My mother never let me look at the family photo albums. I never knew why. Whenever I asked, she would tell me that they were old and fragile, and would break if we got them down from the shelf. They were so high that I could never reach them as a child, even if I stood on a chair, which I tried many times. Mum always got angry at me for doing this, yelling that I should listen to her and not be so disobedient. I eventually forgot about them, that is until last month.
I was visiting my mother during my time off work, she has been struggling with her health lately so I like to see her as much as I can. This time, she seemed different. Not just physically, but emotionally. She seemed confused and agitated about something. I tried asking her why but she just told me that she was fine and that I was imagining it. But I knew something was up. A couple of days into my visit, I got a text from some of my old school friends, asking to meet up. I agreed, and we met at the local pub for a meal the next evening. When I came home, my mother had fallen asleep on the couch. And there it was, sitting on the coffee table. The photo album.
I knew she wouldn’t approve of me looking at it. But hey, why would she need to find out? I knelt down next to the coffee table, being extra careful not to move the album from its original position. I slowly opened the front cover. It seemed normal. Pictures of Mum and her siblings as kids, and of my Granny and Grandad. On holiday, at Christmas time, birthdays, you name it. I had no idea why mum kept them from me. That is, until I found the picture that has changed my life. This particular image caught me off guard, as it was so creepy and unusual. It sent shivers down my spine. It was one of the oldest photos in the album, dated 1945. It’s in greyscale, obviously. And depicts my grandfather as a teenager, holding a baby. The most disturbing baby I have ever seen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate kids; in fact, I’m really good with them. However, this baby was different. She didn’t look like a baby at all. Her proportions were of a baby, but her face. God, her face. It was as if you took an elderly woman and stuck her face onto an infant. Her skin was wrinkled and saggy, her eyes small and black. And she had a full set of teeth. Huge, adult teeth. I couldn’t let this go, I had to investigate.
I decided to visit my grandparents and try to ask them about the child. They live in a retirement home, not far from my mother’s house. I walked there the next morning. I didn’t tell my mother that I had looked at the album, informing her that I wanted to visit Granny and Grandad as I hadn’t seen them in a while. When I got to the home, I signed in and asked the head carer if I could have somewhere quiet to speak to my grandparents privately. They let us into one of the unused bedrooms. I was anxious, although I had been thinking for some time about how to approach the subject. I engaged them in some small talk first, as it seemed polite and I didn’t want to come across as pushy. Then I asked.
“Do you have any other sisters?” I asked my Grandad. “Maybe a daughter?”
He looked at me suspiciously. “Why?” he asked. I could see this question had perturbed him.
“I found a photo yesterday, of you and a baby, in 1945. You would have been 16. The baby appears to have some kind of skin condit-”
He cut me off. “We’re not going to talk about this!” he snapped.
This took me by surprise and made me even more intrigued to know who the little girl in the picture was. I chose not to approach the subject further, as I didn’t want to upset my grandparents. We had some more small talk, before I gathered my things and left, just as clueless and much more confused than before.
I spent the remaining few days at my mother’s house pondering what I could do to get answers about this strange, unsettling image and the girl depicted in it. The thought of asking my mother about the picture scared me, as I knew she would never forgive me for breaking our one rule. I did, however, ask her what happened to the house that my grandparents used to live in – before they went into a care home. That house had been in our family for generations. My mother grew up there, and my grandparents, and my great grandparents before them. She told me that my grandparents still owned the house, but no one lived there. It stood abandoned and empty. This intrigued me as I knew that house may hold clues to this twisted and bizarre puzzle. I knew it was wrong to explore the place without asking my grandparents first, but I knew they would say no. So I decided I was going to do it. I was going to break into the house and search for answers.
I decided that the best time to do this was on the way back to my town – as the house was in that direction, but was closer to my mother’s town, so it would save me the time of driving to mine and coming back again. I left on Sunday, at around noon. I kissed my mother goodbye, feeling guilty for the betrayal of her and my grandparent’s trust that I was about to commit. I got into the car and drove out of town, as if I was going home. But instead of turning onto the motorway, as I typically would, I turned into a nearby village on the rural outskirts of town. I knew where the house was, as my grandparents lived there when I was little.
The house stood in decent condition, bar the unkempt garden and a few chips in the plastered walls. I got out of my car and peered in through the downstairs window. The house was empty, as I had expected. I walked over to the front door. It was locked, but I slammed into it with all my strength a few times and it flung open. The first thing that hit me was the smell. It was a rancid, musty smell. Like rotting vegetables mixed with old shoe polish. The house was cold; in fact, it seemed even colder than it did outside. I stepped diligently in, even though I knew there was no alarm system. The walls were covered with flowery wallpaper, that now looked comically dated. It was like stepping into the past. The kitchen was tiled, and the rest of the house was floored in dark brown carpet. The kitchen diner was empty, apart from an old log burner oven and a single dining chair. I moved into the living room. To my surprise, there was an old television. I tried switching it on, but it only came up with static. There was a cupboard build into the wall, next to the doorway which led to the landing. I looked inside and found a box. Excitedly, I pulled out the box, which blew dust into my face and made me sneeze. I placed the box down on the carpet and squatted down to open it up. Inside was a collection of items that seemed as if they would belong to a little girl. A doll, some beads and sting and a book of fairy tales. This was a big breakthrough for me, and so I put the box into the boot of my car before re-entering the house.
I walked back through the kitchen and the living room and entered the hallway. There were stairs along the right side of the wall, and a corridor along the left with a door at the end. I decided to see what was in there. To my disappointment, it was just a small bathroom, with a toilet and a sink. I headed upstairs. There were 4 doors coming off the upstairs landing, 2 on each side and one on the back wall in the center. I decided to check the rooms on the right-hand side first. The first one was a small bathroom, with a bath and a sink. The next room was a tiny room with only a toilet. This is a common trend in older British homes. On the left side of the hallway, there were two bedrooms. One master bedroom, with a sad-looking bed frame in the middle with no mattress. The other was an empty secondary bedroom, with light green walls. Now all that was left was the single door at the end of the hallway. I opened it, expecting another bedroom.
To my surprise, there was a set of stairs leading up to the attic. The narrow, walled stairway looked dilapidated and ugly. There was no paint or wallpaper, just exposed brick. The stairs were wooden and rickety-looking. I wasn’t even sure if I should go up. But I knew I would never stop thinking about it if I didn’t. I put my foot forward onto the first step, gingerly shifting my weight onto it. The step creaked like a rusty old door hinge. I cautiously climbed up, keeping my hands on the walls. The attic was empty and even colder than the rest of the house. It almost felt freezing. I wondered around the room, examining the walls and making sure I wasn’t missing anything. I decided that there was no more to see and that it was time to head home. I turned to walk back down the staircase when I heard it. The deep, guttural moan. It sounded like an animal may be trapped in the wall. I felt sorry for it and felt that I had to do something. I walked into the middle of the room and froze, listening for any indication of where the sound may be coming from. I heard it again. I seemed to be coming from the floor. I lay down and pressed my ear against the cold, dank floorboards. I heard the quiet sound of breathing. It was chesty and sounded almost like wheezing. As if whatever was trapped down there was having an asthma attack. I ran out to my car and drove to the local DIY store to pick up a hatchet. I was filled with despair for what I was about to do to my grandparent’s house, but I couldn’t just let the creature die down there.
I drove back to the house and made my way back to the attic with the hatchet. I stared at the floor as my heart filled with shame and disgust, before swinging the hatchet and chopping into the wooden floorboards. The wood cracked with a loud crash. I kept cutting away until the board was loose enough to dislodge. I moved the wooden slat aside and turned on my phone’s flashlight. I shone the bright light into the hole. There was a narrow crawlspace, full of dust and cobwebs. But I couldn’t see any animal. The fetid smell that had hit me upon entering the house was nauseatingly strong. I tried making some noises to call over any animal which could have been lurking down there.
Then I heard a scratching sound. Like something shuffling along inside the crawlspace. Something which clearly didn’t have much room down there. This surprised me as I had presumed it was something small, like a rat or a hedgehog. But this seemed to be something larger, something which was squished and struggling to move in the crawlspace. The hole from the single removed floorboard was not large enough to get my head through to take a closer look. So I got back up and picked up my hatchet to remove another board. This one came up easier than the last, as I had the gap the get my hands in and pull it up. I poked my head down into the void. What I saw will never leave me.
There, in the corner of the crawlspace, was the most repulsive and disgusting creature I have ever seen. It had human-like flesh that sagged like a puddle around its lump-like body. As if it was wearing a skin that was far too big for it. It’s lifeless, hollow black eyes stared back at me like I was looking into eternal darkness. It seemed almost human. It had hands and feet, with nails that curled around like infectious, discolored spirals. It opened it’s mouth to reveal the most rotten and vile teeth I have ever seen. There were many of them, racked up inside the mouth of the being, as if it had grown multiple sets of teeth on top of one another. They varied in decay as they went further into its mouth. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t move my body. I was paralyzed with shock and disgust. The thing looked at me, reaching out one of it’s saggy and gnarled arms. It was almost as if it wanted me to help it. Like it didn’t want to be down there. Its eyes looked almost sad. I got up and decided to call someone. I called the police. I didn’t know what else to do.
The cops arrived about ten minutes later. I showed them the entity, slumped inside the crawlspace. They demanded that I leave. I asked them to keep me updated, but they didn’t reply. Petrified and utterly dumbfounded I drove back to my home. I didn’t know whether to call my grandparents or mother, or to leave it. Did they know about this?
I distanced myself from everyone for weeks. I was unable to go to work or even eat most days. I lost a lot of weight and my hair was long and unkempt. I need to put an end to this, I thought. I got in my car and drove to my mother’s house. I knocked on the door. It opened, but my mother wasn’t standing there. A young man stood in the doorway, about my age.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Who are you?” he asked. “And why are you knocking on my door?”
“This is my mother’s house,” I stated, confused.
“Well,” he said, “unless I am your mother, then you must have the wrong house. I moved here a week ago.”
I just ran to my car. I was on the verge of breaking down at this point. What the hell was going on? I rushed to my grandparent’s retirement home, ignoring the speed limits. I ran up to the door and barged in, leaving the door open as I ran to the front desk.
“I need to see Janet and Frederick Worth, now,” I demanded.
The receptionist looked at me, confused.
“Haven’t you heard?” she asked.
“Mr. Worth was arrested two weeks ago, for the imprisonment and torture of his sister.”
Credit: K.M. Slyfield
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