I had first got in contact with Sam, my former landlord, a little over a year ago when I answered his ad in the paper. I was in a hurry to move out as I had just broken up with my significant other, who I shared an apartment with, and Sam was renting out the furnished basement of his house. The location was good and the price was a steal, so I moved in with a few boxes of personal items a mere four days later.
The house was old and the floors were creaky, so terrible that it would occasionally wake me up in the night. Sam was laid back, and interested in nothing other than cars. He certainly didn’t decorate his home, or complete basic chores. This of course didn’t bother me, because I was cheaply sleeping in his basement. The only issues I ever really had at first was his work schedule. When he would get up to work around 5 in the morning, he would often wake me up, despite my heavy sleep.
However, as the months passed by, I grew accustom to waking up around this time.
I couldn’t tell you the exact moment that I realized something wasn’t right.
As the days passed, thoughts were creeping into my mind, and settling themselves in the darkest corners of my subconscious. I found it strange that I hadn’t heard much noise from upstairs. There was of course the occasional creak and groan, explained by the age of the home, but the loud footsteps that I had grown accustom to had all but dissipated.
At first I tried rationalizing to myself. Maybe Sam was sick. Maybe he had taken off work for a few days. Maybe he started working different hours. I know he was a real loner and preferred to keep to himself, so I wasn’t all that taken aback. The only time that I really ever talked to him was I had to go upstairs to hand over the money for my rent, on the first of each month. He was never unfriendly or rude to me, but our interactions were short and sweet. He never really had much to say.
I remember specifically, one night in late August I had opened my blinds, and looked out the window facing the garage. The light was on, which was something that I hadn’t seen in quite a while. The curtains were closed, so I couldn’t see exactly what was happening, but there was defiantly someone moving in there. I once again found myself rationalizing that Sam must be working on his car. I found it strangely relieving to see him doing something that he used to so often. Sam loved his car– a powerhouse customized from scratch on the body of a 1930’s Ford. He had shown me a few times. He usually spent all of his free time working on it.
Nearly a month later in September, one of the last few days of the month, I started to notice that the pickup he usually drove to work was still sitting in the driveway when I left. However the following day it was gone. That same evening was when the new noises started.
It was around 6. I was sitting at my desk with my computer, the only light shining in my general direction coming from a small lamp. It was then that I heard the shuffling sound. I say shuffling lightly, as there was no other way that I could really describe it. It sounded like something covered in cloth was being dragged across the floor in short bursts. And after that, the sound of something bigger, like a dresser, being moved. And then more shuffling. I remember hearing the phone ring multiple times, but go to the answering machine. And then the sound of the front door slamming. I noticed a shadow, Sam’s, pass over my window causing me to look outside.
I should just say right now that Sam was not the kind of man who cared a bit about his appearance. His hair was short and curly, usually greasy, and beginning to turn gray. His clothing often had holes and stains, and I know for a fact that I had never seen him with a clean shave. But this was different. There was something off about his appearance, but I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what.
His arms hung at his sides, his head facing the sky. I couldn’t really see his face, but I swore that for a second I saw his mouth hanging agape– tongue slightly lodged outside, but I denied it. I shut my curtains and locked my door. Never before had Sam scared me.
That same night, I had woken up at some strange hour to screams from above me. Not fearful screams, or cries out for help. It was a mans voice, shouting in pure rage. I couldn’t make out any words. It must have been Sam. As shaken as I was, I stumbled out of my bed and threw on my dirty clothes from the day prior before groping about for a something to defend myself with, eventually finding a knife. With shaking hands, I dialed the police on my landline and steadily made my way up the stairs to bang my fists on the door.
There was no answer. The house was silent, and dark. I noticed Sam’s truck in the driveway. It took about five minutes for the police to arrive. I briefly spoke to them in the driveway before the search, and then more extensively afterwards. They had found nothing out of the ordinary, which came as no surprise to me. They were useless. I turned, and looked and the large as life home looming over me, filling me with this sense of dread that only the darkness could provide. I thought I had seen movement behind a curtain in my room.
After an hour, give or take, I found my way back to bed. I did not sleep. I laid there, quiet as can be with my blankets covering as much as me possible. I listened for noises from upstairs. There were none. There was only silence. Dead silence.
Luckily for me, I was not scheduled to work the next day. It was early October now, a cold day. I wouldn’t have gone outside even if I wasn’t terrified to. I didn’t hear Sam all day, however the phone did ring multiple times. I spent the day thinking, thoughts flying through my head, and jumping at every sound that the house produced. My kitchen knife was never out of reach. If someone had knocked on my door that day, I likely would have suffered a heard attack. I also seem to remember that this month, I left my rent money sitting on Sam’s counter, because I was unable to find him.
Nightfall came with a sense of despair. However I did not see anyone walk by my window on this night, I may have noticed the lights come on in the garage. I think. I could have imagined it.
Sleep came late, and it came with horrific dreams. Those nightmares that you never seem to be able to escape. In my dream, Sam loomed over my bed, staring down at me. I remember his face clearly. It was foreign. Cold. It filled me with a sense of dread. That was when something woke me up
After waking up, I found the lingering sense of dread quickly escalate into paralytic fear. Causing every bit of breath in my lungs to escape me, and feel my heart in my throat. A sort of fear that wedges an icy knife into your spine. I felt this fear, because for a few horrific seconds, Sam stood inches from me, his mouth open so impossibly wide, like a ghostly image burned into my eyes. I screamed, and the vision disappeared, leaving me to wonder if it was ever there in the first place. Just then, as if something upstairs heard my scream, a response came to me in the form of a heavy thump. Something rolled across the floor. I’m fairly sure that I cried.
As I recall, this was the turning point for me. Everything that was happening was so, so wrong in a way that I simply couldn’t describe. In a way that I still can’t describe. This couldn’t go on any longer, I couldn’t be this scared any longer for my own health. It needed to end. When the sun finally rose, after what seemed like an endless night of darkness, I felt my heart skip after seeing something move about in the lit garage. This was it. I needed the truth. I grabbed my kitchen knife, and clumsily climbed out my bedroom window.
Low to the ground, I snuck to the front door and held my breath. My hand snaked up to the door, and onto the smudged brass knob. After attempting to push, it wouldn’t budge. The door was locked. If it was possible to be both incredibly relived yet severely disappointed at the same time, I would have been. My hand abruptly tightened around the knife handle as I crept around the side of the house. My fight of flight instinct was on overdrive, specifically the flight aspect of the former mentioned. All I could think about was an intense need for him not to notice me.
I remember every detail of this moment vividly. The kitchen window was propped open with an old piece of wood. I remember that being strange. After mustering up the last bits of courage in my veins, I stood up and looked inside. The fluorescent light over the sink was on, and I could see that the fridge was slightly open, just enough to trigger the light.
But it was really the small that hit me. That smell. That god awful, disgusting smell, wafting through that window. Sitting next to a pile of broken dishes swept aside with no car was… God help me.
I did not go back inside the house. I did not stay. I ran straight to my car. I drove away, and called the police from my car. I did trust that that thing in the garage would stay there until the police arrived. I drove for forty something minutes before I found myself too tired to go any further. I pulled into an old parking lot and slept.
I never went back to that house.
It was several days later, I would like to say four, that I found another article in the newspaper. It stated that a 58-year-old man had been found dead in his home pm 112th street and Dunspance. The cause of death was unknown. An autopsy was performed, and foul play had been ruled. The woman who preformed the autopsy estimated that this man had been dead for around three weeks before being found by an unsuspecting neighbor. It also mentioned some unusual findings around the property, especially the unattached garage. I did not read any further.
Sometimes I wake up, late in the night to some strange, creak or groan. And sometimes I can still see Sam standing next to my bed. Draped like a blanket over something far more dark and sinister.