I have never been one to believe in horror stories or fairy tales; the impracticality and childish nature of them seem to trump my desire to become lost in imagined worlds of monsters and magic. My sister, the exact opposite of myself, always claimed that I lacked creativity and imagination, however, I insisted that she lacked clarity and reason. We often disagreed on whose opinion rendered the others false, but after my first months away at college, I began to wonder if her stories and fantasies carried more truth to them than what had originally met the eye.
It all started during my freshman year at Boston College. I was studying pre-med and it seemed as though my black and white view of the world would lend itself to my ambitious goal of gaining the title surgeon. Suddenly my perfectly neat and organized life came crumbling down, as though a wrecking ball had annihilated the strategic walls of reason that had become my creed. My mother had insisted that I live in a freshman dorm where I could ‘bond’ with other people my age and create a sense of belonging with my new school, but I cared to disagree.
Dorms were for unmotivated students that lacked responsibility and shared communal bathrooms. Suffice it to say, that was most definitely not my scene. I argued that the most suitable living arrangement for myself would be a house where I could rent out a single apartment and relish in my newfound sense of independence. However, sometimes mother really does know best.
After gaining the reluctant approval of my mother, I began house hunting in the nearby neighborhoods for a reasonably priced apartment. The house I found was rough at best. The old white-washed, Victorian, three story was falling into disrepair, but it was inexpensive and that was what mattered most. Apparently the house had been built in the mid 1800s and originally served as a family home before it was converted into an orphanage for children that lost their families to the Civil War. Here’s an insider tip, never rent a house that used to be an orphanage. One might think that is common sense, but for someone that never believed in creepy old superstitions, it never crossed my mind that I might have been moving into a haunted house.
The house was divided into three floors and three different single person apartments. Each equipped with a kitchen, living room, bathroom and two bedrooms. I walked up the creaking front steps to ring the doorbell and waited. A few minutes passed before a young women rushed towards the glass front door, tying a bathrobe hastily around her waist, while simultaneously ripping a large towel from the top of her head. Panting as she opened the door she said, “Hi!! You must be Evie, I’m Lucy. I live here in the first floor apartment, but I really oversee all of the business and information regarding renting the other units.”
“It’s nice to meet you Lucy.” I replied with less vigor. She ushered me into the foyer and insisted that I take a seat on her overstuffed, green couch as she changed into more acceptable clothing and disappeared around the corner. A few minutes later Lucy reappeared carrying a tray laden with a coffee pot and two matching, dark blue mugs. As she poured the hot drink into both cups she questioned,
“What brings the interest of a freshman to this old dump?” She made an almost imperceptible sound of distress and quickly amended, “I know that sounded bad, but honestly if
my mother hadn’t owned this place, I would have never lived here.” I raised a single brow at her apparent candor,
“It was honestly the cheapest place I could find, and that really is all there was to it.”
“Well I guess I can’t fault you on that,” she laughed. We both sipped our quickly cooling coffee and she informed me that one other man lived in the house, on the second floor, and that I would be welcome to rent out the top level of the ancient house. “To be completely truthful, the top level probably has the most square footage and the least foot traffic. All in all, despite the fact that this house is old as hell, you have the best deal when it comes to the apartments inside,” she added. Curious about this most recent development, I questioned,
“If mine is the best apartment in the house, why didn’t either of you two snag it?” Lucy swallowed the last of her coffee and shrugged her shoulders uncomfortably.
“I’ve never really thought about it. I guess things just worked out the way they were supposed to,” she said with an unconvincing smile, in an attempt to either assure herself or me. She quickly picked up my half empty mug, along with her own, and exited to what I assume was the kitchen before I could ask any more questions regarding the arrangements of the apartments. As soon as I could hear the sink in the kitchen running, I stood up and moved over to the fireplace.
Sitting on top of the mantel were a multitude of old black and white photographs of small children standing in rows, reminiscent of school pictures. Out of all of the pictures only one child was smiling, a small boy with pale hair and what I could only assume were piercing blue eyes. His smile seemed out of place and unnerved me, his small eyes glinted with a hint of something dark. I must have missed the sound of the water shutting off in the kitchen, because seconds after
turning my attention to the next picture I heard a sharp clearing of the throat come from over my left shoulder. Guiltily, as though I had been caught with my hand in the cookie jar, I turned to face Lucy. At first it seemed as though she was glaring straight at me, but I soon noticed that the picture of the little smiling boy had caught her attention. I attempted to question her fixation on the picture,
“Wha..” but she quickly slid a smile, oozing with fake perfection, across her face.
“Come with me, I can show you your apartment. No use standing here staring at old, dusty photographs.” She quickly turned on her heel and grabbed a pair of old keys off the hook of an ancient mirror hanging on the wall to our left. I trailed in her wake as we began to climb the three flights of stairs to the top apartment.
The curving mahogany banister guided my hand as I craned my neck upwards to see the true height of the house. The flights of stairs seemed to stretch on endlessly before we came to the first landing where the other tenant must live. A small wall had been erected to offer an air of privacy and the mismatched green door had the title of attorney scrawled across the panel of frosted glass covering the top half of the door. If I had to guess, the door, just like much else in the house, had been thrown together in a mishmash of styles and eras.
We rounded back onto the last flight of stairs approaching the landing that I would now call home. Lucy twisted the old, burnished bronze handle of my new front door, the blue paint cracking with age and the rusted hinges screaming their complaint at being wrenched open for the first time in years.
We both stepped into the dark apartment and Lucy’s hand fumbled around the wall, searching for a light switch that was evading her. Suddenly a burst of light filled the open space
as her pinkie finger had brushed the elusive switch. I stared at my surroundings with a mixture of wonder and slight disgust.
The space was very unique, the main living space felt open and airy. Large arching windows facing the front door looked out upon the quiet street below. The hardwood floors glistened as though someone had just mopped over them with a bucket of pine-sol, a faint pine scent confirming my suspicion.
Already partially furnished, an overstuffed blue couch, not dissimilar from Lucy’s own, sat facing a large stone fireplace that seemed as though it had been ripped out of an old English country manor and plopped down in my new living room. Jagged edges of rock were joined together with now-crumbling mortar and the mantel was formed out of a rough hunk of what appeared to be driftwood. I turned on my heel and quirked my head to look at four doors opposite the fireplace.
“Why are there four doors? I thought you said that the apartments consisted of a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom?” I inquired. Lucy glanced over at me from where she had been straightening a wool blanket over the back of the couch. She swiveled her head to look at the four doors and a crease formed between her brows as though some important fact was missing from her mind. She responded in an off put voice,
“Oh that. When I mentioned that your apartment had more square footage, I must have forgotten to tell you of the extra attic space.” She pointed at the smaller of the four doors. “This one here has a flight of stairs that goes up to the old attic; you can use it to your own discretion”. I nodded once more and followed in her wake as we walked through the last of the apartment checking the appliances and light switches. After finishing the walkthrough, Lucy pulled out a
manila folder from a scratched drawer in the kitchen. “Here is the lease and you just need to initial on these dotted lines,” she used her pen to point to various spaces on the page “and just a signature is needed here.” I took the pen from her extended fingers and quickly scanned through the documents, signing on the previously stated lines. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes, accepting the fact that this apartment, with its cracking blue door and sprawling fireplace, was now my home.
The first night I spent in my apartment was more memorable than I had anticipated, the creaking of the floors and the draft ended up being the least of my problems. The mover’s had arrived earlier in the day, lugging my queen sized bed up the multiple flights of stairs to my worn door followed by my grandmother’s ancient dining set and an overstuffed purple chair. Once my decrepit furniture had been settled into their new homes, I collapsed onto the sagging sofa in front of the fireplace; sighing, I placed a hand over my eyes and succumbed to the slippery grasping hands of sleep, beckoning me into its dark embrace.
Splish. Splash, plop. Splish. Splash, plop. My heavy eyes were forced open due to cold splatters dripping onto my forehead from a crack in the ceiling above my head. Yellowing paint had peeled away from the crevice, water rings forming a perimeter around the site. My head lolled to the side and I frowned at the now crackling fire…I didn’t light that last night, or did I?
Shaking my head in an attempt to clear away the fuzziness resulting from sleep, I heard a large clang come from the direction of my kitchen; it sounded as though someone had heaved a cast iron pan above their heads and bashed it onto the laminate counter tops. I crawled off the couch and stumbled in direction of the racket. In hindsight, bumbling through my living room sounding like a deranged bear was probably not the smartest plan when the possibility of encountering a
psychopathic murderer loomed. Rounding the corner, I was shocked to find a small boy standing in the kitchen with his back turned to me until he slowly c***ed his crew cut covered head to one side and pivoted to face me. I gasped in recognition and shock; piercing blue eyes drilled into my own and I remembered seeing that identical gaze in the picture above Lucy’s mantle, the same smile curving upwards on his delicate face. I blinked my eyes in confusion, my muddled brain trying to make sense of the fact that a young boy from the 1800s was now standing barefoot in my kitchen, and then POOF he was just gone, like a flash of lightning. I scrambled around the kitchen for a few minutes opening and closing cabinets and glancing under my dining table to no avail until, suddenly, a small puff of air caressed the back of my neck. I screamed bloody murder and whipped my head around and screamed again when I saw the small boy floating above me with a serrated kitchen knife. Time froze around the shimmering blade; he surged forward, a manic expression contorting his face as I tried to lunge to the side. Too slow I thought I was too slow and the searing pain of the blade slicing through my neck confirmed my thinking. I dropped like a rock to the linoleum floor and my eyes focused on the now sitting child across from me. “
“I always knew someone would eventually come to play with me,” he laughed.
I jolted awake on my couch, covered in a sheen of sweat, panting from the terror that still gripped me. It was just a dream I told myself, but it had felt much too real just to be a mere nightmare.
Shuddering from the cold that now seemed to permeate the insulated walls, and creep into my very bones, I reflected back on the dream that I had just experienced. Why was I dreaming about a boy who had lived over a hundred year ago, and why did I dream of him as a
monster? My mind whirred with all of the unanswered questions and fears. The rational part of my brain scolded myself as I grabbed the wool blanket from the back of the couch and sank further into the sagging cushions, hoping that the small scrap of dilapidated fabric would keep my monsters away.
Over the following weeks, my nights were void of knifings and demonic children, yet my mind could not shake the feeling that something was amiss. During those first couple of weeks peculiar occurrences began to catch my attention…very peculiar occurrences. I noticed small trinkets having moved from their rightful spot to sit in front of the small attic door, and the mirror hanging next to the main entry spider webbed with cracks one morning as I rushed to check my makeup before hustling out the door. Countless hours of studying and notetaking managed to keep my subconscious whisperings quiet; exhaustion every night stole away my brain’s ability to forge new horrors.
Sitting at my dining table, scooping ramen out of the plastic microwavable container, my eyes locked onto the slightly jiggling door knob of the attic door. I had yet to mosey my way up the creaking steps to explore what treasures the previous occupant may have forgotten, and the sudden yet faint rattling of metal on wood drew my attention from the steaming bowl of salted noodles. A sharp scraping noise of wood on tile filled the air as I pushed away from the table and began to step towards the rattling door; the jingle of metal growing louder the closer I got.
Reaching out a trembling hand the cold metal on my warm skin sent a jolt through my body like a shock of electricity. To my utter surprise and dread, the cool doorknob turned without the slightest of squeaks, swinging inward with a subtle push. Darkness loomed as I
stared into the doorway, attempting to calm my nerves with deep breathing tactics. To no avail might I add.
I stepped forward into the dark space as my hand groped along the crumpled wall paper in hopes of finding a light switch. As my fingers brushed across the metal face plate of an antique light switch, the door slammed closed behind me, the lock clicking with an air of finality.
Cursing in my head, I slammed back into the door, hoping to jar it open with no avail. The slippery blackness seemed to cling to my clothes as my body dropped like deadweight to the wooden floor in front of the attic stairs. I closed my eyes against the panic that forced my heart to beat out an irregular rhythm. Thump Thump. Thump Thump Thump.
“Have you come to play with me again?”