portraits off of the wall, sending it toward the floor with a crash that pierced the silence. The mumbling stopped.

I was frozen in place, absolutely horrified and cursing myself internally, eyes locked onto her in anticipation. I watched as the shadow seemed to swirl and dissipate into her body, then I heard it again; the gut-wrenching popping, the crackling, and watched in total disbelief as her upper half began to fold backward, facing me.

“Heh heh.”

I darted back to my room faster than I had ever ran in my life, slamming the door and locking it with the old barrel skeleton key I kept on the table next to it. I waited and listened, fully expecting to hear footsteps followed by Magdeline trying to get through the door — but I heard nothing. It was dead quiet, and I stood there in the middle of my room frozen, my heart about to burst through my chest. It felt as if time was standing still…

*Tap. Tap. Tap.*

The sudden noise and the realization that she was there outside of my door, that I hadn’t heard any indication of her approach, sent me stumbling back onto the bed, blood running cold, and trying my best to steady my breath.

*Tap. Tap. Tap.*

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I stayed awake nearly the entire night, long after the tapping had stopped, and long after I was sure that she had returned to bed even though I never heard her do so. Eventually, I gathered the strength to venture out of my room. I looked over through the crack in the door into Magdeline’s room, and to no surprise, she was still fast asleep.

Before venturing down the hall, I inspected my door; there was no evidence of the scratching I had heard. “Maybe I’m just losing my mind, or having vivid nightmares…” I thought to myself. Although relieved at finding no evidence, I was still fairly shaken.

I made my way into the kitchen, brewed myself a pot of coffee, and went to sit on the porch, awaiting my mother’s return. I almost jumped with glee when her car finally rounded the turn at the end of the old dirt driveway.

“Hey hun, just got off work. Anything new happen since yesterday?” She asked as she handed me a couple of brand-new motion cameras, still dressed in her scrubs.

“Mom, I… I think something is wrong with Magdeline.”

“What do you mean by that?” She replied as she lowered herself into the empty chair.

“She’s been acting very strangely at night. I know you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you.”

“Try me.”

I didn’t want to tell her what I thought I had seen, I knew she’d think that I was off my rocker, “Well… it’s not only the fact that she’s wandering at night now, it’s that there’s something off about it. Almost as if it’s not her at all, like something is making her, forcing her to behave in a way that’s, I don’t know, kinda scary,” I answered, still staring off into the distance.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” My mother asked, placing the back of her hand against my forehead.

“I’m not sure. I feel like I’m losing it.”

“Perhaps the stress of doing this every day is wearing you down. Taking its toll on your mind and causing you to misperceive the situation. Maybe you need a break?”

“Maybe you’re right…”

“Tell ya what. If you can hang on for about another week or so, I’ll put in for a vacation from work and take over for you for a little while so that you can rest.”

“That’d be great, mom. Would you mind staying here for a couple of hours so that I can get some sleep? Last night, it just… it really messed with me, I could hardly rest at all.”

“Of course, dear, that won’tbe a problem,” she responded, leaning in to kiss me on the head, “I should visit with Magdeline anyway, but I can’t stay too long because I have to work tonight. I have to get some sleep myself eventually.”

My mother spent several hours with Magdeline as I slept, heading out in the late afternoon.

“Remember, Cheryl,” she said as she was getting into her car, “they work off of motion by default, so place them somewhere they will see her. It will send a notification to your phone if it picks up anything so keep your sound on. You’ll be able to see the feed right away.”

I deduced that the end of the hall facing towards her door would be the ideal spot for one, and decided that placing one beside the front door facing towards the stairs after what had happened last night was the other obvious choice. There was no way she could get very far without alerting the cameras.

Nightfall was once again descending upon us, and the fear of reliving what happened last night filled my body with dread — but nothing happened. Perhaps having the cameras had somewhat put my mind at ease, and kept me from conjuring up another scenario. Magdeline was asleep, utterly quiet… but I was still absolutely on edge. I waited and listened with anticipation, eventually managing to drift off comfortably to sleep, receiving no alerts from the cameras.

The next morning, as I made my way toward the kitchen to prepare my coffee, my phone began to ding as the cameras observed me. “Good to know that they’re working,” I thought. As I stepped into the antiquated kitchen, I noticed that the coffee maker had already been set up. There were grounds placed in the upper chamber and the appropriate amount of water in the tank, as well as my favorite mug sitting beside it. I never prepared it at night, always waiting until morning for absolute freshness, and there was no way for Magdeline to have gotten passed the cameras (especially after just confirming that the motion sensors worked).

With no other explanation, I begrudgingly wrote it off as a lapse of memory, assuming that I must have prepared it the night before; maybe I simply forgot in the midst of my mental turmoil. I proceeded to brew my coffee and made my way to the porch to ponder the entirety of the situation I found myself in over the past week. Perhaps I really was at my mental limit. Maybe none of what I’d experienced actually happened. Was my subconscious projecting, twisting Magdeline into some kind of monster from the months of building tension with no real breaks? Probably so.

I proceeded through the day as usual. Magdeline’s constant chipper demeanor acted as a kind of reassurance that my mind had been playing tricks on me. There’s just no way that this sweet, mostly incapacitated little old lady could have possibly done those things… right? If everything had actually happened, her brittle bones would have been broken from the contortion I witnessed, but she was absolutely fine. The cameras also didn’t pick up any movement from the night before, so there was nothing to corroborate my suspicion that someone else had set up the coffee maker.

The setting sun was now disappearing behind the trees, the light slowly receding through the dingy glass of Magdeline’s old, bay-style window.

“Did ya make sure to turn the oven off, deary?” She asked me.

“Yes ma’am, I did. Heading to bed a little early tonight?”

“Figured I might as well, need my beauty sleep heh heh.”

I chuckled, “No way, you’re the most beautiful lady I’ve ever known. Goodnight, Magdeline.”

“Yer too sweet. Goodnight, deary. Oh! Did ya turn the oven off?”

Magdeline had now been asleep for a few hours. There wasn’t a sound to be heard, and no alerts from the cameras, so I decided to try to get some rest myself. I was almost asleep when I heard it…

*Tap. Tap. Tap.*

I shot straight up in bed, “not again,” I thought to myself. This time I hadn’t heard a thing before the taps; not her bed, no footsteps, nothing. I figured I had to be imagining it.

*Tap. Tap. Tap.*

I picked up my phone — no alerts. The camera hadn’t picked up any motion at all. I turned the brightness down on my phone, unlocked it, and opened the motion camera app so that I could watch a live feed of what was happening outside of my door.

Once it connected, I could see Magdeline standing right in front of my door, in that same strange pose that looked like something was holding her up. I pressed record.

*Tap. Tap. Tap.*

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I could see her outstretched finger, her hand making the motion of the tap — but her finger wasn’t connecting with the door. I heard the mumbling start and instinctively turned my head toward the sound for a brief second. When I looked back at the screen, I saw that Magdeline’s head was now laying back on her shoulders, limply swaying from side to side. I couldn’t make out any of her facial features as they seemed to be obscured by the darkness.

All of a sudden her head snapped forward, and she began tapping again. I zoomed in so that I could see her hand more clearly. She wasn’t making contact with the door, but I could see what looked like a shadow protruding from the end of her finger, almost like a claw. Then something new happened, something that she hadn’t done before; she reached for the doorknob and attempted to turn it. Shivers crept down my spine as my eyes darted back & forth from the knob to the footage, thankful that I had remembered to lock the door.

I could tell from the video feed that she – it – was getting frustrated at being unable to open the door. She began forcefully banging upon it, and I became petrified at the thought that Magdeline might just bust her way through. Then I heard the mumbling again, only this time I could understand it. I was being directly spoken to through the door, but the voice was not Magdeline’s; it was male, ominous, and sinister. Even though I could make out the words, they sounded like little more than a forced groan, “Let me in, deary. I can’t do it myself with this old body heh heh.”

I have no idea what came over me, but before I even realized what I was doing, I was standing at the door screaming in response, “Get out of here and leave us both alone! Go back to whatever hole you crawled out of!” Everything was still for a moment, and then it said to me, “I’m the one that gives orders, pulls the strings around here. You’ll see soon enough.”

I watched the feed in utter disbelief and horror as Magdeline was lifted a few inches off of the ground, almost as if attached to a pulley system. She was then turned away from her bedroom door facing towards the camera, her right arm out to the side. She began floating backward, fading into the darkness of her bedroom, the shadow nails on the tips of her fingers scraping along the wall. Her door slowly creaked closed, slightly ajar like I always left it. I dropped my phone and held my face as I began sobbing uncontrollably, falling back into my pillow as I sank into a sea of fear. I eventually managed to cry myself to sleep, relieved that it seemed to have stopped for now.

The following morning as I stepped out into the hall, I looked over to the left for the scratch mark… Again, there was nothing at all as if it had never happened. Though shaken and bewildered, I went on about my usual routine of coffee on the porch. I stared at my phone, reluctant to unlock it and watch the footage from last night, although I needed to. I was frightened that I was going completely insane and imagining it all, or even worse still, that this was all actually happening. I knew that I had to, as it was the only way to know what was really going on, so I proceeded to unlock my phone and play the video…

The scene was depicted exactly the way I remembered it happening. I felt a brief sense of relief knowing that I wasn’t insane, but tears began to well up in my eyes as the realization set in; something was controlling my sweet Magdeline, and it was trying its best to get to me. It then occurred to me that the camera had never stopped recording, that I still had footage from the rest of the night. I wasn’t yet ready to look through it, so I began staring off into the distance, attempting to mentally prepare myself. By the time I came back to reality, my coffee was almost cold and my screen had timed out, but it was now or never. Trembling, I unlocked my phone and played the video.

Hours of stillness, silence; then I saw it emerge from the darkness of Magdeline’s room. It walked backward down the hallway towards the camera, contorting its upper body backward mid-stride, until its now upside-down face was almost touching the lens. The once warm & familiar face had been twisted into a sinister grin, gums exposed, and was made more unnerving by the black, emotionless eyes that were now set way back into that aged and decrepit face. There were concave black streaks, almost like extended crow’s feet filled with tar, lining the sides of her face & cheeks. “I know you’re watching.”

I shrieked, my mug slipped from my hand and shattered across the porch. Unbeknownst to me, Magdeline was now awake and had heard me. She popped out of the screen door to check on me, beckoning me to come back inside. After she was out of sight and I was sure that she could no longer hear me, I attempted to call my mother — my phone wouldn’t dial out. I tried to send her a message but to no avail. I couldn’t get anything to load on the internet browser, but somehow my hotspot was still functioning, and the cameras were still connected… how could this be? Did it want me to keep watching?

After collecting myself, I went back inside and proceeded through the morning routine as best I could. Magdeline was back to her old cheery self as if nothing was wrong, just like she always was throughout each day that this was going on. “Maybe whatever it is has no power over her in the daytime,” I thought to myself.

After lunch, Magdeline made her way to her room to take a nap, just like she always did.

“Hey, Magdeline, I wanted to ask before you fell asleep; is it alright if I use your landline to call my mom? My phone isn’t working.”

“Well of course deary, tell her to come over and see us while yer at it heh heh,” she replied.

I waited until she fell asleep and then proceeded to use her phone, but it also wouldn’t dial out. “Maybe mom will come to check up on us after not hearing from us for a while, I hope,” I said to myself as I set the phone back on the receiver, and went on my way with chores in an attempt to occupy my mind.

Nighttime was almost upon us once again, and the dread of what may come began setting in heavily. After I got Magdeline into bed, I made myself another pot of coffee so that I could keep myself awake. There was no way that I was going to allow myself to be caught off guard by this thing. After I finished my coffee I headed back towards my room, jittering all the way. I locked myself inside and set the cameras to begin recording.

Almost the entire night went by without so much as a peep. The pot of coffee was now taking its toll, my bladder felt like it was about to burst. Leaving my room was the last thing that I wanted to do, but I didn’t have much of a choice. Since the night had almost entirely passed without any occurrences, I prayed that it would remain that way. I gathered every ounce of remaining fortitude left within me, checked the camera feed and unlocked the door, then slipped the key into the pocket of my robe before heading out into the hallway.

I made my way to the bathroom as silently as I possibly could, my heart pounding relentlessly the entire way. I had to avoid alerting whatever had a hold of Magdeline at all costs; I didn’t know what would happen if it managed to get to me, but I had no desire to find out. I finished my business, checked the cameras, and quietly stepped out into the hallway.

“Your heart betrays you, heh heh.”

I froze. Panic began to wash over me, my blood turned to ice; it was up and about. I had alerted it, and it had managed to approach without me knowing. I slowly turned my head to the right, and there stood Magdeline — her body again contorted backward, face horrifically warped — between me and my bedroom. The bathroom door didn’t have a lock, so I had to think fast.

I turned left and sprinted towards the stairs, practically throwing myself up both flights. I rounded the top landing and bolted into the closest upstairs bedroom, slammed the door behind me, and began fumbling with the key in the hole. “C’MON, LOCK!” I wailed, tears rolling down my face. Upon hearing the lock engage I fell back onto the floor and scurried my way backward until I hit a wall, quickly pulling my phone out of my pocket. It took all of my might to get my shuddering hands to cooperate, but I finally managed to open the camera feed that was focused on the stairs.

Magdeline came into the frame from the left, still misshapen and floating a few inches from the floor. She was again seemingly suspended in the air by something unseen. I could see the large window in the middle landing from the feed, and that the sun was beginning to rise. Instead of ascending the stairs, Magdeline was led into the middle space of the stairwell. I could see the shadow figure begin to take shape in the low light, towering above her and facing the window. It was holding its hands at a downward angle, slightly spread apart. Dark tendrils were coming from its fingers and going straight into Magdeline, attached to her head, back, arms, and legs.

I watched as it began to slowly raise its hands, pulling Magdeline’s entire body upwards as it did so, high into the air. All of a sudden I heard a knock from the front door, “hellloo, are you guys okay?” It was my mother, I knew she’d come to check on us!

“Mom, help! It’s got Magdeline and it’s coming for me!” I screamed at the top of my lungs but got no response.

I watched my phone in absolute terror as the shape seemed to turn its head towards the camera positioned by the front door, and heard it emit a malicious cackle. The once defined silhouette became shapeless, swirling again, only this time it didn’t go into Magdeline; it made its way towards the camera before vanishing completely. Magdeline then plummeted to the floor, meeting the hardwood below with a nauseating thump. I heard my mother scream, “oh my god, Magdeline! Cheryl, where are you?!”

I unlocked the door and ran down the stairs, throwing open the front door. “Mom!” I exclaimed in relief, wrapping my arms around her, “I knew you’d come for me!”

“Oh my god, honey, I saw Magdeline hit the floor, why was she upstairs? What happened, were you trying to help her down?” She asked as she broke away and ran over to Magdeline’s crumpled body.

I knew that she didn’t have a good view from the front door, and most likely had only seen Magdeline as she struck the hardwood.
“No mom, it wasn’t her fault! Here, just let me show you, I told you that something was wrong!”

I raised my phone and proceeded to search for the footage, but it was gone… and so was the video from the night before. “What? No, this can’t be! It was right here, I had everything on video!” I said shakily. Defeated, I dropped my phone and collapsed onto the floor, sobbing uncontrollably.

“Don’t worry, dear,” my mother called to me, “I’ll call 911. You go outside and wait, get some air.”

Magdeline was already gone, well before my mother called for the ambulance, and I returned to my mother’s home following the events of that morning. My room was still exactly how I’d left it, and it brought me a sense of peace & comfort that I had desired for so long.

The ordeal was determined to be an accident, chalked up to a combination of her frailty and dementia culminating in a nasty fall over the top banister, resulting in her death. Although I knew that wasn’t the case, I never tried to tell my mother or anyone else otherwise. They wouldn’t believe me if I did, as the only evidence that I had disappeared. We all took it extremely hard, such a tragic end to such a beautiful human being. We held a small funeral service for Magdeline, laying her to rest beneath her favorite tree on her property.

Afterward, everything returned to normal for the most part. Regardless, I’d lay awake at night wondering if whatever it was that had manipulated and eventually killed Magdeline was gone, haunted by the memory of all that I had witnessed. As time went on I became more at ease about the situation, even though I still had no understanding of what it was, where it came from, or where it went. I slowly but surely gained confidence in the idea that it wasn’t coming back for me…

…until last night when I heard it.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Credit: Caleb M. Foster

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