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When I was a small child, we lived in an old-timey small town in Texas. I grew up there in the first eight years of my life, and I absolutely loved it. The people were old fashioned but kind, the scenery was beautiful, and there were heaps of areas for an imaginative child to explore. I got plenty of good memories from living there. But there's one memory that's not so good. Something that happened right before we moved out of there that remains the most painful and eerie memory stuck to my brain.
It was Mother's Day. The morning started as it normally would every year. I would be putting the final touches on some construction paper and Popsicle stick arts-and-crafts gift held together by globs of glue, and Dad would be dressed in his uniform making fluffy scrambled eggs and crispy bacon. Then Mom would come downstairs and we'd have a great breakfast, before Mom would say the dreaded words: “Put on your shoes, we're going to Ms. Crook's house.”
I would groan and whine and ask why we had to go and my mom would always reply with “Because we just do”. We went to Ms. Crook's house on Mother's Day every year, and only on Mother's Day. She was an older woman, at least older than Mom, and her house smelled old, and her cooking tasted old and she just felt old. Looking back, she couldn't have been a day over fifty, but there was definitely something off.
I always thought Dad was so lucky he didn't have to go. As I tied my shoe laces together, I could hear him mumbling into the kitchen to my mom. He was complaining about his job as he so often did. He left a little before us with a sigh.
“Why does Dad hate his job so much?” I asked my mom as she drove us to Ms. Crook's.
“Why do you think that?” my mom replied.
“I can hear him talking about it a lot. He really hates his job,” I said.
“Oh, don't worry about him, sweet heart, he's just blowing off some steam,” Mom said. “It's hard to be a police officer. You meet a lot of bad guys.”
“Like the Joker?” I asked.
“Yeah. A little like that,” she said. “We're almost there. Now, what are the rules of Ms. Crook's house?”
“Be polite. Don't call her old. Don't go in the forest,” I recited.
They were the same three rules every year. Well, the “Don't call her old” was a new addition after an incident from last year, but you get the idea.
I opened the car door and jumped out onto Ms. Crook's crinkly brown grass. Mom straightened my hair and knocked on the door. Ms. Crook answered immediately, as she always did. Right off the bat, I was prodded with questions about what I was learning in school, if I was playing sports, if I had any girlfriends, yadda yadda yadda. I'd just reply with monotone one-word answers and my mom would force a smile. Eventually Ms. Crook would make some tea and she and my mom would sit down and have a discussion while I looked for something to do in the other room.
Light sank into the sooty living room full of dusty furniture. My eyes glazed over towards the window, and I took in the view of the thick forest just a couple yards behind Ms. Crook's backyard. I knew the rule, of course, the forest was off limits. But for years I wanted to wander through it and explore, and I was feeling very confident this particular year. I carefully opened Ms. Crook's backdoor, listening intently to make sure they didn't hear me. Then I slipped out and darted for the forest like a mouse towards cheese.
I was disappointed, to say the very least. The trees were just normal trees, and the rocks were just normal rocks. I couldn't find any lions or tigers anywhere. It was just like any other forest around the town. So why wasn't I allowed to go in this one? It wasn't long before I stumbled upon my answer.
In a roomy clearing of the trees, there was a stone well settled right next to a tree stump. I walked over and placed my hand on the well's exterior. It was a light gray color, with spots of white in some places. I ran my fingers over the bumps and ridges from the stone, but I noticed a few dents. The well had definitely been chipped by something. I scratched my nails against the chalky white dust from the well's cavities.
I popped my head over the opening of the well and took a look inside. It was completely pitch black. It also smelled completely rancid. I covered my nose with my sleeve. Back then I thought the water had just gone bad or something. I leaned over and picked up a lonely pebble from the ground. I rolled it around between my fingers for a second. Then I shifted back over the well, and just as I was about to throw the pebble down I stopped. At the bottom of the well, I could see a sparkle. Two big eyes were staring at me. The pebble slipped out of my hand, and I heard it clank all the way down before hitting the water. I stood paralyzed. My body wouldn't let me break eye contact.
“Come down and play, Peter. It's fun down here.” The voice echoed from the bottom of the well. It was soft and calm.
“I'm not Peter,” I choked out. I watched the eyes the entire time. They didn't blink.
“Don't you want to play, Peter? There's a lot to do at the bottom of a well.”
“My name's not Peter. You have me confused with someone else. Are you stuck or something?”
“Come down here. Mom doesn't have to know.”
I backed up from the well slowly, and then bolted away from there. Even back then I could tell something was definitely not right. I never looked back, I shot out of the forest and sneaked back into the house. I stayed by my mom's side until we left that afternoon. I never told her what had happened because I didn't want to be punished for disobeying the rules.
I didn't say a word at dinner that night. Mom asked me if I was going to miss Mrs. Crook after we moved next week. I quickly nodded. She said she would miss her too. Dad didn't say anything. All I could think about were its hellish large eyes piercing through my own. I couldn't finish dinner. I went to bed early that night.
I woke up in darkness. My heartbeat was rapid and I wiped the cold sweat off my cheeks. I had just escaped a severe nightmare. I couldn't make out what was going on, but I felt like I was falling. I couldn't see anything, but I heard some loud bangs and then a THUD. That's when I awoke.
I breathed in and out slowly, reassuring myself that it was just a dream. I became relaxed and laid my head down on my delicate, silky pillow. But then I heard a single word which bombed a static wave of dread down into my stomach.
It came from outside my window. We lived in a single-story house, but even then I didn't think it was possible that he, or whatever it was, could be outside of my window. It had to be my imagination. I was still freaked out from the nightmare. I would pull back the curtain, prove to myself that nothing was there, and I could sleep peacefully, right? I pulled back my thin drapes and revealed the true nightmare from that night.
The eyes sliced through the dark like the moon. It was covered in shadows, but I could still see some of its face. Its head was big, lumpy and round like it had been crafted from clay. I noticed one larger bump a little to the left of the forehead. It had a nose and lips, just like a human, but they seemed too perfect for its grotesque head. Its face was completely expressionless.
“Come outside and play, Peter.” Its lips didn't move when it talked.
I had begun shaking. I let the drapes fall out of my hands and cover the window again. You're probably wondering why I didn't run to my parents room and get my big, tough officer dad. Why I just stood there in complete and utter fear. The truth is, at that time I couldn't really process what was going on. I felt sick and uneasy, like I was going to throw up.
“We can go to the well, Peter. It will be fun.”
I sat down on my bed. I tried to block it all out. Tried to convince myself that I was just having another dream and I would wake up. There's no way this thing would know where I live.
“Peter, if you're not coming out, then I'm coming in.”
I could feel tears streaming from my eyes. I climbed under my covers and put them over my face, still shaking. I heard the house's front door creak open. I shut my eyes and just kept telling myself to wake up. I heard the turn of a doorknob. The knob hit against the wall, and then slowly shut.
“It's another nightmare...it's just a nightmare...” I whispered to myself. “It's not real...it's n-”
“I'm real,” it said right into my ear.
My eyes got wide and suddenly the room was filled with the safety of sunlight. I was awake again. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. I stepped off of bed and right onto a Lego. Toys and books had been scattered all over my bedroom floor. It was perfectly clean before I went to bed. I asked my mom about it and she said it was probably my father pulling every thing out. He was in a real hurry to pack up and leave.
The rest of my stay in Texas had been fairly normal. I could hear little bumps around the house at night sometimes, but nothing had visited me again. I figured everything had just been my imagination.
I sat in the backseat of my dad's car the day of the move. He was fidgeting in the driver's seat, with the car on and both hands on the steering wheel, but we were still resting in the driveway. My mom came out of the house and climbed into the passenger's seat.
“Finally,” my dad said.
He backed up out of the driveway, and I took one last look at the house. I was leaving behind the life I knew and moving all the way to California. Just one gaze at the house and I felt alright, like a chapter of my life had just closed, but I was ready to start the next one. Then I noticed something in the window. It was in there. It was in my house, staring right at me.
My dad pressed on the gas before I could even really register it. It turned its head and watched as we drove away. I didn't even know what to say. I stayed silent for the rest of the evening.
It's been a little over a decade since that happened and I haven't had any encounters with that thing since we moved to California. I actually pretty much forgot about it, or at least tried to block it out of my mind. But everything came back to me the other day when I was having a discussion with my dad. I had asked him why Mom took me to Mrs. Crook's every year and he told me the straight truth.
“Your mom...she felt guilty, I guess,” my dad said. “Look, buddy, there's some things we've never told you about why we moved, why I retired from the force right after. Something bad happened in that town. You were still a toddler at the time, I was working at night. Got a call about a possible kidnapping and we were going through the forests trying to find the bastard. I killed a man that night, son. It took a few shots but I hit him in the head and I never...never wanted to...”
“It's alright, Dad. I get it. I didn't know, I'm sorry.”
“I'm not done. We found him...throwing the...remains of whatever was left down a well. When I shot him, he fell right down that well too. Took forever to get both of them out of there, but when we did we could see that the kid the creep had killed...it was Mrs. Crook's son. It definitely was. After killing someone, and seeing what they could do to a child, I knew I had picked the wrong line of work. And so your mom went to Mrs. Crook's every year on Mother's Day, because she had no one left. But I just couldn't stomach it anymore, had to get out of that place.”
“Down...down a well in the forest?” I said. I had to move away from the subject because all my fears began coming back to me. “Do you, uh, do you remember Mrs. Crook's son's name?”
“Oh, sure. His name was Peter.”