I’ve told very few people about this in my life and no one in my family but, on this website, I feel like I can talk about it with people who understand.

When I was eight years old, I was still sharing a room with my older sister. The set-up of the room was weird. I had a twin bed placed against the wall that looked down the hallway, and the rest of the room opened up to my left if I was laying in bed. Straight to the left of me was the old TV on its stand, and a window in front of that. My sister slept on the same wall as the bedroom door, so I had direct line of sight to the TV.

This story takes place one night in the middle of winter. I was sick at the time and woke up, coughing horribly. When my coughing finally calmed down, I could feel a hand running through my hair, which soothed me back to sleep.

I woke up again, needing to go to the bathroom this time, but I didn’t really want to. I was eight and a dark house was a bad house, as any eight year old knows.

I heard a cough to my left, a man’s cough, and turned to see if my dad was there. I remembered the smell when I woke up before, of beer and cigarettes, and decided that my dad must have come to check on me. I turned, and in the slight light that came from the curtains, I could make out the figure of boots in front of the TV stand. The curtains were only open slightly, so I couldn’t see the man entirely, but I just assumed it was my dad.

That was when I realized, now almost entirely awake, that it was Wednesday. My dad is a truck driver and he works at night, so being as late at night as it was, he definitely would not be home that early. I tensed up and became increasingly terrified. I knew that I shouldn’t make a noise, but because I have the worst luck in the world, I started coughing. I started crying because I was sure I was dead now, and the coughing wasn’t making it any better.

I didn’t dare get up, but the next thing I knew, the boots were moving along the carpet. They inched towards me and the hand started petting my head again. I stopped moving immediately, and I fell back asleep somehow, as my coughing settled.

I woke up the next day and wanted to believe it was just a dream.

When I got home the next day, I heard from the sister I shared the room with that my other sister was in trouble. I asked what for, and she said that my sister had tracked mud into the house. I walked into my room, and saw a half impression of muddy boot prints on the ground.

I didn’t tell anyone what I saw, even when my sister swore up and down that she didn’t do it. The man who stroked my hair never came back.