I was only 7-years-old when my mom died, but I remember that night like it was yesterday. Maybe part of it is being here in my childhood bedroom again — seeing the same worn wooden beams stretching across the ceiling, hearing the same aches and creaks as the old house settles in, smelling the same faint smell of old dust and new paint — it all brings me right back to my childhood.
I'm going to try to explain this as quickly as I can because honestly I'm scared, and I need help, or advice, or maybe I just need someone else to know. I don't know.
I'm back in my childhood home for the first time in nearly 16 years. After my mom died, my dad and I moved away, but apparently he never sold the house. He passed away last month after a long battle with prostate cancer, and I take comfort in the fact that he's finally able to be with my mom again. He never remarried, and I think he missed her until the day he died.
I didn't know the house was still in his name until I got a call from the executor of his will, who told me the house was now mine. Apparently it's just been empty this whole time — he never sold it and never even rented it out — but he kept up with regular maintenance, even keeping the lawn and the garden perfectly manicured. Honestly, the house is just as I remember it as a kid. Long story short, I ended up moving in. It's way too big a house for just me and my dog Noodle, but something in me won't let me sell it despite all of my friends telling me I should. It's stupid, I know (the place is a 45-minute drive from the city where I work), but my dad kept it for all those years, and I feel like just getting rid of it would somehow be disrespecting his memory.
Back to 2001. The night my mom died. I can remember waking up in the early morning hours, a sliver of crescent moon still high in the sky. Just like now, I lay bundled up under a pile of blankets and quilts, and just like now, my dog was in the room with me. Only he wasn't sleeping either. Instead, he was staring at himself in the mirror.
I should note that this was not unusual at all for this dog. May he rest in peaceful doggy heaven, Toby was always a bit of an oddball, and we'd often find him just sitting around staring at himself in the mirror. He'd sit contentedly for hours, wagging his tail in the mirror as if the sight of his own face was the most wonderful thing in the world. That night, however, it immediately put me on edge. For the past week leading up to that night, Toby had started to act weird when he looked at himself in the mirror. His normally happy-go-lucky demeanor would shift, and he'd start to let out a low growl. He'd woken me up with this little act several nights in a row, and it was starting to give me the creeps.
This particular night, it was even worse. Toby wasn't just looking in the mirror, not even just growling. He was staring into that thing with a primal intensity I'd never seen before. His hackles were raised, his short fur standing up all along his spine, and he was low to the ground, poised in what looked like a position of half threat and half fear.
I was about to quietly call out to him when he suddenly started snarling, baring his teeth in a show of aggression unlike anything I'd ever seen from my normally sweet and gentle childhood dog.
That's when my mom started to scream. Her bedroom was just across the hallway, and with my door cracked open I could hear her loud, high-pitched shrieks as if she were standing right next to me. I was just a kid at the time, but I'll always regret what I did next. I just... hid. I knew that I was the only one in the house (my dad was deployed in Afghanistan at the time), and to this day I don't know why, but I didn't get up, didn't try to help, didn't even get up to call 911. My dog barking and my mom screaming, all I did was get under my covers and hide.
Even when the screaming stopped, I stayed hidden. Even when the sun rose, I stayed hidden. In fact, it wasn't until mid-morning when the cops came for a welfare check that they were able to coax me out of my bed.
My dad came home early. He never explained to me what happened to my mom; even in later years when I asked he would just say he didn't want to talk about it. For all I knew she was just — gone. The funeral was a week later, and we were out of the house within a month.
So that brings me to now. I've been in this house for a couple of weeks now, and... fuck, I hope this doesn't sound paranoid or stupid, but my dog Noodle has started acting weird. She's started spending a bunch of time staring into the mirror, just like Toby used to, only before coming to this house she never had this habit. At first I just thought it was kind of funny, but she's been doing it more and more. For the past few nights, I've woken up in the middle of the night to find her staring into the mirror and quietly growling, and it's getting more and more aggressive.
What prompted me to post this is how she's acting tonight. I can tell she's on edge. She's pacing in front of the mirror, snarling, her hair standing on end. And I noticed something. The angle of the mirror is such that, when you're standing right in front of it, the reflection must point right at my open bedroom door. My dog isn't staring at herself — she's staring at whatever's right outside my door.
I'm in my bed right now, and from the position in the room I can't see out into the hallway. So far I haven't been able to bring myself to get up and check it out, but I think that's what I have to do. Fuck. I'm scared.