Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
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It started as a joke. My wife and I host a lot of parties, and if you’ve ever done cleanup after a party, you know that people leave things behind. Hats and coats constantly, scarves, purses, whatever. One time I found a pair of prescription glasses stuck in between the couch cushions. They were thick lenses, too, like Velma-thick. I don’t know how the owner made it out of the front door without them, let alone how they drove home.
A lot of the time, we’ll get a call the next day or the next week, someone going, “Hey, so, I haven’t seen my jacket lately. Did I leave it at your place?” But sometimes, no one ever claims it. And Jenny and I — Jenny’s my wife — we aren’t about to call everyone who was at the party to ask if they’re missing whatever we’ve found. So we just chuck it in a wooden chest we’ve got in the closet and leave it there until someone does come looking.
So recently, we had a winter party, and someone left their pants here. Now, it was not that kind of party, so I was pretty surprised to find a pair of pants laying around afterward. They were snow pants, the kind you wear over your other clothes to keep them warm and dry, and they were folded up and stored in a corner. I figured that probably someone had shown up in them to stay warm, then taken them off once they got inside. Between the warmth of the house and the warmth of the alcohol, they must have forgotten to put them back on when they left at the end of the night.
Jenny flipped through her pictures from the evening, but didn’t have any shots of anyone wearing those pants, so into the trunk they went. As Jenny was tossing them in, she commented, “I bet we could clothe a whole person with what’s in here.”
We laughed, but then I got to thinking that she was probably right. So later on, I dug through the trunk and sure enough, in addition to the pants we had a button-down shirt, multiple jackets, several hats, a pair of gloves, a couple of scarves and two pairs of shoes. While Jenny was out of the house that night, I put the shirt on a hanger, hung the jacket over it, clipped the gloves to the sleeves and the pants to the bottom, and wrapped a scarf around it. Then I hung the whole thing up in the hallway, plopped a hat on top and put the shoes beneath it. The pants hung just to the ground, so at first glance it really did look like someone lurking there, especially with the lights off.
I heard the door slam when Jenny got home. She started to call out a greeting, but it abruptly cut off in a shriek. I came into the hallway, laughing, to find Jenny standing there with a hand to her chest, glaring at me. The clothes dummy swung quietly off to the side.
“Real funny!” she said. “You about gave me a heart attack.”
“I’m very sorry,” I said, but I was laughing much too hard for her to believe me.
“Yeah, you will be,” she said, with mock seriousness, but she was laughing too, now that she was past the initial shock.
Anyway, I thought that was all extremely funny right up until I got up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet. I walked into the bathroom, turned on the lights — and shouted out loud, because Jenny had moved my clothes dummy into the bathroom and posed it sitting on the toilet.
From the bedroom, I heard sleepy laughter.
“Do you know what happens when you scare someone who’s on his way to the bathroom?” I demanded.
“Rags are under the sink. Clean up whatever you need to,” Jenny called back.
“A lesser man would have to clean up. I have iron self-control,” I told her.
“Is that why you screamed loudly enough to wake me up?” she teased.
I didn’t dignify that with a response. Also, I didn’t have one.
So this became a thing. Jenny and I would move the dummy around, and after a while it wasn’t even to scare each other anymore. We named him Albert, and he was just a feature of the house after a few weeks. We’d put him in the kitchen, the dining room, wherever. I came home a couple of days ago to find the clothes slumped in my chair in front of the TV, with one of my beers in his glove. I just got another beer and took a seat on the couch.
Jenny came in later and said, “You’re not going to move him?”
“He was here first,” I shrugged.
“You’re ridiculous,” Jenny told me, and took Albert’s beer.
“He’s not going to like that,” I said.
Jenny laughed. “What’s he going to do about it?”
That was a couple of days ago, like I said. Yesterday, I came home to find Albert hanging by the picture window at the back of the house. His clothes were splashed with something red, and there was a dripping knife wedged in one of his gloves. It was a pretty gruesome sight, and I applauded Jenny’s ingenuity.
“Did he get you, honey?” I called. No response, obviously. She wasn’t about to give up the joke that easily.
“Hey, the stuff is dripping onto the floor,” I said loudly enough for her to hear me, wherever she was hiding. “I think it’s staining the carpet.”
Still nothing, so I got a paper towel and wiped up the “blood,” then took Albert’s knife away from him. Whatever Jenny had used really did look like blood, and I was starting to get uncomfortable.
“Honey? Okay, you got me. Joke’s over.” Still no response, so I went looking. I went through the entire house, and couldn’t find her anywhere. Her car was out front, but Jenny was just missing. I called her phone, but it rang through to voicemail.
When she still hadn’t shown up by midnight, I was starting to get panicked. I’d called a few friends, but no one had heard from her. I decided to get a few hours of sleep and then figure out what to do in the morning. I laid down, turned out the lights and was falling asleep when I heard a slight noise in the hallway.
I opened my eyes to see Jenny in the doorway. “Where have you b–” I started, turning on the lights, but my voice died in my throat. It wasn’t Jenny. It was Albert, hanging from the doorway of my room, swaying slightly back and forth above his shoes. The knife was back in his hand.
My heart was hammering. This was obviously just Jenny taking a joke too far, but when I called out for her again and she didn’t answer, my fear spiked. I took those clothes down, carried them downstairs and even though I knew it was totally illogical, I burned them in the fireplace.
I expected Jenny to come out to laugh at me once I got the fire going, or at least to chide me for stinking up the house — I don’t know what they pack snow pants with, but it smells terrible when you burn it — but the fire burned down to ashes and I was still alone.
I slept for a bit, and when I left for work this morning, there was still no sign of Jenny and she still wasn’t answering her phone. I called the police to report her missing, and they’re supposed to be sending someone over to take a look around and interview me, I guess.
I hope they get here soon. Because I just heard a noise from upstairs, and when I went up to look, the door to our walk-in closet was standing open. Hanging from the bars, aligned in two neat rows, were a dozen of Jenny’s outfits. Shirts on the hangers, pants clipped below, shoes lined up underneath.
The bedroom door only locks from the inside, but I closed it and used my tie to tie the knob to the banister in the hallway. I was going to leave the house, but there’s a coat rack by the door, and I really don’t think I lined my shoes up underneath it like that when I got home.
I hope the police get here soon.
Check out Micah Edwards’ collection of published anthologies and novella, now available on Amazon.com:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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