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I was seven years old and lived only with my mother in a two-bedroom apartment that housed mostly elderly and low-income families. Afraid of the dark as a child, as most children are, I slept with a nightlight that illumined from the wall across from my twin-sized bed. It’s not as if I had any reason to be afraid, it just helped ease the constant noises the old building made, not to mention the many sounds of neighbors that seem to pour through the paper-thin walls.
I had awoken countless times to the sound of coughing, doors being shut, and domestic disputes that mom had finally bought me a television set to help drown the sounds. I felt so grown up having my own television in my room I finally turned off my night light and relied solely on the flashes of light and sounds from television to help me sleep.
For several weeks I had no problem falling asleep to my favorite Nickelodeon late night cartoons until the night it started to storm and the loud claps of thunder triumphed over the volume of my television. After three crashes of thunder in a row, I jumped out of bed and scurried to my bedroom door as fast as I could go. Just as I reached for the handle, another burst of thunder rang out, and the door flew open. I jumped back and was between tears and catching my breath when I realized standing in the door-frame was my babysitter Kristen.
Kristen had come in to check on me knowing I was afraid of the storm. Relieved to see Kristen, she picked me up and put me back on my bed. Kristen explained that everything was going to be okay and reminded me that she would be just outside my bedroom in the kitchen doing her homework.
Suddenly a heavy, yet soothing, sound of rain pelts hitting the glass on my window replaced the thunder and I was able to focus on cartoons again. My eyes eventually grew too heavy to keep open and I drifted off to sleep. I was only asleep for what seemed like a moment when a tremendous explosion of thunder once again scared me to my feet.
I was standing on top of my bed, stiff, too afraid to move until another burst of thunder rattled out, then another, and another. I dove from atop my pillows to under my blankets and clutched down on the blankets so hard my fingers went so numb I thought they fell off. Three more crashes of thunder rang out, this time shaking the apartment.
I stayed hidden under the safety of my blankets until all sounds of the storm ceased. In minutes that felt like hours I peeked out from under my covers and could hear the creaking of my door being opened slowly. With one eye peering out I stared at the small crack between the door and frame to see what was there. To my relief it was only Kristen again. She smiled at me so innocently I knew everything was okay once again. She started to tell me to go back to sleep when the sound of our house phone rang out so abruptly that it even caused Kristen to jump in her place. Kristen softly closed my door and I could hear her footsteps shuffling down the hall to the Kitchen answering the phone in the midst of the second ring. I hopped out from under the covers and quietly opened my door and looked out at Kristen on the phone.
I could tell she was talking to my mom on the other end just by the way she twirled the phone cord nervously around her finger and tugged down on it. Kristen twirled the cord a few more times and then turned and saw me standing in the doorway. She asked if I wanted to talk to mom and without saying anything I ran to the kitchen, slid to a stop in my socks, and pulled the phone away from Kristen without giving her a chance to mutter a sound. Mom told me that she would be home a little late because the storm had caused a power outage at the grocery store where she worked. Mom did as she always did and reassured me everything was okay, and that it was just a storm. Kristen took the phone away and told me to go back to sleep.
I walked back to my room, climbed in bed and grabbed my favorite stuffed animal and held it close. I focused back on the cartoons but could hear the loud sound of the phone being put back on the receiver. I could hear Kristen drag a chair across the tile and sit down at the table. Even with the sound of my television I could hear Kristen click her pen and press it to the paper on the table.
The rain continued to pour but once again the thunder ceased. A cartoon ended and another started. I let out a yawn and felt my eyes getting heavy once again. This time just as I was about to fall asleep Kristen let out a loud, startling, hair-raising shriek that instantly made my heart feel like it dropped to my stomach. I was paralyzed in such fear I couldn’t move.
Suddenly lightning filled the room with light in three quick bursts and then there was complete darkness. The power had been lost and I was frozen in place. A series of lightning flashes once again lit the room, and as it did I could see a figure emerge out of the wall from over my bed. Horrified I could see it was cloaked in an all black, ragged robe with a hood covering its head and face. It’s hands were that of a skeleton and dragged the ground, as it appeared to glide across my room. It seemed to move flawlessly, never stopping to even look at me. It hovered in one motion passing through me and entering the wall opposite the one it entered.
Just beyond that wall was the bedroom to the apartment next door that belonged to an elderly couple. I heard the old lady in that apartment let out a screech similar to Kristen’s and then heard the panic sound of my bedroom door being swung open. Kristen was standing there holding a flashlight lighting my room with a yellow tint. Kristen was breathing heavy and a look of sheer terror overwhelmed her face. She asked me in a concerned yell if I was okay and then asked where the thing with the skull face went. I couldn’t say a word but could only point to the wall in which it exited. Two loud thumps echoed from beyond the wall and then the power suddenly came back on. Kristen picked me up, carried me to the kitchen counter and sat me on the edge of it.
In a frantic motion she lifted the phone from the wall receiver and dialed on the keypad. She swore aloud when she hit the wrong number and quickly hung the phone up and dialed again. Her fingers hitting the keypad were so fast the phone sounded like noises from an arcade. I could hear my moms voice from the other end as Kristen tried to explain she couldn’t be here alone. I was so scared I couldn’t help but to shake as I cried. I could hear mom was angry on the other end of the phone but between my own crying, and Kristen arguing back didn’t allow me to hear anything mom was saying. Suddenly Kirsten slammed the phone back onto the wall, scooped her homework from the kitchen table into her purse, and strapped my shoes on my feet. Kristen grabbed our jackets that were laid over one of the kitchen chairs, picked me up and hustled out of the apartment constantly saying out loud that we’re going to be okay. When we got to Kristen’s car she put me in the backseat, started the ignition and took off, leaving the apartment complex only a blur in her rearview.
As I’m still crying and confused as to what is going on Kristen pulls into the grocery store parking lot where mom worked. I could see mom in the distance before we even got close, standing outside the entrance with her hands on her hips as rain continued to pour down on her. Kristen didn’t even have time to put the car in park before mom had snatched me out of the backseat. Mom and Kristen had a brief argument while I was crying into moms shoulder before Kristen once again sped off and out of the parking lot. Mom tried to calm me down with soft pats on the back but I was too unsure of what was going on to stop crying. Mom excused herself from her manager and put me in the backseat of her car and we left the grocery store and returned home to our apartment. That night I refused to sleep alone and slept with mom in her bed.
The next morning the phone once again made a startling ring and woke mom and me up from our sleep. My mom, still half asleep, reached for the phone on her nightstand. I could hear a voice I was unfamiliar with asking mom for a favor. Mom seemed to know the caller on the other end of the conversation and agreed to the favor. Mom hung up the phone and explained she had to go next door to check on our elderly neighbors. While she was getting her slippers on from beside the bed, and rubbing the sleep from her eyes I asked why she had to go check on our neighbors. Mom explained to me that our neighbor’s daughter, who lived far away, was trying to call her parents and was worried about them. I told mom that is where the ghost went last night and she told me I just had a bad dream and that ghosts aren’t real. When I tried to convince mom that ghosts are real she told me in a strict, firm voice not to bring up the subject again. Mom then stretched as she got up off the bed and told me to stay in bed while she checked on the neighbors. As mom left the room I heard the apartment door open and then close. I ran from mom’s bedroom to my bedroom and listened through the wall. I could hear mom knock on the elderly couples apartment door but nothing else. I heard a few more knocks followed by mom’s voice calling out. I then heard mom rustling with keys and the sound of a key opening the lock. I heard mom call for the elderly couple again but no response.
I then heard the sound of the neighbor’s wooden floorboard creak as mom started to enter their apartment. A brief moment of silence fell shortly before I heard mom gasp and then run back into the hallway and into our apartment. I heard the door slam followed by the door locking and then mom calling my name. Frightened, I ran to her as she grabbed the kitchen phone and dialed three numbers on the dial pad. I could hear a calm voice on the other end asking questions and my mom replying in a terrified, heart-pounding voice,
“Send help, my neighbors are dead!”
To this day my mom refuses to talk about what she saw in that apartment and refuses to discuss the accounts of what Kristen and I saw. Mom only told me that both our neighbors had died, and I was too young to remember anything. I never saw the thing's face but Kristen’s words of “Where did the thing with the skull face go?” and watching a dark disturbing figure float through walls still haunts me to this day. Kristen never returned to babysit for me, nor have I seen or heard from her ever again.