Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
Someone was in my kitchen last night.
I moved to this apartment about a year ago, and I swear that I haven’t gotten a single good night’s sleep since then. Every day, it’s been the same: get up, shove some cheap crap down my throat, go to school or work, come home, veg out in front of the computer, try to sleep. And I do mean “try” when I say “try to sleep,” because I have to try to block out the sound of scratching in the walls. Just this…scratching, faint, but just loud enough that I know I’m not imagining things. At least, I don’t think I am.
I’ll be lying in bed, bundled up in maybe two or three thick blankets if it’s winter, and just about to fall asleep when it starts. It’s always quiet at first, and I don’t think I consciously register it at first, but I definitely notice it after a minute or two. Scratching. Just this scratching in the walls, under the floor, sometimes in the ceiling. It always gets louder, or closer, every time I almost manage to shut it out. It used to keep me up for two, three days at time before I’d just pass out from sheer exhaustion. I’m taking sleep aids now, but…I’m not sure that’s a good idea anymore.
I used to think it was rats in the walls, and of course I reported it to the landlord. As run down as the rest of the apartment is, with its water stains, ancient plumbing, and unreliable furnace, my landlord takes any kind of infestation very seriously. No one wants to get a reputation for having bed bugs and rats in their buildings, after all. I think it took him maybe two, three days to get an exterminator in to take a look at the apartment. Not that it did any good; the exterminator spent maybe two or three hours scouring every nook and cranny, poking his nose into every dark space behind and beneath my furniture in search of even one scrap of evidence that some kind of pest was in there.
Nothing. He didn’t find so much as one whiff of a rat or a cockroach, not one stray hair or tell-tale dropping. He must have thought I was a crazy, because I pushed him to look just one more time, to stop just short of actually tearing open the walls, but he couldn’t find a thing. So when I heard the scratching in the walls again that night, I tried to tell myself that it was all in my mind, that I could just will it to stop.
It didn’t, of course. I wouldn’t be writing this if it had just been that easy. It just kept happening, keeping me up every night, and I’d lay there, exhausted but wide awake and hoping, praying, that it would just stop. I even started leaving traps and poison around the apartment, but nothing would ever be taken in the morning. I think that’s about when things…started getting worse, actually. I think I might have pissed it…them…off by trying to kill them.
It wasn’t just scratching in the walls anymore; I’d hear things moving around outside my bedroom, like animals walking around, or things being moved around on the table or counters. I’d hear the quiet bump of something being put down, or the shuffle of something being pushed or dragged, but nothing would be out of place. It’s like someone was re-arranging my stuff at night, then deciding that they liked the way I had it better. I bought a camera to try to catch whatever it was in the act; I wanted to buy more so that I could have one in every room, but I could only afford the one. Since most of the movement seemed to be coming from my kitchen, that’s where I set the camera.
I set it in the corner where it’d see most of the room, turned it on, went to bed…and woke up to find that the camera had gone missing. Just the camera. The tripod was still there, completely undisturbed, but the camera was gone. When I was looking for it, I found a small, neat brown envelope tucked in my couch cushions that I sure as hell hadn’t put there. My hands actually shook and I could feel my heart pounding against my chest as I picked it up and turned it over. No address. No signature. Not even a name. I don’t know why I was expecting these things; maybe I was just trying to find some strand of normalcy to cling to, some safety line to grab onto in the face of this…insanity. I opened it, nearly tearing it in two because my hands were shaking so badly, and I nearly pissed myself when I saw what was inside: the memory card.
I didn’t even bother packing my bags before I left. I just had to get the hell out of there, away from whoever had decided to pay me a “visit” in the night. All I grabbed was my wallet, my phone and my laptop; the wallet so I could at least get a motel room for the night, and my laptop so I could see what the fuck was on the card. The second I was settled in this crappy, cheap little motel room with a bed that probably housed STD’s still unknown to the scientific community, I popped in the card. There was a single file on it, spanning from midnight to 4 am.
That’s when they took the camera. Or at least that’s when they came in and turned it off. Most of the video was just dead air. Nothing was moving, nothing was being moved. I couldn’t see anything that could explain why I had heard things moving around all night, not a person or an animal or objects moving by themselves. I couldn’t believe it; not one thing was out of place the entire night. Nothing fell, nothing slid around. Nothing. I skipped to about 10 minutes before the end of the video, hoping to God that I’d get something to prove that I wasn’t going insane, but dreading the possibility of actually seeing whoever, or whatever, was responsible for tormenting me.
The kitchen was completely dark except for the night light I’d plugged in to keep myself from running into things on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Well, that was the idea, anyway; you can guess how often I willingly got up to use the washroom in the middle of the night once everything started happening. The light cast this kind of greenish glow on everything, more giving shapes to the shadows instead of really lighting up the room. I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but it was so close to the end of the video that I didn’t want to fast forward in case I missed something.
9 minutes. Still nothing, but I swear I saw the light dim ever so slightly.
8 minutes. Did a shadow just move? No, I decided; probably. It looked too similar to how it was before.
7 minutes. Was that a thump in the background, or just a digital artifact from the mediocre microphone?
6 minutes. Did the camera just shift a little?
5 minutes. The camera is trying to focus on something. There’s nothing there, but it’s trying to focus on something.
4 minutes. The ambient noise has just cut out. The video is completely silent, but checking the audio information shows that the camera was recording every sound in its range the entire time.
3 minutes. The ambient sounds are back, but I swear they’re louder.
2 minutes. I definitely heard something moving out of frame. It’s quiet, like it doesn’t want to be heard, and it sounds very close to the camera. I think it’s behind it.
1 minute. The night light goes off. It takes the camera a second to adjust to the complete darkness, and everything is still much darker in comparison to the rest of the video when it does.
30 seconds. The camera shifts just a little, like something bumped the tripod.
20 seconds. I think I can hear something…breathing.
10. The breathing is replaced by…static. I want to call it static, but it’s more like these distorted, animalistic noises mashed together and forced through some digital filter. Fuck.
5. Something moves out of the shadows. It looks like a person, but the way it moves it like it’s a part of the wall detaching itself and gliding toward the camera. It just…stands there, staring straight into the lens for a few seconds. I say “staring,” but only in the sense that it’s facing the camera. I can’t see any details. No clothes, no distinction between its limbs and its body, no face. It’s like it’s just this shadow existing where it shouldn’t be able to, standing there like it has some solid existence, like it’s not some violation of physics.
1 second. The entire frame just goes dark. I go back to examine it more closely, and I realize that this thing had actually covered the lens with its hand because I can see a couple of small slivers of the background between its fingers.
I can’t go back. This thing, this fucking thing, is still there, and it’s fast. I check the video, and it just…there was no transition between it standing and it covering the lens. One frame it’s standing and staring, and the next it’s right up in the camera. I looked through the rest of the video, and this goddam thing was standing in the shadows the whole time, just standing there perfectly still. I was still technically in the room for the first few seconds because I had to walk from the camera to my bedroom after turning it on. I was in the room with this thing, and I never saw it.
I’ve been watching the shadows in my motel room for a few hours now, and I don’t think it’s followed me, but how can I be sure? Can I even see this thing with my own eyes? I don’t know what to think anymore. I think I can hear someone pacing in front of the door, but that might just be a cleaning lady or another guest. I just wish they’d leave already. It’s been an hour, and they haven’t stopped pacing.