By William Dalphin, originally posted at r/nosleep
My parents live in Terre Haute, Indiana. They own a number of rental properties there. When I graduated from college, I found myself looking for work and having to move back home until I found a job. My parents had not been expecting this, and had converted my bedroom into an office for my father. I spent the first few days sleeping on a fold-out futon in the basement.
One of my parents’ tenants passed away in his home just after I moved back. Neighbors had called the police after the newspapers had started piling up and they realized they hadn’t seen him in a while. He was an 80 year old widower with no children or next of kin, so nobody came by to collect his things. My parents needed to get the house in good condition to put it back out on the market, so they told me that since I wasn’t working, I should go over and try to clean the house up so that they could show it to prospective tenants. In fact, they said, why not take my things and go stay there until it’s done? I’d have a bed to sleep in at least. Well, I’m not superstitious, but I was not about to sleep in a dead man’s bed. I could get some nasty rash or who knows what other types of germs were all over his sheets. The thought is just repulsive. But I conceded to stay there with an air mattress and a sleeping bag and get the place looking nice.
The house was small, single bedroom, one story with a ridiculously large basement. The walk-in was in the kitchen, followed by the dining room, the living room, then a small hall for the bedroom, bathroom and door to the basement. When I arrived at the house in the middle of the day, some of the lights weren’t working, so I went into the basement to check the fusebox.
The basement had a concrete floor and piles of old junk clustered along the walls. In the far wall was a door that lead to a small set of stairs up to the back yard. Between the door and the stairs was the furnace for heating the place. The whole basement was dimly lit by a single bulb at the bottom of the stairs from the first floor.
My first time in the basement I was preoccupied with all the junk and finding the fusebox, so I didn’t notice the floor. I went upstairs and just as I shut the door to the basement, the breaker I had just flipped back on snapped off again, plunging me into darkness. So I trekked back downstairs and flipped it again, and that’s when I noticed the floor. In the center of the basement was a large pile of bags of fertilizer. Around the bags were these dark blotchy stains on the concrete that seemed to stretch toward the door to the outside like tracks or drag marks. I noticed it, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
I went back upstairs, started setting myself up a spot in the living room for my stuff, then went into the old guy’s bedroom just to see what the bed looked like. It was real fancy, the frame was made of brass and had knobs at the posts and an arch over the head.b The sheets looked really nasty though, like he hadn’t washed them— ever. They were yellowing, and looked blotchy like the stains in the basement. More importantly, when I walked into the room, there was this faint aroma, musty-like, with a hint of talcum powder or some sort of deodorizing agent. But the longer I stood in the room, the more I started smelling some underlying current of rot.
It started out like maybe some piece of fruit had rolled under the bed and been left there, but after a minute of inspecting the room, it was starting to be really overpowering. Yes, like something had died. I wondered if maybe the old man had died in that room, then I started wondering if he was still in the room, rotting. It got that bad. I lifted the bed skirt and looked under the bed.
There was this stuff under the bed. I don’t know if it was a gigantic mold cluster, or a dead raccoon or what. It was reddish brown, swollen and sticking to the floor and the underside of the bed. It was bulbous, spongy-looking and wet and I was really startled by the sight of it because I had not expected to find anything under there. I went around the bed to see if it was closer to that side, but when I looked under the skirt, there was nothing there. I looked long and hard, but there was nothing but dust and some loose change and a book under the bed. I went back around to the other side and looked again, and it was gone. I wasn’t sure what to think, so I convinced myself that I must have imagined it.
The rest of the day went by without incident. Well, by “without incident” I mean that, yes, the fusebox continued to flip off and I kept having to return to the basement and flip it back on, and yes, sometimes a pile of books I had just sorted would fall over when I was out of the room, but that’s nothing necessarily paranormal. It wasn’t until that evening, around 8:30, which was about the same time that the sun vanished over the horizon, that things got weird. I had finished eating a bowl of ramen and was watching TV on this antiquated little set with knobs instead of a remote, when the whispering started.
I thought it was coming from the show I was watching at first, but I turned the volume down and realized I could still hear it. So I started putting my ear to the walls to try to determine where it was coming from. I finally managed to trace the whispering sound to the air vent in the room. Every room had a small air vent in the floor that lead to the furnace downstairs. I put my ear to the vent and could hear the whispering echoing from the basement. It never got loud enough to sound like someone actually talking, it was also a really faint whisawhyashoo sort of sound. So I grabbed my flashlight and headed downstairs to see what was causing it.
I was at the top of the stairs to the basement when I heard this HOOSH sound like a hard wind, and then the bottom of the stairs was bathed in this flickering orange glow. I got nervous, and walked down slowly, pulling the chain for the light at the bottom of the steps. The furnace was on, and the glow came from the open hatch in the side. I went over to the furnace, shut the hatch and turned on my flashlight to look around for a timer or something. Behind me, I heard a shuffling sound, and I quickly turned around and danced the flashlight beam everywhere, but there wasn’t anything. Like I said, I’m not superstitious, but I started feeling claustrophobic, so I went back to the stairs, turned off the light and went back upstairs.
I went back to watching TV as outside it got darker and darker. I made the mistake of watching some scary movie. Even though I wasn’t a believer, I have a good imagination. The breaker to the living room went suddenly at a tense moment and I almost jumped in fright at the sudden plunge into darkness. I fumbled for my flashlight and worked my way to the hallway to go back down to the basement. Just as I got to the basement door, the living room lights came back on, along with the TV. I just stood there, rooted to the spot. Breakers don’t just flip themselves back on. I looked at the basement door for a long time. I managed to calm myself and decided that I should just go to bed.
The bathroom was small, with a sink, toilet and stand up shower. There’s a window between the sink and the shower, but it was all frosted glass, you couldn’t really see through it. I was brushing my teeth when I heard a soft scritch scritch sound coming from the window. I looked, but there was nothing there. I went back to brushing my teeth. More scritching occurred, but I didn’t look. I sat down to use the toilet and was reading some old magazine the old guy had left behind when the whispering started up from the air vent.
The vent in the bathroom was down at the base of the window, and I turned my head and looked down at it when the whispering started, then something caught my attention and I looked up. There was a face pressed up against the frosted glass of the window! At least it looked like a face. It had the oval shape of a head and what looked like eyes and nose and mouth, but it was totally obscured by the frosted glass. It was pressed right up against it, whatever it was, and when I looked up and saw it, I screamed and hurriedly wiped and fell running out of the room. When I turned back around, the window was dark again.
Now I was paranoid that maybe there was someone else sneaking around the house, so I started hunting around. I turned on every light in the house and looked under tables and behind chairs. I grabbed the flashlight and went outside and checked the backyard. The backyard was all fenced in and the grass was really long and weedy from not being mowed. I was looking through the bushes and turned toward the house when I saw something moving in the bathroom window on the other side of the frosted glass. I gasped when I saw it and dropped the flashlight in the high grass, and spent too long trying to find it before I could run back inside and start hunting all around again.
There was nobody there. The only thing I could think was that they were hiding in the basement, so I went down into the basement, stomping down the stairs all boldly when it only then occurred to me that if someone was down there, they might be dangerous. I instantly went from feeling brave to feeling absolutely scared to be down there, and I ended up running back up the stairs as if there was someone hot on my heels and slamming the door shut. The was a latch on that side of the door, and I turned it to lock and then put my ear to the wood to listen for sounds.
In the space of a few hours I had gone from not the least bit worried about spending the night in that house to suddenly missing my spot on my parents’ futon. I almost called them and asked them if it would be alright to come back over, but my pride got the better of me and I reasoned that there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I went back into the living room and set up the inflatable mattress.
I wasn’t even sure what time it was. All I remember was it was pitch dark outside, I had left most of the lights on around the house, but the only clock was a small wind up one on the mantle in the kitchen and it had long since wound down. I was almost done inflating the mattress when the breakers flipped for the entire house, plunging me back into darkness.
I sighed and rolled my eyes and not a second later I heard "HAAAAAAAAAAAAA"
Like a long breath coming from the direction of the hallway that sent a chill down my spine. I searched for the flashlight and then pointed it at the hallway, but as usual there was nothing there. I crept quietly and slowly into the hallway, keeping my eye on the basement door.
I put my ear to the basement door, listening, trembling. It was like my entire body was focused on hearing the slightest sound. And I did. Behind me, from the bedroom, there was a rustling sound. I jerked away from the basement door and swiveled around. The bedroom door was shut, but I had left every door open during my hunt earlier. There was more rustling coming from inside the room, like somebody rolling around in the bed. I did not want to go in there, but I made myself do it anyway. I pushed the door open, waving the flashlight around into the awaiting darkness.
The first thing I noticed was that the walls seemed wet. The reflection of my flashlight glistened off them like they were covered in water. I stepped forward into the room and realized that the walls were covered in the reddish brown gunk that I had seen under the bed. It wasn’t moving or throbbing or anything, it just seemed to ooze down the walls. I was bugging at that point, freaking out about the slime, when I heard the soft shifting of the mattress and looked at the bed. There was a form under the blankets, and it had just rolled over when I pointed the light at it. As I watched, it started to rise like someone sitting up and I didn’t wait. I screamed and ran out, slamming the door back shut behind me.
I dropped the flashlight somewhere in the hall but didn’t care and ran back toward the living room and just as I did, the lights flashed. On. Off. Real fast, like less than a second. Just long enough for me to see a figure standing at the foot of my mattress. I just made out a dark silhouette, no distinct face or clothes, just something tall and human in shape at the foot of my bed and then everything was black again and all I had was the afterimage burnt into my eyeballs.
At that point, I was all about getting out of the house. I didn’t care about my stuff or that I was in my pajamas, I just wanted out, and the only way out was blocked by something standing in the middle of the living room.
Except there was a way out through the basement.
Friends, I know what you’re thinking. DON’T GO IN THE BASEMENT WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU but I was not the least bit rational. I heard what sounded like footfalls from right in front of me and I heard the creak of the bed springs behind me, and in my mind flashed the image of the door to the backyard in the basement and I just went for it. As far as I knew, I had seconds before something got me. I grabbed the knob to the basement door and yanked and twisted it before remembering I had latched it.
I pawed at the latch like a crazy person and then flung open the basement door just as I heard the bedroom door opening. I almost fell down the stairs I was in such a panic. I stumbled across the dark room, and felt around desperately for the lock. Behind me came the thick HOOSHof the furnace kicking on, and I was bathed in its eerie orange glow again. I turned around and looked, my hands pressed against the door behind me.
There was nobody at the stairs. There was nobody in the room. I stood there, holding onto that door like it was a lifeline and breathing heavily. Then came the soft shuffling sound. I strained my eyes to see into the darkness but all I could make out was the pile of bags of fertilizer. Then I saw movement. Something— something black was crawling out from behind the fertilizer bags.
As I stood there gawking, it got bolder and started lurching out toward the glow of the furnace. God as my witness, it looked like one of those body bags you see in the police dramas. It was lain horizontal, but would bend up at one end, lurch forward, then bend up at the other end and shimmy like an inch worm. It was crawling… this big, black bag, out from behind the pile in the center of the room.
I couldn’t even scream. My scream was stuck in my throat. My jaw was hanging open and I was arching my back against the door, digging my nails into it. Even as terrified as I was, my mind was working frantically, and I moved to the side so that I could see the door using the glow from the furnace. The thing on the floor heard me and suddenly went rigid, then part of it seemed to turn and face me.
I couldn’t look anymore. I would go mad if I stayed and watched. So I looked at the door, saw the lock, turned it, heedless of the noise it made, and threw the door open, stumbling up the back steps toward the storm door that was the last barrier between me and outside. I banged my head into it, causing me to see stars, then felt around for the bar, shoved it up and almost screamed with joy as I threw the storm door open and ran outside. I ran around to the front yard, and realized my car keys were in my pants pocket and my pants were in the living room.
So I ran. I ran until I got to a gas station down the road and thankfully the night shift employee thought I had been assaulted or something and let me use the phone in the office. I called my parents, and my father drove out in the middle of the night and picked me up. He wanted to go back to the rental house and investigate, but I begged him to just take me home.
The next day he didn’t go to work. He went over to the house and got my things and checked to see if there were any signs of the things I had seen. When he got back, he told me nothing looked out of place except for a partially inflated air mattress, a flashlight left in the hall and the back door from the basement was wide open and a neighbor’s cat had gotten in.
They sold the house a year or so later. My father had gone in and cleared out all the old guy’s stuff himself after I refused to go back. They thought about renting it out again, but they decided that if there was really something unnatural about the house, the best bet would be to get it off their hands.
And now I’m a believer.