Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
It is the summer of your 17th year, and the parents have left you and your brother alone for just shy of three weeks in July. Your brother is 2 yers your senior, has a job, a drivers license, a long-term girlfriend, goes to college on the other side of the state during the year. You two get along well, you’re glad to have the time together that you do.
Your parents are not your parents. Your mother is your mother, and your father is your step-father.( You have another inverted pair, step-mother and father, who love in a much larger house with three cats, a dog, and many Yankee candles.) Your parents who are not your parents have taken a trip to Miami. They left on your birthday, which did not bother you all that much, but you thought it seemed like a metaphor. Still, your mother left you with a cheesecake, enough cash to sustain the two of you, and a well-stocked kitchen and vegetable garden.
They also left you with a locked door.
This was something your brother and you found very quickly on returned from your other parents house. It was the door to the master bedroom where your mother and step-father slept. The door hadn’t had a lock before, yet there it was: a shiny new brass door-knob with a key-hole, strange for a house’s interior.
You both laugh incredulously. You begin extrapolating as to why they felt it necessary to purchase, install and lock an entirely new door handle to keep you out. Maybe they’ve kept all of their alcohol in the room? But no, the usually bottles of wine and old bottles of sloe-gin are there. There’s even beer in the fridge.
You decide to go outside, into the vegetable garden, wading through zucchini plants, to look in through the window. There is nothing of note. You can see the outlines of the bed, the dressed, the door, all in place, but the dark room in the brings sun through glare-obscuring windows betrays very little in the way of details. You return inside, a tad uneasy.
That night is the first night you spend alone. Of course, your brother is their across the hall. Of course, your phone is on, your computer and Kindle functional. Your cats, your neighbors, visible through your bedroom window. You are never alone.
You hear no sounds that night. No terror but the creeping dread of late night extrapolation, baiting yourself to believe in demons, in shadows and in extra-dimensional horrors. But you know. You know that they are not really there and that you are safe in your small house, huddled up to three others just like it, facing across a quiet street, its double. Each house with its own families and each member occasionally lying awake. Quiet, in their safe little houses.
Later, your aunt and cousin come over. You eat cheesecake and talk, exchanging stories and worrying superficially about each other.
The door is brought up.
Alcohol, drugs, condoms, briefcases full of money,stolen masterpieces and diamonds are all offered as explanations. Or dead bodies, you say, but add that we’d smell them after awhile.
Each night you sleep alone, and so very quiet. No sounds but distant dogs and perhaps the cats on your creaky floors. But these are interspersed with such great swaths of silence, a silence not of absence but of anticipation. As if, perhaps, it is daring something to break it. The western wall of your room, right near your head, is shared with that locked, empty room, and each night you dare it to disprove its emptiness.
Your days are unremarkable, but busy. You keep up with your friends, your aunt. You and your brother share the experience of grocery shopping for yourselves.
You tend the garden.
You wake up with dreams in your eyes. Perhaps they are fully formed as you awake, but fade so quickly into vague ideas. They are, to say the least, unsettling: feelings of dread, of guilt, the idea that you cannot escape, the thought of a thousand tiny bugs probing your spine. The feeling of someone standing over you.
You take things to help you sleep.
Your brother and you tell everyone about the door, it’s becoming a story.
Texts from your mother reveal that she had no idea that there was a lock on the door, and you wonder if she is angry with your stepdad for it. She has given you half-joking permission to pick the lock.
You and three separate friends try your best to open it. Credit cards, hair-pins, paper clips, pocket knives all fail to unlock the door. You don’t really care. You don’t need what is behind it so much, though the iron and the toilet paper and your social security cards are there. It remains simply an itching nag at the back of your head when you pass by.
One night you wake up, vague dreams of threatening figures dissolving almost instantly, though you cannot remember what jerked you awake. You wait, paralyzed in the dark with the thought of a sharp sound in your house, hovering over you, tempting another sound to follow. No sound comes. But, you notice, you are lying face up. There is a pressure on your chest and on your wrists and ankles as if someone were laying on top of you. It is hard to breath. With great effort you pry your eyes open and inhale sharply, at first seeing only false, noise-grey light like a head rush or the after-image of a camera flash. It slides out of your view, as the pressure slides from your body, and you are left with only the intangible darkness of your ceiling as your eyes adjust.
You are terrified, though you are sure nothing happened. But you hope it never happens again. and it does, every night that week, and you are always terrified.
That night your neighbors(the ones across from your window) have a party. they are loud, music and shouts drift over the fence. Just as you get up from your computer to head to sleep, you see one of them standing against your fence, facing into your room. The light is to their back, so they and the fence become a singular mass of shadow, features indistinguishable, but unmistakably looking at you.
You sleep on the couch, fitfully, and close the blinds in the morning, never opening them. You mention this to your brother, who agrees that sometimes the neighbors are creeps.
There comes a night when you cannot sleep.
It is the sort of insomnia born from restlessness, turning back and forth in bed and thinking too much. almost sinking into unconsciousness only to be pulled back by something you can’t name.
You feel as if someone were standing above you, on your left, from the wall shared with your parents room. You feel something almost like a draft but barely there, when you face to the left, steady on your face. Like breathing, but open your eyes and receive only the near-brightness of adjusting to darkness.
You give up, walk to the bathroom (adjacent to your parents room) to wash your face and maybe take something to help you sleep. As you turn on the light, you look into the mirror, and see, an edge of bright grey noise like an after-image silhouetting the right side of you. You feel the air behind the back of your head, vulnerable. you blink, trying to clear the image from your eyes, though it remains, stubbornly, as the other fireworks of sleep disperse. You feel yourself preparing to be terrified, but unsure. You remain still, then move very suddenly to the left. The after-image remains in its place for a split second, then re-aligns back to your face. You brace yourself, take steady breaths and turn around.
You are greeted with a wall of bright-grey noise which quivers as if surprised and instead of fading, darts out of your view and around the corner of the bathroom into the hall. You hear a door closing.
You do not sleep, but stay up with the lights on.
The next day is hazy, and you cannot properly remember why you did not sleep.
As you water the garden that evening, wading in zucchini plants, you see something through your parents window. A mass of shadow, the kind unnoticeable unless pointed out, but, once seen very very corporeal. And dark. You look away and back and see nothing.
The next time you water the garden, you see that the blinds on your parents bedroom have closed, too. You try to forget that they were every open.
Daylight is not so bad. You often forget why you were afraid.
Again, sleep is fitful and elusive, driven off by empty paranoia. Your brother has already left for college, and you will be here alone until then.
It’s three by the time you hear something. A short something like choking or like laughing heard through popped ears. You lay still, rationalizing your cats or your neighbors or the house shifting in its foundations. This does not help, because the door has just drifted open, the sliver of light it casts into your dark room a grey dimness like an approaching dawn.
Whatever it is moves very fast, because it must be on you because you can see nothing but grey half-light, knocking the wind out of you so you are lost of breath for the moments it takes to press a limb against your mouth. you attempt to bite and claw but feel only the static pins and needles of limbs fallen asleep where you should have made contact.
You are being dragged from your head out of your room, thrashing. The carpet burns your knees. There is nothing to think of but cold fear as you are dragged into the yawning darkness of your parents room, door open.
The door will be locked in the morning. Your parents will feel terror at your absence. They will call the police, and they will not find the key to the locked door. A locksmith will be called in, and the crowd will watch with breath bated for reasons they cannot properly say.
The door will swing open, finally. And they will see nothing but an empty room.
Credit To – Mason Ray