When I was ten years old, I heard a man die and did nothing to help. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I was just a scared kid at the time. My parents often left me alone at home when I was a child. I won’t say they didn’t love me or anything so dramatic, but they had priorities. Oftentimes, I was not especially high on that list. Still, I enjoyed the solitude. I had the run of the house, and could pretty much get away with whatever I wanted while they were gone. Well, as long as I made sure to clean up after myself. What they didn’t know couldn’t hurt me after all.
It was early February when it happened, while my folks were out on a part valentine’s, part anniversary date. They had married around that time of year about a decade and a half prior to that day, so they would make a big deal about it annually. It was snowy outside, and I wanted to go play in it while they were gone, but I had the biggest fear about inadvertently getting myself locked out of the house and freezing to death before anyone could arrive in time to save me.
It was nearing ten o’ clock when my mom called to tell me they would not be home until morning. This would be neither my first, nor last night alone in the house, so I assured her I would keep the doors locked and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Of course, what I considered reasonable and what she did were quite different. Were I being responsible, I would have likely already been in my bedroom, but I was happily in the middle of binging horror movies downstairs when she called.
I won’t say they never gave me nightmares as my mother warned, but I still loved them. We had a great assortment of channels on our unlocked cable box, so it wasn’t hard to track down movies to suit my late night tastes. It was growing closer to midnight by the time I felt my body begin to crave my bed when the commotion began outside. As I peeked through the living room window to see a man screaming while running across the street, my imagination combined with the movie I was watching to create a whole manner of curiosities as to what could be going on.
He was screaming out for anyone to help him. The poor guy sounded both horrified and desperate while he ran to some of the neighboring houses, pounding on their doors.
“HELP! FOR GOD’S SAKE, SOMEBODY HELP ME!” He cried out into the night as he slammed his fists against the doors and walls.
Most houses just turned their lights off when all of this began, but I couldn’t look away. What could’ve gotten this guy so worked up? I wondered to myself. I was an overly imaginative child as it was, so this apparently terrified stranger inspired an array of wild theories to pan across the forefront of my mind. Everything from some sort of bloodthirsty serial killer to the devil himself pursuing from a distance flashed across my subconscious while he begged for help.
It was a typical suburban street I lived on as a kid, not indifferent from thousands across the country. Little to nothing ever happened there, aside from the occasional car pulled over for one reason or another. Perhaps one disgruntled neighbor yelling at another for something completely pointless, but nothing especially exciting or noteworthy.
Finally, the man arrived at my door. He beat his hands against the wood while shouting at the top of his lungs, begging me to help. I was just a kid! What the hell was I supposed to do?
“PLEASE HELP ME! THEY’RE COMING!” He yelled out from the other side of the front door.
“LET ME IN! FOR GOD’S SAKE, HELP ME!”
My curiosity getting the better of me, I dragged a chair up to the door, climbing up on it to look through the peephole.
The man looked young. He was maybe in his early twenties, though to my perception at the time, he may as well have been nearing his fifties. He had dark beard stubble, wore a thick blue hoodie, a knit cap and gloves. It was really cold outside, so I knew he had to be freezing.
“Please, just let me in,” he whimpered softly. His voice quivered in a manner that would suggest he was possibly fighting to hold back tears.
“Just help me…please…I’m begging you.”
I felt bad for the guy, but I couldn’t invite a stranger into the house even if I did believe he was truly scared. I wasn’t so much as allowed to have friends over while my folks were gone, let alone some adult I’d never laid eyes on before.
“I can’t help you, mister,” I called out to him.
I hoped he would just move onto the next house after hearing that I was only a child, but it just made him beg harder.
“Please, kid. I swear to Christ I won’t hurt you. I just need to get off the street…”
“My dad says I can’t have people over. I’m really sorry, but…”
“Just…just let me in…please!”
“I’m sorry mister, I just can’t! My folks would kill me!”
Suddenly, the man whipped his body around, pressing his back to the door. With his head right against the peephole, I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
“Oh God..,” he almost whispered from the other side of the door.
I jumped down from the chair to run to the living room window again. By the time I made it to the glass, the man started screaming out again; wailing words that no longer sounded legible in any way. He was frantically pounding on the door even harder than before. I heard the knob jiggle as he attempted to force his way in, but I had it locked and deadbolted, just as my mother told me to.
“JESUS CHRIST! JUST LET ME IN! FOR GOD’S SAKE, PLEEEEASE!!”
As I glared out the window, I saw three dark shapes speeding across the road in front of my eyes. They were almost blurry, as though I were viewing them through an unfocussed camera lens. I couldn’t even make out what they were, but they darted off the road and towards my house so quickly that my eyes could barely register it. Whatever they were, I was absolutely terrified the second they sped in the direction of my home.
I whipped the curtains closed before planting myself down on the floor beneath the window with my back pressed to the drywall. My whole body was shivering almost uncontrollably, as I just knew they would break right through the simple wooden door. Suddenly, the man’s yells changed again; this time to blood curdling squeals that caused the hair on the back of my neck to spring up, while making my stomach churn to the point I thought I may spew what remained of the reheated pizza I had for dinner across the carpet I sat upon.
I heard more violent pounding against the door as well as the walls of the house, accompanied by a sound that reminded me of when my dad would cut the turkey at Thanksgiving. The yells turned to gargles and whines, followed by something wet spraying across the ground and the siding of my home. I heard snapping, cracking and crunching, along with something like fabric being torn. There was another sound else as well; one that I wouldn’t allow my youthful ears to accept at the time. I tried to force the sounds of large jaws chewing on meat and bone into the back of my mind at the time, but they still lingered on the edge of my subconscious.
After the man’s moist and bubbling screams faded, there was a chorus of shrill squeals that did not resemble anything I had ever heard before. It reminded me of when I would pinch the mouth of a balloon while letting the air out, only much louder and far more guttural. Those sounds alone almost forced me to lose control of my bladder while I felt my head grow dizzy from the blood draining down to where my guts churned.
After some time, everything fell silent again, but I would not pick myself up from the floor until sometime later. When I finally did emerge from my safe spot under the window, I ran up the stairs to my bedroom, locked the door, and hid under my blanket until I eventually passed out. Of course, even sleep wouldn’t free my mind from what I had heard. It only amplified those events in my disturbing dreams; exaggerating every rip and tear my young ears had heard that night.
I was awakened the next morning by the sound of police sirens out front, accompanied by a series of loud knocks on the front door. I hesitantly peeked through my bedroom window to see several police cars and a black SUV parked on the road in front of the house. I was too scared to answer the door since my folks had not arrived back home yet. Not only was I not prepared to face whatever remained of the stranger, but I was almost worried the authorities would somehow hold me responsible for what happened.
I just stayed up in my room doing my best to remain silent, attempting to ignore the hammering on the front door. After a while, the knocking stopped, but the police stayed out there until my parents drove up an hour or so later. I heard the muffled voices of my mom and dad frantically talking back and forth with the police, before my mom came bursting through the front door and up the stairs. She tried to get in, but my door was still locked. She just pounded on the wood while yelling for me to let her in.
Her words, along with the knocking sent a shiver up my spine after the previous night’s events. I pulled myself from under the safety of my blanket to grant her entry, but as soon as our eyes met, she wrapped her arms around me and pulled me close. After a few minutes of just holding me in place, she started grabbing at my arms, running her hands across my face, seemingly checking for injuries. Once she was certain I was alright, she asked me if I knew what happened or if I’d heard anything during the night.
I’m not entirely sure why I lied to her, claiming that I was asleep and didn’t hear anything. Maybe I felt guilty about what I assumed had happened to the terrified man who begged for help. It could have just been as simple as I didn’t want my folks to know I stayed up so late. Either way, I played dumb, and would continue to tell that same story to anyone else who asked over the following weeks.
Some time later, my father came inside after the swarm of vehicles in our street thinned out. One of the police cars and the black SUV stayed out front for a bit, while two officers, accompanied by some guys in suits walked the neighborhood. They went to each house, presumably seeking out anyone who may have witnessed the seemingly gruesome attack.
It had been a bizarre and unsettling night and day, but I paid it no mind after a few weeks passed. Sure, kids at school spun many a rumor about the murder that had apparently occured on my street, though a body was never found; only a wide puddle of blood that spread across the front lawn and driveway, as well as the splatter on the walls and door. Some would theorize it was way more than the human body was capable of holding, but there were a lot of exaggerated tales over that first week.
For several months after the man begged to be allowed entry into my home, my parents refused to leave me alone in the house. It was actually quite nice, if I’m being honest. Though I missed having the run of the place a bit, my folks were more attentive than they’d ever been. Yes, I would have to accompany them on plenty of errands that were not to my liking, but I could often twist their arms to buy me something while we were out.
As I said before, I would never accuse them of being particularly neglectful. They just never saw the danger in leaving the house with me as its only occupant until then. Of course, their new outlook didn’t last for long. As time passed, they grew more comfortable that there was indeed nothing to fear; that what happened was a one time thing. Perhaps some sort of freak accident that only occurs once in a lifetime.
It was mid-December before I would be left alone again. My parents had a Christmas party to attend with some friends, so they asked if I would be ok on my own. Given the fact I had no desire to be left with some babysitter who was likely only a few years older than me, I said I would be fine. Honestly, though I enjoyed them being more attentive over those months, I did miss my solitude.
As was usually the case, my mom checked in around ten-ish, to which I informed her all was well. She told me they would likely be home around one, and recommended that I try to get to bed soon. Of course, I had no intention of hitting the sack until I saw the lights of my parents’ Honda rolling into the driveway, but she didn’t need to know that.
After successfully riding my makeshift Captain America shield down the stairs several times in a row, I decided to just hunt for a good R rated movie to bide my time until I would have to head up to my bedroom. It was creeping up on midnight when the knocking on the front door pulled my attention away from Jason lazily strolling after a fleeing, topless girl.
“Let me in…” the voice called from outside.
I was stunned; my whole body instantly tensing up as my mind revisited the stranger who was left as nothing more than a bloody pool across the front lawn. My father had ended up having to repaint the front of the house as the stains would not wash off. Even the concrete driveway still wore a few marks that would not clean up.
“C’mon, kid. Let me in…”
I turned the volume up on the movie in an attempt to block out the voice.
“Help me! Save me! LET ME IN!!” The voice called out, growing louder by the second.
It wasn’t as though he was shouting; more like his vocal tones elevated in the same way I had turned up the sound on the TV.
Hesitantly, I crept over to the window to peer outside. I saw no evidence of anyone or anything. The whole neighborhood appeared to be at rest, but I still heard the man behind the door.
“Just let me in! I won’t hurt you! I promise!”
I quietly carried the same chair over to gaze through the peephole. I froze in place after I accidentally bumped wood to wood while attempting to position my prop.
“I know you’re in there, kid. Just let me in! Please!”
Once more, I climbed up to glance through the small, circular hole to see nobody out there; only the deserted lawn and lightly crimson stained driveway.
“C’mon kid. You can save me. You know that, right?”
I could see not the slightest sign of anyone or anything. I even attempted to look downwards through the tiny circular spyglass, theorizing someone may be crouched down, though the voice sounded as though it was coming from just beyond where I stood. I tried to convince myself that I had simply eaten way too much candy, or had possibly knocked myself senseless while sliding down the steps.
After a few more minutes of the invisible stranger muttering from behind the door, I decided to just turn off the TV and head to bed. Even after I turned on the box fan I used to provide ambient sound to help me sleep, I still heard the voice, which now sounded like it was coming from directly behind my second floor window. I sandwiched my head between two pillows, but it made little difference in the volume of the cries for help.
“Don’t go to sleep and leave me out here, kid. All you have to do is just let me in!”
It wasn’t until I saw the light trace across the far wall of my bedroom, signifying my parents arrival, that the voice fell silent.
For years it carried on like that; always around midnight, and only when I was alone. I got to the point of practically begging my folks not to leave when they would inevitably head out for the night, and even requested a babysitter when they would. They agreed to my requests for someone to watch over me while they were gone, but that ended just a little after I turned twelve. Sometimes, I was able to arrange a sleepover with a friend, but there still would be those times I could not weasel my way out of being alone as the hour approached.
Regardless of how often the voice would return, I was never able to just ignore it or push it to the recesses of my mind while I focused on other things. When my parents would be gone all night, the voice wouldn’t stop until I finally drifted off to sleep, which always required quite the struggle to achieve. As the years progressed and my school days ended, I went off to college where I would have a roommate for a time.
Though I would involve myself in any activity that would keep me from being alone in my dorm room after hours, there were still those times I would once again be at the mercy of the voice behind my door. No matter where I went in life, the stranger would follow, though there would never be evidence of his presence aside from the desperate plea and knocks on the door.
After college, I still maintained a roommate to avoid as many late night visits as I could, though it would not keep them away entirely. I couldn’t exactly forbid my housemate from having a life, after all. For some years, I would only have to worry about the cries for help around the weekends, as we had similar work schedules. Unfortunately, when my roommate decided to move in with his girlfriend, I was shit out of luck.
Sure, I attempted to get another roomie, but my erratic and desperate behavior freaked out most interested parties. So, every single night after my housemate moved out, the knocking and screaming came. No matter how hard I tried to ignore it, the volume would crank up higher and higher every damn time.
I even tried checking into a busy hotel for a night, hoping that the crowded hallways would keep it away, but no. As long as I was alone in my room, the pounding would begin again around midnight, without fail. For months, I fought against my slipping sanity, but I could never block it out. Earplugs? Nope. Earphones with blaring music? Nope. Nothing would keep the man’s begs for help from reaching my ears. I would just scream out myself sometimes, perhaps from the burgeoning madness of it all, or just the hopelessness of being unable to escape it.
Finally, after far too many sleepless nights to count, I couldn’t tolerate it any more. As many times before, I gazed through my peephole to see nobody there, though the calls and knocks still echoed through. With a heavy sigh, and a racing heart that felt as though it would crack through my sternum, I wrapped my trembling fingers around the doorknob and pulled it open.
My jaw practically fell onto my chest when my eyes met the shredded figure before me. Half of his face had been torn away, leaving a reddened skull, with strips of meaty tissue where skin once lay. His left arm had been ripped from his shoulder and it was hard to differentiate the bloodied muscle and bone from the clumped threads of the shirt and hoodie that remained. His gut was splayed open, with oozing intestines hanging to the ground in a scarlet pool, and both of his legs were a gruesome combination of moist ground beef and bone, with little holding them together.
Somehow, his right arm was the only part of him free of any manner of injury, which he still held outstretched in front of him with his fingers balled into a fist in preparation to knock once more.
“Thanks, man,” he said, trying to smile with the one side of his face that still had the ability to do so.
“You’re a lifesaver.”
We just stared at one another for a moment, before he just dropped to the ground before me. With a series of snapping and squishing sounds, his body twisted and compressed, curling and folding while it smoked, bubbled and popped, shrinking down and dissolving into the fuzzy welcome mat and concrete pavement surrounding it. Within seconds, all that remained of the stranger who was only visible through the open door, was no more than a charred, crimson stain on the ground.
I kicked at the damp mat that still wore the marks of many dirty feet, combined with the new red and burnt black, to find nothing but more stains hidden beneath it. Though my mind was reeling and my mouth still hung agape, I strolled across the pathway that led away from my house, nudging the mat towards the garbage can that stood at the end of my driveway.
I picked up the carpeted sheet which was no longer embossed with a welcoming greeting to those who may approach; only segments of what was once lettering in between the gruesome blotches. I held it by the lone, unblemished corner, studying it with my upper lip upturned in disgust, before dropping it into my trash bucket.
I stood outside staring back at my house with my head in a daze. Could that really be all I had to do to put an end to this madness? Would my nightly visits finally be over? I began to cackle like a crazy person; the pure insanity of what had tortured me for years almost causing my fragile mind to fracture. I paced back to my open door, feeling as though my remaining marbles may indeed be rolling out of the confines of my noggin for good.
Before I could reach the entry to my home, I heard what sounded like a pack of wild animals thundering their feet across the pavement behind me. I whipped around to see three hideous and deformed dog-like creatures scampering across the road towards me. Thick, phlegmy slobber dripped from their gaping maws as they sprinted right at me on muscular legs, covered in matted, dreadlocked fur.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, hauling ass back through my doorway, slamming it shut behind me. I quickly flipped the deadbolt latch and pressed my back to the door while the beasts rammed into it from the other side. The violent collision with the meager slab of wood almost knocked me to the carpet. I could feel my chest heaving while my pulse throbbed beneath my skin. Every inch of my trembling gooseflesh felt as though it was lined with cold sweat as I gasped for breath.
Wailing barks and growls, blended with something that resembled the sound a wood chipper might make if someone were to toss fifty pounds of frozen food into it, squalled from outside. For one reason or another, they did not attack the actual door again after the initial slam from the quickly ceased, high speed pursuit. I had no doubt that, were they to attempt to force their way in, my simple locks would not keep them at bay for long.
I glanced through the peephole again to see the trio just pacing back and forth, still dripping that noxious drool with every whimper of their awful sounds. Each of them were quite large; easily twice or three times the size of the largest dog I had ever seen. Their bodies and limbs bulged with rippling muscles and their mouths were filled with jagged and misshapen, yellow teeth. Every one of the six enlarged eyes glowed a vibrant orange beneath their furrowed brow.
Once I finally managed to somewhat gather my bearings, while realizing that yet another sleepless night was ahead of me, I drew my largest kitchen knife from the rack beside my stove, sat on my couch, and just stared at my front door, still trembling from head to toe. Of course, I had no doubt that a pauldry blade used for preparing a meal would provide little defense against the horrendous beasts. I just held my fingers tightly around the hilt like a safety blanket while praying that they would not attempt to force their way inside.
At some point, I must have fallen asleep. I awoke to find myself slumped across my couch, with my blade having slipped from my fingers, lying on the floor next to where I slept. I was still groggy and somewhat achy from my uncomfortable sleeping posture, but I was instantly aware that there were no growls or whines coming from outside. I could only hope the beasts had moved on, though I was quite reluctant to investigate.
I hesitantly pulled my door open to reveal nothing but the stained concrete behind it. I still felt on edge for the rest of the day, but nothing else appeared out of place while I went on about my daily grind. Sure, I would practically jump out of my skin anytime I heard an unexpected sound, or God forbid some neighbors dog barking, but I hoped things had returned to normal, well, normal for my life anyway.
It wasn’t until I was on my way home, after dining with some friends after work, that I understood the new troubling situation I would be forced to endure. The sun began to set while I drove back to my house; something that never made me nervous before, not until midnight anyway. By the time I arrived on my street, the world was illuminated by the subtle glow of the moon, as well as the street lamps lining my neighborhood.
It was then that I heard the barking and growling again. I darted my eyes to my rear view mirror to see that trio of ferocious, matted creatures speeding at me from behind. I slammed my foot to the floor, causing my Nissan to speed faster across the road to my house than I would have ever dared before. I was terrified at the idea of kids playing on the street, or absent minded drivers drifting into my lane, but I had to outrun those things and reach the safety of my home.
I skidded into my driveway, feeling my right tires lift from the ground as the left ones spun to a halt, tearing into the grass and dirt of my front lawn. My heart was hammering against my chest again while I sprinted to my front door. I could practically feel the foul breath of the demonic hellhounds on the back of my neck as I fumbled my key against the knob in my attempt to gain entry.
I dared not look behind me until I finally achieved success, stumbling across the threshold and falling to the floor. I just skidded back across the carpet to thrust my foot against the door, slamming it shut. I quickly rolled over, reaching my shivering hand up to latch my lock, just as I heard and felt the hard slam of the monstrous creatures, beginning another night their atrocious wails calling from outside.
This is how I live now. I never stay out after dark, no matter what. I feel a panic attack building up whenever I see the sun begin to recede for the night, whether I’m safely behind my walls or not. I don’t date. I don’t socialize. Those things only lead to the possibility of being unable to put a door between me and my stalkers when night falls. I can’t say mine is a happy existence, but I’m alive.
I wonder sometimes if I had allowed the stranger entry the first time he begged for it, would I be where I am now, or would he have transferred this curse to me sooner? Somehow, I doubt I’ll ever have answers, but there has to be a way out of this, right?
If you take nothing else from this tale, just remember this:
Yes, you don’t know me. I have neither described myself, nor have I shared much about who I really am. You may not exactly know it’s me, but should I ever come knocking on your door after dark; no matter how hard I beg, no matter how much I cry, do not even acknowledge me, and for God’s sake, don’t let me in.
Credit: William Rayne
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