TapTapTap

The first night I heard the tapping was about three or four weeks ago. I can’t say for certain because it only happens at night, and I wasn’t at first even sure it was real because it would stop the moment I woke up. It seemed for a while that the tapping at my bedroom window existed only in the ethereal dimension between sleep and wakefulness - the point where you can remember your dreams so vividly but trying to hold onto them is like trying to hold water in your fist.

There were three taps. All together - taptaptap. It could have been a tree, but there are no trees outside my bedroom window. It could have been a neighbor, but my bedroom is on the second floor. It could have been a bird or a large moth perhaps, but it was always three sets of three taps - succinct.

Taptaptap.

Taptaptap.

Taptaptap.

I would hear them in my sleep, and they would pull me from my dreams, but it would only be until the third taptaptap that I would actually wake up and my mind would clear enough to wonder what had awoken me to begin with.

I thought absolutely nothing of this at first - I wasn’t even convinced that I was hearing anything at all. It was intermittent - only happening two or three times in the course of a week. It wasn’t until I realized I had been waking up every night at precisely 3:03AM that I even noticed any semblance of a pattern.

Something with that kind of timing surely had to be automated somehow, right? Maybe a thermostat was turning on or there was water in the pipes in the wall that I was just mistaking for a tap at the window. Really, there was no way for me to tell at all where the sound was coming from because it only happened when I was asleep.

So, naturally, I decided to stay up and see for myself.

I brewed a pot of coffee and turned on some junk TV. At about ten minutes to three, I shut off the television and waited.

Ten minutes later, at exactly three in the morning, I heard a taptaptap at the window.

There was no mistaking it now. It sounded just like someone tapping on the glass. Had I not been on the second floor, I would have expected to see someone standing there on the other side of the window asking to be let in.

Except, of course, no one was on the other side of the glass.

I stood from my bed and crossed the room, listening closely for the second set of tapping.

Taptaptap.

I nearly leapt out of my skin even though I was expecting it. The tapping seemed to be right in the center of the glass, where there was absolutely nobody there to tap.

I extended my finger and tapped the glass myself, three times, just like the sound I was hearing. It was almost identical. There was a hollower note to mine, but if my fingernail were perhaps a bit longer the sound would have been exact.

Immediately following my tap was a loud pounding that rattled the window.

Bangbangbang.

I leapt back, a scream of surprise leaping out of my throat.

I stood in my bedroom for a second, not knowing what to do. Because that was the exact sound I would expect to hear if someone were pounding their fists against the window. Except I was standing there, seeing nothing but the night sky through the glass.

I didn’t get much sleep that night. I went to call the police, but only hovered my thumb over the CALL button because I knew I wouldn’t be taken seriously. Hell, I wouldn’t take it seriously either.

The next several nights were almost as sleepless, although the tapping had stopped for reasons unbeknownst to me. I was beginning to think I’d exaggerated the banging in my mind because of all the caffeine I had in my system that night, or maybe my tapping on the other side of the glass had shaken something loose or realigned the window frame to fix the unseen issue. A part of me knew though that was just saner faculties trying to make logical sense of the illogical.

It had been nearly three weeks since that night, and I’d finally put it out of my mind. Although most nights I still woke up a few minutes past three, I figured that was my circadian rhythm and eventually I’d start sleeping through the night again.

That was until last night.

It was the hottest day in recorded history this month, and my swamp cooler wasn’t cutting it. Once the sun went down it got easier, but it was still too hot to sleep. I didn’t even think twice about opening my window to try to cool off.

When the tapping started again, it didn’t take three to wake me up. My eyes flew open the second the first set had started. I looked at the window, wide open just as I’d left it, and felt my stomach turn to stone. The fear from the other night was back in full force and all I could remember was the sound of the pounding against the window. The sound of fists beating against the glass as if someone were demanding to be let in.

Taptaptap.

My eyes slowly lifted. The tapping wasn’t at the window this time.

It was in the closet.

My heart pounded as I ran through scenarios in my head and waited anxiously for the third set of taps.

I was filled with a childlike fear I hadn’t felt in over 20 years. It was the kind of fear that keeps children safe - the prehistoric instinct innate within prey but forgotten by many species who have worked their way up to the top of the food chain over the centuries. It was an absolute certainty that there was something on the other side of that closet door, despite any rational explanation.

But the third set of taps never came. I waited for an hour, maybe longer, to hear anything else happen, staring intently at the closet door, too terrified to investigate in the dark. I heard nothing but the hum of the swamp cooler and the distant traffic outside the window.

I awoke the next morning with a jolt, first remembering everything that happened last night, then wondering how long it had been before I fell asleep. But with daylight also comes the logic that seldom prevails in the dark. If there was in fact a sound in the closet, that was something I could actually look into. Maybe I was right at first and it WAS something to do with the air vent or the plumbing.

I got out of bed and opened the closet door, feeling silly for being so afraid last night.

Clothes hung neatly on their hangers, my shoes lay in a pile on the floor, and a few boxes of memorabilia from my childhood sat at the top shelf. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

Knowing I would hate myself tonight if I didn’t investigate further, I began to pull everything out of the closet. I’d been meaning to go through it anyway, I told myself.

With the contents of my closet now strewn across the room, I began to inspect the walls of the closet. I tapped along each wall, then the ceiling, then the door, trying to replicate the sound. It had sounded like the tapping was coming from the closet door, and the sound I made when I tapped it was close, but not exact, even if I conceded again that my fingernails were too short to replicate the sound perfectly.

I was just about to start putting things away when I had a thought. The closet door had been closed. I reached out and pulled the door closed. Last night I would have paid everything I had in my savings account to not stand where I was this morning, but as I closed the door, I felt absolutely nothing but scientific curiosity - no fear whatsoever.

I tapped three times, and sure enough, the sound was as perfect as I could get it without longer fingernails.

For a moment, I recalled my experiment a few weeks ago, and how I’d been rewarded with a loud, terrifying banging noise, and was suddenly struck by the fear that it would happen again, but nothing came.

I opened the door and stepped out of the closet, feeling a little vindication from having produced the sound, but also baffled by the fact I still didn’t know what was making it.

I began to clean up the mess I’d made, putting the contents of my closet back in their place and making sure that with every item I put in, there was no chance it could be the culprit of the noise.

All I had left were the boxes of memorabilia. One held old sports medals, favorite toys, and the like, and the other was filled with pictures, letters, and a few more personal artifacts.

Not being able to control my nostalgia, I opened the first box and pulled out a few items. I smiled as I did this, feeling the sweet, warm embrace of a childhood long past. Soccer medals, baseball cards, Mickey Mouse ears, all brought back sweet memories and pushed away any anxiety I’d felt the night before.

I opened the next box but found something peculiar at the top - something I knew I hadn’t put there.

On the left was a picture I’d seen before. It was a picture of me from my first fourth of July, wearing a popsicle grin and very little else - I would have been almost six months old when that photo was taken. But that picture was from one of the albums at the bottom of the box, and I knew I’d never taken it out.

On the right, was a picture I’d never seen before.

It was a photo of a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old. The picture didn’t have any date on it, but the burnt orange wallpaper and olive-green carpet made me think it was something from the 70s. On the back, in the bottom left corner, a single name was written - Abby.

I have no idea how the picture got there - I’m certain I don’t know anyone by that name, and that box hasn’t been touched in a while, maybe a year or more. For all I knew that picture could have been placed there by my last girlfriend, who broke up with me by sleeping with a bartender just over a year and a half ago - she was always a bit on the crazy side anyway.

I returned the picture of me to the photo album where it belonged, next to another photo of me standing next to a little girl holding the first fish I’d ever caught and set the photo of “Abby” on my nightstand. After a minute or so, I superstitiously moved the photo to the wastebasket. There was no reason to keep that picture - I was certain I had no idea who Abby was anyway.

I put the box back at the top of the closet, and went about the rest of my day, doing everything I could to force the paranoia out of my mind. 

***

I awoke early this morning with a wrenching jolt when the music started. I sat up in bed, confused and scared in the dark. My heart was racing hard enough I thought it might burst through my chest and flop around on the floor like a fish.

It took only a moment or two of confusion and panic before my mind fully awakened and I realized what was happening.

The music was coming from the living room, just down the hall from my bedroom. It was a pleasant enough tune - an old-sounding jazz song with a lot of sax and clarinet - except that it was playing on full volume, filling the house completely and spilling out the windows.

I looked at the clock, which told me it was just past two in the morning.

I promptly got out of bed and padded down the hallway in my bare feet. It was painfully loud as I approached the radio in the dark, regretting not throwing it away years ago because the last time I’d used it was just before the iPod shuffle came into existence.

I pulled the plug on the old Sony radio sitting in the corner of the living room and had just almost cleared the ringing from my ears when it started up again.

I looked at the power cord in my hand, completely flabbergasted for a moment, then remembered that this one came with a battery backup system so you could listen to your favorite tunes on the go. I rolled it over and popped the four D batteries out of the back, silencing the thing for good.

My ears replaced the silence that followed with an uncomfortable ringing. I had no idea that radio could get that loud and had no intention of trying it again. I carried the radio from the end table and tossed it in the kitchen trash can - it left a small ring of dust on the surface of the table as a reminder of how long it had been there and how badly I needed to dust the house.

I heard a strange sound then that gave me pause before I made my way back to bed. The ringing in my ear was still prevalent, and for a moment I thought I’d imagined it. As the ringing slowly dissipated however, I knew it wasn’t my imagination. I was actually hearing the sound of a little girl crying.

I stood there confused, trying to locate the sound. Was it coming from outside? Perhaps I’d left the TV on?

I tilted my head to one side, trying to identify the source of the noise. It didn’t sound like it was coming from outside, but I had no idea what would be making the sound inside the house.

I remembered then about a news story I’d read a few days ago. A little girl, I think she was three or maybe four, had gone missing from her bed. It was a couple counties over, but enough to merit an Amber Alert on my phone. There was no possible way the crying I was hearing was that little girl, but in the middle of the night, everything seemed plausible.

I looked out the living room window - I had to be sure it wasn’t someone outside - but the neighboring houses I could see were all dark; only streetlights and a pair of homeless cats crossing the road populated my little corner of suburbia.

I had no sooner turned around than there was a knock at my front door. A yelp escaped my lips, and my heart was sent into my throat. I was almost afraid to move, but knew that if I didn’t, whoever was on the other side would knock again, and I knew I didn’t want that.

Again, I thought of that little girl from the news article and wondered if the knock belonged to a pair of policemen - it was loud and authoritative enough. Had a neighbor perhaps seen someone lurking in my yard and called them?

I peered through the peephole, expecting to either see a police officer or a concerned neighbor, but what I saw was even more chilling - absolutely nothing. In the fishbowl view of the peephole, I only saw what was illuminated by my porch light, which was very little.

I pulled my face away from the door, deciding not to open it. I hadn’t even taken another breath before the second set of knocks came. They were louder, more authoritative - THUMP THUMP THUMP.

I didn't have time to think before I found myself flinging the door open wildly, hoping to catch whoever was pounding on my door at this ungodly hour, but I saw through the threshold exactly what I saw through the peep-hope - nothing.

I poked my head out suspiciously, knowing that my porch light was motion-activated, so someone at least had to be within 10 feet or so for it to even turn on, but again I saw nothing.

I closed the door and locked it behind me.

Had the crying gotten louder now? It definitely had changed in the time I spent at the front door. At first it was a mild sob, like that of a little girl who hadn’t gotten her way and was trying to get attention for it, but now it was more painful or perhaps angry.

“Hello?” I called into the dark, feeling stupid as soon as the word left my mouth. I didn’t know what else to do though.

I did my best to follow the sound down the hallway, but it was difficult. The sound seemed to shift, like it was coming from everywhere and nowhere. In the daytime I would have thought that it was a set of mounted speakers around my house turning off and on as I moved about, but in the dark, at half-past two, the thought never would have even occurred to me.

“Hello?” I called again - it sounded like it was in my bedroom for the most part. “Is someone there? Are you okay?”

I slowly, quietly, padded toward the bedroom. I put my hand on the knob - had I closed my door? - and began to turn, sure that I’d found the source of the sound.

The moment my wrist twisted the knob, there was a thump in my bedroom, and the sobbing abruptly ceased.

I threw the door open, expecting to see a little girl huddled in the corner, but instead found a shape lying on the floor. I flicked the light on and saw that the box of mementos had fallen out of the top of the closet. Not sure how, and not caring to explore further, I scooped up the box and the few items that had spilled out of it and replaced it on the top of the closet.

I gave my room a good once-over to make sure that I was, in fact, alone in my bedroom, then I turned the light off and did my best to fall back to sleep.

Sometime later, I couldn’t say when, I got up and locked the bedroom door for good measure.

I wouldn’t notice until the next morning that my baby picture had been removed from the box and placed neatly on my nightstand - next to the picture of the little girl named Abby. 

***

The past few nights have been rough, although maybe not as rough as the night I heard that little girl crying.

I keep having these dreams - they’re very disjointed and brief, but that doesn’t make them any less unnerving. I’m usually in a house, a large, sprawling mansion with massive bookshelves and expensive decorations, except the house has long since been abandoned. It’s caked in dust, or maybe it’s soot - the whole place smells like smoke. I know I’m not alone, but I can’t see who’s with me.

I hear a whisper in the air - a disembodied voice belonging to whoever else is there in the house, except I can’t make out what it’s saying. Something about a door, music, a photograph, and a mirror. The voice gets louder, and I’m equally curious and terrified of what I’m about to hear, then I wake up.

At first, I would wake up to the sound of music or television blaring from the other room, just like that first night with the old radio. But now I’ve taken to unplugging everything before I go to bed. I still wake up, but it’s at least to the sound of silence instead of a heart-stoppingly loud infomercial on steak knives.

Lying in the dark, I’m not sure if the silence is better or if I’d prefer the music. The dark filling my bedroom seems to have a shapeless presence - like it’s a living, breathing thing. It doesn’t seem so bad when there’s sound filling the space too, but that might just be that the sound drowns the uneasy feeling out with the discomfort of the noise. All I know is that when I wake up in the middle of the night, the last thing I want is silence.

I’ve never been one to take naps, but lately that’s all I want to do. Two days ago, I even slept right through dinner and didn’t wake up until the dream jolted me awake just before 4AM. And what’s even more strange beyond that is that I must have sleep-walked to my bed, because I know I fell asleep on the couch, but I woke up in my bedroom to my television cranked up to max in the middle of a late-night movie marathon.

Last night was the worst though.

I awoke just after midnight with a bladder about ready to burst - my fault for trying to drink myself to sleep.

I trundled my way to the bathroom, trying to hold on to as much sleep as I could, even though it was like sand through my fingers. I didn’t bother to even flip on the light, but instead went right for the toilet.

I finished my business, then went about washing my hands. As I looked up into the mirror that hangs just above the bathroom sink, I saw something that made me scream aloud and throw the light on faster than I would have thought possible.

Only the light didn’t turn on.

I didn’t bother to try again, but instead leapt out of the bathroom and into the hallway, where another light switch hung on the wall. I flipped the switch, and the light flooded the hall. The bathroom stayed dark for a moment, as if the darkness had fled there before being chased out, then the light that hadn’t been working a moment before flickered on.

I stood there panting, my pulse racing through my chest. Spiders seemed to crawl up my spine, over my shoulders, and into my hair as the image seared itself into my brain.

I hadn’t been alone in the bathroom. The face behind me in the dark as I washed my hands had confirmed that as clearly as if I’d had a conversation with her. The woman stood behind me, taller than me by at least a foot, hovering over my body like a predator watching its next meal. Her face was mostly covered by the black hair that hung before it in thick, greasy ropes, but I didn’t care to see more than the pale skin and taught grimace that lay in wait behind her hair.

I tried to wash the image away, tried to convince myself that I’d been so asleep that I’d imagined it, but the fear I felt was more real than anything I’d ever known, and I knew whatever I’d seen had been there, even if just for a moment.

I swallowed away the cotton that had grown in my mouth, tasting the bitter metallic flavor of the fear that pulsed through me, and took a deep breath. I inched toward the bathroom carefully, needing to know that whatever I’d seen wasn’t still there.

The bathroom was small and very difficult to hide in if you’re more than a foot tall, so I confirmed that it was empty with a quick glance through the doorway.

I realized then that the water was still running. I desperately wanted to let it go, to let it sit and run all night until the sun rose and brought logic and reason with it, but I knew I couldn’t. The light could be left on, but I couldn’t leave a faucet running all night.

Cautiously, I moved toward the bathroom door, doing everything I could to avoid looking at the mirror. Then, in one quick movement, I pinched my eyes shut, reached in for the faucet knob, and gave it a fast twist. The water shut off, and I had avoided the mirror.

I went through the rest of the house and turned the lights on, thankful that, if nothing else, I didn’t have a basement to go down in - that would have been too much.

I noticed with a chill as I turned the kitchen light on, that something had changed. My picture - the baby picture that had fallen out of the album, and had also appeared on my nightstand, was now hanging by a magnet on my refrigerator. What unnerved me even more was that it was hanging on the bottom half of the fridge, exactly where a child would have placed it.

I took the picture from the fridge with more force than I’d expected, sending the magnet skittering across the linoleum, and marched back to my bedroom. The fear and confusion I’d felt just minutes before had abruptly become frustration and anger.

I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep for more than a few hours a night because I kept hearing things and having awful dreams. Maybe this was all in my head - it has to be, right? I remember reading a college paper about sleep deprivation and how people begin to hallucinate if they’re unable to reach REM sleep for an extended period of time. Maybe this is what that was - just a hallucination I’d had in the bathroom while my brain desperately yearned for sleep. Maybe I’d been sleepwalking and turning on the radio and the television and moving things around my house.

Maybe.

I wanted to cling to the anger as long as I could, because if I was angry, I didn’t feel so scared.

I ripped my closet door open and pulled down the box at the top where the picture belonged. I dug the album out and flipped through it to the back where the picture was supposed to be, but just before I slammed the picture into place, I saw the photo next to it.

I’d seen the picture countless times before; I’d even seen it the morning after I heard the knocking in the closet. But I’d only seen it - I hadn’t really LOOKED at it. It was from a fishing trip I took with my dad when I was just a kid. I was posing next to the first fish I’d caught and sitting next to me was a little girl. She was younger than I, but the resemblance was uncanny. If a stranger had looked at the photo, they would have thought we were siblings, or at the very least first cousins, except I don’t have any siblings, and I never met my cousins.

But in the very back of my mind, locked so tightly away and buried so deep that it almost never existed in the first place, a bell began to ring.

I began to flip through the other pages in the back, wiping away the layers of dust in my mind with every new photo.

Camping trip. Making cookies with grandma. Family trip to the zoo.

“Family” trip to the zoo. She was there. Standing next to me and our parents eating a chocolate ice cream cone.

Wait. OUR parents. Not MY parents.

And there it was - hidden amongst the memories of the photos, so forgotten it was less than a footnote in my mind. The little girl was my little sister.

I could feel the rusty hinges of the vault in my brain creak open ever so slightly, just enough to let some version of the truth out, but not enough to give me the whole thing. I was equally as terrified as I was curious about what I’d kept locked away in there.

I had a little sister. We grew up together. Something had happened and she’d gone missing, or maybe she had an accident and died, I didn’t know. We’d been close - really close - and whatever happened had been sudden and so traumatic that her entire memory had been locked away in my subconscious.

My stomach lurched and twisted, and I tried to shut the vault in my mind - I knew there was more there but the more I remembered the more terrified I became.

I’d gone back somewhere to get her, to find out what happened to her, but something went wrong. I remember the smell of smoke and ash and the unparalleled feeling of terror I’d felt that day - unparalleled until tonight.

I knew that if I opened that vault further, I’d find out what happened - I’d remember everything, but the more the memories crashed over me like tidal waves, the less control I had. I couldn’t get enough air, no matter how hard I sucked it. I could feel the air passing through my lungs, but it was like my lungs weren’t doing their job. My organs felt like they were on fire while my skin tightened into goosebumps as if I’d just taken a dunk in a tub filled with ice.

The world began to grow dark, and I heaved for breath even harder because I didn’t want to be in the dark because SHE lives in the dark - not my sister, but the thing that took her only four years ago. The thing that was so horrible that it had been easier to forget than to live with the memory of it gnawing on my brain like a rat.

And as my mind spun faster and faster, the room began to do the same, and soon I was diving headfirst into a pool of panic, and everything went black. 

***

I awoke later to a setting sun and pounding head. I felt worse than I had the day after my best friend Max’s wedding. God, I hadn’t thought about him in a long time either. He’d been with me that day, I was certain. Did he remember any of it?

My head pounded harder - whatever I’d done last night had really taken its toll. Repressed memories, or at least these ones, seemed to put up a fight. It was like picking at an itchy scab - I couldn’t help it, even if I knew I would draw blood.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes, then reached for my phone. It had only 1% battery left and just before the screen went black, I saw that it was just after 9PM - I’d been asleep for just over twenty hours.

I sat up slowly, trying to abate the pain in my head and wondering if I’d hit myself on my way down to the floor the night before or if I’d earned the headache by spending 20 hours passed out on the carpet.

I felt my head for any bumps or scrapes, and when I found none, I gingerly brought myself to a standing position.

I stretched and rolled my neck around, which helped a little, and padded over to the bathroom for some water and a leak.

I’d forgotten about the face in the mirror the night before until just before I’d finished pissing. All at once the image flashed in my mind’s eye and I was thankful I’d already evacuated my bladder because the thought of the events from last night may have done it for me. The mere memory of the woman standing in the mirror made my skin crawl all over again.

Superstitiously I washed my hands with my head bowed down almost into the basin. I wanted nothing to do with the mirror.

I closed the door for good measure, my mind still spinning around the events of the night before, wondering exactly what all had been real. Was it possible that none of it was real?

I didn’t think so - the recently excavated memory of my little sister was real enough to tell me that I hadn’t imagined that part, or I was far crazier than I gave myself credit for if I had.

I went into the kitchen, wondering if I had enough milk left for a bowl of cereal or if it would be smarter to just leave the house, then stopped dead when I saw the fridge. The picture I’d ripped from it had been replaced, except there were deep scratch marks now all over it, and it wasn’t alone this time.

Dozens of photographs hung on the fridge, on the walls, on the cabinets, each containing a young child who couldn’t be more than a year old, most of them younger than six months, and all were labeled in the same spidery way as the one I’d found in my closet, with the same name - Abby. Each photo had scratch marks blemishing the image, and I noticed, to my horror, that a large number of the pictures had round, jagged chunks ripped out of them - someone had taken bites out of them.

BANG BANG BANG

Three loud bangs seemed to shake the whole house then, causing the pictures to flutter down to the floor like dead leaves.

I whirled around, looking for the source of the noise, but knowing already where it had come from.

The bedroom door, which I was sure I’d left open, had slammed shut. The bathroom door had as well, and I was sure that if I ever dared to go into the bedroom again, I would see that the closet door had also slammed shut.

The lights then went off with a bright SNAP, and the darkness I’d wanted so badly to avoid the night before engulfed the whole house.

I heard the crying before I saw her. The same desperate wail of an angry little girl, except this time it wasn’t disembodied.

At the end of the hall, standing in the darkness, was the shape of a little girl. She held something in her hands, I couldn’t tell what, but something told me I didn’t want to know.

Her arms and legs moved in a strange, disconnected fashion - like each joint was made of elastic. I was frozen in fear, wanting to run but unable to move my legs from their place on the floor. She inched forward slowly, bringing whatever was in her hands up to her mouth, and as she got closer, I saw the shape of four fingers and the stump of a thumb protruding from a limp palm. It was an arm, but one too small and slender to have ever belonged to an adult.

Standing behind her, tall enough to nearly reach the ceiling, was the dark shape of a woman. It’s arms and fingers seemed too long to be human, or perhaps that was the dark, and with every step the girl took, the darkness behind her took another step.

Seeing the girl there, and the woman behind her sent a shockwave of memory through my brain so strong that it made the room spin.

This is what happened to my sister. She’d seen this thing with its child, and they had gotten to her and taken her away. Max and I had tried to get her back, and had done something, what was it?

Ialpon.

That’s right. We’d burned the house down. After we knew my sister was dead, we burned the house down. We…

Arp geta.

We let her out. She was trapped in that house, and she’d found a way to manipulate my sister and later me into letting her escape. She’d

Dorpha.

It was then that I realized my thoughts weren’t my own. Someone else had been finishing those sentences, in a language I somehow understood, but didn’t know. It was helping - making - me remember.

The thing standing behind the little girl was in my head. She had been looking for me for four long years, while my brain did everything it could to forget about her and lock the memories up tight.

I turned around to open the door, to run out of the house screaming as if I’d lost my mind - perhaps I had - but the door wouldn’t budge. The knob twisted, but it may as well have been bolted to a wall.

I could feel her, smell her, getting closer with every second. What had I done before? I couldn’t remember - she wasn’t letting me remember.

I turned back around, the little girl and the thing behind her - Abigail and Teresa - were closer now. Teresa’s long, bony fingers held out in front of them, leading the little girl like a puppet on a string.

I’m coming.

The words resonated in my brain, and I knew at once that it was the voice of my sister.

I’m coming.

I wanted to feel relief, but I knew better. The words were cold and stony - not so much offered for comfort, but perhaps a warning.

I then saw a third shape emerge from the darkness. It was a young girl, sixteen or so, and I knew at once it was my sister. Her brown hair which was once so precious to her was now matted and dirty as if she’d just climbed out of a swamp. As she stepped out of the darkness, I saw with growing horror that she shared something very unique with the little girl gnawing on the forearm in front of her.

She too had no eyes.

I called her name, but she gave me no mind. Her movements were just like those of Abigail - rubbery and disjointed - but she approached me with surprising speed.

Before I could act, she was on top of me, biting, scratching, clawing her way into my flesh with surprising strength. Darkness encompassed me, snuffing out any vision I had.

Finally, the millions of signals that my brain was sending to the rest of my body worked, and I began to scream.

***

I awoke in my bed to the sound of birds singing and the sun peeking through my window. It would have been the perfect morning, except perfect mornings seldom start covered in blood.

It was in my sheets, my hair, under my fingernails, and none of it was mine - my injuries from the night before had seemingly vanished.

The blood belonged to the little girl, or what was left of her, lying dead in the corner. This wasn’t the same girl I’d seen the night before - this one is missing her left arm. Her body is covered in bite marks, except for a space on her left thigh, which seems to me to be worse. Carved deep into the muscle are three words: ol zir Ascha.

Next to her lifeless body lay my photograph smeared in blood, and on the bottom corner, in thin, spidery handwriting, I can see the word “Abby” written on it.

I called the police. I’m going to go to jail for this, surely someone must, but I’m not sure that matters much. I’m not sure sparing my life, if that’s really what happened, was as much a blessing as I would have thought.

I still have the memories, the ones locked deep inside my head. The instructions left to my sister, to me, which were all broken as we played games we didn’t understand.

If you’re reading this, please, dear God, learn from my mistakes.

 

 

 

 

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