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I hammered the nail through the aluminum sign and into the wooden fence. I then took a step back and briefly admired my work.
“Hope this keeps those damn kids away,” I thought to myself as I turned towards the short dirt road that led back to my house. As I wearily trudged along the path I raised my head towards the sky. The stars were beginning to twinkle as the last few rays of sunlight shone over the horizon. The moon was high in the sky and nearly full. It was a beautiful night.
I stepped onto my front porch and quickly wiped my shoes on the door mat before heading inside. It had been an exhausting week. Work was becoming more demanding than ever, and kids constantly harassing me at night was preventing me from sleeping well.
Though, I guess I can’t really blame them. It was the kind of mischief that I loved to get into as a teenager. Lurking around haunted houses, making dares with my friends. They were just having some fun.
You see, my house is “haunted”. At least, that’s the rumor going around the local high schools.
I moved in about three months ago. I’d been looking for a reasonably priced house for quite some time. My old apartment was cramped and run down, and the landlord was a complete asshole. After I got a significant promotion at work I figured that it was time to take out a mortgage and settle down in a real home.
I browsed online ads for months, searching for a place I could afford. Most upscale houses in the suburbs were too expensive. Besides, those kinds of houses are for families. Swimming pools, basketball hoops, block parties. That stuff wasn’t for me, I’m a reserved person.
Then, just by chance, I saw an ad for this house. It was old, but in good condition and extremely spacious. Sitting on the outskirts of the city in a quiet, sparsely populated neighborhood, it was the perfect house for me. The best part was the price. It was easily going for less than half of what it was worth.
As soon as I saw the ad I immediately called the real estate agent and expressed my interest in buying. As it turns out, I was the only person who had called about the house.
I found this unbelievable. A large, nice house, selling at such a ridiculously low price. How could there be no potential buyers other than myself? The real estate agent explained that the house was supposedly “haunted”.
For many years, this house was unoccupied. Then, about four years ago an elderly couple had moved into it. All was fine for a while, until a year ago the couple vanished, never to be seen again. A short police investigation was mounted, but because the couple was so quiet and reserved and had few acquaintances there was very little for the police to work with. After the investigation came up cold for about a month, it was called off and the house was put up for sale.
In fact, the real estate agent explained, the entire neighborhood was known for being a somewhat creepy, uncomfortable area. Not many people were willing to live there.
None of this information deterred me. I do not believe in ghosts or “haunted houses”. I believe in getting the best price possible for what I pay for, and I could not pass up a deal like this.
After just the first week of occupancy in my new home, I discovered the downsides of living in a “haunted” house.
Of course, there were many rumors floating around about what had happened to the old owners of the house:
“They were Russian spies, called back to the motherland after many years of service!”
“No! They were devil worshipers, both of whom committed ritualistic suicide which was then covered up by members of their cult!”
The rumors had gotten more and more ridiculous as time went by. But the rumor that seemed most popular with the young folk was that the house was “haunted”, and that the elderly couple had been killed by vengeful spirits of the dead. After all, who doesn’t love a good haunted house story?
And thus began the incessant harassment at the hands teenagers. Several times a week I would see them hanging around my house, snapping photos, daring each other to hop the fence onto my property. They had undoubtedly been doing this since before I moved in, but now that the house was occupied they were more wary of trespassing.
Even if they were being more careful about it, kids hopping my fence, running about my front lawn, and banging on my door started to become a regular occurrence. One time a kid actually entered my house. I had just gone to sleep in my bedroom on the second floor when I heard him. I must have forgotten to lock the front door that night. He came in quite loudly, not even trying to be inconspicuous. He ran straight through the first floor and crashed out the back door, laughing as he did so. No doubt his friends had dared him to sprint through the “haunted” house. As I watched him run away through my window, I yelled that I would call the cops if they did that again. My outburst only seemed to make him laugh harder.
The worst incident, however, was when they harassed my gardener. He was an older gentlemen, at least sixty years of age, and his back was very bent, no doubt from years of gardening work. He lived in a small house about a hundred yards from mine. He was the gardener for most of the neighborhood, and although I didn’t really need anyone to garden my house, I kept him on anyways. I could tell he needed the business.
The stupid kids had gone and thrown a smoke bomb through his window at night. I could hear him coughing and hacking from my house. I raced over to his house and flung the door open. I went in and helped him outside onto his porch, where he continued to cough for another half hour. I wanted to call an ambulance for him, but he insisted that he was alright.
That was the last straw. The next day I purchased a “No Trespassing” sign on my way home from work and nailed it to my front yard fence. Before putting the sign up I scrawled on it in black marker:
“If I see any of you again I WILL CALL THE COPS”
Fortunately, the sign was effective. At first they didn’t go away entirely, although there were no more incidents of intruders in my house or harassment of my gardener. I couldn’t tell if it was my threat of calling the police, the sign itself, or both that kept them away, but I was glad that the level of harassment seemed to be diminishing. Eventually, I stopped seeing them altogether. Perhaps hanging around a haunted house had lost its appeal when faced with possible incarceration.
Over the next few months, my life was completely normal. I was able to sleep much better thanks to not having to deal with annoying teenagers. My performance at work improved because I was better rested.
Soon, however, strange incidents began occurring.
One night, I was sitting on my living room couch, watching television, when the lamp next to the television fell over. I suppose “fell over” is too light a phrase to describe this incident. It had actually been smashed against the wall behind my television set. The lamp was short and had a large base. I saw no way it which it could somehow lose balance. It had struck the wall with such force that a piece of the plaster had been chipped off, leaving a dent in the wall. The bulb had shattered into many pieces which were now laying on the ground.
Needless to say, I was extremely startled. I didn’t know how to react. I just sat there for several moments, staring at the shattered lamp on the ground. Eventually I got up and grabbed my dust pan, sweeping the bits of glass up and into the garbage.
For a while I examined the table that the lamp had been resting on. It was not slanted in any way. There were no irregularities in its surface that could have caused the lamp to fall. I could not understand what had happened.
Eventually, I decided to forget about it. It was not worth worrying about. It was a very strange incident with no explanation, but not something I should concern myself with.
Except these incidents did not cease.
None of them were as startling or shocking as the lamp breaking. But they were more disturbing and more subtle.
When I set a book down on a table and left the room, it would be open to a different page when I came back. When I watched television, the channel would occasionally change for no apparent reason. Small incidents such as these continued for weeks, and they began to make me nervous.
I started to become paranoid. I began to feel as if someone, something, was messing with me. Trying to piss me off. Trying to grab my attention. When I moved into this house I did not believe in the paranormal. But now I was not so sure.
The incidents started to become more and more frequent, and I was slowly losing my mind. Living in this house was driving me insane.
Then I saw one of them.
I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom, facing the mirror when I saw it. Not a person, just a silhouette. Something like a shadow fleeing across the wall behind me. I quickly turned around, but it was gone.
Over the next few days these strange shadows began appearing everywhere in the house. Moving across walls, grabbing my attention for a brief moment before disappearing. They always seemed to take on a human shape.
I started to become a nervous wreck. I hardly slept, my performance at work suffered, I could not concentrate on anything. I began to honestly believe that my house was haunted, that the previous owners of this home had indeed been attacked by vengeful spirits.
For weeks I continued to stay in this house, not knowing what else to do. I dreaded coming home from work each day for fear of spending another maddening night alone with those damned shadows.
Finally, I broke down.
I was in my living room, watching television just as I had been when the very first incident occurred. I was attempting to distract my mind from the hell I was living in when I saw it. Another shadow. It quickly moved across the wall behind my television set. Except this one did not leave after a fraction of a second. This one stopped in the middle of the wall and stayed there, motionless. It was the silhouette of a man, standing. Yet there was no man casting the shadow.
I couldn’t handle it. I rolled off the couch and curled into a ball, sobbing. I closed my eyes and prayed that this was all a nightmare, that when I opened my eyes the shadow would be gone.
For how long I stayed like that, I do not know. Maybe an hour. Maybe two. I eventually did open my eyes again. I looked up to the wall only to see the shadow still there, in the exact same position as before.
This time, however, I noticed that its arm was slightly extended. Its finger was pointing at something. I followed the line from its finger to a dent in the wall. The dent that was caused by a lamp crashing into it.
For some reason, I was no longer afraid of the shadow on the wall. I now felt that it was simply trying to tell me something, to communicate with me. I scrambled over to the wall and closely examined the dent. There was nothing remarkable about it. A piece of the plaster had been chipped away, nothing more.
What was so important about this dent, about this wall? I lifted the television off of the table it was on, and set it on the floor. I then moved the table away from the wall and got down on my hands and knees. I examined every part of the wall, closely searching for any strange features, for anything that could help explain why there was a ghost on my wall.
After a few minutes, I gave up. I could find nothing special, nothing noteworthy about this wall. It was just an ordinary wall
I was about to stand up when I noticed it. A faint line. A very faint line on the edge of the wall. I crawled over to it. The edge of the wall was just slightly dirtier. It had a slightly darker hue to it than the rest of the wall. There was a distinct line where this difference occurred. I followed the line around the entire wall. It encompassed the whole thing.
Somebody had, at some point in the past, re-plastered the wall.
Delirious from lack of sleep, and partially insane, I did the only thing I could think of at that moment. I ran to my garage, opened my tool drawer, and grabbed a large hammer and a flashlight. I had to find out what was behind that wall.
I swung the hammer with as much force as I could manage and felt a satisfying crunch as it punched a hole into the plaster. I immediately dislodged the hammer and swung it again. I beat the wall over and over, punching dozens of holes into it. I worked away at its center, slowly creating a large abscess.
One time as I brought back the hammer I realized that there was a small piece of black plastic attached to it. Suddenly a foul smell hit my nostrils.
I grabbed my flashlight and shined it into the sizable hole I had created in the wall. I immediately saw that there was a large amount of black plastic behind the plaster.
Setting my hammer down, I grabbed a handful of the plastic and pulled. It tore off in my hand, leaving a strange, disgusting sludge on my arms. The foul smell grew worse. Suddenly, the plastic in the wall briefly moved and a dark object fell out of the tear that I had created in the plastic.
I bent down and picked it up. It was covered in the black sludge and smelled absolutely disgusting. I wiped it off to reveal a white surface.
As soon as I realized what it was I flung it as far across the room as I could. It was a bone. A human bone. Terrible realization dawned on me. I had found the previous owners of this house. They were here the whole time. They were with me as watched television, as I ate, as I slept. They had never left.
I stood there, too stunned to move. I was in shock, my mind did not know how to process this information. Eventually I managed to move over to the sink in order to wash my hands of decomposing material.
As I finished washing myself, my senses suddenly came back to me. I had to call the police. A murder had taken place in this house. Whoever did it was, in all likelihood, still out there.
I rushed to the kitchen and grabbed my phone. I picked it up and began to furiously punch the keypad.
Nine. One. One.
As I moved my thumb over the the call button, I suddenly stopped. For a moment, I did not move. Then, my hand slowly slackened and released my hold on the phone. The phone crashed onto the ground, shattering the screen. I was staring at my kitchen wall. At the very edge of the wall was a faint line. A faint line that separated old plaster from new. The same kind of line that was on the wall behind the television.
In a state of hysteria, I sprinted out of the kitchen. I ran around my house, sobbing loudly.
I examined every wall in the house, and every single wall had been re-plastered.
Panicking, I ran back into the living room and grabbed my hammer.
Expending all the energy I had, I hammered away. I hammered at the walls for hours. Each time I came to a new wall, I prayed that I would find nothing behind it. Yet each time I struck the hammer into it I found the same black, sludge filled plastic that I had found behind my television set.
My house was a graveyard. Dozens of bodies, rotting corpses, all neatly wrapped in plastic and packed into the walls. All in various states of decay.
My mind finally snapped. I screamed at the top of my lungs. I screamed for hours, until my vocal cords could not make a sound. Eventually I collapsed onto my couch and laid there, sobbing.
After some time, as I laid weeping on my couch, I heard a noise. A very faint creaking sound, as of a door being slowly opened. I wiped my eyes and raised my head. In my front doorway stood the gardener.
He had a smug smile on his face, as if he had just finished telling a hilarious joke to a laughing crowd. He stepped into my house and closed the front door, locking it behind him.
“Oh my, look at this mess you’ve made. It takes me hours to plaster each wall. Why did you have go and tear them all down?”
In his hands he carried a tool bag. From where I was on the couch, I could see that it contained several bottles of fresh wall plaster, a metal plaster spreader, rolls of black plastic, and a large knife. He set the bag on the floor, bent down, and withdrew the knife.
He straightened his back, and for the first time I could see how tall he actually was. Despite his apparent old age, his muscles were large and well toned from years of manual labor.
“I’m a very careful man. For forty years I have not been caught.”
He nodded towards the original wall that I had hammered apart. Black liquid was oozing out of the hole in its center.
“Before those two came to live here, I thought that I had accounted for everything. That I had left no trace of any of my crimes. However, I never considered the possibility that my victims themselves might try to speak. That they might alert others of my activities. You see, those two old fools saw them as well. The fleeting shadows on the wall. My victims attempting to be found. So of course, they had to go. Besides, with them occupying the house I couldn’t partake in my favorite hobby.”
He turned his head to me and giggled. I looked into his eyes and saw nothing. No humanity, no empathy, no compassion. Nothing but a deranged hunger for killing.
“I must thank you my friend. If it weren’t for that sign you posted out front, I wouldn’t be here tonight. If you hadn’t posted that warning, this house would undoubtedly be swarming with curious teenagers, wondering what all the screaming is about. However, thanks to you, nobody is around. Nobody is here to hear you scream. Nobody can help you.”
He stepped closer to me, holding the long, sharp knife. He expertly twirled the knife in his fingers, no doubt something that he had practiced a thousand times before.
“I have one last question for you. Where would you like to go? I believe that there’s still room in the upstairs bathroom and bedroom walls. Your choice.”
I said nothing. I was incapable of speaking.
“Guess I’ll have to choose for you. I’ll be up all night re-plastering these walls anyways. Makes no difference to me. At least I’ll have my shadow friends to keep me company. Maybe I’ll even see you taking a stroll across a wall”.
My eyes darted to the front window. Streetlights illuminated the road. I was desperately searching for somebody, anybody who could help me.
The gardener laughed.
“There’s nobody out there, my friend. Your sign scared them all away.”
He bent down and brought the knife to my neck. My gaze stayed locked on the window. The last thing my eyes focused on was a thin piece of metal nailed to the fence.
In that moment, I realized that the instrument of my death was not a knife, but a sign. An aluminum metal sign that I had purchased for fifteen dollars in order to keep annoying kids off my property.
On that sign were the two words that had sealed my fate, that had orchestrated my doom, that had brought the knife to my throat.
Written by Cdaley