“Matt?” my mom shouted from the top of the basement stairs.
“Yeah?” I responded.
“We’re heading to bed. Don’t stay up too late, okay? You have class in the morning.”
“Goodnight, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
She stepped away from the basement door and shut it behind her. I heard her footsteps from above leading toward the stairs, where they stopped as she headed upstairs. I looked at the clock. 9:53 PM. My class didn’t start until ten o’clock so I figured I had at least four more hours of game time before getting a reasonable amount of sleep. As time went on, I heard several thumps from up above. This didn’t bother me, because we had two cats and a dog. So I focused my attention back on my game. But time really flies when you’re having fun and before I knew it, it was past two o’clock. The thumping grew a little more hectic.
“That damn dog,” I muttered. “It’s gonna wake the whole house up.”
I checked the time, and saw that it was past two. I sighed and started turning everything off. The game, the TV, the lights, etc.
“Guess I’ll let her out.”
I heard another set of thumps. This one sounded louder than the last. I stopped dead in my tracks, waiting to see if it’d come again. There it was, a louder set of footsteps. I tried to pass it off as my dad coming down to chew me out for staying up so late. But then I heard two sets of footsteps, both of them heading toward the stairs.
“What the fuck?” I whispered to myself.
I bolted up the stairs after the sound. My heart began beating rapidly. I stepped out of the basement into the pitch black abyss of my house. I pulled out my phone and switched on the flashlight function, lighting my way through the kitchen, past the living room, and toward the stairs. Suddenly, I heard what sounded like someone shutting a door, from upstairs. Not wanting whoever was up there to know I was coming, I switched off the light and tiptoed up the stairs. The first room I checked was my brother’s at the top of the stairs. I slowly opened his door, peaking in but making as little noise as possible. His room was dimly lit by the light of the moon peaking in from the window. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. But then, I heard a thump and some rustling coming from the opposite end of the hall. It sounded like it came from my other little brother’s room. My heart began to race again. I remembered that he always preferred to have his door open at night. If there was an intruder in the house, he’d be the most vulnerable.
“Oh god,” I whispered.
I grabbed the baseball bat in my brother’s room and swiftly but silently made my way down the hall. I tightened my grip on the bat, and peaked into my little brother’s room. I saw nothing. I stared into the dark room for a long time but didn’t see or hear anything. I went across the hall into my room, but there was still nothing. I saw the dog lying on the floor in my room, sleeping peacefully. It was never downstairs. My head was beginning to spin. Who was in my house? And just how many people were with them? This was so confusing to me, because the neighborhood we lived in was so peaceful. Nobody worried about break-ins or trespassers. So I was totally baffled. No chance was this planned out by someone. Our family wasn’t nearly as well-off as some of the other people in our neighborhood. These people must have just decided to invade my house by coincidence. Some people just get all the luck, don’t they?
The last place I checked was my parents’ room. Still holding the baseball bat, I stepped into the room. The door creaked open.
“Mom? Dad?” I whispered.
I saw my mom lying on her side of the bed, but I suddenly felt a pair of hands grab me from the dark.
“What the hell are you doing? Do you have any idea what time it is?”
It was my dad. The moonlight from behind kept his face in the dark.
“Jesus Christ. Dad, listen to me. I think there’s somebody in the house.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I heard like two pairs of footsteps going up the stairs.”
“What? It was probably just the dog.”
“I thought so too, but the dog has been asleep in my room this whole time.”
“Oh for God’s sake. Don’t get so worked up about nothing. Just go back to bed.”
“Wait, let me check the bathroom.”
I side-stepped him to look through the bathroom.
“Hey!” he let out a hushed shout.
“Just give me a second, I have to be sure.”
I felt him grab my arm from behind.
“Hey, what did I tell you? Get your ass back in bed!”
His grip tightened and my arm started to hurt.
“Ow! Alright I’ll go, will you just…”
I stopped midsentence. What I saw put a knot in my stomach and sent chills up my spine. Lying down, on the bed was my dad. He was sound asleep. I could see his face in the moonlight peaking in through the window. I turned, slowly back toward whoever it was holding my arm. It was a perfect silhouette of my dad. As if his shadow got up and gained sentience.
“Who are you?” I asked, my heart in my throat.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His voice deepened, making him sound more menacing.
“Who the fuck are you?”
He stood there, silent, still holding my arm.
“Go back to bed, Matt.”
I had lost nearly all of my composure at that point. I had no control over the amount of noise I was making.
“How do you know my name?” I asked, nearly yelling.
Just then, my mom began to stir. She stood up and made her way toward the bathroom. She hadn’t noticed either of us. She closed the bathroom door behind her and the man bolted out of the bedroom with inhuman speed. In an instant, my fight-or-flight instincts kicked in. I’m not a very fit guy. I weighed about 165 pounds at the time and I had little muscle mass. But my adrenaline was pumping and my family was in danger, so my brain told me to fight. I chased after him. The rapid sound of his footsteps led me downstairs. I was lucky enough not to fall flat on my face in the pitch black darkness. I brought the bat up over my shoulder, readying it for a strike. I took careful steps all around. I checked the kitchen, the dining room, the hallway leading to the garage, even the downstairs bathroom. I saw nothing, but never let my guard down. Then, I saw his head, silhouetted against the blinds behind the couch in the living room. I could feel his gaze piercing me, deeply. I put on a brave face and uttered something that I thought, at the time, was witty.
“I see you, you fuckin’ creep!”
He darted out of my sight. But I saw a flicker of his image flying in the direction of the den behind the kitchen. I stepped forward until I was near the window that bridged the gap between the living room and the kitchen. That’s when it happened. His footsteps grew louder and sounded like they were getting much closer. He was charging me. My heart beat at the rate of an automatic rifle, my skin tightened all around my body, my hands shook, and my brain went into overdrive. I had one chance to send the bat right at the son of a bitch. I clasped my teeth shut, tightened my grip, and turned to face the blurry shadow hurtling itself toward me at Mach speed. In an instant, I winded the bat back and sent it forward with every ounce of my strength.
The sound of the bat connecting with the side of his head was followed by a loud thump. The bat fell from my shaking hands, onto the floor. And there he was. Lying awkwardly on his stomach. His face was parallel to the floor, but I still couldn’t make out any of his features. That didn’t matter, though. What mattered was that I had gotten him. My first thought was to call the police, but I put that on hold. I wanted to see what this guy looked like. I pulled out my phone, struggling to turn on the flashlight function. My hands were still shaking. I switched it on and pointed it at him. But I wasn’t prepared for what I’d see. Because…I didn’t see anything. It was as though the light from my phone made him disappear. I turned it off thinking he was gone, but then there he was, lying on the floor in the same awkward position.
“What the fuck? What is going on?”
My mind was spinning. I shined the light on him again, and he was gone, again. I touched the lit up floor and felt nothing. I turned the light off and touched him again, and I could feel him. He was cold. Very cold. He was like a living shadow. I switched the light back on, and just stood there, totally confused.
My phone battery was dying. I hadn’t charged it at all. The flashlight switched off and it went into low-power mode. He was gone. I caught a glance of the front door closing itself. I rushed to the window by the door, but saw nothing. I looked around downstairs, but still saw nothing. He was gone for good. But my head was still spinning.
“Am I hallucinating or something?” I asked myself.
I went up to my room. I saw that it was almost three o’clock, but I never even considered going to sleep that night. My alarm rang at nine AM sharp and I got up to shower and left for class. The day went on normally as I tried to forget what had happened last night. I couldn’t push it out of my mind for long though. None of it made sense to me. Who, or what, was that guy? If he was some sort of shadow, how could I touch him? How could he touch me? I could never find an answer to these questions.
Later that evening, my family and I were all eating dinner.
“Hey,” my mom started. “Did one of you guys come into our room last night?”
I froze in my seat. My stomach sank a little when she asked. The last thing I wanted was them interrogating me about last night. They’d think I was insane if I told them my side of the story.
“I don’t remember anything,” my dad chimed in.
“Oh,” said my mom. “I guess it could’ve just been my imagination.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It was probably nothing.”
I went to bed around ten o’clock that night. I was unbearably tired from last night’s events. I headed to bed with everyone else and fell asleep pretty quick. I felt the comfort of sleep for what felt like a few seconds before I was awoken again. I looked up to see my little brother standing over my bed, silhouetted against the nightlight coming from his room, leaving the door to my room wide open. I looked at my phone; it read 1:44 AM.
“What do you want?” I asked, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
“I had a bad dream, but dad said I can’t sleep in their room, so can I sleep with you?”
“Jeez. I don’t know. Can’t you…”
And there it was again. I saw him. I saw my little brother, in his bed, asleep in his room. I looked up to the figure standing over me.
“I want to sleep in here tonight, Matt,” he said, in a deep, harsh voice.
I grabbed the baseball lying on the floor next to my bed. I guess I wasn’t going to get a lot of sleep that night, either.