Ever since I was a little girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I knew I was different from most people, but I never talked about it. I spent my younger years with three imaginary friends, but they were never really imaginary. I could see them like I could see my parents. I could hear them just the same. Then there was the old woman who would sit in the rocking chair in the corner of my room every night and knit. My mom always wondered why I insisted on keeping the light on, but the light never made her go away. Neither did the fact that we didn't own a rocking chair.
When I became a teenager and moved out of the house I grew up in, I found that the things I saw had little to do with the house and more to do with me. I began to talk about it to my family and found that I came from a long line of people who could see and talk with the dead. But still I hid it from most people, because up until recently it was taboo and different. I thought no one would understand me. I thought I would be medicated and marked as crazy. It's situations like the following that make me think maybe I'm not as crazy as I once thought.
A few years back, in my mid twenties, I made friends with a girl just a few years younger than me named Paige. She was a married mother of a three year old daughter, Jane. Her husband worked long hours at a cubicle farm in the city an hour and a half away. Paige had stayed home to raise Jane, but was itching to find herself a part time job.
Not long after she started her search, she found one in the evenings, and asked me to babysit Jane. I was apprehensive at first. I had always been uncomfortable in her house, mainly in the living room which featured a staircase situated against the far wall. Something just felt off, and though I was a big believer that nothing could happen at night that couldn't happen during the day, the house took on a different personality at night. It became more sinister. Being as it was Winter, I knew most of my time spent in that house would be in the dark, but I loved Jane as if she were my own daughter and agreed.
The first night things went fairly well. I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, but convinced Jane to play in the family room on the opposite side of the house from the living room. Still, I could hear the sound of someone talking in the living room. We were the only ones home, but that didn't stop the talking from getting louder. I tried to ignore it, not wanting to draw attention to it and potentially scare Jane. I could never understand quite what it was saying, but that was almost worst than knowing.
After nearly a year of my friendship with Paige, I pulled her aside after she got home and told her about what I had heard. I didn't mention the fact that I was a medium, but simply that I thought I had heard someone talking in the living room. She seemed relieved, admitting to me that she too heard it nearly every night when she was alone with Jane, but didn't want to admit it in fear that she was going crazy. She also confessed to getting a part time job in the evenings specifically to get away from the house and the talking, and regain her sanity. I agreed to come back and babysit Jane the next night, and promised to tell her if anything else happened, or if I heard the voice again. After all, I wasn't that easy to spook.
When I walked into the house the following night, I was immediately aware of the atmospheric shift, of the feeling of hostility that encompassed the four walls of which I had entered. Something knew I was there and didn't like it. Maybe it was the fact that I told Paige about what I had heard, validating for her that she wasn't crazy and that there was something wrong with the house. Maybe it was that I came back and it had failed to scare me off. Maybe it's was that whatever was in the house knew I could see it if it chose to show itself. Either way, I didn't want to be there, but I couldn't bail on Paige and Jane at the last minute, so I stayed.
Unfortunately, my hopes of keeping Jane in the family room took a turn for the worst when she told me that she hadn't taken a bath that night. The house was set up in an odd manner, with only one bathroom in the entire house. It was on the main floor, in a small hallway off of the living room. From the bathroom door, you could see the entire living room and part of the staircase.
Because Jane was three, I stayed in the bathroom with her. The bathroom was small and she insisted on leaving the door open. At first, things seemed like they were going to be okay, but as the sun quickly fell, things took a turn for the worst.
I heard the talking first. This time it was clear to me that it was the voice of a young boy. At first I wasn't worried. After all, it was only a kid. Now that I was closer to the living room, I could tell that the voice was coming from upstairs. Internally, I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe the little boy was stuck up there. Maybe it couldn't come down the stairs, and the only reason I had heard him talking before was because the staircase was open and he was loud.
Then, I felt my heart beating in my chest as I heard a thump on the top step. Suddenly, my opinion of the boy changed. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. Though the voice sounded to be that of a boy, it didn't feel like a boy, yet something pretending to one. And the sound it made as it hit the staircase was one of a large man. Yet I had no choice but to ignore it, as Jane was happily playing in the bathtub, seeming to have not noticed, and I wasn't about to scare a toddler.
I continued to carry on a conversation with Jane, but my eyes were fixated on the staircase.
After hearing the sound five times, I knew the sixth time would be when the figure would start to appear, as that's where the staircase opened up into full view of the bathroom.
At first I only saw the foot. It was a shined up black penny loafer, old fashioned and not a current style. Then it was the black dress pants, ironed to a crisp with pleats on the side, as if someone were dressed to look their Sunday best, or to attend a funeral. Slowly, the full figure came into view. It was a boy no older than eight or nine. His top consisted of a black vest to match his pants and a dark blue dress shirt, buttoned to his collar, but just like the shoes, these were clothes of an era long passed. His black hair was slicked back on his head and his features solemn and unnerving, his face pale and lifeless from the sideview that I had of him.
The talking stopped once he got to the bottom of the staircase, and from then on he said not a word, nor did he turn to look at me, but I was fully aware that he knew I was there, and that though he looked like a little boy, he was anything but. I just didn't know what he was.
He had planted his feet near the window at the bottom of the staircase. Slowly, almost robotically, he turned towards it. He stared, unmoving for the longest time. I kept one eye on him, and one eye on Jane, trying to engage her while she enjoyed her bath time and not draw attention to the fact that something other than the two of us was in the house.
Minutes passed, but I couldn't tell you how many. It seemed like a lifetime having to be two different people on the inside - one that was fun and engaging to a three year old, and another who was scared and curious about the ghost that only I could see. I kept trying to convince Jane out of the bathtub, but I knew that this was her favorite time, and she was known to spend an hour in the tub just playing with her rubber duckies.
Finally, Jane asked me to grab her a towel from inside small cupboard in the bathroom. Relieved to be getting away from the darkness and convinced I could talk her into going to get ice cream at the fast food place down the road, I obliged. I had only turned for a matter of seconds to get the towel, but when I looked back up at the boy, he was staring at me. His eyes were black, his mouth stitched closed, and for the first time I could smell him, and he smelled of death.
At first he just stared at me, as if it were a battle of the wills. An other world staring contest. I wasn't about to show weakness, but inside I was shaken to my core. Still, my protective instincts were taking over. I would do anything to protect Jane, and at that moment I was positive that he wouldn't touch her, no matter what he did to me. I would protect her with everything I had.
He seemed to sense that I wasn't backing down, and that's when he started to move toward us. The lump in my throat grew. The feeling of pure evil transversed the rooms. My only thought was making sure he didn't get near Jane, and without thinking, I did the only thing I knew how to do to protect her. I started walking toward him.
I matched his speed, not wanting to go too fast and possibly anger him or draw Jane's attention and have her question what I was doing, but not slow enough to make him think I was afraid. We walked toward each other, unrelenting, until we reached the archway from the hallway to the living room. We were just feet from each other. I wondered what would become of me when two souls met. I prepared for a battle.
Just that like, he was gone.
Thinking on my feet, I continued to walk the length of the living room until I got to the window. I paused for a few moments, my nerves tingling and my senses on high, knowing that I was standing right where the boy had been. Smelling burning flesh and rot in the wake of his ghost. Knowing that I was in full view of the top of the staircase. Knowing he was watching me. I stared out of the window for a few moments, as if looking for something, before turning and retreating back to the bathroom.
Jane seemed none the wiser at first, but she was curious and it got the best of her, as she would be the cat that curiosity killed. She asked me why I had gone to the window just now, and I told her the simplest answer that I could, "I thought I saw a dog in the yard. I was worried one of our neighbor's dogs had gotten loose. This is a far way to travel, back into these woods." This was plausible, because their yard was well lit with numerous spotlights, a safety precaution because they sat at the end of a long, desolate road. What she said to me in a response still chills me to the bone four years later.
"You saw the boy. I saw him too. His eyes are black and his mouth sewn shut. His mommy did that to him, because he's a bad man. He hurts people. He kills them. He comes out from under my bed at night. He talks to me. He tells me that one day he's going to hurt me, too."