It's the middle of the night right now. There is a spring thunderstorm going on outside. I guess that's what woke me up because it's really violent. The thunder is so loud that it shakes the walls and makes me jump. The wind is rattling the windows and howling down the chimney. The lights have blinked off a couple of times already. I hope they don't go out because I don't have a candle nearby.
He was on my mind when I woke up and I wish it was not so. Maybe I should say "it" was on my mind. I haven't thought about that night in years. He's searching, I can sense it. I felt I had to write this all down in case something happens, and as I walk through my dark house, I hope the footsteps I heard were only my imagination.
Some years ago, back when my husband and I were still struggling to get by, we decided to look for a cheaper place to live. We wanted to get a second car and that seemed to be the only way that we could afford it.
I worked for a property management company and was always on the lookout anyway, but once we had our plan, I paid even more attention in looking for something appropriate.
It seemed that something finally did come up when a small garage-apartment became available. On a Friday night, I took the keys home with me so Mike and I could go look it over during the weekend. We arrived there early Saturday morning with one of our friends. He was looking for a place too and if this was too small for us, it might work for him.
I didn't much care for the neighborhood right from the beginning. The houses on the street were all old and not well maintained. Some of the places were really huge though and it was obvious that at one time this was a very well-to-do area. A few of these houses looked as if they were formally mansions and had probably been beautiful in their day but now everything appeared to be rotting away from the inside out.
The garage apartment was behind one of these big mansion-like houses, with its own driveway off the street. It might have been cute with new paint and some yard work.
We entered the garage first because its side door was swinging open. It was kind of eerie to me: old, dark, and dank. My husband had a flashlight in the car and we needed it here because there were no windows.
I didn't go all the way inside, but from the doorway I could see that it was mostly empty, with just enough room to park one car. In one corner, jumbled up together, were some old, ruined pieces of furniture; a bed frame - the really ancient kind that would support just a thin mattress, a chest of drawers with a busted drawer, a couple of splintered chairs, and a couch with nasty black mold growing in splotches all over it.
"Yuck!" I grimaced and stepped back into the sunshine to wait for them. The stairs leading up to the apartment were right beside the door and I noticed that they needed some work. They were made of concrete painted gray but badly chipped and there were several places that were crumbling. There was no outer rail either, which was a little scary because the stairs were very steep.
"C'mon!" I called. I was feeling this urge to hurry up there, but yet I was reluctant to go alone.
They eventually came out of the garage, dusting themselves off. If I'd gone inside, I would've wanted a shower!
"There's an old chest down there," my husband said, heading up the stairs behind me. "It's full of these really old dirty magazines."
"You touched them?" I asked with disgust.
"It's not going to kill me. It's just dirt."
"Well just don't touch me till you wash your hands!" I warned him. But when I reached the top of the stairs, he grabbed me, picked me up, and held my feet off the ground.
"Why not?" he teased, enjoying my struggles. "Whatcha going to do about it?"
I tried to get away but he was much stronger and he just laughed at me until I calmed down enough for him to kiss me, and then he put me down.
I playfully elbowed him in the side as I pushed past him to the door. "I don't know what the place looks like inside," I told them while fighting with a rusty lock that looked like it hadn't been changed since the 40's. "They said the guy who lived here last was kinda weird."
The door opened into a fairly long rectangular room. The electricity had been turned off but except for a few deep shadows in the corners, we could see most everything clearly. The first thing that jumped out at us was a hole in the inside wall about halfway down the room. It was in the exact shape of a man; almost as if someone had been thrown up against the wall hard enough to crash through the layer of sheetrock. The older, brown boards underneath were visible.
"Wow," our friend Don said, tracing the outline with his hand. "I wonder how that happened?"
I shrugged. "I don't know anything about this place. Except that it's nasty."
At the end of the room near the door was the bathroom - and it was just too horrible for me to consider going into it. I'd already decided that - despite the very low rent - this place was just too grubby for me.
Straight across from the door was the kitchen. It was the darkest room because an old curtain was pulled across the only window in there. The appliances were rusty, the vinyl on the floor was coming up in patches, and I could just imagine the cockroaches that would come scurrying out at night.
While Mike and Don were checking out things in what once must have been the pantry, I suddenly felt the strangest desire to hurry into the bedroom that was off the kitchen. I wondered if I'd be able to see cracks from the body outline on the other side of the wall.
For some strange reason, this room seemed quite cleaner than the others. Granted, the floor was still rough hardwood and the paint was chipping, but there was a luminosity here that was really unnerving. Windows on each outside wall were covered by dusty ivory blinds that filtered the light but didn't block it.
As soon as I walked through the doorway, I felt a heaviness within the room, a presence that was overpowering, as if someone was already here. There was no one though; there wasn't even a closet where anyone could hide.
My feet moved unwillingly until I was standing in the center of the room. I had put my hands up involuntarily as if trying to push away from what I felt pulling me forward. Everything around me grew dim, even the sounds in the background. It was a feeling like an all-over caress, not by hands, but by something fluid; submerging in warm water. I was not afraid. I felt coaxed, seduced into relaxing and opening my mind. What I saw then should've terrified me. It does now that I look back on it, but at the time, I had no fear.
I knew there was no furniture in the house, yet as I looked around, I saw a rickety straight-back chair, a tilted chest of drawers, and a bed in the corner near the inside wall. A naked light bulb burned harshly over my head.
The bed was thin, a mattress on bare metal. I didn't get a really good look at the linens except for the quilt that hung half-off the bed. It was old, much older than even the scene I was seeing, made of hand stitched squares of crimson and gold. There was a man on the bed, writhing in pain, lying in a pool of drying blood.
Still, unaccountably, I wasn't feeling any fear as I watched him struggle to sit up. His face was stained with tears and his eyes were sunk back deep in his head, filled with utter terror. He had close-cropped dark hair and a short, dark beard; he was not a handsome man. He had the rough, weathered features of someone who would never fit into normal society. Lines of anger and hatred lined and distorted his face.
I believe that the reason I was not aware of my own fear was because any that I had was minute in comparison to his. I'd never known such horror, and as I watched, it began to grow.
Over his bed, a dark spot manifested in the air. It increased quickly in size until it appeared to be a black hole, filled with roiling dark mist at least three feet in diameter. Suddenly the mist took the form of a man. He had no features, no clear outline, but he radiated evil in a way that I'd never conceived.
The dying man on the bed began to scream, "NO!!" and cursing with words that made my ears burn. Then there were hands reaching out to the dying man, seemingly from thin air, clutching, clawing, grabbing, and pulling; blackened hands, skeletal hands, corpse hands, drawing the dying man to the figure of the dark man in the mist. The screams were hideous.
Then there was nothing; nothing in the room that I could see, except a dark stain on the ceiling over the spot where the bed had been.
I blinked my eyes and could hear sounds behind me now. Somehow, I'd come to be standing directly against the front window, staring at the closed blinds. I was frozen there, unable to move a muscle, not afraid, just numb all over - - Maybe with shock?
There was a sound of someone retching, then a door slamming, and my husband shouting, "Get Kelly!" to Don, who was frantically asking, "What's happening?"
I felt hands on my shoulders. I was turned and pushed out of the room, then through the kitchen, and out of the house. As soon as I was outside in the sunshine, I shrugged off the trance and started to tremble so hard that my teeth chattered. Mike was leaning over the porch rail, retching down to the ground below.
Don, who had guided me out, was still trying to get answers. He asked again, "What the hell happened?"
"I'm not sure," I whispered through clenched teeth. I wanted to go to my husband to make sure he was all right but my legs felt so weak and shaky, I thought they would give out from under me.
Mike recovered himself and reached for me, to pull me close. I thought he was just going to hold me and comfort me but he practically dragged me down the stairs and shoved me into the car with hardly a word. Poor Don didn't know what was going on, but he hurried after us. As soon as he jumped into the back seat and closed the door, Mike squealed tires in pulling out of the driveway.
Finally, we pulled into an empty parking lot up the street and I noticed that my husband's hands were shaking as badly as I was.
"What did you see?" he asked me. Feeling insane, I told him everything.
"Yeah," he nodded when I was finished. "That's pretty much what I saw too. Except that I saw that black mist all over you, like it was smothering you. I tried to pull you away but something shoved me out of the room and I couldn't get back in. I started getting sick."
Don had listened quietly to us. He'd not seen the things we had, but he'd felt the room grow icy cold and thought he'd felt someone in there too.
They continued to talk about it as Mike pulled back out onto the road. I leaned my head over against the cool glass of the window and hugged myself tightly.
They had only experienced horror there, but I had felt something different; something overwhelmingly sensual as I'd been held there. A total overall surrender of some sort of my entire being, that I'd had no choice in. As I thought about that feeling I had experienced, trying to quantify it, I realized that my panties were very wet. I didn't tell my husband because I was too embarrassed. Mike wanted only to get the keys back to my boss and be done with the whole place but, despite my better judgment, I was curious about that 'feeling'... if I went back, would I feel it again?
It dawned on me that we'd forgotten to lock the door! I cried out suddenly, causing them both to jump. Nerves were too tight for that kind of outburst.
"We've got to go back!" I said, "I didn't lock it."
"Hell no, we're not going back," Mike said flatly. "Even if someone did go in there, that place would scare them right back out."
"But..." I started to protest, knowing I could get in trouble if someone got inside and messed the place up worse.
"No buts," he said. "We will not set foot back in that place again. Is that clear?"
"Mike," I tried to argue, but he cut me off again.
"You heard me," was his final word, so I sat back and held my tongue, wondering what would happen if we did go back.
They decided they were hungry so we stopped at a small diner. I had no appetite and just pushed my food around my plate without eating much of it at all. Mike and Don were still carrying on about what had happened in the apartment.
"You could tell the guy was really terrified of dying," Mike said. "It was like he knew how bad he'd been all his life and now he was finding out that he would have to answer for it or something; like demons were coming to torture him while he was dying."
I felt that the man had been lying there alone for a long time... possibly several days. He'd been shot in the stomach, and though not immediately fatal, he was incapacitated enough that he was unable to get help. There wasn't even a phone in the place.
What they didn't say - and I don't know if Mike had learned this much or not - was that the man had an unearthly charisma when he was alive. I'm not even sure how I knew that, but I did. I knew that he used women in horrible and degrading ways. He took what he wanted, humiliated, broke them, and then cast them away. He cheated people. He lied, he destroyed everything and everyone he came in contact with, but then he was able to turn around and charm his way into forgiveness. He manipulated and coerced hundreds of "one more chance's". Women always fell for him despite his unpleasant appearance. He was just a bad man.
After lunch, we went to my boss's house and dropped off the keys. I wasn't going to tell him any of the stuff we'd seen, just that we weren't interested in renting the unit. I got Mike to agree not to talk about it, but he seemed unable to resist.
"Did you know that place is haunted?" he asked. "That someone died in there?"
"What are you talking about?" my boss asked. "The guy just moved out last week."
"Not the last tenant," Mike clarified. "But at some time in the past."
My boss, an extremely good-natured Dutch South African named Derek, laughed and said, "No, I've never heard of that happening." He looked at me to get some kind of confirmation but I only shrugged.
"I'd call it haunted," I answered quietly, backing up my husband.
"Go home and sleep it off," Derek joked. "I'll see you Monday. I've got someone going over there to get it renovated next week."
We drove home and in the evening, the guys decided they wanted to go see a movie to help get the afternoon off their minds. I didn't want to see it - some "guy" flick with too much kung fu - and besides, I wasn't completely sure I wanted to forget the afternoon. So they went out and I stayed home alone.