Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
This is not meant to scare anyone.
Calling it a creepy story would be a bit of an insult, because it isn’t one. This is an expression of gratitude toward a friend, a friend who was always there for me. He watched over me as I was growing up and was the best friend any kid could ever have.
Even if I didn’t recognize it at the time.
He was always there, even though I couldn’t see him, and he was always acting in my best interests, even if I couldn’t understand. I’d like to take some time to share with you our story, because if you’re lucky, you might have a friend like this too.
I think I should let you read his letter first. In May of 2010, I bought a new computer and took my old one to the shop to have everything backed up. I’d brought the new computer home and had begun restoring my files from my portable hard drive and reinstalling programs when I noticed that there was a file in the Misc. folder that the shop’s technician had created for files with no other place. It was called HappyBirthdayBaby.txt.
Initially, I thought it was a message my mom had written for me that I’d never read as intended, but I opened it, and this is what I found:
You might find this one day… I’m not great at this computer stuff, but I’ve watched you tinkering with this machine lately, and I think I know how to save this so that you’ll find it. Seeing as it’s time for me to go, I want to leave you this last little message.
I know you never met your father, but to me he was Col. Marcus Andrew Stadtfleld, as I’m sure your mother told you. He was a good man, one with the pride of a lion, the strength of a bear and a heart of pure gold. Truth is, I was almost like his son long before you were born. I was his second in command and served with him for three years.
I watched as your mother wept when she heard the news, her belly swollen with your soon-to-be debut into this world, and I stayed with her every second of every day. That was, until the day you came into the world- then my focus shifted to you.
I watched as they cleaned you and handed you to your mother, and she seemed to look right at me with a knowing eye as I stood over the both of you, almost as if she’d known along, and I’d be willing to bet my last penny she did. I’ve watched you grow and I remember everything, even the things you don’t. You always were such a happy baby and you had seemed to have inherited your father’s sense of humor. When you were getting to be four months old, you would do just about everything to hinder your mother’s attempts at changing you, laughing all the while. You were a wild one at heart, just as you are today.
Just like Marcus.
When you were about six months old we would play all the time. We had one game in particular, where I would grab your toes and tickle your belly. You would love it, though when your mother came in l’d have to stop, and it always perplexed her as to why you’d abruptly start crying- after a while, she seemed to think you didn’t like her, which is when I realized that I had to back away some.
When you were one year old you seemed to develop a sixth sense for me and although you couldn’t really see me so much or so well anymore, you knew I was there. I couldn’t play with you as much as before because I knew it would only hurt you in the long run, but I always kept guard. I knew you remembered seeing me because you had a way of testing my presence, you’d throw toys into the corner where I stood and then wait to see if I would play with them. Now, I know you won’t remember this, but once you threw a bear and a ragdoll at me, and because your mother was busy in the kitchen making dinner, I kept you entertained by putting on a little show. It was nothing special, I just made them dance a little. You were laughing loudly and your mom came in to see what was so funny, but when she saw, she wasn’t laughing. I bet you could mention the bear and ragdoll dance even today and the colour would run right out of her cheeks, but do me a favor and don’t. I think it would be kinder to ask if you ever threw the toys into the corner, that isn’t quite as bad a memory for her as the dancing is.
Do you remember your first word? I do… “Love.” Hahah. your mother made damned well sure you knew just how much you were cherished by her, every moment of every day and she would always say, “Love you, baby…” I remember you tugging at my heartstrings something awful once, when your mother was changing you in the bathroom this one time. You seemed to have caught my reflection in the mirror behind her, and you pointed and said Love (well, more of a wuv, but your mother knew), and she laughed and affirmed it. It was your only word for a time, but as I walked out of the reflection you started getting restless and I knew again that I had to be more stealthy. You were growing more and more every day now, and I couldn’t afford to break my promise to your father, which is why I would have to retreat yet again.
I broke the rules many times to protect you, for that promise to your father was everything to me. I remember when you were three and had mastered walking, you were a regular little scout, hahah. You could never keep still- those little legs had opened up a whole new world to you and you weren’t shy at all about exploring it. One day you were with your mother in the market, and a lady with a shiny purse caught your eye. You went running after her, just as another shopper was running with her trolley in front of her, coming the other way. She didn’t spot you, and because you were running after the purse, you didn’t see her either.
Breaking the rules was not allowed, but allowing you to get hurt wasn’t permittable either. By the time you noticed her it was already too late, and you fell on your bottom before you could scamper out of her way. Left without any other option, I sent that trolley flying Into the side of a freezer and as it crashed, that woman screamed blue murder, “A-A-A man in a uniform!” she screamed. You simply giggled as the crowd gathered and your mother came running. When she found you at that scene you were safe and sound, and you pointed to the trolley that had smashed the freezer window. You know what you said to her then? “Love mommy.” I was hiding by then, embarrassed to have created such a scene, though I have to admit I was laughing on the inside.
As you grew and became more aware so did I, and I finally knew when I could and couldn’t intervene. Doing too much would hurt the both of us, so I chose my moments carefully. You were a smart kid, just like your father, and most of the time knew how to handle any and every situation. If there was an option, you took it, though I slipped up a few times as you were growing up, I do think I did well to keep an eye on you. It was just the little things to make your life a bit easier, things you probably won’t remember, like putting your piano music sheets into your bag at night, turning off your television when you fell asleep, pulling the sheets over you on the colder nights, sorting your drawers, setting your alarm clock, closing your windows and door… You caught me doing one or two of these things a few times, and I want to take the time now to apologize for scaring you.
This one time you were doing your homework and fell asleep at your desk, so I filled In all the answers for your math quiz. You’d made such a fuss to your mother earlier about how strict the teacher was about homework and I knew you knew the answers anyway, but you suspected more than ever when you woke up and found that whole half a sheet you left incomplete was done. You were older and had forgotten that we were friends, things you saw in the media about ghosts scared you- and you had every right to be afraid. I just want to say I’m sorry. I never meant to make you cry. If only I had taken a little extra care you’d never have known. I just wanted to keep you safe and happy.
As you matured you began to take form as a little lady and as such, and you began to know the evil of men. Though you had your wits about you, you were always taking stupid risks, and watching over you became a little more of a worry for me. Gradually, I had to expose myself more and more, most memorably that night when that no-good boy you brought home started putting the moves on you. Your mother was at work, he was only after one thing, and although I knew it wasn’t my place to choose for you, you were still only a baby girl, just fifteen years old… As he got on top of you and started undressing you, took his top off and began whispering those sweet nothings, your face said it all.
You were scared. And when you told him to stop and he wouldn’t, and when you tried to push him off and he got angry, when he struck you and finally tried to put his hand up your skirt, all the evil I kept inside of me broke free at that moment and it was something I couldn’t control. My rage boiled over as I began to growl, the lights flickering, the TV volume rising, the doors and windows crashing open and shut. The keys on your piano began to rattle and with your father’s roar, I yelled, “Get out of the house boy!” He ran out of that room and you tried to follow, but I slammed that door in your face and wouldn’t let the handle go until your mother pulled into the driveway… I’m so sorry kid, that whole thing traumatized you for a while… You became more frightened of me than ever, having such an experience, and I knew from then on in spite of how much I loved you, we could never be friends. Not after what I’d done.
Some nights you used to sit awake late into the evening, watching for me, and I’d have to sit in the darkest corner, looking right back at you, unable to reassure you that I wasn’t here to cause you harm. You used to scream, “I hate you! Get out! Leave me alone!” And just as you used to do as a toddler, you would throw things into my corner, only instead of toys for me to play with, this time it was heavy books, CD cases, anything you could get your hands on to get me to move. You used to sit in your bed watching that corner… I always felt terrible about what I did. I’d almost broken that promise to your father- but more importantly, I’d almost broken the personal promise I’d made to you.
It was like that until the night you tried to make peace with me, that night you sat up in your bed and said, “If you’re here, I’m sorry, you were only trying to stop him…” I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t, even as you shuffled around nervously and called, “You’re here right? Could you show me a sign?” I wanted so badly to give you something, anything to show you I was there and that I’d heard that, but fearing that you would lose it if I did, I kept silent and just nodded, in that dark corner where you couldn’t see me.. You have to know I was never mad at you, you were just a little girl and that little prick tipped me over the edge… Promise me you’ll never do anything like that again, won’t you?
It’s your eighteenth Birthday today, which is exactly why I’m writing this to you. I want to wish you a happy birthday. I’m sure your dad’s getting sick of keeping that bar stool open for me. Live a good life, try not to forget about me, and know you turned out great.
Your father would be so proud of you.
This letter is my present to you, and don’t you worry about the spooky corner anymore, my final order is complete. I don’t know about you, but I think this trooper deserves a drink; you sure were a handful, haha!
If you find this one day, try calling out to me.
Take care, be safe, and live a happy life.
Lt. Ashley Gilchrist
PS. If you call out my name, call me what you used to call me as a kid, that always got me to come running.
I was gobsmacked when I read this letter; everything finally made sense. All the things that happened when I was growing up. I’d always thought I was seeing things until that day when my ex-boyfriend almost raped me. I’ll be the first to admit that I was scared of him, because I didn’t understand what he was, why he was there or what he was after, but now I see that I had it all wrong.
A few days after reading the letter, I asked my mom a few questions about the spooky things that happened when I was growing up. She was very nonchalant about the whole thing- until I mentioned what happened in the market. There, she stopped cleaning, set down her cloth, turned to me and smiled. “You always had a guardian angel watching over you, honey. I don’t know if it was your father or not, but who or whatever it was, it made sure nothing bad ever really happened to you.” As she turned around and began cleaning the dishes, she asked, “So I guess you met it then, right? Your spirit friend?”
“Not exactly, he left something for me.” I went upstairs, brought my laptop down and showed her the letter on my computer. My mother was crying by the time she finished and she told me all about my dad’s friend.
“He was a kind boy. Marc brought him home once to meet me and he had a certain thing about him. That man was as loyal as a dog to your father, he had a love and respect for him that even I was intimidated by at times… When he came to our home on leave, Marcus nearly had to order him to make himself at home, and he even had to be asked to take his uniform off. He looked up to Marcus almost like a boy looks up to his father. I don’t really know his background but I remember your father telling me that he was a good drinking partner, a fine soldier, and an invaluable friend.”
She took a deep breath and choked back a few of her tears before continuing on.
“They found that poor boy and your father all alone in a building that had been overrun by their enemy. They’d been out on recon, and their team got separated when they came under fire. The rest of the boys on your father’s team survived, but those two weren’t so lucky… The way they found them was peculiar,” she swallowed heavily, looked me right in the eye and said, “That boy was found on top of your father, riddled with bullets… he was shielding him right up until the moment he died. He could have gotten away but he refused to leave your injured fathers side.”
With that, we both burst into tears… Love. That’s exactly what he was, he was a guardian. I’d never had any reason to be afraid of him, and I’d have given anything just to tell him I was sorry and that I loved him back. I had no right to have done all those terrible things I did to him at the end, I realized, and I realized that he had loved my father so much not even death could keep him from that promise he’d mentioned in the letter. When I asked what the promise was, my mother looked at me and with tears in her eyes said, “It was made in this very house while they were setting up your room, it was just-”
“No matter what happens, promise me you’ll watch over my daughter.”
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