I remember when I moved into a new room in my house. It was my parents’ suggestion. They believed that, since I was over 20, I should not continue living in the room in which I had lived my whole life. So, without any other option, I was moved into the basement.
It was quite spacious down there, more like an apartment than a room, equipped with a living room, bathroom and bedroom, but it never truly felt like mine. The basement was my brother’s territory before he moved out, so it still smelled like my brother’s place. He wasn’t exactly clean, you see.
What this basement needed was a makeover, so I set out to redo this basement in an image that I deemed acceptable. Two coats of paint and a couple of bookshelves later, the basement took on an appearance that more matched my style, but something was still missing.
Looking at the walls, I couldn’t help but feel that they were very dull and plain, despite the new, bright green paint that covered it (yes, I painted my walls bright green). I needed something to perk up the walls, and, after a few moments of thinking, I came up with the perfect idea: a wall mural. I had seen some examples of these murals in other houses, and they always added this otherworldly feel to the room.
They looked like portals into a natural paradise that I could just walk up to and enter: the wild terrain of an overgrown forest, the chilly air of snow covered hills, or the peaceful melody of a mountain stream. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted one of these “portals.” It would be the perfect thing to tie the room together.
I went online and searched around for a trustworthy website that sold murals. I already knew which kind I was buying. Being obsessed with trees, I focused on finding a sufficient forest mural. I found a few that I deemed worthy, and narrowed down my choices until I was left with one. It was perfect.
It was a small, forest waterfall cascading over the side of the moist, lush earth. The mossy rocks and untamed trees surrounded the waterfall on all sides as if enjoying the serenity of the spot. I wanted this up on my wall as soon as possible, so I checked the measurements to make sure they would match with those of my wall and purchased it.
As soon as it came, I pasted it to the wall, with assistance from my parents, and relished in the new world that came to life in my room. The ceiling was low, and the wall was small, but the mural seemed to make it endless. It was opposite the doorway, so I would be transported to this forest the moment I entered my room.
In order to increase this effect, I bought plastic trees that I placed on the edges of the mural, so it would appear as if the forest was moving outward and slowly incorporating my room into its wilderness. I couldn’t have been happier. The basement now felt like home, and the room I had previously occupied for over two decades was a distant memory.
Now I know what you may be thinking, “A young adult living in her parents’ basement, how typical!” but I must point out that I was not a layabout. I happened to have a job, but most of the money went towards my education. I was saving up for my own place, but, until I had saved enough, I had a nice place to park myself. It was even nicer, thanks to the mural.
I stared at it so much that I had memorized the placement of every dirt clot. One of my favorite things to do, before I went to sleep, was stare at it and imagine the sounds that would be coming out of the forest. It brought the mural to life, and that was the only real way that life would be breathed into the picture. At least, that’s what I thought…
One day, I had a particularly taxing shift at work. When I came home, I was exhausted. I mumbled a greeting to my parents and slumped down the stairs to my room. Luckily, my cats had already settled for the night, so they didn’t bug me to go back upstairs before the morning. I trekked across the basement until I made it to my room and closed my door, so the cats wouldn’t disturb me early in the morning. I was asleep as soon as I hit the mattress, and I probably would have slept through the night if it wasn’t for a particular disturbance.
At about 2 AM, the distinct sound of rustling leaves infiltrated my sleep. At first, I thought it was the remnant of a dream, but, when I realized that I was awake, I sat upright. But, the minute I sat up, it stopped.
I looked around my room, particularly at the plastic trees, to make sure that nothing had gotten into them, either my cats (who are clever enough to open my door) or some form of insect (the less desirable option). When I checked the trees and saw that my door was still closed, neither of those options checked out. I was too tired to continue mulling the mystery over at that time, so I went back to sleep without figuring it out. I left the television on to ease my nerves.
When I woke up in the morning, I felt incredibly ridiculous. We have animals that roam around the house at night, and the thought of something making a racket outside my window completely eluded me. It’s amazing how clear things seem in the light of day. I attributed my lack of reasoning to the grogginess of interrupted sleep and began my morning routine. I washed up, got dressed, and gave the mural one last look before I went off to begin my day.
When I came home that night, I was a bit more awake than I was the night before, so I decided to stay awake and blow off some steam watching funny videos on the computer. After a sufficient amount of laughter and smiling until my jaw ached, I began to feel tired. I turned off my computer and changed into my pajamas. After I changed, I went to the bathroom to wash up.
As I covered my face with soap and bent to wash it off, I heard the rustling again. I raised my head and was about to rush back to my room to catch the noisemaker, but I hadn’t sufficiently removed all the soap from my face yet, so, when I opened my eyes, they immediately began to burn. I wouldn’t be able to see the noisemaker this way, so I returned to the bathroom to wash the soap out. By the time my bloodshot eyes were free of soap, the rustling had stopped. I kicked myself for being so stupid. Chances were that it was an animal outside my window anyway, but I wanted to discourage it from coming around early in the morning. I hoped it would not be an issue that night.
My wish went unfulfilled when, at 4 AM, the rustling commenced again. Being that I was more alert than before, I was ready for when the noise happened again. I slept, but it was light enough that I was able to snap out of it quickly. I got up, went to my window, and thrust open the shades. Nothing was there. I would have heard an animal scuttling away if it was scared, but there was no scuttling. There was only the continued sound of the rustling, which I now realized was coming from the direction of the mural. I turned to look at it, and, the moment I did, it stopped, along with my breath.
I turned on my light and looked around the mural, surveying the plastic trees, my closet, and anything that could remotely sound like rustling leaves. I couldn’t find anything. I didn’t know whether I was more scared or frustrated, but what I did know was that fatigue overruled both. I turned off my light, turned on my TV, and warily returned to my bed.
I looked one more time at the mural before I attempted to go back to sleep, but, right before my head hit the pillow, I saw something. In the glow of the TV, the mural was illuminated, and it revealed something peculiar. In the mural, to the right of the waterfall, and peeking out from one of the larger trees were these two white dots that sort of resembled eyes. My heart sank, not because I thought they were actually eyes, but because I thought that something had gouged a hole in my precious mural. If my body didn’t feel like one giant noodle, I probably would have been able to lift myself up again and investigate. Instead, I buried my head into my pillow and hoped that my mural wasn’t damaged.
When I got up in the morning, the first thing that crossed my mind was the mural. I quickly got up out of bed, giving myself a terrible head rush in the process, and staggered over to the mural. When my vision cleared, I looked at the area where the two white dots were a few hours earlier, and they were still there. But, to my relief, they weren’t holes. But then, what were they? Paint? I ran my hand over them, but the texture remained consistent. It wasn’t rough over the white dots, so I guessed they weren’t paint. Even though I breathed a sigh of relief because the mural wasn’t damaged, my curiosity continued to grow because there was something different about it.
As I had stated before, I memorized everything about that picture, down to the last leaf, so there was no way I would miss something as large as these two dots. They were the size of quarters, so it would have been impossible for me not to notice them beforehand. These dots were new, of that much I was certain. As to their origin, I was clueless.
I sat there for a while trying to figure out what had caused this, but I continually drew a blank. When I noticed that an hour had passed since I began pondering, I was jarred out of my thoughts. I didn’t have work that day, but I was planning to go out, so I had to break eye contact with the mural to get ready. I must admit, though I didn’t know what they were, they made me a little uncomfortable. It’s not everyday that a still picture of a forest suddenly changes. Not knowing where these white dots had come from had gotten under my skin, and I would continually think about them throughout the day.
I didn’t hear the rustling at all during my morning routine, but the memory of it stayed with me, along with those two mysterious dots. The more and more I thought about them, the more they resembled eyes: big, round, white eyes. I knew I was not going to sleep well that night.
When I got home, it was late, and the cats were already downstairs. My parents told me they had a hell of a time getting them to go down for the night, and that it took a lot of coaxing and trickery to finally get them downstairs, so I had to be careful not to let them back up. That was nothing new. Our cats always went by their own schedule, so some nights it was a chore getting them to conform to ours. I carefully opened the door to the basement, but the cats weren’t there to charge the door, so I was able to make my way to my room without any trouble. On my way, though, I did notice something strange. My cats were not in their normal sleeping spots in the basement; they were near my door, completely alert. When I went to pet them, they growled, but the growl wasn’t meant for me, they just didn’t want to be disturbed. They sensed something that I couldn’t, and it made me wary to look in my door.
When I finally peeked inside, everything was the same. Even the two dots on the mural were unchanging, but I did notice, before I turned on my light, that they appeared to have an illumination all their own. It was spooky, and the unease I had been feeling all day began to grow. What were these dots? Why did they appear to glow? And what were the cats picking up that I couldn’t? Out of curiosity, I pushed one of my cats closer to my door to see what he would do, and, in response, he growled louder and walked away. My other cat followed him.
I didn’t want to go into my room. Apparently, whatever was happening on my mural, I was not the only one noticing it. My cats do scare easily, but they’re also able to sense when something is not right. I’m not one to ignore signals like that, so I decided to heed their warnings and sleep out in the downstairs living room with them. I even closed my door, so I wouldn’t have to see the dots… and so the dots wouldn’t see me…
The thought of them looking like eyes kept returning to me throughout the day, and it stayed with me until I fell asleep, watching the closed door of my room. But it wasn’t a long sleep. Sure enough, at some point during the early morning, I was awakened by the sound of rustling. I noticed that my cats had gotten up too, and that they were slinking towards the door, noses to the air. I knew this stance; they were sniffing for other animals, cautiously. I waited to see what they would do. When they got close to the door, the hair on their backs went up, and they commenced growling. They continued with their intimidation until something that sounded like a twig snapping startled them. They jumped up and scurried behind the couch, closer to me.
While I would normally find this humorous, I was too busy concentrating on the door to care. Though the rustling stopped after the snapping sound, I didn’t break eye contact; I don’t think I even blinked. I was nervous, the same type of nervous that I feel after watching documentaries on haunted houses, and then try to go to sleep in darkness. Every creak, every shadow is something. Something that’s going to jump out of the blackness at me. Even if the fear was irrational, it was still potent.
I felt like a little child who just heard a growl from under the bed. I wanted nothing more than to run upstairs and tell my parents, or at least sleep far away from the mural, and the eyes. But, though I was tempted, I didn’t want to leave my cats alone down here. I loved them, and the thought of abandoning them to the mural was not something I was willing to do. I would have brought them upstairs with me, but then I would run the risk of them waking up my parents at this ungodly hour. No. I would stay downstairs with them and tell my parents in the morning.
My eyes were red when I trudged up the stairs after the sun had arisen. I hadn’t slept, and I barely blinked. I was so busy staring at the door to my room, waiting for something to burst out of it. My parents noticed, and they asked me if I was sick. At the risk of sounding like a lunatic, I told them the truth. They know I have an incredibly active imagination, so they laughed at first, thinking I was joking. But, after they saw the look on my face, they knew I wasn’t lying. I didn’t make a habit of lying, so they knew they could trust my words. They decided to go downstairs and have a look.
The cats had shot out of the basement the moment the upstairs door was opened and gladly went outside when the opportunity was presented, so it was just me and my parents against the white eyes in the mural. I stood behind them as they opened my door to reveal… nothing! The mural was in place, but the white eyes were gone! I hadn’t checked my room before I went upstairs to tell my parents, and now they were nowhere to be seen! Those sneaky, little bastards disappeared on me!
My parents looked at each other, and then at me. I didn’t know what to say. Every consequence of opening my door went through my head, except for the possibility of the disappearance of the eyes. I looked down in embarrassment, but my parents were comforting. I told them I wasn’t lying, and they believed me, but my mom had a rational explanation for it.
When I was younger, I had a poster of a smiley face in my room. It was cute enough during the day, but, at night, with the lights out, it looked as though the eyes of the face were growing. I perceived the black orbs increasing in size until they encompassed most of the face. The poster was removed soon after. I had completely forgotten about this incident, and it made me feel better. But there was still a gnawing feeling that something was wrong. While the folly of my visual perception could be explained, I still didn’t know what was causing the sounds. I didn’t think the noises were in my mind. My mom saw that I was still not entirely convinced, and asked if I wanted to take the mural down. Considering the amount of time and money that went into the mural, it was not easy to decide to take it down. Being that the white dots were gone, I felt that maybe the episode had passed, so I decided to keep the mural up.
Later that night, when I returned home from work, I went straight downstairs. Rustling or not, I knew I was going to sleep that night. With the lack of rest from the night before, and the amount of work I had to do that day, I felt that I could sleep through any sound. I was too tired to be anxious, so I didn’t even hesitate when it came to opening my door. But hesitation followed soon after.
Before I could even turn on my light, I noticed them. The hellish white dots, illuminated in the darkness, were back. But the scariest part about them was not their return, but that they had changed position. They were closer, right over the rock nearest to whatever camera had snapped this cursed picture. They almost appeared to be spying on me, kneeling behind the rock and peeking out to check on me.
I quickly got my pajamas out of my room and returned to the living room. I couldn’t even bring myself to get undressed in front of them because I felt like I was being assessed. I hoped that, even though those creepy eyes were there, I would be able to get a good night’s sleep on the couch with my cats, which I still refused to leave alone.
Since my parents had gone to bed before I got back, and I didn’t want to leave my cats, I had no choice but to sleep on the couch. I could’ve probably torn down the mural, but I still had reservations about wasting the money and time it took to get it. Plus, I was terrified to go near it. I closed my door, found a comfortable niche on the couch, and tried to fall asleep. It was at this time that I finally noticed my cats, eyes wide open, staring at my door. It was all so creepy, but I knew I would feel a little better in the light, so I kept the basement lights on as I attempted to go to sleep.
Once again, early in the morning, something had woken me up out of my sleep. Astonished that I had fallen asleep at all, I tried to shake off the sleep and think rationally about what I had just heard. It wasn’t rustling, but a different noise. This sound was very short, yet very distinct. It was the sound of the intake of air, not a gasp, but a quick inhale. It could’ve been my own, or one of the cats, but that theory was shot to hell the minute I looked at my room. The door was open, and, out of the darkness, the two white eyes were peering out at me. Even with the basement lights on, the darkness in my room and the illumination of the eyes was terrifying. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night.
The previous morning, my parents had told me they would be out for the next few days, so it was my responsibility to look after the cats. I heard them leave early in the morning, and I let the cats upstairs soon afterwards. They stayed outside for most of the day, and only came inside when I shook the food canister in the evening.
As the sun began to set, I felt unease begin to creep back into my body. I didn’t want to go downstairs to face the eyes. I seriously considered just staying upstairs and sleeping in my parents’ room or on the couch in the upstairs living room. It was at that moment that I heard myself. I sounded so cowardly. That room downstairs was mine, and that mural was mine, and I wasn’t willing to give up either to a pair of luminous usurpers.
When bedtime came, it was this view that gave me the courage to march downstairs and into my room. I got undressed, washed up, turned off the lights and sat on the bed. As an act of mercy, I let the cats sleep upstairs. Whatever was driving me to act was not driving them, and they didn’t deserve to be subjected to something that made them so uncomfortable. Although, even with my newfound courage, it took everything I had to keep myself from shaking. I wanted to appear as brave as I could to prove to these eyes that I was the master of this room. I crawled under the blanket, put my head on the pillow, and went to sleep.
Like clockwork, I was awoken in the early morning. It was the rustling, as it had been every night except for the previous. Except, this time, the rustling was louder, and it sounded different. It didn't sound like the rustling of actual leaves. It was only out of sheer, morbid curiosity that I looked up, opposing all of my flight instincts. What I saw made my entire body freeze. Once again, the eyes had moved, and they had taken up residence in the canopy of a tree. But it wasn't a tree in the mural. Those glowing, circular, orb-like eyes had moved into one of the plastic trees, outside of the mural, right at the foot of my bed.
Written by Treetop Terra
I also posted on deviantart.com under the name Terra-of-the-Forest