I was in the English army, you know? Two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. My mom absolutely hated the life I chose, and I can’t really blame her. But you know what? The fucked up part is that the biggest horror I’ve ever experienced wasn’t in one of those shitty eastern places, no, it was in the very center of European “civilization”, London.
After I finished my third tour, I was awarded by the army. Apparently, surviving fighting Taliban in the mountains is reason enough to be honored. They offered me a spot in Queen’s Guard. I’m not sure how much you know about that, but in England, it’s a pretty big deal. And I hated it. I was permanently stationed at home, and as a reward for my “bravery” I was now standing in front of buildings motionless while annoying Chinese tourists tried to make me laugh. I wanted out, but the honor of the position, combined with my mother’s happiness that the biggest danger I could ever face would be an Asian tourist, I had no choice but to do it. Only if I knew I’d be safer in some cave in Kabul…
So I was stationed to work at the Tower of London few shifts a week. Shifts were usually 2-3 hours long, depending on how many people worked that day. Gotta tell you, that job gets old quickly. Drunk people who try to mess with you along with annoying tourists who think they’re the first ones ever to try to make you laugh, you just want out of your own skin. But it was a job, and it paid, so I shut the fuck up and did it.
Now, this one day, this one day in 2012 started boring as any other day. I had a few French guys trying to mess with me (god they’re the worst, and you can’t do shit unless they threaten you), then I had a group of drunk Russian chicks which wasn’t so bad. The heat was just starting to melt that fucking hat into my skull when a huge group of tourists showed up. Some sort of a guided tour, I assumed. They all did their standard spiel, pictures, “funny” faces, jokes, etc. They all had their cameras out, and they all wore same t-shirts, some Big Ben tour bullshit. All but one. I noticed her standing in the back, just staring at me. She was a good looking woman, probably early forties, really dark long hair and somewhat pale, which made me think she was English. She did seem to be the part of the tour as she stood with all of the others.
After the group finally took enough pictures and realized I wasn’t gonna laugh, they started moving on. Except the pale woman who stayed and kept watching me. Now, I’ve seen my fair share of people doing all kinds of stupid stuff to get a reaction out of me, but this was a new one. Not only that, this lady was committed. Two hours and hundreds of tourists later, she still stood in the very same spot, just staring at me. The day got pretty hot and there was no way she was comfortable, but I shit you not, she was calmer than I was. She wasn’t smiling which was strange because I assumed she was trying to make me react. About thirty minutes later, when the crowd around me slowly died out, she took a slow step towards me. Then another one. “Here we go, joke incoming” I thought as she took her sweet time walking up closer.
She stopped about two feet away from me. She was looking straight into my eyes. Tilted her head to the left, then to the right, which I assumed was her attempt at making me laugh. Then I realized this woman wasn’t here to joke around. Still standing at two feet away, she started leaning towards me. There was something just so fucked up about her mannerisms that made me extremely uneasy. She never lost an eye contact with me. She kept leaning towards me while her feet never moved. Her face stopped just short of touching mine and her position seemed unnatural at that point. Her head started slowly shaking, like when you get out of the pool or a shower and are freezing, you know?
And then, then she scared the fucking shit out of me. I had people screaming in my face, I even had a moron trying to fight me, but what she did was by far the worst. She opened her mouth as if she were about to let the loudest scream at me, but nothing came out. Nothing. She just stood there, leaned at an unnatural angle, inches from my face, letting a fucking silent scream or whatever that was out of her wide open mouth. And the speed of her shaking increased. Now, I’m not gonna lie, even though it was really hot that day, I started feeling cold and goosebumps ran under my uniform. I finally got myself together and started marching away from her – we are allowed to do a 10-step march occasionally.
When I got to the end of one way, I stopped and closed my eyes. I just wanted her to be gone when I turned around. As I made a 180 degree turn, I instantly froze. She was right in front of me; leaned all the way to my face, mouth open even wider, head now shaking uncontrollably. I was so taken aback, I was unable to react. Noise, screaming, and other stuff I can deal with, but this silent creepy fucking behavior was honestly intimidating me.
“Make way for the Queens Guard!” I yelled. We are allowed to say that when someone is in our way. She didn’t react, but she did lean farther to about an inch from my face.
“MAKE WAY FOR THE QUEEN’S GUARD!” I yelled even louder, hoping my voice wouldn’t break.
She had absolutely zero regard for my orders. Unwilling to deal with the bullshit any longer, I stepped back and pointed my bayonet at her. That was our last resort for annoying tourists.
She immediately closed her mouth and leaned back into a normal human position. I wasn’t going to wait for her to do whatever she was about to do, so I started marching around her. When I got back to my post, I turned around and stood still. I couldn’t see her in the corner of my eye which gave me a huge relief. “Jesus, this fucking job,” I thought to myself “I’m gonna have to look into…”
“10, 9, 8,” someone whispered in my right ear. It must be her. She was behind me.
“10, 9, 8,” whispers came from my left side. Goosebumps were at an all-time erect now. Hilarious, isn’t it? Combat vet, killed more people than he’d ever want to admit, is now scared to hell of some batshit tourist lady.
“10, 9, 8, 10, 9, 8, 10, 9, 8,” she sped up her whispering. Then walked in front of me. “10, 9, 8, 10, 9, 8” she was now whispering incredibly fast. Actually, whispering doesn’t describe it properly. It was like yelling, but in a whisper tone, if that makes any sense. It was surreal. She leaned towards my face again, whispering those fucking numbers franticly.
I was about to break my orders. I couldn’t take it anymore. There was something fucked up about this woman, and I couldn’t deal with it.
“Ma’m,” I spoke in a voice of the biggest scared pussy, “Ma’m will you please step…”
And then, a huge group of loud tourist ran up to us. The crazy woman leaned back, still looking at me. She whispered “10, 9, 8,” one more time while never losing an eye contact. Then she walked away, as slowly as she moved around me. It was so strange watching her slowly disappear into the crowd. All that was left was a strange feeling of something unnatural. That, and a group of life-saving Asian tourists. Never thought I’d be so happy to see a Nikon-snapping Chinese guy.
After my shift was done, I went into our base and told the story to a couple of guys. They all had some experience with creepy people, but never on this level. When our shift commander came, guys jokingly told him how I was “abused” on duty. He wanted some laughs, so he asked for the full story. But when I started telling what happened, he quickly lost his smile.
“Stop, stop,” he said. “Did you talk to her?”
“Sir?” I asked intrigued.
“Son, did you or did you not speak to this woman?”
I wasn’t gonna lose my weekly pay over breaking that stupid no-talking rule, so I lied. “Of course not, sir.”
He seemed to calm down. “Good. And if she ever comes back, never talk back, understood? And that goes for all of you.”
Joking atmosphere quickly died out in the break room. I was puzzled, but I was even more tired, so I decided to go home and sleep instead of worrying about crazy fucking tourists.
Next few shifts went by as boring as they were supposed to be. Woman was nowhere to be seen, and since my girlfriend was about to visit me all the way from Netherlands, I forgot about the incident.
Tuesday night around 3am, I was awoken by loud banging at the door. For some strange reason, the first thought that crossed my mind was that fucked up woman from a week ago.
“Babe, would you mind peeping through the hole to see who it is?” I lazily mumbled as I gently pushed my girlfriend. She was dead asleep; I swear nothing could wake her up. Semi-conscious, I stumbled through the hallway and to the door. “Who is it?” I muttered while peeking through the hole, but it was too dark outside. That sobered me up. “Who is it?” I asked again, but the only answer I got was louder banging.
“Fuck it,” I thought as I took a deep breath and opened the door.
There are about million things I’d rather see standing in front of me at that moment. And there was only one person I did not expect to be at the door.
I was supposed to pick her up tonight.
I nearly lost all control of my legs. Thousand things raced through my mind which was having trouble comprehending what in the fuck was happening.
“Thanks for picking me up at the Heathrow, asshole,” my girlfriend said as she slammed the carryon on my chest. I was still speechless.
“So, I travel all the way from Amsterdam to see you, and you forget? Really?”
I wasn’t hearing it. I knew I was half asleep when I got up, but there WAS someone in my bed. I wasn’t dreaming for fuck’s sake.
“Stay here,” I mumbled as I handed her the bag back.
“Just stay here.”
Not knowing where I got the courage to walk to the bedroom, I slowly made my way.
I know what you’re thinking – in movies and books, guy walks into the room and boom, its empty, right? I fucking wish.
I walked into my room and it was completely dark. But I could hear breathing. Heavy breathing. My pulse was so high I was sure I was gonna pass out, but I flipped the switch.
“7, 6, 5, 7, 6, 5,” whispers came from the corner of the room where she stood. That same fucking woman. She stood almost glued to the corner of the room, her back to the wall. She was looking straight at me. And though I was sure I lost the power of speech, I managed to squeeze out a “What the fuck.”
“7, 6, 5,” she said as she took the first slow step towards me. Her mouth was always wide open, as if she were letting out that damn soundless scream. Every step she’d make, she’d close her mouth enough to say “7, 6, 5”.
I couldn’t move. Nothing in this world existed besides this woman slowly walking towards me. What a creepy and unsettling feeling. Like, I wasn’t physically afraid of her, right? I could take her down – and was ready to. But this kind of fear was something foreign to me. Seemed like I was afraid for my, shit, I don’t know, soul? You know what I mean? I knew she couldn’t hurt me physically, but I was stills scared. Not to mention I fucking somehow slept in the same bed with this whatever the fuck she is.
She came incredibly close to me. The familiar lean. An inch from my face. My breathing was so irregular and loud, it was the only noise in the room.
Suddenly, something about this had a strangely familiar feeling.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!” Scream came from behind me.
I snapped into reality, turned around and grabbed my girl. “Run!” I yelled as we escaped the room. We ran to the kitchen where I grabbed one of those “As seen on TV” steel-cutting knives. My girlfriend was just silently weeping at my side, unable to even ask questions.
I could hear footsteps. First, I saw her shadow, then I saw her calmly walking through the hallway. Her mouth was now so unnaturally wide open, and she wasn’t looking at me anymore. She was looking at the ceiling as she slowly made her way to the door. Her head was shaking very fast. It was abso-fucking-lutely surreal, I’m telling you. I mean, just imagine, this woman, who creeped you out a week ago, is now walking through your place at 3 in the morning, staring at the ceiling with mouth impossibly wide open. Not to mention you slept next to her for who knows how long.
When she finally walked out, I ran to the door and slammed it. Girlfriend was still unable to speak. When we got ourselves together, I was afraid she’d think I cheated on her with this woman, but she didn’t. She saw that horror walk through out hallway and she knew something was wrong.
I was terrified, but I didn’t let it show. The scariest part of everything was that I had a job that required me to stand still and not react to my surroundings. I told my girlfriend about my experience with this fucked up woman, but I didn’t mention her “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5,” whispers. I didn’t want to scare her any further.
Because, what could those whispers be if not a countdown?
* * *
I was hesitant to call the police after that crazy whatever-she-was left my apartment, but my girlfriend wouldn’t have it. Police were at our place in about 20 minutes. Took our statements, woman’s description, and told us to immediately call should anything else happen.
But my mind was set on something else. My commander. He told me not to talk to her. And I did. And now I’m waking up in bed with her, and how the fuck did she even get into my flat, shit man, too many thoughts.
The next day I went to my commander’s office.
“Sir,” I said very carefully – you need to understand that losing this job, no matter how shitty it was, definitely wasn’t on my to-do list – “Sir, we need to talk.”
He looked up at me from his desk and I swear to you, I swear he already knew. His face lost all the emotion. He didn’t even ask what was happening. “Sit,” he said as he leaned back in his chair.
“Sir, I…” I was having a hard time confessing to breaking the rules of the Guard.
“You spoke to her. You responded,” he said as he leaned towards me. “Didn’t you.”
“Well, I just asked her to move, that’s all.”
“No, not the Queen’s Guard command. Did you say anything else to her?” “I did.” ** If you remember, besides me yelling “MAKE WAY FOR THE QUEEN’S GUARD”, I did say “Ma’m, will you please…”**
“God damn it, son. God fucking damn it.”
This was the first time I heard my commander curse.
“Sir, who is this woman?”
“I’m going to file for your immediate removal from the guard,” he brushed me off as he opened his desk to look for something.
“Sir?” I asked, not believing I was about to lose my job.
“Don’t worry, I’ll find you something else to do. But your days in the Guard are over. Expect the transfer within a week.”
“Sir, but I was just…” “That is all, son, you can leave now.” He said, not even looking at me.
I was pissed. But then again, if I was going to keep the paycheck without having to stand in the street and deal with tourists/crazy fucking creatures, I was fine.
The new schedule came out and, what do you know, I was only scheduled to work one shift that week. That was really handy because I was supposed to babysit my 7 year old niece visiting from Birmingham, and I had already planned out the whole weekend with her.
Thursday came with no further incidents with the mouth-wide-open bitch. My girlfriend had finally calmed down. She left back to Amsterdam that morning and in a good mood. Life was getting back on track.
My shift that day was 6-10pm in front of St. James Palace. There are usually two of us working there, but for some reason, I was scheduled to work alone from 9-10. Here’s how the spot where I worked looks. The little wooden post is where we’d stand in case of a storm. “Ok, buddy, hang in there, almost done,” my fellow guard said at 9:02 pm, as he marched back inside.
“One more hour. One last hour of this damn job and I am free. God, it feels good…” I thought as I stood still in front of my post. Night was unusually quiet, but it was starting to rain, so I guess it was to be expected. 9:30pm. Still light rain, still boring as fuck. Almost there. 9:45pm. Rain was picking up, so I decided to spend my last few minutes in the post.
I turned around.
I shouldn’t have.
There she was.
If I were a writer, I’d use all these descriptive tools to paint a picture of how horrifying that woman looked that night. Let me tell you, this was the single most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a child getting killed by a land mine.
The woman was standing at the door of the post. She wore a white dress that was nearly shining in the dark. But her face, fuck man, her face. She wasn’t looking at me, which somehow made it even fucking worst. She was looking at the sky or whatever the hell was up there, and her eyes went so far up I could only see bottom of her pupils. Her mouth was so wide open, I was now nearly sure it wasn’t possible for a human to do this.
There is something surreal about standing in front of someone who doesn’t act rationally. Like, if you’re getting mugged, you know they want your money. Shit, if you’re getting shot at, you know they want to kill you. But the true mental horror is in not knowing what in the fuck she wanted from me.
9:49. Ok, 11 minutes of this and I can finally…
She took a step towards me. Then another one. At about two feet from me, she stopped.
She started leaning. That fucking lean. Her face stopped just short of mine. At first her head started shaking slowly, but started to move increasingly fast. It was a small kind of shaking, as I said before, kinda like when you get out of the shower into an air-conditioned room and start shaking. The pupils were so high up, I could barely see them. Her head was now trembling so fast I was wondering how it was possible. And that mouth, man, that mouth was so unnaturally, un-fucking-humanly open. I swear I saw corners of her lips starting to bleed because her skin wasn’t able to support the opening.
The street was silent, probably the most silent I’ve ever seen it. And the worst part is, it was night time. I know I do this a lot, but just imagine it one more time – you’re standing motionlessly in the middle of the street, and there is this bleeding-wide-open mouth woman an inch from your face, doing whatever the fuck she’s doing, and not a soul in sight. And no sound, whatsoever.
Come the fuck on.
And then, as if she heard my thought, her pupils dropped back and looked straight at me. I nearly jumped back. She closed her mouth, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d rather she kept it open. Her jaw started rapidly opening and closing, as if she were biting something invisible. Her teeth were hitting each other so hard, I was sure they’d break.
That was it for me, I couldn’t take it anymore.
I took a step back and screamed, “JUST FUCKING STOP ALREADY!”
And she did. Teeth stopped clenching, mouth closed, and she stood back up from the leaning. She took a step towards me and, for the first time ever, smiled.
“4, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 4 ,3 ,2 ,1,” she started whispering, never losing the smile.
“What is that, what the fuck is that?” I begged. I was ready to grab her, shake, her, anything, just for an answer. What the fuck did she want from me, right?
“What the fuck!” came from behind me.
He ran up to me, disregarding the crazy bitch in front.
“Did you talk to her?”
“DID YOU FUCKING TALK TO HER?” he yelled, louder and while grabbing my uniform. He didn’t even pay attention to the woman.
“Jesus Christ… What number?” he said while finally letting me out of his fists.
“Sir?” I answered confused as you can imagine.
“What was the last number she said? What was it? Was it a zero?”
“No, I think she stopped at a 1… But why…?”
All this time, the woman just stood still and looked at us with a smile. Then, she took a step towards us. She slowly walked in between my commander and me.
“Don’t say a thing to her, not a fucking thing,” the commander said with obvious fear on his face.
The woman turned from me and towards him. She got into his face, and even from behind, I could see her mouth being wide open.
“Go, just go,” the commander said as he looked at me. He was avoiding acknowledging her. I heard her teeth clenching.
“I can’t just leave you,” I said.
“Go, and don’t come back here. I’ll take care of this.”
You know, I like to think of myself as brave, but at that moment, all I wanted to do is leave. I hope you can’t blame me for that. So I started running away.
“And never talk to her again!” the commander yelled as I got away.
Now, I know a lot this stuff sounds like bullshit, and you’re right, it really does. Sure, looking back at it now, I could’ve arrested her, hell I could’ve even killed the bitch, and so could’ve the commander. But you know what? When you find yourself in a situation as impossible and as unreal as that one, you don’t act rationally, you don’t think logically as you would in a normal situation. I went home, took a cold shower (after making sure my doors were locked) and I collapsed on the bed.
In the morning I texted my shift buddy to see if commander was ok and his “Yeah, why wouldn’t he be?” text back meant he made it. That’s all I needed to know, I was out of that life.
* * *
My niece came in town on Friday and I had her for the weekend. Running around a seven year old will make you lose your mind, let alone leave time to think about some crazy woman harassing you. Besides, I was done with that job – that morning I got transfer papers.
I spent the whole day taking the kid different places she liked. Shit was exhausting. Saturday morning I made us some breakfast as we watched cartoons for the good part of it. Then we put in a Catwoman movie and my niece dressed as her – she loved her for some reason (movie was a complete trash). I guess I wasn’t used to having to take care of the kids because I fell asleep on the couch, already exhausted.
My niece woke me up.
“Uki,” she said, that’s what she calls me, “Uki, let’s play.” She was holding my old pair of walkie-talkies. I used to love those as a kid, so I couldn’t say no to her.
“Sure, let’s see if these old things work. Go outside of the house, I want to check the range on these babies.”
Her face lit up as she ran out.
I turned the walkie-talkie on and started playing with it. Static noise was there, meaning the batteries worked, it was only a matter of finding the right frequency.
“Ashley? Ashley, do you copy, over?” I tried a few times.
I finally heard something.
“Ashley, do you copy, I repeat, do you copy, over?”
“Hero”, was all I heard at a low volume.
“Ashely, you punk, you need to say over when you’re done.”
“H…e..ro” I heard again.
“This damn thing,” I thought. Too lazy to go out, I took the batteries out, blew at them, as if that ever does anything, and put them back in.
“Ok, Catwoman hero, do you copy now, over?”
I dropped the walkie-talkie.
That wasn’t Ashley’s voice. That wasn’t “Hero” I thought I heard.
I ran outside and immediately started fucking hating myself for letting the child go out on its own. Ashley stood in the yard, holding a radio, squeezing it hard. In front of her stood that same woman, bent over and all the way down to my kid’s face.
“Zero, zero, zero, zero, zero,” was what woman frantically repeated in Ashley’s traumatized face.
Yeah, when some freak harasses me, I can control myself. But a child, my cousin?
I lost it. I ran towards the woman and tackled her with enough force I was sure I’d hurt her. As soon as I hit the ground, I got up and grabbed Ashley. “Are you alright?” I yelled, “Did she touch you?!” I didn’t even realize how hard I was shaking her, probably scaring her even more.
Ashely was now crying so hard, she couldn’t even answer.
“Let’s go in,” I said as I turned towards the woman. She was still lying on the ground, facing down.
As soon as we got into the house, we went to the window. The woman started standing up. She turned towards us.
“I’m calling the police,” I told terrified Ashely as I picked up my cell. “Don’t worry baby, it’s going to be alright.”
The woman took a step towards the window. Then another one. Her nose was bleeding and she was visibly hurt as she was limping, but it didn’t seem to matter to her.
I’ll admit, I was nearly frozen from the rush of adrenaline I had. We just stood there at the window, watching this freak approaching us.
“Police are on the way,” I told my niece who was still crying.
The woman walked up to the window.
She… She wasn’t looking at me anymore. She leaned towards Ashley’s face. Poor little thing grabbed my hand and was squeezing it way too hard for a 7 year old. That fucking thing, bitch, woman, whatever she was, leaned all the way to the window. Only a piece of glass was separating her from Ashley. As I was about to take my niece into another room, far from this thing, the woman opened her mouth, but immediately closed it into a smile. Then again. It was fucking impossibly strange. As she’d open her mouth, her pupils would shoot up towards the back of her head, only to immediately come back followed with a smile. She was now alternating inhumanely fast in between a smile and a gaping mouth paired with nearly pupil-less eyes.
“Let’s get out of here,” I told Ashley as I picked her up and took her to my room.
Police arrived about 15 minutes later. They started scanning the neighborhood and actually caught a woman who matched my description. I was due at the police station for identification, but first I had to drop Ashley off at the train station. Her mum wanted her back immediately after what happened, and I couldn’t blame her. I took her to the station, where I arranged for the staff to watch her until her destination.
A very pleasant conductor promised he’d watch her whole trip. He took Ashley’s hand and promised to show her all the cool parts of the train. Finally, the kid smiled.
As train was getting ready to leave, conductor put my niece on the stairs. “Say bye to your uncle,” he said, “we’re about to leave.”
“Bye Ashley, tell your mum to call me when you arrive, ok?”
She didn’t respond to me, which was understandable. The kid was probably still fucking terrified, hell, I was still terrified.
As the announcer said all boarding was complete, conductor opened the door for them to get inside the train.
Ashley didn’t move, though. She looked up at the conductor.
“Let’s go now,” he said.
Ashley opened her mouth, looking up at the man.
“We have to get in now, we’re about to start moving honey,” he said again. “Let’s go.”
As he entered the train and Ashely followed, I heard her say “10 9 8.”