Tim hadn’t been to the town he was born in in years. His parents moved away from the small town in the Midwest when Tim was very young, after his father got a job offer at a major law firm in Chicago. Tim was sure proud of that man. He had always loved bragging to his friends about his old man, who, in his eyes, was invincible. At least, he seemed so for a long time. Towards the end of his high school career he was caught cheating with a client, and everything his father stood for came crashing down in Tim’s mind. His parents stayed together for the remainder of Tim’s time in high school, just to make it easier on him as he was the last child. Though, he almost wished that they hadn’t. The tension in the house was almost too much to bear, and he frequently found himself sleeping over at friends’ houses to escape it all. After that, it was off to college and the divorce went on through fairly quickly. He attended a fairly prestigious university on the East Coast—nothing fancy like Harvard or the other Ivy League schools, but still, its name carried some weight behind it. It allowed him to land a decent job in Virginia, where he met his now wife. He loved that woman to death—and swore every day to himself that he would always be there for her. Not just physically present, but there emotionally as well. She would forever be the only woman who would ever mean anything to him in a romantic way. He would never, for as long as he lived, betray her like his father did his mother. And he made sure that his wife knew that too. She reciprocated the feelings, though, not as forcefully as Tim did. This reciprocation is what drove them finally to head back to that Midwestern town for Thanksgiving that year. Every year since they’d been married Tim had always volunteered to spend the holiday with her side of the family. She felt guilty, in a way, and made him promise to spend time with his family this year. He agreed, though, not wholeheartedly. His mother had remarried and moved back to that old little town he’d spent the first six years of his life in, in fact even finding a house just down the street to their original abode. He was sort of excited to see the place again, and Lauren was excited to see where her husband was born.
“It’ll be so good to see your Mom again,” she excitedly noted as they stepped out of the airplane and into the small, regional airport.
“Yeah. And Georgie, too.” George was the name of his stepfather. Even though they’d now been married several years, Tim still just didn’t like the idea of calling him “Dad.” Thankfully, George had been kind enough to allow him to affectionately call him “Georgie.” Tim loved the man, don’t get him wrong—there was just something about taking that step to call him “Dad” that made him hesitate. Regardless, he was excited to see them again.
“Oh, baggage claim is this way, honey,” Lauren said, tugging on his arm. Tim followed, out into the small room where a single conveyor belt went around in circles. The bags from the plane were just now filing in, and Tim squinted to try and make out theirs. The airport here was certainly lackluster, to say the least. It felt like a run-down old shack when compared to the might of the airports in large cities like Dulles or O’Hare. But it was kind of quaint too, in a way. Felt homier, which, he supposed, is how Thanksgiving was supposed to feel.
“I see them,” Lauren suddenly said, breaking Tim’s train of thought.
“Here. I’ll get the black one.”
He extended the handle and waited for Lauren, who was still getting her grip on the bag in her hand.
“I got it. Let’s go.”
Tim followed her towards the front doors of the airport, which parted to let in the cool night breeze. Tim shivered a little, wishing he’d pulled out his jacket. The Iowa air was certainly a lot colder than it was in Virginia. He’d largely forgotten how it had felt—living in the South for so many years.
“Timothy!” came the shouts of an elderly woman. “Timothy! Over here!”
“Hi, Mom,” Tim replied, coming ever closer to George’s large, white Suburban.
“Come and give your mother a hug!”
He smiled as he released his suitcase, embracing his mother as instructed.
“Oh, and you too, Lauren!” She released and turned to his wife, the two embracing and patting each other on the back.
“Hey, Timmy,” came the deep, burly voice of Georgie. “Bring it in.”
Tim hugged the hulking man, patting him on the back. “How you doin’ George?”
“Mighty fine, mighty fine. How was your flight?”
“Good until Chicago. I got myself some deep-dish pizza at the airport there. Think it got cross-contaminated with something, or something wasn’t washed properly. I don’t know.”
“You feeling queasy?”
“Only a little.”
“Well, so long as you don’t throw up in my car. I just got it detailed.”
“Don’t worry big guy. Ain’t gonna happen.”
“Ugh! Why do you say ‘ain’t?’ You’re not from the South.”
“Virginia is considered the South.”
“Not the northern half. Richmond… sure. That’s the South. Just outside of Washington? You’re in the Northeast right there.”
“Well then maybe I just picked up on it in college.”
“Maybe!” he laughed. “Hey! You girls! You done hugging yet? It’s freezing! I wanna get in the car!”
“We’ve been waiting on you two.”
“Well, we’re both done here.”
“Then let’s get going! We do need to leave if we want to make it back before ten-thirty.”
Tim looked at his phone. Nine-forty-five. He sighed, not looking forward to sitting in a small seat for almost another hour. But, the bed which awaited him and Lauren back home…. Well, that made it all worth it. He and Georgie piled up the suitcases and carry-on bags into the trunk of the Chevy as Lauren and his mother got into the cab. Him and George went around opposite sides of the vehicle, Tim getting in behind his mother on the passenger’s side.
“Here we go!”
The car lurched forward, and they were off.
The sunlight slowly penetrated Tim’s eyelids, and his snores faded away. He looked to his side to see Lauren, still fast asleep. She had stayed up later than he did last night, talking to his mother and George and his older brother Tyson and his wife who were already here. He opted to head to bed early in order to take care of his stomach. He was feeling somewhat better this morning, but still, it would take time for him to come around fully.
Deciding that it was pointless to lay there he climbed out of bed to start his day. One bathroom trip and a shower later, he was about to get dressed. Lauren was stirring as he gently unzipped his suitcase, and he began moving the zipper more slowly. He grimaced as the sound seemed to be even louder than before, but eventually the lid was off and his clothes were back on. He wore a simple polo, jeans, and some sandals (which he would inevitably need to change to go outside in this cold air). He went up the stairs from the basement bedroom, mouth watering at the idea of cooking up some scrambled eggs and maybe some hash browns too if his mother and Georgie had any. Afterall, today was Wednesday. It was tomorrow he had to save room for dinner. A farm-fresh egg sounded heavenly, and it was just a few steps away….
It was quiet up there. He enjoyed the stillness of the morning, before the chaos of the day ensued. Though, he was used to less creaky floorboards. The part of town he had grown up in and his mother had moved into was on the older side. Most of the construction in this neighborhood here took place just after World War One. He had tried to convince his mother to buy something in a newer part of town, but she insisted on this location. Funny, considering that the town was so small everything was the same location in his mind. This place didn’t even have a Walmart. Really, she should have been able to—
Tim stopped dead in his tracks just before the kitchen, his eyes locked on something out the window. A house… a house directly across the street that he had forgotten about. It was dark when they got back last night, and he hadn’t seen much of the town on the way in, including this house. But he… he remembered it. It was an old shack of a home: discolored siding, glazed over windows, a roof so old one could see individual strands of fiberglass amongst the scaly shingles. Hadn’t been properly taken care of in decades. He remembered there being a sale sign out front of it way back when he was a kid… yes. No one ever seemed to want it. Why would they? It was a shab. Probably dangerous to go inside. Yet, it hadn’t been at all bulldozed. Honestly, a playground or something would go well there.
Though, he doubted that any of the neighborhood kids would want to play there. According to the children of this town the place was haunted. Had been for as long as anyone could remember. Tim remembered one time playing with his Kindergarten classmates out on this street. Cops and Robbers or something of the sort. He and Matt Daymen were some of the robbers, and they had thought it would be a good idea to go and hide in some of the overgrown bushes to ambush the cops when they came by. Well, sort of. They had both heard the stories plenty of times to know that the house was supposedly home to something unnatural. But, by Matt’s logic, as long as they didn’t go inside they’d be fine. Tim begrudgingly agreed, not wanting to look like the scared younger friend. So, they stayed hidden in the bushes. Probably for no longer than five minutes, which would have felt like hours to little Tim’s kid-mind. The creaks coming from the house which Tim heard eventually drove him to go sprinting out of the bushes, where he was caught by the other kids who were the cops. Matt was understandably frustrated that his cover had been blown, but Tim was just too darn afraid of those noises. The stupid thing was probably just settling some more than it already had over the past several decades, or the wind resonated through the crawlspace floorboards underneath. Regardless, Tim was scared enough to never go near the house again for as long as they lived there. Yet, that didn’t stop him from continuing to look at it in a kind of silent wonder. Wondering what exactly was in there. Was it a ghost? Was it a vampire? Some kind of witch inside?
One day when riding his bike with some friends they had been passing the house, and poor little Tim fell off his bike in fright when he saw something moving in the window. In his adult mind now, he could easily see the movement just being a simple reflection against the cloudy glass. A dog he wasn’t looking at running across the street. The garage door of a neighbor opening up. Even his own bike rolling down could have been it. But, instead, he panicked and went home. Most of his friends had believed what he told them about seeing the monster inside, as they all had grown up hearing the wretched stories about the place too.
“Huh?” He suddenly snapped out of his daze at the sound of his mother’s voice.
“Can I make you some breakfast?”
“Huh? Oh… sure. I can make it myself, though. I know that you’ve got a busy day coming up.”
“Oh, it’s no problem. It isn’t everyday I get to cook for my little boy again.”
He blushed. “Alright.”
“What can I make ya?”
“Oh, some farm fresh eggs sound really good right about now.”
“Oh? Did I never tell you? We’ve gotten rid of the chicken coop.”
“Yes, too much work for Georgie in his old age.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.”
“I still have normal eggs though, if you’re still interested.”
“I guess I’ll have to settle for the store-bought stuff,” he smiled, giving off a little wink.
“I’ll see what I can do then.”
He sat down at the table, palm on his stomach. It gurgled a little bit. He let a wince show through on his face. It’s not like it hurt or anything, but he could see it being the beginning of a painful stomach bug.
“What were you looking at out there?”
“Oh, just that old house across the street. I thought that it would’ve been torn down by now.”
“Oh, yeah. You’d think so, huh? For whatever reason though the city just isn’t bulldozing it.”
“I would say that they should put a playground there but I don’t think anyone would play on it.”
“‘Cause everyone always said it was haunted. The kids wouldn’t want to play on ‘unholy’ ground.”
His mother rolled her eyes. “You’d be surprised what kids can adjust to. When you were a toddler, you wouldn’t eat carrots until I started calling them ‘rocket fuel.’ After that, carrots were practically all you ate. If they put a playground there, I guarantee you just a few days later there’d be kids on it.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“You never went in there on a dare, did you?”
“Mom! I was six when we left here. Maybe if I was in middle school I would have, but not next to toddlerhood.”
She laughed. “Well good to hear. Wouldn’t want you going in there and falling through rotting floorboards.”
“Has that happened?”
“Once to my knowledge. As scary as it is for kids, it’s a death trap for teenagers trying to prove how ‘cool’ they are.” She rolled her eyes. “Stupid kids.”
“Yeah. Don’t understand why you had any at all.”
“Oh, the three of you were a dream. I loved it. Ah—by dream I don’t mean easy. I meant fulfilling. Just you wait until you have kids. You’ll love it.”
“I hope so,” he snorted. “Speaking of the three of us, when does Mindy arrive?”
“This afternoon, just after one.”
“Good, good. It’ll be nice to see her again. I don’t think we’ve seen each other in… wow. Two years now?”
“It’s so sad how family drifts apart as they age.”
“Thank goodness for Thanksgiving to remind us all about it.”
She came over with his plate of eggs, which he gladly began to wolf down. He wasn’t halfway done when he felt his wife’s hands on his shoulders.
“What time are we going out today for you to show me around?”
“Alright. I guess I had better eat something too, then.”
“Yeah, I guess you’d better,” he smiled. Lauren headed over towards the fridge, pulling the eggs back out.
“And how’d you sleep last night, Lauren?”
“Oh, good, good! I must say, the bedsheets you’ve got down there are absolutely…”
Tim slowed down as he finished eating his eggs, his eyes fixated on the kitchen window looking out to the street. Back at that house again. That vacant, rotting building. No wonder no one had bought it if people were falling through the floors inside. That had to have been a nightmare. Huh, because it’s “haunted,” nightmare?
Tim chuckled to himself as he continued to stare into the windows of that building. Though he was an adult now, and almost thirty at that, his instinct was still to fear that house. It had been so rooted into him from a young age, his body just seemed to naturally want to be frightened. In his mind played visions of something creeping through that place—floorboards squeaking as it crawled over them… doors slamming as the thing slithered about the house. Or floated, who was he to discriminate against specters? The thing would creep around corners, watching the children from the road as it got ready to strike…
He gave himself a shiver thinking about it. It was sort of fun to believe that there was something in there, watching him through the windows. Peering into his. He imagined that it would have been fun to grow up all the way here, where he could’ve gone to high school with his head full of more rumors about the haunts in there. Then again, doing so likely would’ve tainted the memory of this town had his father still done what he ended up doing in Chicago. This place would be full of pain rather than nostalgia, and he much rather would take the nostalgia.
“You ready, babe?”
“You zoned out again,” his mother interjected.
“Oh. Sorry. Yeah, let me just finish my eggs and then go to get my jacket.”
“And change your shoes, too.”
“Right. Will do that.”
He finished his eggs real quick, then went back to the basement to put on something more suitable for the weather outside. Up he came a few minutes later, close-toed sneakers on his feet and a light jacket.
“Don’t you want to wear some boots, Tim?” Lauren asked as he came up the steps.
“Why? The snow we got last night was only a dusting.”
“Alright. Your frostbitten toes,” she chuckled. He couldn’t help but grin as well as she came up to stand by him, linking her arm with his.
“Bye Ma! See you in a few!”
“Bye honeys, don’t slip on the sidewalks.”
The two of them exited the door, Lauren’s head snuggled against Tim’s shoulder as they went down their front porch towards the road. His eyes followed the old house as they turned away from it, snapping back to the sidewalk in front of him after a few moments to prevent tripping.
“And, well, that brings us back to here,” he stated, gesturing back to his street.
“I wonder what it would have been like to go to a small high school like that,” she sighed.
“Yeah, me too. The schools in Chicago were not small.”
“Yeah. Now, let’s hurry back inside! I’m freezing out here!”
“Go ahead and run up ahead. I’ll catch up.”
“Well, no. I’ll wait for you. Tim. Tim? Tim!”
“Tim, you feeling okay?”
“Yeah, my stomach just hurts a little.”
“No, I meant that you were staring.”
“Yeah. I just guess… well, I guess that there’s one more stop on the tour. Behold: the haunted house of the town.”
Lauren looked blankly at it. “Doesn’t look haunted. Haunted houses are painted black, with red windows. This one just looks… well, it looks blah. Like it’s died five times.”
“Yeah, pretty run down for sure.”
“Probably somewhere all the meth-heads gather up.”
“Yeah, it was probably a crackhouse for a little bit. Back in the sixties, I imagine.”
“Poor, poor house. No one loves it anymore.”
“Nah, are you kidding? Knowing the way this house was talked about growing up it’s worshiped by the middle schoolers here. Oh, so much folklore can surround a place like this.”
“I bet. You ever go inside?”
“Oh, heavens no.”
“Why not? You scared?”
“Nah, it’s too dangerous in there.”
“Because of the ghost?”
“Because it’s literally falling apart. Should be bulldozed, quite honestly.”
“Eh, I guess so.” She leaned her head back on his shoulder after a few moments. “Now can we go back inside?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
The two began walking, but… Tim kept his eyes firmly on the building behind them, relying on Lauren to tug his hand in the right direction. She was right—it wasn’t painted black, it didn’t have evil-looking red tinted windows, but to him it still looked like it could be haunted. It really could be. Just an old, run-down house in a somewhat old, run-down part of a town in an old, run-down part of the country. And what if it was? Wouldn’t that be neat? His mother and Georgie living right across the street from a haunted house? Oh, the Halloween possibilities! Could be a really cool place to decorate come that time of year. Could be…
“Alright, well, I’m going to bed,” Lauren said, standing up from the table.
“Oh, so soon?” Mindy moaned.
“Yeah. Got to be well-rested for tomorrow. A long day of helping Mom in the kitchen,” Lauren replied.
“Goodnight, Lauren,” Tim’s mother said.
“Goodnight,” Georgie chimed in.
“Yeah, ‘night. Just please be careful, Lauren, don’t wake up the baby down there!”
“Madison, she knows!” scolded Tyson. Lauren just laughed it off.
“Goodnight, honey. See you downstairs in a bit,” she said, giving Tim a peck on the forehead. He too gave his nightly farewells to her as she began descending down the stairs.
“Well, I’m probably gonna head out too,” said the mother. “Coming, George?”
“Yes, dear. I’ll come in with ya.” He grunted as he managed to his feet, following her down the hall.
There was the sudden sound of a baby crying, and Madison cursed as she got to her feet. “Oh, that Lauren! I’m going to have a word with her!”
“Wait, Maddie! Ugh. babies just wake up sometimes! Don’t blame Lauren!” Tyson clamored to his feet and followed after his wife, the two bickering like they’d been married for years.
“Well, that’s just us, then,” Mindy observed, turning to Tim.
“Yeah, I guess it is. Have any more card games up your sleeve?”
“Nah, just a craving for ice cream.”
“Eh, I’d save it for tomorrow. We’ll get plenty of pie.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. Although, I’ve heard that ice cream does give you crazy dreams if you eat it right before bed…”
“Oh come on! You don’t want one of those really weird ones?”
“Well, I do. Come on. I won’t eat any unless you do. I’ll feel bad otherwise.”
Tim sighed. “Very well, choose the flavor.”
Mindy got to her feet, strolling across the kitchen towards the freezer.
“How does mint chocolate sound?” she asked.
“Any ones with fruit-streaks through them?”
“No, just the mint.”
“Alright. I’ll take it.”
She came back over carrying two spoons and quickly ripped the lid off.
Shoved her spoon in, spinning it to cut out a bite. Tim just sat there, spoon in hand, looking. Out the window, towards the house.
‘Tim? You gonna eat any?”
He took his eyes off of the building only for a second, getting a small amount of the green ice cream on his spoon.
“Remember that old haunted house here in town?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Anyone you know ever have… an ‘encounter’ with it?”
She paused. “No, why?”
“Eh, just wondering.”
“Is that what you’ve been staring at all day? The house?”
“I haven’t been staring at it all day.”
“You have since I got here.”
“Well, I mean, can you blame me? It’s interesting to think about it as being haunted. Now, as an adult, with a new understanding of the world. Do you mean to tell me you don’t get even a little excited at the thought of it?”
“No. And I think that you should try and think about something else before you go to bed. Your ice cream dreams will be all about ghosts and crap like that. Those are the not-so-fun vivid dreams to have.”
“Maybe? There ain’t no maybe about it. I don’t wanna have any nightmares tonight. Change the subject.”
“Remember back when you were in high school when Mom caught you in the closet with that—”
“Goodnight, little bro.” She stood up suddenly, putting the lid on the ice cream. “See ya tomorrow.” She placed the carton back in the freezer, stopping by to ruffle his hair as she passed him.
Tim chuckled to himself, mentally patting himself on the back for such a clever joke. His gaze settled on the table in front of him, his body slowly decreasing its movement. The spoon was still in his mouth, partially hanging out as the grip from his right hand slowly loosened. His eyes followed the patterns on the table in the dim light—the bending of the grain around the knots, the straight shots in the same grain between them. Up, down. Round and round. A pretty table for sure. Been in the family for a while, he knew. Yes, a nice, pretty old table…
A stark contrast to the not-so-nice old house across the street. Within a few minutes, Tim found himself looking over at that building again, staring intently at it. In the darkness the thing was only illuminated by the street lamps just off a few dozen yards to the right. The yellow siding of the house gave off an eerie sort of glow in that pale light, ever so slight, ever so menacing. Except… Tim thought he saw… a light. Coming from inside.
He leaned forward, sure that his eyes were fooling him. But, no. The closer he got, the brighter the light seemed to become. There was a sort of dim glow inside one of the upstairs windows. Bright enough that if someone were to walk behind that window, he would be able to see the shadow. It was a yellow light, But… what was it doing switched on? Surely the last tenants of that house died decades ago, and their electric services were long past expired. And even if that weren’t the case—who would have been crazy enough to go up there and turn on the lights? Didn’t they know that the floor could collapse from underneath them at any time?
Tim started to wonder if maybe he should go outside and let whoever was up there know that they were unsafe. He could throw on his jacket, and go out in front of his parents’ house and start waving his arms around and shouting to get their attention. It might annoy the neighbors, sure, but it was better to wake up a few sleepy old folks than to let someone possibly get hurt. Yes, he would have to do that. He just needed to quickly—
His heart froze upon seeing it. The window. It… it was melting. He could clearly see the glass lumping together down at the base of the viewing port. The wood in the middle seemed to be going along with it… running down the yellow siding of the house. The light outside of there now was brighter than before, as if the window had been blocking it and now the true yellowy haze of the inside could escape into the wintery air. And then… then something moved inside. A hand… a large, black and twisted hand moved outside of the window.
Followed by that was the silhouette of a head. It looked unusually tall, unusually thin. What… what was he watching? What was he watching crawl down the side of the house, like a squirrel? What was he watching cross the street like some sort of snake, slithering and churning itself? What was he watching come up to his own window… reaching through the glass pane…
Tim awoke with a start, his sweaty hands still clutching the spoon. He was still in the chair, slumped down a little. His eyelids felt heavy, and he was still catching his breath. With a horrific sense of impending danger he forced himself to look out the window. The house across the street… It was dark. No yellow glows. No other-worldly creatures crawling out of its windows. Just… just as it always had been.
He stood up, casting down his spoon. Had he just dreamed that whole thing? The creature coming across the street towards him, sure, he dreamed that. He was sure. But the light… had he dreamed the light in the house? He… he could’ve sworn seeing it. It was just after Mindy left. He had seen that for real, he knew it. Then again, his body felt equally sure he had seen that thing coming towards him. Maybe… maybe he had dreamed of the light too. Maybe there wasn’t any light ever after all. The house had stayed dim the whole time, quite possibly. He thought. No, the light had to have been real. But, the light being real made that thing feel real too…
“Ice cream gives you weird dreams, huh? Mindy, I hope you never talk me into eating ice cream this late at night again.” Huh. And the ice cream hadn’t helped his stomach at all.
Lauren was already out of the bed. Tim had slept in longer than she did, as he had trouble falling asleep after that little nap at the kitchen table last night. He wasn’t preoccupied with the light in the window across the street or anything, just more of the fact that his body wasn’t quite as tired anymore. Maybe due to the adrenaline that creature had induced in him.
“I’ll be upstairs helping Mom. Come up when you’re done in bed, sleepy.”
“Uh-huh,” he groaned. He heard the door to their bedroom open close, and Lauren began up the stairs. Tim shifted in bed, yawning and stretching as he smacked his lips with the taste of morning breath. He climbed out to start getting ready for the day, first stop: the bathroom. Slippers and bathrobe on, he headed to where he’d find his toothbrush and a warm shower. He paused right before he opened the door, however, a sudden sense of dread coming over him. He had an image of that creature standing behind him in the mirror flash through his mind. His hands tensed up, and his body ran cold.
“Stupid imagination,” he scolded. “It was just a dumb dream. There wasn’t anything.”
He pushed forward, opening the door in front of him.
“Surprise, surprise,” he groaned. “Nothing.”
He got showered and dressed up, his teeth brushed with the freshness of his mint flavored paste. He made his way up the stairs to the kitchen where the business of Thanksgiving morning had already settled over the room.
“Hey, Tyson! Could you come and open the oven for me real quick?” Madison shouted as Tim came up from the stairs. “Hurry up! I’m gonna drop it!”
Tim quickly realized she was talking to him, and he rushed over to open the oven for his sister-in-law. She slid it in and stood to thank him, obviously getting startled by Tim being there instead of her husband.
“Sorry, I had thought that Tyson had just come up. Is he still asleep?”
“Darn, Tyson! I keep telling him that he’s got to start getting up earlier! When will that man listen? I mean, for Pete’s sake…”
Tim only uncomfortably smiled as he listened to Madison’s ranting, making eye contact with Mindy as he did so. She chuckled, and began swirling her finger about her head as she went cross-eyed and stuck out her tongue. Tim nodded in agreement, loitering a moment longer before moving away from Madison and heading over to wish his mother a good morning.
“Good morning, Timothy,” she greeted as he came closer.
“How are you this morning, Mom?”
“I’m doing swell, thank you for asking honey.”
“Anything I can help with?”
“Um… if you want you can go and fetch me two cans of sweetened condensed milk from the basement.”
“Morning, Timmy,” Lauren greeted.
“Morning, honey,” he replied, giving her a quick kiss before continuing on his quest. He passed through the entryway and went back down the basement to grab the cans. A can in each hand after a minute or two of looking through the food storage and he was back up, on a direct path for the kitchen when he slowed down… coming to a stop.
The house across the street… there was… there was something inside of it. He could see the vague outline of a figure in the window. It… it just stood there… motionless. Staring. Staring at him. It… it made him uncomfortable somehow. He very well knew it was probably just a trick of the light—or an uneven frosting of the window. But he just felt like there was someone… or something there. He could swear it. It was there. Or, was he just still frazzled by that dream last night?
“Where’s that milk?”
He snapped out of his daze, rushing over to the kitchen again. Time to focus on the Thanksgiving feast that waited for him that afternoon.
Tim stood at the kitchen sink, looking through the window that overviewed the abandoned house. His stomach full and heavy, he held a glass of water in his hand hoping to dilute some of the fats he had consumed that day, which had only made his stomach feel worse. His stomach was a lot easier to dilute than his mind. All day, he had been thinking about that house. Maybe it was the dream he had had last night had just stuck with him, or him thinking he had seen a figure in the window that morning. But, his mind seemed fixated on the thing. He tried getting to family conversations at dinner, and he was able to be fairly sociable, but his mind was elsewhere the whole time. Something just didn’t feel right about that house. He just couldn’t put his finger on it. It’s not like he wanted to focus on it, he just couldn’t help it. Some primal instinct in him was telling him to focus on it. Through the waning light of the evening, his eyes stared at that house with fervor. There was something there. It was staring at him, and he was staring at it. Waiting for them to make their move. What it was, Tim couldn’t say.
He suddenly jumped when the window across the street illuminated. Just one of them—the same one which had last time. His stomach turned over in his stomach as the flash of light reached him. That pale, yellow glow seemed to invade his eyes like an unwanted parasite. He couldn’t take them off of it. The image of the milky glass seemed to make his heart speed up in its function. He could hear it in his ears. His arms were getting warmer. The heavy Thanksgiving meal felt heavier and heavier, and Tim found himself struggling to stay on his own two feet as he saw a shadow moving through the window. He took a step back, suddenly unable to breathe for a moment. The window… it was doing it again. It was… melting. The glass was running down the wood siding and collecting in a pool in the snow. That hand… that hand reached out of the window again. It snaked down the wall, the unnaturally tall, faceless head following behind it. One at a time, the thing brought its legs out of the rectangular hole in the wall and began walking forward again. Right towards the window Tim now stared out of. As if the shaking in his arms wasn’t enough, the glass just above the kitchen sink began to become… milky. Less solid. His eyes refused to move, and Tim had to force his neck to turn and see the droplets of liquid glass running down the lower panes. They pooled on the windowsill, eventually pouring over onto the counter. There was the sudden sound of wood cracking as Tim looked up in horror to see the black hand reaching through the thin wooden beams which separated the different panes in the kitchen window. Through the window those long, spindly finger came, almost touching his neck. He felt his lungs shutting down as everything in his body found itself paralyzed, yet he continued to tremble until—
He opened his eyes, letting out a holler as he fell onto the floor.
“Tim! Are you alright?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah…” he panted in response to his wife’s question.
“You sure? You were just… staring out the window. You ignored me for almost two minutes! Tim, what’s going on?”
Tim looked back over the kitchen sink to see a fully intact arrangement of glass panes and slim wooden beams. The house across the street was as dark as ever—rivaling the night sky that now hung over the small Iowa town.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m alright. I just… I guess I zoned out for a minute there.”
“You’ve been staring at that house all day, Tim. What’s going on here? Are you really okay?”
“Yeah, I just need sleep. I guess I’m so tired I’m starting to see things.”
“What… what kinds of things?”
He remained silent for a few moments. “I… I don’t know.”
“Come on down to bed. You’re obviously pretty exhausted.”
“Yeah, okay. I’m coming.”
Lauren nodded as she turned to head back to the bedroom. Tim got back to his feet, approaching the kitchen window one last time before heading down for the night. The house across the street was completely lifeless. No lights, no motion, not even a gentle breeze seemed to be blowing by the tree which stood next to it. All that could be seen was what the moonlight bathed itself over or what the faint light from the kitchen managed to gloss over. Just a quiet landscape, with not even a freshly plowed street. Except…
Tim thought he saw… footprints. Coming across that unplowed street from the window of the house, over to his own. They were large… almost human-like, but not quite. The lengths of the toes didn’t seem to match the size of the foot.
Tim stumbled away from the window, looking back to the house with wide eyes. But, nothing happened.
“Sleep,” he muttered to himself. “I’m seeing things, I just need sleep. I’m tired. That’s all.”
What sleep he got that night he wasn’t sure. He awoke the next morning to Lauren getting ready for the day, and his eyelids felt as baggy as ever. His stomach was still full from the feast the day before, and the subtle nausea which had plagued him the last several days wasn’t getting any better. The lack of sleep didn’t help. Images of that thing played through his mind all night that night. He couldn’t seem to get his mind off of it. He wasn’t sure how to feel about it… he knew it couldn’t be real. All those feelings of being watched yesterday were imagined. There was nothing over there. Nothing at all. He was just being paranoid about an old tale from his childhood. Nobody else seemed to be noticing anything. It was all in his head, and for some reason his head refused to be logical in any way whatsoever.
“You coming Black Friday shopping with us today?” Lauren asked.
“Black Friday shopping? Lauren… we can’t pack anything in our luggage.”
“I know. That’s why I was planning on mailing it to us.”
“That’s gonna be expensive.”
“It’ll be cheaper than buying it all at full price in Virginia.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“So, you coming or not?”
“Yeah, I’m coming. When are we leaving?”
“Thirty minutes or so.”
“Alright. I can get ready in that time.”
“Great! See you upstairs after your shower.”
He nodded, rubbing the sleep away from his eyes. He yawned as he got up from bed, the pictures of that creature from the night before still plaguing his mind. He tried so desperately to shake them off, but he just couldn’t seem to think about anything else. Again, he felt a sense of dread going into the bathroom alone without any of the lights on. A vision of the mirror melting in front of him flashed through his mind just before opening the door, and he almost didn’t. Showering wasn’t that important. All he’d be doing today was heading to a bunch of outlet malls forty minutes away in a town where nobody knew him, nor that he would ever visit again. It wouldn’t matter, right?
He first scolded himself for thinking such things before walking into the bathroom to get ready. There was nothing wrong with the mirror, nothing hiding in the shower either. Everything was normal. Except, of course, for his frazzled mind.
He finished up downstairs quickly and headed up to make sure he’d be in the car before everyone took off. He wasn’t hungry enough for breakfast, still full from the night before, and thus passed on the offer his mother made to him when asking if he wanted leftover pie for breakfast.
“Nah, that’s okay. Let’s just get out there and start this day.”
“Oh, you’re gonna love some of the deals they’ve got here! The Menard’s in town is supposed to have some very nice deals on some of those lawn tools you like.”
“Oh, Mom. You know that Timmy doesn’t garden,” Mindy chimed in.
“I’ve started trying to take it up,” he rebutted.
“Really? How’s it going for ya?”
“Eh, I’ll just say I like to learn from my mistakes.”
“Well we’ll all head out once Tyson and Maddie are ready.”
Tim nodded, slowly zoning out again as his eyes fixated on the view of the house through the front door. It still remained as quiet as ever, yet something inside of him seemed to just know that that was not the case. All rationales for why he had been imagining whatever that thing was flew out of his mind. He could feel something still staring at him through that window. Tim felt more and more uncomfortable the more he looked, and more and more unable to shift his gaze the more uncomfortable he became. Something was in there. He just knew it. And instinct told him that it was that creature, whatever it was called. The thing that could melt the windows. The things that could slither and crawl and walk all at the same time. The thing that slowly seemed to be making its way into his mind.
“Tim! They’re here. You feeling okay?”
He looked around to see his family staring at him, worried expressions on all of their faces.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You sure? You were just… staring at that house. You didn’t seem to be able to look away. We were trying to get you to respond for at least thirty seconds.”
He shrugged. “Thirty seconds isn’t that long of a time.”
“It is when you’re trying to get the attention of your brother that’s standing four feet in front of you.”
“I’m… sorry. I guess I’m just not feeling that well.”
“You sure you want to come?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be fine.”
His mother placed a hand on his cheek. “Nobody is forcing you to come.”
“No, no I want to.”
“Okay.” She slowly lifted her hand, turning around to head into the garage. Lauren stared at him from behind her, an eyebrow raised as everyone filed around her towards the cars.
“Tim… I’m starting to worry about you and that house. You haven’t been able to stop staring at it.”
“I… I know. And I’m sorry. It’s just…”
“We’ll talk about it on the drive out. Just… try to not think about that house, okay?”
“Promise,” he lied. She nodded and took his hand, guiding him to the car. His stomach made a gurgling sound, the nausea seeming to kick in again. Darn that place in O’Hare. He’d been sick for days now!
He and Lauren got into the Suburban, with Georgie at the wheel.
“Hold onto your butts, we’re gonna go fast!”
“Dad, please don’t do anything crazy,” Mindy pleaded.
“I won’t. This ride is gonna be perfectly normal.”
“I doubt that,” she sighed. Georgie smiled.
“Well, maybe you just have a different definition of what crazy is…”
The two continued their banter, but Tim somewhere along the way stopped registering it. His eyes fixated on the house as they passed it. He didn’t even notice Lauren snapping in front of his face in a desperate attempt to move his eyes away from the place. He just couldn’t. He could feel the eyes of whatever inhabited that building following their car as they passed it.
“The windows…” he muttered. His stomach continued to twist and churn, the nausea getting worse at a faster rate than it had been the previous days. It matched the way he felt in general right now, though. Uncertain and anxious. He was only partially grateful when the house departed from view, the other half of his mind wanting to return in order to stare at it. Instead, he found himself staring out of his window as they went deeper into the countryside. The few buildings in that small town slowly but surely were replaced by harvested cornfields, some of the browned husks still blowing around. Blowing… blowing… blowing…
He… he couldn’t quite see them anymore. The husks. Or the fields. The window seemed… murky. He places his forearm on it to wipe away the fog from his breath with his coat sleeve, but nothing happened. No matter how hard he rubbed, it stayed milky. Milky… and… and soft. The car window… it was soft. And flexible. Like… like it was…
He suddenly gasped as he saw the droplets running down the looking glass, more and more joining their brothers and sisters on the door. A cool air blew through the top of the window as the liquid glass ran down onto the floor of the car, sending chills down Tim’s spine as his arms began to shake.
A quartet of black, spindly fingers wrapped around the edge of the door. They were soon joined by another, and the top of a pitch black forehead poked up from the hole in the door.
“No! The window! It’s in the window! It’s in the window! It’s coming for me! Don’t let it get to me! No!”
The hand began to reach through the empty space that had once been filled by glass, the slender sticks that were the fingers of the creature bending in places they weren’t supposed to. The pointed index of the thing was not two inches from his nose when he felt Lauren suddenly grabbing his shoulder and spinning him around.
He stared blankly at her, the nausea in his stomach suddenly coming to a peak as he dry-heaved.
“Tim! TIm! TIm! Oh my gosh, Tim!”
The dry-heaving stopped, and Tim found himself looking into Lauren’s eyes.
“Tim, what’s going on? What were you shouting about?”
“The thing! I was shouting about…”
His heart sank as he turned to see a perfectly intact window.
“Georgie, turn around. We’ve got to take Tim home.”
Georgie made eye contact with Lauren through the rearview mirror, nodding as he turned towards the right of the next intersection in preparation to turn the car around.
“No, I’m fine. Really.”
“No, you were just screaming about nothing and then almost vomited all over me. We’re taking you back to the house. I’m worried you have some severe food poisoning.”
“No. That’s impossible. That food in Chicago was days ago!”
“All the more reason to be concerned about this. We’re going back.”
Tim nodded, knowing that he couldn’t argue with his wife over this. She would win, as she had the driver of the car on her side. And… maybe he was okay with that. As the car continued back towards their small town, his eyes again fixated on that window. He felt his hands starting to shake again. His nausea was getting worse now, and it was becoming more and more difficult to see straight. He wished that he couldn’t see straight at all, because when they pulled into their neighborhood and he saw that house the world went dark.
He slowly became aware of his surroundings, realizing that he had passed out. He was laying down. He felt Lauren’s palm on his shoulder too, she was by his side. He let his eyes open a little, relieved to find himself in the basement where there were no windows.
“Oh, that goodness you’re awake! Tim, I was so worried! What… what’s going on here?”
He just stared, blinking a few times before he replied. “I… I don’t know.”
“Are you still feeling nauseous?”
“Tim, what were you screaming about in the car? I’m really getting worried about you. Everyone is. We canceled the Black Friday shopping altogether.”
“What was I screaming about in the car?”
“I… I don’t know,” he lied. “I was just… screaming, I guess. I ought to just be left alone, I’m really feeling poorly.”
“Tim, I’m not gonna leave you alone. In sickness and in health.”
“No, it’s alright. I’m fine down here. You head on up there and be with everyone.”
“I don’t want to leave you Tim.”
“I’ll be fine, really.”
She nodded. “Okay. Do you want to come up and eat something? Your Mom made you some soup.”
Up? Upstairs? His mind began swimming with images of that thing again. There were windows upstairs. He… he couldn’t do it.”
“Is there any way you could bring that down here instead? I’m not feeling up for being…” He swallowed. “…up there.”
His wife nodded, departing and coming back with the soup after a few minutes.
He did so, his eyes locked on the door that led up to the kitchen and dining room and living room. All those rooms that had… windows….
He had spent the rest of that Friday huddled in his bed, frozen as his mind continued to think of that thing that seemed to be in every window. Those windows… those horrid windows… he couldn’t even stomach the thought of looking through a glass vase. That thing would be there. In all of the windows. He had to stay as far away from those glass panels as he could, and that is why when Lauren came downstairs that Saturday morning to invite him up for breakfast he had to hold his breath to keep from screaming.
“No. I’m okay.”
“Tim, you need to eat something.”
“Just bring it down here please.”
“You ought to interact with someone too. It’s not fair on you to stay down here. Just bring that trash can with you for a throw-up bin and everything will be alright.”
“No. I can’t.”
“I can’t go upstairs.”
“I just can’t! Oh… I’m sorry. I… I didn’t mean to yell.”
“Just come upstairs, Timmy. Everything will be alright, I promise.”
He stared for what felt like several minutes, looking not at his wife but just past her at the hallway which led to the windows. He knew that he was being foolish. All this had to be all in his head. There… there was no window creature. This was stupid. At least, that’s what he told himself. Whether he believed it or not was another matter.
He climbed to his feet, grabbing the trash can by his bed as he went toward Lauren.
“Come on baby.”
She placed a hand on his shoulder as he began up the stairs, his heart thudding with the force of a steam engine every time his foot hit the next step. No… no… no… no… no….
He shut his eyes tight as the light from those windows flooded into his eyes. His head felt like it was spinning, the visage of that thing floating through his mind over and over and over again….
“Timothy? How are you feeling?” came the familiar sweet voice of his mother.
“Fine,” he fibbed, keeping his eyes shut tight.
“Timothy? Why are you closing your eyes?”
He froze up, half embarrassed, half terrified to answer. He feared that just the thought of that thing would summon it.
“Tim? You okay?” Tyson said, a hint of worry in his words. Tim took a deep sigh, and forced his eyes open.
“Sorry, just a little bright up here with the… the… the windows,” he gulped. His mother smiled at him, putting her hand on his shoulder.
“Come on over here, honey. I’ve made some eggs for you.”
She began guiding her son towards the dining area, his everything throbbing with every inch closer they got to it. There were windows in there. He… he couldn’t do it. The windows… the windows!
“I… I can’t. Just bring me the food in the basement.”
“Tim, you’ve been cooped up down there for way too long. You need some social stimulation. Tim? Tim!”
Tim had drowned them out with his racing thoughts. Not on purpose or anything, simply a byproduct of seeing the window across the street melted out of its frame.
“Oh no oh no oh no no no no no…”
“It’s out. The window! The window, look!”
The heads turned towards the kitchen window, quizzical expressions on all their faces.
“The window across the street! No. No. No. No. No!”
The pane on the front door suddenly began to ooze, and Tim took several steps backward before tripping on his own two feet and falling to the ground hard. A soaring pain exploded through his elbows, but his mind refused to register it as everything inside of him seized up all at once.
“It’s coming! It’s coming!”
A long, spindly hand placed itself on the edge of the window frame as the glass continued to melt. The arm lowered itself towards the doorknob, the twisted fingers wrapping themselves around the brass handle. It turned, slowly… slowly…
“Tim! What’s wrong?”
“Get it away! Get it away! It’s coming through the window! It’s coming in! It’s coming in!”
The door swung open to reveal the full figure of the blackened faceless creature, its legs now beginning to step inside of the house.
It moved quickly and silently, coming right for Tim. Its hand reached out for him, almost upon his neck when the hands of his wife grabbed him head and swiveled it around to look her in the eye.
Out of breath, he stared at Lauren. No elongated hand touched him, and he looked towards the door. The window inside was intact, and the door itself remained steadfastly deadbolted. Tim felt a tear beginning to roll down his cheek, followed by another, and then another.
“Please, get me away from the windows.”
That night when Lauren came down to their room Tim was already in bed, knees close to his chest. She tried to talk to him as the night waned on, but the conversation was entirely one-sided. Tim refused to respond. He just couldn’t. That thing kept coming into his mind, and his nausea was now more extreme than ever. At any moment he felt he could simply expel his innards. There would be not only stomach acid but his entire digestive tract on the floor of the room.
Eventually Lauren gave up on trying to get Tim to talk. She turned out the lights, and began on her way to sleep. Tiom stayed put in the same position he had been in all day, going through bouts of nervous sweats and freezing chills. He was done. He was done with this. That thing, coming through the windows. He was done! Now more. No more windows. They had to go—all of them. That creature only came through the windows. If there were no windows, it couldn’t come in. It hadn’t entered through the door, afterall. It favored the glass. Well, Tim’s mind was made up. He needed to be able to interact with his family without freaking out. He knew where Goergie kept his old baseball bat. All he had to do was keep his nerve in check until he could get to the garage and get it.
Taking a deep breath, Tim climbed out of bed and went to the base of the stairs. He felt his heart palpitating, and he held his breath in a vain effort to calm himself as he began to climb the steps. One by one, he got a single stair closer to the windows every second. Soon, he was at the top, and he bolted towards the garage. He flipped on the light and went right for the area where Georgie kept all of the outdoor equipment. There it was—a dull, silvery baseball bat. Tim found himself smiling as he approached it, one hand wrapping around the handle at a time. A wild smile crossed his face. He brought it to his chest, almost laughing with delight. The monster wouldn’t be able to get into the house after this. It would finally stop harassing him! He could come up the stairs in peace! Oh, this would be so good!
Tim wasted no more time, as he knew that before long the monster would be melting through the windows and coming inside. He made his way right out to the kitchen, holding the bat at a ready position. He hesitated at first, wondering if he could really do this. What if he was imagining this whole thing? What if there was no monster, and this was all for nothing?
He shook the thoughts away. His nauseous gut knew better. With one swift swing, he shattered the kitchen window. Glass shards flew all across the room and into the outside snow, where the footprints from the beast still laid. His eyes slowly moved up to see across the street. That house. The windows on that house was where all this started! If he was to rid himself of that thing, he would need to cross the street and eliminate it at the source. In a crazed frenzy, Tim made his way right to the front door—smashing in the window as he passed through it. It was snowing gently that night, but Tim paid it no mind. He was barely even cold. The adrenaline had swam through his veins and he was ready to go. Practically sprinting across the street, Tim reached the house and walked right up to those windows. He started swinging, full of a sort of dreadful glee as he vandalized the place. No more would that thing melt through the glass! No more would it terrorize him! Oh, the beauty of it all!
Tim picked up a couple of rocks to throw at the second floor windows, shattering them as he hurled the projectile. He laughed, knowing that the monster would no not be able to come out from that house any longer.
Once he was sure all the windows on that place were done, he turned his attention back to his parents’ house. Time to finish up… there….
The master bedroom window was gone. Melted, lying in a puddle atop of the snow. In the middle of the street stood that thing, gazing at him with its eyeless head. Tim felt his body freeze, everything going silent all at once.
“No…” he muttered. The creature began to move quickly towards him. “No!” Tim began swinging the bat wildly, hoping that he’d hit the thing as it got to him. He felt his stomach churning again, and the bile began to climb his throat. It spilled across the ground, and TIm wiped his mouth as he again began screaming and swinging. His eyes were shut now, only able to wave his arms like a mad man.
He suddenly felt a hand on his back, and he screamed as he spun around with the bat. Georgie ducked, grabbing hold of the weapon as Tim swung.
Tim suddenly dropped the bat, staring at Georgie with teary eyes. He looked to the house behind him, seeing the windows of the kitchen and front door shattered, but too seeing a completely normal window to the master bedroom.
“Tim! What the heck is going on out here?”
Tim fell to his knees, sobbing as he felt the bile again creeping up his throat. He pushed it down, dry-heaving instead as he sunk down lower and lower.
“Tim, I’m taking you into town to the hospital.”
“No! No! Please, don’t!” He cried, thinking of the windows in the car.
“Yes. You’re not well.”
“No! You can’t!”
“Tim, stand up! We’re going!”
Georgie grabbed his arm, hauling up to his feet.
He began moving Tim towards the garage of their house, the stepson screaming with more and more fervor the closer they got to the house.
“You can’t! The windows! The windows! It’s gonna be in all the windows!”
“Tim, you’re making no sense, son!”
“No! Don’t take me to the windows!”
Georgie opened up the garage door, forcing Tim towards the car.
“Please! Georgie! No! The windows! The windows!”
The stepfather opened the back door, picking Tim up and putting him in the chair. The pulled the seatbelt across his stepson, buckling in the frantically screaming man.
“The windows! It’s in the windows!”
“Calm down! We’re getting you the help you need.”
Tim continued to flounder as Georgie went around the car and got into the driver’s seat. He turned the key and began to pull out of the garage.
“No! Please! Please, George! Don’t make me go! The windows! It’s gonna come through the windows!”
“Tim, I haven’t the foggiest what you’re screaming about! Just try and calm down, we’ll be in town within the hour!”
“Georgie! No! Please! Dad! Da-a-a-a-ad…”
The car pulled onto mainstreet, going towards the highway. Tim squirmed and screamed, unable to think of anything but that thing that came through the windows.
Somehow through the screams, he heard a droplet of something hitting the car door. His lungs ceased their hollerings, and his head turned towards the window opposite him. Glass ran down the door like a gentle waterfall, giving way to the cold air of the outside November night. Two hands came down from above the car door, the fingers wrapping themselves onto the ceiling of the car. The head poked through as the glass continued to melt, and the creature crawled along the ceiling. It dropped down to sit next to TIm, its faceless head looking right into Tim’s eyes.
His hand made a move towards the door handle, his lungs struggling to give him breath. Before his mind could register what his hand was doing the door was opened, and his stomach lurched as he fell from the car. A sudden explosion of pain overtook him as his head slammed into the cold asphalt of the highway, his neck and back becoming warm as the blood left his head and shoulders. He could hear Georgie hitting the brakes in the Suburban, and quickly moving the vehicle into reverse. The taillights of the truck came into view, fuzzy and darkened.
“The windows… the windows… the windows…”
As the blood continued to pour from the crack in his skull and skin, a wave of regret washed over Timothy. He had sworn to himself that he would always be there for Lauren. Always, no matter what, he would never leave her alone like how his father left his mother. Yet here he was, consumed by paranoia, dying on the side of the road as the muffled shouts of Georgie pervaded his eardrums. Abandoning his wife. All because of some stupid window monster that probably wasn’t even real!
But, as his eyes began to close, he saw the melted window of the Suburban behind his stepfather. And standing over Georgie was the visage of that thing, watching him. Tim… for the first time… saw its face. At least, part of it. From one side of its head to another stretched a wide, toothy grin, illuminated just barely by the shadows generated by the headlights of the car. Smiling at Tim, slowly stepping back towards the window from whence it came.
“Georgie…” Tim gasped. “Watch out for the windows…”
Credit: The Quiet One
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