Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
It’s worth noting the few minutes I’ve had to spend clenching and unclenching my hands in order to regain the control of my nerves; just enough to put down in plain words, the events that continue to fester in the back my mind.
Unburden the soul – that’s why people make confessions, right?
I admit now that these memories continue to redevelop my childhood fear of the dark.
As I write this, I realize what I’m searching for is a shared experience. Somebody who can simply say…you’re not alone.
For a while my parents were renting out this property a few miles from where we lived. They were struggling to find the ‘right’ tenants and in some cases keep them. The upkeep itself was becoming a burden and generally it just wasn’t generating enough money for them to keep it going.
As I was in that transitional stage of seeking my own place anyway, I realized that this was a perfect opportunity for me to fill the void of my parent’s much needed tenants. After some persuasion I was handed the keys under two conditions: that I would pay half of the rent and continue to look for my own apartment. I recall my dad added jokingly not to burn the place down as he dropped the key into my hand.
I was prepared for the house to get lonely, even creepy at times, but these things noticeably developed into something far more pronounced as the days grew short and my working nights long. I’ve always been aware of my tendency to stay up late, finding peace in some knowledge that I wouldn’t fall prey to a sombre thought or bad dream…not until I reached that point where I simply couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.
To pay my half of the agreed rent I continued to work late as a freelance web designer. This would have been sometime between 1 and 5am when I first heard that calm tap of heeled shoes upon the concrete path outside. In the silence of my room at an hour where cars would seldom pass, this casual tap had stirred me from my work. I never really believed it to be completely out of the ordinary, just a girl walking home from a late night of drinking.
I know now this was something else.
The days continued to be a bright and welcoming change from the cold nights before it; a life of independence that left an even brighter smile upon my face. Inviting a couple friends to hang out – like old times – we’d kick back with some terrible horror film and drink and few beers before I needed to settle back into some work.
My friends had left me that night with a lingering taste for beer. Usually, at this point I’d make myself a cup of tea and remain confined to my bedroom until morning. Some nights I’d hastily move across the darkness of my landing to the sanctuary of my bathroom, brush my teeth and dart back. (I never did buy a bulb for that landing)
This time I grabbed a beer from the fridge and like clockwork, checked that the back door was locked and the windows were firmly shut before heading up. I continued to top up my courage with a sip of beer as I walked along the creaking boards of the landing. My room – as always – a static blur in the darkness as I approached; Feeling that familiar emptiness of the staircase below my feet, I took another sip.
That night I remember the progress of my work coming to an abrupt end. Uninspired I sat listening to the wind through my open window until slowly my ears detected a particular sound fading into the wind.
I frowned realizing what I never did before, that the street was a cul-de-sac. There was a single detached house beside my own before it would end; overlooking the hills of my town.
She must live next door I thought listening to that cold tap pass slowly from one end of the window to the other. Remembering the hour at which she passed suddenly sent hairs on the back of my neck to clamber out of my skin.
It was after that night that things began to occur more frequently. Perhaps it was because I was suddenly paying attention to the noises around me – living by myself I was already susceptible to anything out of place, but it became as though these sounds – although discreet – were made by want of attention. I’m being paranoid I thought. That’s generally the rational of somebody emotionally detached, isn’t it?
Maybe I was working too hard.
The following day I stepped out, walking the slight incline of my drive holding a small bag of rubbish. Truthfully I needed an excuse to study the house next door, the house at the end of my street.
It appeared empty…In fact, all of the houses appeared empty I thought. Recalling the street and its recurring stillness I felt unnerved by its silence. Initially, my quick observation was that of a peaceful neighbourhood. Then and there against a brisk winter chill something ominous stirred in my feelings toward the street where children never seemed to play.
It was that afternoon I received a phone call from my mother. She was concerned about my health: what I was eating and how stressed I was becoming. I most likely answered with a recurring yes that made me want to start eating the phone, moving swiftly towards a burning question I needed to ask about the street. I asked where everyone was for a start and I remember her explaining how it was simply a peaceful area. She believed the rural surroundings would be a selling point yet it was apparently one of the main reasons why a lot of tenants declined residency. I eventually ended the call with her peace of mind, and in a way my own.
Night fell as one with my spirit, sitting alone in the darkness of my room with nothing but a single lamp to aid the light of my laptop. I worked, paying close attention to the time as it seemed to move ahead in bounding leaps.
I was becoming increasingly tired when my heart suddenly clenched at the sound of a wailing cat. With the window closed I could hear its screech become low and malicious, fading down into the derelict street. It was deathly quiet for a long time after that.
I was a ball of nerves, considering an earlier night than usual when my attention was drawn to that eerie slow tapping of heels. I jumped out of my chair and switched off the lamp. Moving closer to the window I pushed the screen of my laptop and the remaining light down with it. In darkness I crept ever closer the drawn curtains. The steps continued, louder and possibly slower than ever as my heart started to flutter painfully like a hummingbird’s wing.
It stopped…and for a moment I stood in complete darkness with a cold bead of sweat upon my brow. I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for in that moment but what followed had suddenly drained all of the warmth from my body as the tapping became rapid, comparable to a tap dance that was irregular and crooked. Between the heavy taps was a fragile scraping of shoes, as if somebody were painfully dragging their feet up off the ground.
The shadow of my hand trembled as it was raised to the curtains edge. I moved closer. Like violent breathing the scrapes thickened whilst the taps continued to rattle into my ears. I could smell the heavy drapes as I pushed ever closer, asphyxiated by the material.
I needed to see it.
As I inched the curtain away the street slowly formed, the path emerged, but the sound…it was gone. It took a delayed moment to realize this as my adrenaline replayed the remnants of that hideous tap in my mind. I started to move the curtain more, revealing an empty path. My eyes lingered for an anxious moment; following the line of distant street lamps where pools of light lay undisturbed. My heart calmed as I moved away…tracing my sight back as I let the curtain fall I caught glimpse of that slender face staring up at me from the drive way.
Fear consumed me.
Remembering my shroud of darkness I remained stock still. Listening to the empty house I cast my mind back in dread….did I lock the back door?
Clearing my mind of the grievous thought I found myself asking how far I’d go to be certain. I never wanted to answer this question but something instinctive encouraged me to move regardless of my legs resistance. Passing my laptop on the desk I carefully opened the lid for a light that wasn’t there; replaced now by a screen that mirrored my dark surrounding. Wary of any revealing light I crept blind toward my door. Lowering the handle inch by inch, the landing revealed itself under a new haze of darkness; distorted and filled by an unfamiliar presence.
Stepping cautiously onto a creaking board I rapidly withdrew my step. Rigidly stirred by a bitter chill that raked across my skin I moved, down into the tunnel of my hallway toward the stairs. A descent leading down into the bowels of house that became suddenly very unfamiliar.
Transfixed on the bottom I took my first step. Five down and I could see the front door; dark and monolithic it stood tall amid distant shadows. I considered my escape.
With the exit in sight I made my decision to run. Inhaling deep into my lungs I felt almost prepared when a sudden crack snatched my breath from the air. Terrified I listened to it thudding its way across my living room floor. Though I became frail I turned to run from the emerging sound below; twisting back and bounding across the hall I felt something brush against my feet. Filled with panic I stumbled back into my room, and spinning on my heel stole a glance that carved fear deep into my soul. Slamming the door shut between me and that face squeezed between the railings, I cried out. I heard then a sound of barking floorboards, louder and louder they grew closer as the jagged tap rhythm convulsed along the way. I leapt over to where my guitar lay upon the bed, driving the head quickly beneath the handle as it began to lower. I pushed the guitar up with fleeting strength whilst locking my foot at the base. Feeling the handle grind down into the wood of my old guitar as it erratically tried to enter. For a moment I felt its desire to inflict harm course its way through the handle. The door began to thunder and shake uncontrollably in the moments that lead to its abrupt and final end.
Rooted to the floor I slowly felt my legs give in. Sliding down the wall, I sat cradling the guitar in its locked position for what would be the longest night I’ve ever had to endure. That night I listened for something…anything that suggested it was over, yet nothing changed. The door was again lifeless and ordinary.
As the night faded from black I remained frozen at the foot of my bedroom door. Fighting to stay awake I found myself wavering from the nightmares that lay in wait; fighting until the grey shades of morning bathed my room in new light. Silently I stared at the ceiling. There were no birds to be heard this morning I thought.
As my mind began to reel itself back into a flawed sense of peace, a sudden sound shattered that silence and any sense of calm.
A floorboard cracked gently, and then another moving quietly away from my door. Realizing it had stood in complete silence…just two feet away behind that door left me sick to the stomach and welled up in fright. Was it listening? …waiting?
Since moving back with my parents I’ve replayed these events every night since. My parents had encouraged me to file a police report in hope that an investigation would lead to this person’s arrest. I knew then as much as I know now that this was no person. Regardless, my parents had changed the locks and found new tenants who appear to be extremely happy.
I guess, sometimes a presence like that doesn’t find itself confined to a place but rather a person.
Sometimes I think I can hear that steady tapping pass by my window in the dead of night, but always, when I close my eyes – I still see that wide eyed face smiling up at me through the railings.
Salisbury Police Station
Incident Type: Missing Person
Date/Time Report Made: 19/11/12 – 11:55am
Last Seen: 17/11/12
Last Seen Location: Green Crescent
Height/Weight: 5’8″, 160ibs (Aprox)
Details of Disappearance:
Disappearance from family home, 14 Green Crescent, Salisbury, on the evening of Nov. 17.
Josh was found to be missing from his bedroom after his father checked in on him at approximately 12:30pm on Nov.18. His belongings including his cell phone, wallet and clothing were left behind. His room according Mrs. Fowler was left unchanged.
Detective investigation has lead to the discovery of one unpublished account, experienced by Josh between the dates of 01/11/12 – 14/11/12
External reports indicate Josh to have shown recent signs of experiencing severe hypnagogic hallucinations.
Police continue to use this written account for further investigation. Due to which investigators have acquired reasons to believe a female suspect could be linked to the disappearance of Josh Fowler.
Curiously, a large number of unsolved cases have been found to include a similar female suspect. The details of this female remain limited whilst related victims appear unconnected.
Common depictions portray this suspect as a gaunt smiling woman. Her eyes recalled to be unblinking and her legs broken.
Credit to – Danny Lamerton
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