A Letter From the Previous Homeowner

I just closed on a house this morning!  After years of saving and planning, my wife and I were finally able to get the money together for the down payment and closing costs that come with buying a house.

Before I jump into my explanation of what happened to prompt me to write this, I want to make clear that nothing at all seemed out of the ordinary with the purchase of this house.  The price was decent, but not surprisingly by any means.  The inspection passed with only a few requirements for the seller to put a fresh coat of paint on the shed in the back and have the water heater replaced, and a few other minor things.

While my wife and I were moving boxes in that first day, I happened to open the mailbox.  I’m not sure why I did it – for anyone who’s ever owned a house, you may understand the strange compulsion to open all the doors and explore all the nooks and crannies, so I opened the mailbox.

Inside my new mailbox was a letter, addressed to me specifically, with no postage or return address.  I’ve transcribed it below.

I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am for what you’re about to read.  If you’re a family man, which I believe you are, I trust that you’ll understand the gravity of my situation after reading this letter. I did what I needed to do in order to protect my family – even if that meant condemning another.

If what I’ve been told is true, it’s just you and your wife moving in – no children of which to speak – which is the only solace I have in selling you this house.

There are certain things you must know about this house, many of which I cannot write even now, but what I can tell you is that if you do EXACTLY what I’ve laid out below, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

1.       Do not allow children on your property. I cannot stress this enough.  No trick-or-treaters, no Christmas carolers, no babysitting. 

2.       Always leave one light on in the basement.

3.       If you misplace anything, do not look for it.

4.       Always set an extra place at the dinner table.

5.       If you have pets, especially dogs or cats, make sure to lock them up in a secure cage at night and when you are away. 

6.       Make sure you are in bed between the hours of 3 and 4AM with the bedroom door closed.

Again, I am terribly sorry and I hope that you follow these directions to the letter.  Please do not be angry with me – I was only trying to get my children back.

The letter was signed with the name of the previous owner.

I really want to believe this is a cruel joke, but every time I look at this letter, my stomach turns.  The part that scares me the most is the first bullet point.  Do not allow children on your property.  He may have done his research on my wife and me, but I don’t think his research was extensive enough to know that my wife is currently nine-months pregnant – she’s due within the week, and the doctor said she could go into labor any day now.

I wish I could just get out of the house, but literally everything I had went into buying it, so for now my wife and I are stuck here…

Does anyone know anything that might help?

***

I contacted my realtor to see what sort of laws there were to help us out with this situation.  I know in some states, there are such laws that protect the new homeowners in the event that something about the house was undisclosed pertaining to its history with violent crime and such.  He said that currently, there are no laws that can get us around this sort of thing because technically there hasn’t been reported any sort of violent or detrimental history pertaining to the house.  Nobody was murdered there, it was never used to cook meth, and so on.  He said that if the police reports come back clean, the law doesn’t do much.  He’s going to do a little more digging, but he said it doesn’t look good – but he’ll do what he can.

So, for the next couple of days, we did what we could.  My wife has been doing her best not to think about the letter, and I’ve been superstitiously following the rules.  Stupid, I know, but they’re really simple rules to follow.  I already have a kennel I keep my dog in at night, so that’s already done, and I just leave a closet light on in the basement, so that’s another thing off the list.

As far as the rest of it goes, I’ve been keeping a place at the table set that we just don’t touch, and I’m always in bed by midnight at the latest, so no trouble there either. 

For those of you who have ever moved in your adult life, I’m sure you understand completely when I say that it’s absolutely EXHAUSTING.  So I fully acknowledge that what I’m about to describe below can very well be the product of said exhaustion, but regardless, I feel the need to share this.

I’ve been hearing sounds from the basement.  At first I thought it was mice, so I put a few traps down, but so far I haven’t caught a single thing, and evidence to the contrary has given me the idea that perhaps mice aren’t my problem.

We haven’t set up anything in the basement yet, but we have taken boxes down and stacked them in the rooms we plan on keeping those things.  During our second night at the house, after bringing the bulk of the items from the moving van to the basement, my wife and I heard a loud BANG from the basement.  I ran downstairs and found that one of the boxes had not only been knocked over, but the contents therein had been scattered everywhere.  It wasn’t like the box had just toppled over, but it was like it had been PUSHED.  The box happened to be full of old family photos, and some of those pictured were scattered across the room.

My wife was the one that noticed the strange part.  All the pictures that had been scattered had kids in them.  Some of them were of me, others of my wife, and some with various nieces and nephews.  But every single one of them that had gone more than a couple feet from the box, were of children. 

We cleaned the pictures up, placed the box firmly on the ground, and left the main light on in the basement before going back upstairs.

Fifteen minutes later, my wife was asleep in bed, and I was lying next to her.  About twenty minutes later I began to drift off.  But even through the haze of sleep, I can remember distinctly hearing those scraping sounds coming from the basement, and although I can’t be sure, I think they were coming up the stairs.

***

Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been so long since my last post.  My wife recently had our baby, a few days past the due date, and life has been a whirlwind.

Even though things have been vastly different at home, I’ve managed to maintain the rules laid out by the previous homeowner.  I’ve been trying to reach out to him to help clarify, but so far I’ve had absolutely no response.  I’ve even tried to track down family members and friends, but it’s as if he’s fallen off the face of the earth.  What little response I get from those few people I’ve been able to contact via Facebook has also been less than satisfactory.  Nobody’s seen or heard from him since he moved.  Nobody I talked to even knows where he moved to.  He just vanished.

During the days following my wife’s release from the hospital, I hadn’t noted anything strange or unexpected. In fact, I would go so far as to say that since that night in the basement, nothing out of the ordinary had happened at all.  I was honestly beginning to wonder if the letter really was just some sort of prank.

On the third night home, I awoke to the sounds of my son crying in the bassinet.  As always, I looked up to check the time on the clock – it read exactly midnight. 

I got up and went to the fridge for a bottle of formula, warmed it up, and returned to my bedroom.  My wife was awake by that point, but I told her to go back to sleep – I could feed the kid.  Just as I finished up, I happened to look at the alarm clock again.  The time was still midnight.

I went to my phone and clicked on the screen to see that the time was actually 3:45AM.  My blood turned to ice as I recalled the rule about being in bed between 3 and 4 AM.  I’d already broken one rule when we brought my son home, but now there were two.  As I thought about it, I remembered looking at the microwave clock as well – it also had read midnight. 

I came to the conclusion then that the power must have gone out, which drew me then to the realization that the light in basement must have been out for at least a moment or two as well.

I did my best to maintain composure and remind myself that nothing strange had happened in the last little while.  I told myself it was a prank and that I needn’t be worried, but in my heart, I knew that I’d made a vital mistake.

The next evening, as I held my son in the rocking chair, I stared into his gray eyes as they wandered curiously around the room.  In them, I could see reflections of lights and shadows and as they fell onto me, and I saw my own face reflected in my son’s eyes, I caught the glimmer of something else.  Behind me, standing outside the window, was the shape of another person. 

The baby began to cry then, and I turned around to see who was standing behind me, but there was nothing but an empty window, and behind that, nothing but the night.

***

I apologize deeply for not following up with this story. There have been some deeply troubling events following my last post which prevented me from continuing. It’s only now that I feel like I’m able to re-live what happened.

I believe I left off with the night I found that the power had gone out and I’d broken two more of the rules. I hadn’t realized the clock was wrong, nor had I intended for that light in the basement to go out – but something else had.

During the next few weeks, the general atmosphere in my home shifted. My wife seemed more irritable and I found myself getting furious over the smallest things. I vividly recall dropping a piece of toast on the floor and being so upset about it that I stomped it into the ground and thought about burning the whole house down.

I remember reading once – perhaps even on reddit – about a phenomenon known as the “call of the void.” Nearly every person has experienced it sometime in their life. It’s that thought you get when driving into work and you think, just for a moment, that you could drive straight on into traffic. It’s the feeling of standing on the top of a building and having the urge to jump for no reason. It’s when you’re alone with a person whom you love more than anything, like your wife or newborn child, and you have the sudden, vivid imagery of wrapping your hands around their necks and squeezing the life out of them.

It’s supposed to be your brain running a sort of “systems check.” Experts suggest that your brain is just affirming its survival instinct, making sure that you wouldn’t actually do something that would end or severely damage your life.

Except, they’re not supposed to happen every day, let alone several times a day, like I’ve seemed to have them.

These thoughts just slip into my head for no reason at all.

I could burn the house down.

I could kill my family.

I could slice my wrists open and watch the blood slip down my fingertips until the world goes black forever.

Just as quickly as they came, the thoughts were gone. This went on for several weeks before I finally brought it up to my wife. I told her I kept having these dark thoughts slipping into my head without any reason.

She told me she’d been having that happen too, especially when she was alone.

We promised each other to try hard to get those thoughts out of our heads and that if we couldn’t stop having such dark impulses, we’d go see a therapist.

That night I awoke to the cries of my baby. With bleary eyes, I got up and walked over the bassinet in the corner where he slept. I bent over to pick him up my hands found nothing but blankets wadded in the corner – my son wasn’t in his bed.

Suddenly awake now, I realized the crying wasn’t coming from the room at all, but from somewhere else in the house. I left the bedroom and followed the cries immediately, knowing already where I’d find my baby but not wanting to believe it.

As soon as I opened the door to the basement, the wails grew louder and more aggressive. I flew down the stairs, nearly stumbling on the last step, and the crying suddenly stopped.

The basement was completely empty. I searched for my son in every corner but found nothing but silence and emptiness.

It probably took about a minute, maybe less, to determine that the basement was empty, but it felt like much longer. I was about to give up when I heard the basement door slam and the lightbulb pop.

I was plunged into darkness in the basement and my mind suddenly flashed to the letter. I saw it with such vividness in my mind that it was like I had it in front of me.

2. Always leave one light on in the basement.

3. If you misplace anything, do not look for it.

I groped around in the dark for the wall and followed it to the staircase. My eyes were adjusted slightly then, but still not well enough. I crawled up the staircase on shaky limbs until I felt the door with my knuckles.

I reached up and twisted the knob, but it wouldn’t budge. I stood up and twisted harder, feeling it give a little and remembering that this door didn’t actually have a lock on it, which meant that the only way the knob wouldn’t twist would be if someone on the other side was holding it closed.

I twisted harder and pushed at the door with my shoulder, feeling it give a little more, but not nearly enough to give me hope. I felt the darkness on my skin, as if it were somehow alive, and my crawled as it tightened into goosebumps.

I pushed harder, yelling desperately as I heard the bottom step creak.

I froze. The next step up creaked.

Then the next.

I pounded at the door pleading for my wife to hear and I listened to the creaks of each step draw nearer.

There was a single step between where I stood and the sound I’d been hearing, and I was just about to turn around when suddenly the door opened and I fell out.

All at once the light in the basement popped on and I stared up at the face of my wife.

“What’s going on?” she asked. I saw her eyes were red and bloodshot and the baby in her arms was crying.

I scrambled to my feet and asked where she’d found him.

She looked perplexed. “He was in his bassinet. I woke up cause I heard you banging on the door. What’s going on?”

I didn’t want to scare her, so I told her I thought I’d been sleepwalking.

I didn’t sleep at all for the rest of the night, but lay in bed staring at the time on the alarm clock.

When I got back to bed, it was 3:57.

***

In the days that followed, things got worse.

My wife started having night terrors.  She started talking and crying and even screaming in her sleep.  I can wake her up sometimes, but about half the time I just have to ride it out with her.  Nights like those are the worst.  She screams and kicks and cries and no matter how hard I try, she won’t wake up.

At first, I could understand what she was saying, but now it’s all gibberish.  She used to say stuff like “No. No. He’s our SON. NO!” or “Please.  Don’t.  Please.”

But now, she says half-words and stuff that sounds like nonsense.  Most commonly she would say “A-SE-TER” but other times it was stuff like “PII ORS ORS ORS.”  She would just repeat these things over and over in her sleep as she cried and kicked and screamed and I was left to helplessly watch and try to soothe the baby.

Every morning she woke up without any memory of the night before.  She didn’t remember having any bad dreams or anything.  Even on the nights where I COULD wake her up, she still didn’t remember anything.  She would just look up at me with wide eyes in the darkness and ask why I was shaking her.

I suggested she go to a therapist after about a week of this.  She agreed with the condition that I went with her, which I was more than happy to oblige.

We found a sleep specialist downtown and scheduled an appointment for that weekend.  We went together with the baby and sat in the stuffy waiting room while rocks grew in my stomach.  For some reason I couldn’t understand, I was nervous.

We told the therapist what was going on and that she’d been speaking nonsense in her sleep.  He was a thin man with long bony fingers which he pressed against his lips as we told our story.  When we were finished, he calmly told us his assessment.

“I don’t think you need a professional to tell you that this has something to do with your subconscious. Something in your mind is not being expressed outwardly, so when you sleep, it’s able to come out in the form of these night terrors.”

He suggested hypnotism.  I laughed out loud at this – there’s a lot I can believe in, but hypnotism is a stretch even for my belief system.  I looked up at my wife, whom I expected to have the same expression of bewildered doubt, but instead her expression was wooden.

She agreed.

The therapist asked for absolute silence.  He said that if the baby starts to fuss, I would have to take him out.  He said this only MAY work if the conditions are perfect.

I expected him to pull out a pocket watch like they do on television, or maybe a ball-point pen to swing back and forth, but instead he told her to sit up in the couch with her hands on her knees and her palms facing upward, and close her eyes.

He talked to her in a low, focused voice and began to paint pictures of a meadow, then an ocean, and so on.  It took about fifteen minutes before I realized that my wife was completely relaxed.  Her chin rested against her chest and her shoulders hung on her like wet laundry.

He asked her to say her name.  She did.

He asked her to tell him where she was.

She said the attic.

He asked which attic.

She said in our house.

I frowned.  She’d never been up in the attic and I wasn’t honestly sure where the entrance WAS.

He asked why she was there.

She said that’s where the stairs were.

He asked what stairs.

She said the ones in the ceiling in the hallway.

He asked her what she was doing.

She said she was hiding.

Hiding from what?

Hiding from Manada.

Who is Manada?

It was at this point that my wife began to scream.

The car ride home was unusually quiet.  She didn’t remember anything she said, and I was too afraid to dive into questions.

I stayed up late that night after she went to bed.  I sat on the couch, sipping from a glass of Jim Beam whiskey and staring at the space between me and the television.  My mind was racing and no matter how many glasses of whiskey I drank, I couldn’t help the feeling that I needed to check something out.

I needed to find the attic – or at least, I needed to make sure there were no stairs in the hallway.

I’ve done my own fair amount of home-improvement projects, and I knew that although it was unlikely, it was possible to cover up an attic entrance with a fair amount of plaster and paint.

With the top of the broom handle, I started at the end of the hallway where the baby’s room was and began to thump against the ceiling.

I thumped hard against the ceiling, listening to the hollow sound on the other end, and was about to give up and put the broom away and laugh at myself for being so silly, when at the other end of the hallway, I heard a solid THUMP.  I hit again around the sound and found a space about 3 feet wide and 3 feet long where there was no hollow sound.

I pushed against this square and saw, very faintly, that as I pushed, the square flexed against the paint.

I don’t know that I would have done so if I were sober, but I retrieved a chair from the kitchen and put it up where the hollow sound was.  I groped around for the seam, then with my pocket knife, I began to slit the paint apart.

As I cut the last bit of paint and plaster with my knife, I saw wood begin to sag.  I slipped my fingers onto the lip I’d made and pulled the wood down.  With little effort on my part, the entrance to the attic plopped down, knocking me off my chair and revealing a set of stairs leading to the attic.

I sat up, ignoring the pain in my head and elbow, perplexed with what I’d just discovered.

I pulled my phone out and flicked on the flashlight and stepped up onto the first step.  The wood creaked, but seemed like it would hold.

I stepped up, not planning on crawling into the attic, but just intending to look.  It was dusty and covered in insulation, but at the end, just beyond my reach, was a large cardboard box.

I stepped up further, placing my knee on the floor of the attic and extended my hand until I could get the box.

It was surprisingly heavy, and as I pulled the box close, it caught a corner and tipped over, spilling its contents across the attic floor.

My mouth went dry as I saw what was in the box, and I was filled with a sudden, overwhelming sense of unease.  The box was filled to the brim with old polaroid photos of infant children.

***

I didn’t know what to do with the baby pictures, so I left them up there and brought them up with my wife the next day. I told her about how I’d gotten drunk and found the attic entrance in the hallway and about the big box of pictures spilling everywhere.

Her initial reaction was a mixture of concern and repulsion – she was worried that there was something perverted going on in the house before we lived there, and while that very well could have been the case, I disagreed. To me, that just didn’t seem to fit right. The pictures were all of different babies and could very well have just been taken off someone’s wall or out of an album. There was also seemed to be varying ages of the photos themselves – some of the pictures seemed to be quite old while others may have been taken just a few years ago, even though they were all Polaroid photos.

Regardless of the reason for the pictures being in the attic, we agreed that we didn’t feel safe in the house anymore. We tried hard to live with whatever was going on, but especially with what happened to me in the basement and with the photographs in the attic, we didn’t think it was at all wise to keep living in the house – if not for any other reason, then to ensure the safety of our son.

My parents live about 45 minutes away, which meant that I would have an hour-long commute to work every morning, but we decided that staying there would be the best plan of action.

The cover story I told my mother was that we had bedbugs and that we needed to have our house fumigated. She understood without question and after a thorough search of our clothing and what little luggage we brought with us, she bid us entry into her home.

Things were better for the next several days. I honestly began to wonder whether or not I’d overreacted to what happened, and I think my wife had been thinking that as well. We started sleeping better at night, my thoughts of “the void” had almost completely vanished, and things were finally starting to look up.

That was until I got a phone call. It came in on my mother’s landline one night about a week after we showed up on my mother’s doorstep, and when I answered it, all I heard was static for a minute. I said “hello?” and then for a brief second, I could hear the sound of a baby crying. It was muffled and static-y, like listening through an old baby monitor, but it was clear enough to send chills down my spine.

I asked who it was on the line, but as soon as I spoke, the call dropped. I looked over at the caller ID and saw no record of the call ever having come in.

I stood in stunned silence with the receiver on my ear for a time, then put it down resolutely and went to bed. I wanted to believe it hadn’t happened – I wanted to believe for a second that whatever had been tormenting my family hadn’t found us.

The next morning, I thought better of my decision. I knew I couldn’t just let it go. Whatever I’d left at my house had found me and my family and was sending a clear, unmistakable message that my torment wasn’t over.

I resolved to do a little research on the previous homeowner. I started with county records, but what I found didn’t make any sense, so I called the real estate company. It was just a local real estate company, so I had no problem getting through to someone quickly. I gave them my address and told them I needed to contact the previous homeowner. The woman on the other line started to tell me that she wouldn’t be able to share any information about the person who had lived in the home prior to my family, but stopped as if she suddenly realized something.

I heard a couple of clicks of a mouse, then she told me to hold one minute. When she came back, she told me she had just gotten permission from her supervisor to share the information they had about the house, which was very little, under the circumstances.

“What circumstances?” I asked.

The house had been on what they called a “dead lot.” It hadn’t been sold since the previous owner died over 50 years ago. The woman whom had owned the house was named Lilly E. Gray and had died in 1958. The house went up for sale the following year and had been marked as “for sale” ever since.

Every once in a while, an agent would get optimistic and try to sell it, but nobody ever got anything more than a nibble. Then, about six months ago, the house suddenly went up in flames. The local rumor was that some kids had broken in and started a fire, but nobody was ever caught. The house was condemned shortly thereafter, and the bank had all but decided to collect the insurance money and knock it down instead of trying to rebuild it until some unknown benefactor came forward with the money to restore the home. The woman refused to tell anyone her name or the reason that she wanted to restore the house, but with such a generous donation, her request for anonymity was respected.

The bank was more than willing to allow the donation and the house went up for restoration that summer. The only request that the benefactor had made was that the bank retain the rights to the home and not sell to private investors, which was precisely what had happened. The real estate company shut down all sales of that home a month before I had apparently bought it.

That didn’t make sense, and I told the woman on the phone so. I told her I’d met with someone from that real estate office who had sold me the home, had me sign all the documents, and had given me the keys. I’d paid out over 250 thousand dollars for that home and that real estate company had facilitated the sale.

She told me that wasn’t possible – they didn’t even have the keys to the house anymore.

This conversation went on for the next hour as I eventually got a hold of the owner of the real-estate company, trying to get to the bottom of who had sold me the house, but even he told me the exact same thing – the house had been a “dead lot” since long before he inherited the company from his father two decades ago, and that eventually bank decided to retain the lot under request from whomever had made the donation. It simply wasn't possible that any of his agents sold me that house.

I called the bank then to ask about the house and got the same story, but with a small critical detail that the real estate company hadn’t known, but which made my pulse quicken and my mouth go dry. The keys to that home had gone missing about three months ago from the lockbox.

Without another word, I ended the call.

***

I didn’t tell anyone about what I’d been told about the house – not until I finally wrote this post.  I’m left to wonder if perhaps things would have been different if I’d been more transparent about my thoughts on the matter, but there’s no way to know if that’s true, and if I’m being honest with myself, I tend to think that the entity I’ve been dealing with wouldn’t have stopped until it got what it wanted, or I went completely insane.

That night, after I’d finally fallen asleep, I dreamt that I was back in that house.  It was dark, but I could still make my way around without issue.

I was looking for something – I didn’t know what.  It was in the baby’s room at the top of the stairs and the end of the hallway.  I walked with purpose and as I approached, the door opened seemingly of it’s own accord.  I stepped in, and as I did so, I suddenly knew I wasn’t alone. 

I turned around, and in the corner of the room was a little girl.  She was about eight years old or so and she wore a white nightgown.  She had no shoes or slippers and I could see that her feet were extraordinarily dirty.  Her hair was a dark brown color and was matted and clumped and hung in her face and I saw then that she was holding something in her hands and all her attention was completely transfixed with whatever it was.

I went to step toward her, but stopped myself.  I suddenly knew, like a gazelle knows when a leopard is near, that my life was in immediate danger.

I turned to run, but the door slammed shut and I heard a banging on the walls.  I ran to the window – my only hope for escape – but even as I did so I saw that there were bars on the outside and I could hear the little girl getting up from where she sat and shuffle toward me, sniffing like an animal as she did so.

I screamed, and I awoke.

My son, who had been sleeping between my wife and I while we stayed with my mother, began to cry and my wife awoke with him.  I got up and scooped the infant in my arms and told my wife to go back to bed – I wasn’t going to fall back asleep anyway.

Now, I’m not a religious man, but the next morning over my third cup of coffee, I knew I needed the sort of help only a man of God could offer.

I didn’t think a telephone call would suffice, so I drove down to the closest church and met with the priest there.

He was a thin man, maybe in his late sixties, with thin wisps of hair covering the top of his head.  He sat on the other side of a large, dark wooden desk which was covered in various papers and religious texts. 

He asked me what brought me in to speak with him.  Was I interested in becoming a member of his congregation?

I told him I didn’t exactly know how to go about starting a conversation like this, so I’d just get down to it.

“My house is haunted,” I told him.  “But it’s more than that, I think.  It’s something… worse.  I took my family and moved into my parents’ house for a little bit, and I thought that worked, but it found us.  I need help.”

“What makes you think that your house is haunted?” the priest asked, his expression unchanging.  “There are many logical explanations to seemingly supernatural phenomena ranging from the house settling causing bumps in the night, exposed wires putting out fields of electricity that make you feel like someone’s watching you, or even sheer lack of sleep or stress.  What makes this different?”

I told him about the letter from the previous homeowner and the rules that I was supposed to follow to the last detail, and how it seemed like it had become impossible for me to follow those rules – whatever was tormenting my family and me had seen to it that I broke nearly every rule in the letter.  It stopped the clocks and turned off the power.  It stole my son and made me get out of bed.  I don’t think I was ever meant to follow those instructions at all – it was just a part of some game I was just beginning to understand.

After a long silence, the priest stood from his seat.  “I hear stories like this every year,” he told me.  “And what I do is go down to the home and bless it.  It’s not up to me to say whether or not your house is infested with the servants of the devil, however I can schedule for someone to go down and bless your home.  I’m not able to have anyone come out until next week, so you’ll just need to wait until then.”

I told him I couldn’t wait – that I felt like my wife and son could be in danger.

He brushed it off.  “The devil rarely has influence to manipulate our world unless you’ve given him power to do so.  Our Heavenly Father will protect your family until then.  Have faith, son.”

He crossed the room and opened the door.  “I’ll have one of my ministers contact you to schedule you a time to bless your home.”

I nodded and left with no more hope than when I entered.

I knew what I needed to do next, and although I dreaded returning to the house, my family needed more clothes and I needed to get diapers and wipes for the baby if we were going to be staying with my parents for that much longer. 

I also wanted to find the paperwork given to me by the realtor when I bought the house and even the realtor’s card if I could find it, so I could prove to myself and the bank that the transaction really had occurred. Doing this would mean having to go into the basement where we’d put the filing cabinet.  I promised myself that if anything at all seemed out of the ordinary, I would not go into that basement.  I wanted to get the documents to prove that I wasn’t crazy, but doing so wasn’t worth my life.

When I entered the home, I was almost surprised to see that it was just as we’d left it.  I think a part of me expected to see the furniture turned over or pentagrams drawn in the ceiling or something, but everything was as it should be.

I got a duffle bag from the closet and filled it with all the essentials – clothes, wipes, bottles, and everything else I could think of that we needed.  When the bag was full, and the zipper closed, I set it next to the door and turned back.  The door to the basement was open, just as it was when we left.   It would be a quick mission – in and out – and I would have the proof I needed.  If anything happened, if the house even settled, I would bolt out of there as fast as I could and never look back.

I swallowed, and my throat clicked as I steeled myself to enter the basement.

I counted to three and hurried down the steps, taking two at a time and nearly stumbling on the last one.  I hurried to the filing cabinet and pulled the drawer open to the file my wife had labeled “house.”  I pulled it out and went to turn back around, when I realized how light it was.  I paused for a moment to open the folder and saw to my dismay that it was completely empty.  The paperwork I knew had to be in that folder was simply not there.  I thumbed quickly through the rest of the contents of the filing cabinet and found no such documentation.

Knowing I’d overstayed my welcome in that basement, I closed the filing cabinet and went back up the stairs.

I was just about to leave when the thought came over me so strongly I was nearly dizzied by it.  Why hadn’t I thought of this before?  I could collect the baby pictures, even just a few of them, and take them to the police station.  Maybe they were linked to missing persons cases or had fingerprints on them or something.

I paused again by the door, weighing my odds, and again decided to take the chance.  In and out, just like before.  Thirty seconds was really all I needed.

I watched the second hand on my watch pass the 12, then bolted up the stairs and threw down the entrance to the attic.  Paint chips and plaster fell into my face, but I brushed them off and stepped up the folded staircase.

I clicked the flashlight on my phone on to see into the attic better, but saw nothing but the dusty square imprint of where the box of photos once sat – it had been taken.

I didn’t think any more about it and I climbed out of the attic and went to leave when I remembered one final thing I needed from the baby’s room.  In my haste to leave I’d forgotten to grab a box of diapers.

I hurried down the hall and opened the nursery and was stopped suddenly by the scene before me.  The window had been blocked out by something, and when I clicked on the lights, my heart began to race.

From ceiling to floor, the walls were covered in the baby pictures from the attic.

I thought about dashing to the closet to get the diapers, but decided against it.  No part of me wanted to be in that room.

Then I saw something a few feet past the threshold, just beyond my reach.  Throughout the horrors and torments that I had experienced ever since my wife and I had moved in, this was the moment which terrified me the most.

On the floor was a square, Polaroid picture taken in the same fashion as the others which now lined the walls of the nursery, except this was undoubtedly the most recent of them all.

It was a picture of my son laying between my wife and I as we all slept in my parents’ spare bed.

***

As anticipated, I was contacted the next day by a priest to come bless the house.  This was a different man than the one I’d spoken with, so I told him my story.  I told him I was worried that something dark and terrible was living in that house and that my family and I were in danger.  Just like the other, however, this priest seemed to brush my concerns away.  He said that he would come to bless the house and that any evil within its walls would be banished.

When we met, it was just the two of us standing on the front lawn of the house.  He wore the traditional black cassock and white collar and carried with him a small satchel which hung from his shoulder by a leather strap and sat on his opposite hip.  Around his neck also hung a silver cross on rosary beads which sat about mid-chest.

After a few questions and instruction from him on how to conduct myself while he does the blessing, we entered the home.

From the satchel he extracted a glass vial marked by a golden cross.  He shook the vial with an arching motion of his arm and small drops of water came out, landing on the walls and floor.  He thumbed the cross on this chest and began to mumble the prayer to bless the house.

I followed him from room to room in that fashion, listening to his almost melodic prayers to banish the evil entities within the house and to let the light of God shine through.

As we went from room to room, I noticed my heart begin to race.  With each room he blessed, I felt more and more nervous for the next.  I felt as if something was going to happen when we reached the end, and it wasn’t until I realized which room would be the last when I discovered why I was so nervous.  We were making our way to the nursery.

I remembered seeing the photos lining the walls the day before and nearly vomited.  I hadn’t told the priest about that room, although I couldn’t imagine why.  It would make perfect sense to tell him about what had happened in that room only a few days prior with the photographs on the wall and the one of my son on the floor – maybe there was an extra prayer or something he would need to say – but why I wouldn’t mention that was beyond me.  I would say it slipped my mind, but I don’t think that’s quite right.  Things like that don’t just “Slip your mind”.  No, I think it was something else – something preventing me from thinking to tell the priest.  Had I thought about it standing in the front yard, I don’t think I would have been able to speak, and if I had, I don’t think he would have heard me.

We walked toward the nursery door and I tried to speak to tell him about that room and the baby pictures, but my tongue caught in my throat and I couldn’t do anything but gag.

He opened the door and again I tried to warn him about what he was about to see, but it was as if my mouth was full of cotton.

We stepped into the nursery and he began to say the blessings, just as he had with every other room.

He didn’t see the pictures on the wall, or if he did he didn’t appear to care.  He sprayed holy water across the photographs lining the room like wallpaper, but never stopped his prayer.

When he was done, he turned and left without a word.

I followed him down the stairs and to the front door.

“That should do it,” he said.  “If there were any evil entities within this house, they cannot dwell here any longer.  This is a house of God now.”

I couldn’t believe his demeanor.  It was calm, almost bored, and he turned to leave.

“Didn’t you see the pictures in the nursery?” I asked.  “I didn’t put those up.”

“What pictures?”

“The pictures,” I repeated in disbelief.  “They’re all over the walls up there!”

He shook his head.  “I didn’t see any pictures in the nursery,” he said flatly.  “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I insisted, grabbing his wrist and pulling him back into the house. 

He yanked his wrist from my grip, but followed me up the stairs and to the nursery.

I opened the door and to my horror, saw nothing out of the ordinary.

There were no pictures on the walls.

“What are you talking about?” the priest asked.  “There aren’t any pictures.”

I couldn’t speak.  I’d just seen them speckled with holy water only minutes ago.

I heard the man turn and walk back down the hallway.  “Call me if you need anything else,” he said.  “But I may suggest seeing a doctor if I’m being perfectly frank.”

I followed him to the door again and thanked him solemnly for his help.  He repeated his suggestion about going to the doctor.  He said he had an aunt who started hearing music from nowhere and it turned out to be a very serious brain tumor – she nearly lost her life.

I nodded and told him I would get checked out and went to close the door. 

As soon as his car was out of sight, I heard a loud banging coming from upstairs.

I followed the noise to the nursery and saw that not only were the pictures back to where they’d been, but now there was a piece of paper which had been posted on top of the other photos.  It was a kid’s drawing with crayon, except it looked like parts of it had been scribbled out in black.  All that was really intelligible of the picture were the labels above the black splotches where it looked like people had once been drawn.  They were labeled: MOMMY, ABBY, ME.

***

I was exhausted after the visit with the priest, as if all my energy had been drained from my body within that hour or so that he’d been blessing the house.

When we finally all went to bed, I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. I gave my wife and son a kiss goodnight, and that’s all I remember before falling asleep.

When I awoke, it felt as if I’d never fallen asleep in the first place. Surely I had, because the alarm clock read 2:30, which was several hours after I went to bed, but I felt no more rested than I had before. My eyes simply opened, and I was staring at the black ceiling.

I knew instinctually that something was wrong before my brain made the connection. I turned my head to the side, toward where my wife and son would be, except I saw nothing but an empty pillow. The room was completely silent, and I was completely alone.

I knew where they were, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself. I searched every room in the house and even out in the yard, but there was no sign of either my wife nor my son. The car was still in the garage, so it made no sense how they could be back at that house, but I knew in my heart that was where they were. In normal traffic, it takes 45 minutes to get from my parents’ house to mine, but at almost three in the morning with no regard to traffic laws, I was there in 20.

I pulled up to the house and immediately noticed the nursery window. The light was on, drawing my attention to it, and silhouetted in the lamplight stood my wife with my son cradled in her arms.

I ran to the front door, but it was locked. I pulled out my key ring and began to fumble with my keys before I realized that I was one key missing – the house key.

I swore and kicked at the door, but it didn’t budge. Pain shot through my foot and ankle and I knew that I had to find another way in.

The easiest window to climb through is the one to the main portion of the basement. The other windows either require a ladder or a swim through rose bushes. I made my way to the back yard where I selected a rock from the garden and hurled it toward the window. It shattered loudly, and I was inexplicably self-conscious of my actions. I worried that the neighbors would hear and call the police, but disregarded that concern as quickly as it came. Maybe if the police came, they could help me with whatever the fuck was going on.

And so it was with that new resolution that I climbed through the window. I cut myself on a piece of glass, but not badly. I stumbled into the basement and landed hard on the concrete floor. I hit my head and saw splotches of color for a minute, then my eyes focused on something in the dark. It was a pile of something hidden beneath the pool table I’d never gotten around to setting up.

I pulled my phone out and clicked the flashlight on, then crawled toward the mass and shone the light.

My wife’s dead, glassy eyes stared back at me from beneath the pool table, and it was then that I noticed the acrid stench. I threw up immediately and violently as the realization rushed over me in waves. My wife was dead, and from the look and smell of her, had been that way for some time now.

I heard my son crying upstairs and steeled myself.

There would be time to mourn, but now my son was in danger.

With a new found strength, perhaps my wife’s last gift to me, I ran up the stairs and tried the door. It was locked, but this door did not have a metal core like the front door. I threw my weight against it and the door frame smashed. I fell through the doorway, nearly hitting the floor but catching myself this time, and listened again for the sound.

I could still hear my son crying, but I could now hear something else too – my wife’s voice singing to him. It was a song she sang to him almost every night.

I followed the noise up the next flight of stairs and down the hallway. There was a thin strip of light coming from beneath the door and I could see the shadows of my wife’s feet walk back and forth across the bottom of the door.

I opened the door and stepped inside, first noticing the lack of baby pictures on the walls, then my wife who had turned around to look at me.

Her cheeks were tear-streaked, and her eyes were red and wide. I approached her, but she recoiled from me. It was then that I noticed a weight in my hand. I looked down. How long had I been holding this hammer?

I dropped it and it thumped against the floor.

I reached my hand out toward her and took another step forward. She took two steps back, clutching at the crying baby tightly against her chest.

Something flashed in her eyes then, something which I even now find difficulty to explain. It was a darkness, but there was more than that. It was cold and inhuman and it made my heart feel like ice.

I needed to get my son away from her. My wife was dead, and whomever – whatever - was holding my son was not her.

I lunged toward her and my ears rang with the sound of shattering glass. I felt a pain in my hand and blood trickle down my wrist. The hammer was in my hand again, and I’d just put that and my fist through the nursery window. I dropped the hammer again, this time out the window, and turned back around to where the thing which looked like my wife stood in the corner.

I came at her again, but before I could do much, she saw her chance and took it.

She bolted toward the broken window, still clutching the baby, and threw herself out. The remaining glass shattered and I reached toward her, but my fingers fell short.

I heard a sickening wet CRACK and threw up again.

I didn’t want to look down at her, but I couldn’t stop myself. I told myself that maybe the baby had survived. I peered down past the broken window down to the lawn below, but saw nothing. The lawn was bare and there was nothing but silence in the night.

I turned around and slid down the wall in bewilderment. My palms fell flat against the floor, but not against glass. I looked around, but there was no shattered glass anywhere on the ground.

I stood up and turned to the window, which was completely in-tact and untouched.

I looked around the room for any sign of anything that had just happened, but there was nothing. I was alone in the dark room, and it was again covered in old photos of infants.

I left the room, and heard crying again, this time coming from the basement.

I followed the sound to beneath the pool table where my wife’s dead body still lay, except there were two additions from the way she was when I left her only moment ago. Next to her body lay a bloody hammer, and on her chest lay the photograph of my son. The crying suddenly stopped, and I never heard it again.

The police came not long after – as I suspected, the neighbors had heard the commotion and called it in. Although I’m now a suspect for the murder of my wife and disappearance of my son, no convictions have been made.

If anyone has seen my son, please let me know. He’s only a few months old with brown hair and blue eyes. I just want to know that he’s still alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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