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The Summer of 1998

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Written by Reddit User "Enjayee" on NoSleep. It was submitted in five individuals parts between June 30 2015 and July 13 2015. It takes place 17 years ago in an unnamed small town in rural western Georgia, United States through the eyes of the writer recalling strange events in the summer of 1998. Posted below are the five original parts.

Five

In 1998, I lived in a quiet little farming town. No crime, no strangers, and everybody knew everybody else. It was the picture perfect place to raise a family. My house rested in the middle of a suburban side street. It was a large brick house on a double lot which was probably constructed in the early 20th century. I was 15 years old.

My mother and I were the only ones living in that house. She inherited it from her parents years ago intending to raise a family with my father. But a car accident would claim his life shortly after I was born. I never spent much time in the house when I was younger. My mother was a nurse working graveyard shifts at the local hospital at the other end of town. So for most of my childhood I had to spend the night at my aunt’s house.

But now that I was older, I was allowed to stay at home alone. Being raised largely unsupervised, I was given a certain degree of freedom and responsibility which I did not abuse. I never threw parties or snuck out at night. The most rebellious thing I did was invite a friend or two over on weekends to watch movies and play video games all night.

On this particular Friday night it was just me alone at the house. I was watching scary movies, eating popcorn, and listening to grudge rock radio. The only disturbance came from my pet cat, Romeo, jumping on top of the television. Eventually I got tired of this and threw him out of my bedroom, closing the door behind me.

It might seem harsh but I really hated that cat. Whenever it was just the two of us at home he would jump on the furniture, claw my back apart as I slept, and tear up the carpet. I could still feel the claw marks he left on me from the night before.

A few minutes later I heard a faint crash downstairs. I angrily turned off the radio and listened for it again. Silence. I’d been staying at home overnight alone for almost 3 years now. I was used to the creaks and cracks this old house made. It was not my imagination. Romeo had probably upset some dishes jumping on the kitchen counter. I was gonna to kill that stupid cat

Slowly I crept downstairs and turned on the lights as I walked through every room. Not a single dish was out of a place in the kitchen. Nor was a single coaster moved in the living room. Nothing. I couldn’t even find Romeo. I had to admit, I was getting a little creeped out.

I went to the front door and locked it. It wasn’t something you normally had to do in a town like this but I wasn’t taking any chances. I went to the back door. It was already locked. Not uncommon given the fact that we hardly used it.

But then I heard a faint noise coming from the backyard. It was a cat’s meow. Romeo must’ve gotten outside somehow. Slowly I opened the door to confirm my suspicions. The meow was louder this time. He was out there alright.

So I stormed back to the kitchen to grab a flashlight. Looking over at the window above the sink I realized it was opened about 6 inches. It was an old window so it wouldn’t open any further. I guess that explained how the cat got out. I closed the window, locked it, and headed back.

I walked out the back door slowly and shone the light around the yard. Our yard was twice the size of a regular lot, and had a small forest behind it. It was a prime target for realtors. But it was a creepy scene at night. I walked across the lawn following the faint meows. They became louder and louder until I found their origins. They were coming from inside the tool shed.

At this point I was a more than a little nervous. I suddenly remembered old wives tales about psychopaths feigning pet noises to lure children away from their homes. But I wasn’t a little kid. I was a 15 year old man armed with a flashlight and 32 ounces of highly caffeinated soda in my belly.

Taking a nervous gulp I shone the light directly at the shed door and kicked it open, ready for whatever horrors awaited me on the other side. What I saw next made my face turn beet red.

“You stupid cat.”

It was Romeo. He was crouching near the back of the shed behind an old lawn mower. I went to pick him up and bring him inside, but he winced and ran further towards the back of the shed where I couldn’t reach him. Suit yourself you stupid furball. I wasn’t too worried. Romeo wasn’t much of an outdoor cat. He’d come back inside when he wanted some food and water.

So I went back into the house and locked the door behind me. It was almost four in the morning now. It was time to call it a night. I crept back upstairs into my bedroom. I whipped the door almost completely shut and began to undress for bed.

I threw my shirt into the laundry hamper and looked in the mirror at the scratches Romeo had left on my back. The five swollen claws marks were still noticeable against my pale complexion.

I turned off the bedroom light and went to bed. It was pitch black as I laid down. The only light came from a small crack into the hallway. I looked at the wall as the strip of light began to grow wider. My door was creeping open. Romeo must have finally come back inside looking for a warm place to sleep. But then I realized something.

Cats only scratch with four claws. And Romeo was locked outside.

Something else had been clawing my back at night. And something else was making its way into my room.

Nail

My heart was beating rapidly as I pushed my face deeper into my pillow. I couldn’t bear to look at whatever horrific thing was approaching me. It was ready to strike. Suddenly and without warning it jumped onto my bed. With a rush of adrenaline I sprung up ready to fight for my life.

“Meow.”

I would have killed Romeo if I wasn’t so relieved to see that it was him all along. Twice that night the rotten little feline had almost given me a heart attack. I was about to exhale in relief.

But things still didn’t quite add up. How did the cat get back inside? What was the crashing sound downstairs? And where did the claw marks on my back come from?

I was tired, panicked, and covered in sweat. So naturally I threw the cat into the hall, locked the bedroom door, and flopped onto my bed before finally passing out in peace. Whatever groovy mysteries existed in this house could wait until the morning.

The next day I awoke to the smell of bacon and eggs. Downstairs I was greeted by my smiling mother. We exchanged small talk about our nights just as we always did. After breakfast, I decided to ask about the previous night. I was careful not to divulge everything lest I be seen as a scared little kid. I merely asked her how Romeo could have gotten back inside.

She explained that it was an old house. There were small holes in the foundation and siding where raccoons, squirrels, and even cats could crawl into the walls or sometimes the house itself. Her explanation, combined with the presence of daylight put me at ease. It wasn’t until I left the kitchen that her words sent chills down my spine.

“And please make sure to shut the kitchen window before you go to bed.”

A puzzled look formed on my face as I turned back in her direction.

“It was left open a crack this morning and I don’t want bugs getting in. Okay sweetie?”

I nodded silently before walking back upstairs. I had locked the window last night. I was sure of it. Just another question on a growing list of them. Upon returning to my room I lifted my shirt and turned my head as I looked at the mirror. Five pink claw marks reaching from the top of my neck to the bottom of my waist. Luckily they were beginning to fade. Whatever had caused them hadn’t done so the previous night. I decided to put it in the back of my mind.

The next few nights were uneventful. I made sure all the doors were locked, all the windows were shut, and all meddling cats were accounted for. Besides that I just sat in my room and accomplished nothing. What else was a slacker teen expected to do on summer break?

It wasn’t until Friday that things got weird again. I was watching a late baseball game on cable and was in the middle of a shouting match with the television.

“Springer you freaking bum! What does Mazzone even see in this guy? Send him packin' back to Arizona!”

After a game full of intentionally stimulating conversation I was about to call it a night. But then I heard the scream. It was a piercing sound. Neither distressed nor boisterous. Not even human. It was animalistic but unlike any animal I’d ever heard. Whatever it was, it was angry.

The security in my room could not be understated. I lived on the second floor. My door was dead bolted. And a small handgun was locked in the bottom of my dresser for emergencies. Yet I couldn’t help but recall what my mom had said about the holes in the house. I had to find them.

But the screams were getting closer. Was nobody going to call in a noise complaint? Of course not. The seniors on this street were passed out in oxycontin comas by nine thirty.

Finally the screaming stopped. Now was my chance. I rushed downstairs with the cat in my arms. I threw him out the back door. It may seem like I was sending him to his death, but I figured he could find his way back in like he had the night before right?

There was only one way he could go. I rushed across the house to the basement door, unlocked it, and headed down below. It was a dark and dingy place. The floor was actually just dirt, with the moisture turning it to mud. The only light came from the flashlight shaking in my hand.

Eventually I found the old swinging lightbulb and pulled the cord to illuminate the rest of the basement. There were two rooms down there. One right below the stairs filled with old doors, dressers, furniture, water heaters, etc. And beyond that was a room filled with piles of firewood for an old wooden furnace that had since been removed.

Suddenly I saw something rush across the floor. It was Romeo. I looked over to the hole he had come through. This was hardly a small hole. It had to be two feet high and three feet wide. I probably could’ve fit through it. But it was a relief to know that at least one question was answered. And I could fill in the hole the next morning.

But then I heard the scream again. And it was right outside the house.

I panicked for a moment as I looked around. I grabbed a wooden door and threw it over the hole. Then I collapsed a pile of wood in front of the door. It wasn’t much but it would have to do. I froze for a minute to see if it would hold. A loud thud shook the jury-rigged blockade. But it held. And whatever was trying to break through would have to settle for scratching.

And then it stopped.

I waited a few more minutes just to be sure. Nothing. I grabbed Romeo and made my way upstairs. My heart was still pounding and my hands were still shaking. By the time I made it back to my bedroom, I was calm.

I was calm until I gazed out the bedroom window. It was here that I saw a shadowy figure rushing into the thick forest behind my yard. It stopped for a minute and stared back at me. I knew we hadn’t seen the last of each other.

The next morning I acted like nothing was wrong. I calmly stumbled into the kitchen where I was once again greeted by my mother. We chatted and I explained that I had found the hole and was going to fill it in with some old cement. Mom didn’t protest or inquire any further. She was probably just thankful that I was taking an interest in doing some handy work.

That afternoon I headed to the basement. It was much less eerie during the day. I walked over to the second room. The door and wood were still piled in front of the hole. So I definitely hadn’t imagined what had happened last night.

I tossed enough wood aside until I was able to move the door. I flipped it over. The door was clawed to shreds. Not surprising given what had taken place the night before. But something was strangely familiar about these marks. I paused for a moment before finally piecing it all together.

These were the same marks that had been clawed into my back.

And they weren’t animal claws at all. They were fingernails.

Cord

The next few hours were nerve-wracking. I sat alone in the basement filling in the hole and trying to rationalize my discovery. Maybe I should’ve been relieved. I wasn’t being stalked by an animal, demon, or werewolf. It was just a human the entire time.

Somebody had crawled through a hole in the house’s foundation. Somebody had found a way into my home. Somebody had watched me as I slept at night and dug his fingernails into my back. And now that somebody had grown tired of merely teasing his prey. What a relief.

After finishing my work in the basement I returned upstairs. I didn’t say anything to mom as I passed by. I wasn’t going to tell her what was going on just yet. She’d think I was going crazy. Maybe I was. But I had to do a little more investigating before I could be sure of anything.

The next morning I packed some supplies and waited for my mom to go to sleep. She usually slept until the late afternoon so she wouldn’t even notice I was gone. Then I was out the door. What was I even looking for? I guess I’d know when I found it.

Beyond my backyard there existed a five acre forest. In the winter it was so barren and empty you could see through to the river on the other side. But in the summer it was full of large vibrant plant life. The forest was so dense that it blocked anything but small traces of sunlight from peeking inside. The daylight wasn’t going to help me in there.

I marched at a steady pace into the unfamiliar setting. My friends and I would come here and play as little kids, climbing trees, having swordfights, and building forts. But every year it grew differently. It would be impossible to ever memorize the look of this place.

The only sounds I heard were the random snapping of twigs and the light footsteps of small forest animals. It didn’t take me long to realize that Romeo had followed me into the forest. He was crouched behind a tree pretending to be an elusive predator. I gave him a smirk as he calmly strutted towards me knowing that he’d been discovered.

We looked up and down every bit of that forest for what seemed like hours. The thick bushes held me back but I kept pushing through. I was ready to give up and go home when I heard it.

“Hiss!”

Romeo was hissing at something. I looked over to see a small cave less than ten feet away. It was actually more like a hole dug into the side of an escarpment. Slowly I moved towards it. Romeo stood perfectly still, arched up with his fur on its end. Despite knowing the horrors that could await me, I pressed forward. It wasn’t that I was particularly brave. I was just sick of looking over my shoulder every day.

The cave was well hidden. It was covered in old rotting branches and brush. After tearing enough of the blockage away, I took a deep breath before lunging into the cave. Nothing.

It looked cozier in there than you might’ve imagined. The walls were layered in brush so moisture wouldn’t leak through. And the floor was covered in hay to make it soft and cushiony. It was an admirable shelter made by various drifters or a very intelligent bear. But the place was clearly run down and hadn’t been used for some time.

Suddenly Romeo came rushing into the cave, still puffed up and running around like a rabid animal. His pathetic hiss had turned into a mighty growl. The frantic little feline was jumping around tearing everything up in his path. I was less scared of the cave than I was of him.

“Alright Romeo. Cut it out. Let’s get outta here.”

I motioned towards him but he scratched at my hand. He turned his anger towards me. Standing in disbelief I finally walked out of the cave. I waited outside in case he came to his senses. Nope. Just more growling and hissing. Fine. Good luck finding your way back into the house tonight.

That night I sat alone at the kitchen table. I left the window up a few inches so Romeo could get inside. In the corner was a small television playing some old monster movie. I was preoccupied with bouncing a crazy ball against the wall as I watched the window hoping for my cat to appear.

But deep down I knew he wasn’t coming back. Something in the forest had caused him to lose his little marbles. If only I hadn’t gone snooping in that stupid cave. And then I heard it.

“Meow.”

It was Romeo. He was upstairs. Maybe I hadn’t found all the holes in the basement. So I rushed up to my room to greet the little bugger. I was halfway up before I realized he wasn’t crying for attention. He was crying in pain. And Romeo wasn’t on the second floor. He was in the attic.

The entrance to my attic was blocked by a thick piece of wood bigger than the hole itself. The cord swinging below actually did nothing when pulled. To remove the wood and release the stairs you had to prop it up with a broom. Or already be inside the attic.

My steps became slower and quieter until I came to a complete stop outside my bedroom. I tiptoed around the banister and listened again. The meowing had stopped. And after several more minutes of dead silence it was replaced by something else.

Footsteps.

I stayed perfectly still as I continued to stare at the ceiling. This house had a habit of making strange noises. Maybe the floorboards were just settling. I listened again.

Lots of footsteps. And then that horrific scream.

I ran across the hall and into my bedroom. Without thinking I grabbed the phone off the desk and dialled 9-1-1. As the dial tone began I took the phone and ran into the hallway. The attic door was being pulled up. In a panic I leapt across the hall, grabbed the cord, and pulled it back down. I held it down with all my weight, praying that he couldn’t lift me still.

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

I told them all I could with the phone receiver wedged between my ear and shoulder. My name, my address, and the horrible thing that awaited me in the attic.

“We’ll send someone over right away. Mr. Fletcher, I need you to stay on the line for as lo-”

Silence. I turned around to see that the cord had ripped out of the phone. Perfect.

The attic door continued to rattle up and down as I fought to keep it closed. One cord had failed me tonight. I stood there praying that the other wouldn’t. We wrestled for what seemed like hours. My arms were going numb. But then suddenly it stopped.

I continued to hold onto the cord. No way was I ever letting go. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I was grabbed by a shadowy figure in black. I yelled and panicked before realizing that there were two of them. They were cops. As the younger one held me back, the older one pointed his gun towards the attic. He motioned at me to confirm. I nodded.

I tiptoed across the hall and grabbed a broom from the closet. Slowly I pushed against the wood cover, propped it to the side, and allowed the attic stairs to slowly come down to the hall.

The two officers slowly made their way up to the attic. I stood below with the broom still in my hand. After waiting in agonizing silence I heard their mumbles from above.

“Oh my God... Clear.”

I slowly crawled up the stairs. As I entered it was clear that the man was gone. But each officer was looking at the floor. They turned their attention to me. In anxious confusion I looked to see what had caught their attention.

Romeo was laying on the floor. His fur was soaking red from his own blood. He was dead.

My breathing became heavy as I started to choke up. When his cries stopped minutes earlier I already knew what had happened. But actually seeing it for myself was unbearable. The younger officer continued to look around the room. He suddenly stopped and turned to the older one.

“Walker, come take a look at this.”

The older officer walked across the room. Without hesitating I followed him. I didn’t think anything else could shake me up after what I had just seen. I was wrong.

Something had been written on the wall in Romeo’s blood.

“Come Back Soon.”

Sick

I was now sitting in a small interrogation room at the local police station. Sitting across the table from me were the two officers who came to the house. The older one began to speak.

“My name is Officer Walker. This is Officer Dixon. We understand that you have gone through some horrific events tonight. And with your help we want to get to the bottom of this. So why don’t you tell us all that you know.”

So I told them everything. The scratches on my back, the hole in the basement, my trip to the forest, and the footsteps in the attic. The only part I neglected to mention was the existence of the cave. I didn’t even know why I left that part out. Maybe I didn’t want to look like a total idiot. Or maybe deep down I wanted to deal with this myself.

We all sat in silence for a moment before Officer Walker continued.

“Well you see that’s where we have a problem. Our guys combed through the house. They found no signs of forced entry, no traces of a man in the attic, and no evidence that leads us to think there was anybody else in the house that night besides you and your belated pet.”

“So what? You think I killed my own cat and set this whole thing up?!”

“Look. You’re just a kid. Single working mother. Constantly tossed between living with your aunt and living unsupervised. Maybe this is just a cry for help. Growing up without your daddy. Not that he would’ve done good by you anyway”

My eyes were almost tearing up in anger at Officer Walker’s sneering remarks.

“Don’t you talk about my dad like that. He was a goo-”

“He was a drunk. Think you’re some special snowflake? Marge Hannigan lost her daughter, her husband Richard skipped town, and nobody even has a clue where her boy we-”

“That’s enough Officer Walker! He’s been through enough tonight. Why don’t you go get Mrs. Fletcher to sign off on that paperwork?”

Officer Walker glared at me for a minute before exiting the room. My mother was waiting in the hall with tears in her eyes. I turned my attention to Officer Dixon.

“What exactly is my mom signing off on?”

“Well, we just want to keep you overnight to make sure you’re okay to return home. Some of our guys are also removing any knifes, tools, and firearms from the house just to be safe.”

He looked at me in silence as if waiting for something. I knew what it was. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the key to my bottom drawer.

“Bedroom desk, bottom drawer, Compact ORM pistol.”

Officer Dixon chuckled as he reached for the keys. He was trying to bring make me feel better I guess. But he knew it was useless. He saw the look of defeat in my eyes. They didn’t believe me. They were treating me like the crazy one. The shadow who haunted me had come and gone as if he were a ghost. What kind of terrible thing was I dealing with?

I was carted off to the cell like a common criminal. It was a small room with a tiny cot, a seatless toilet, and a small barred window with a view of the parking lot. This usually served as a drunk tank. But tonight it was going to be my own miniature prison.

“I got you a glass of milk and a tuna sandwich in case you get hungry. Officer Walker’s over there at his desk and I’m out in the main lobby. Give me a holler if he gives you a hard time.”

“What about my mom?”

“She’s staying with your aunt tonight. She’ll be here to pick you up in the morning. She also wanted me to give you a message.”

I looked up waiting for him to relay her typical mushy mom talk.

“She said sweet dreams, stay safe, and your dad is always there to protect you.”

Hmm. What a weird little message. She never really mentioned my dad much. But I guess weird situations like this could bring out strange emotions in a mother.

“Sleep tight kid.”

Officer Dixon gave me a nod before closing the cell door and locking it behind him. I laid down on the thin mattress and sat wide awake for what seemed like hours. My cell was in total darkness. The only light came from Officer’s Walker little office. The only sound came from the grumpy old officer writing reports at his desk.

But suddenly I heard a squeaking sound. It was faint at first but grew louder. After a moment I saw the shadow of a hand in the moonlight. Somebody was at my window. It was him.

I wanted to turn around. But I sat there waiting for the sound to go away. And then it did. My panting breaths became louder as I started to panic. I was about to spring up from my bed when I heard something else.

A shriek. A struggle. A crash. A thud. The lights went out. Not just the ones in Officer Walker’s office. The whole station was pitch black. I was sitting in total darkness. Finally I began to stand when I saw the shadow moving towards my cell. I couldn’t see his face. I couldn’t tell you how tall he was or point him out in a lineup. But I knew it was him.

Slowly I crept to the back of my cage. I looked for something, anything to defend myself. He stood motionless in front of my cell. For a moment I was grateful to be here. The cell was no longer keeping me in. It was keeping him out. But then I saw him reaching into his pockets.

The keys to my cell jingled in his hand.

I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t cry for help. I just waited in horror for the shadowy figure to enter at his whim. He turned the key into the cell door. But then he just walked away.

My mind couldn’t process what was happening. Hours ago he almost got me. But now he had me trapped and just walked away. I waited for a few minutes before turning the key and slowing opening my cell. Before I left I saw something written on my window in his breath.

“Come home.”

I ran into Officer Walker’s office. He was lying on the ground. I rooted through his desk until I found a flashlight. Shining it on him I realized he wasn’t moving. He was covered in blood. I didn’t know if he was dead or alive. But I knew I was getting out of there.

Barging through the door I ran out to the main office. Office Dixon had suffered the same fate. Dead or alive, he was covered in blood and motionless. The place was empty. There was nobody here to help me. I wanted to cry, call my mom, go back and hide in my cell. But I was sick.

I was sick of running and hiding. I was sick of using doors, roofs, and metal bars to separate us. The shadow didn’t need to come look for me anymore. I was coming for him now.

My heart was pounding in fear and anger as I sprinted out the doors of the police station. I ran down the sidewalk, cut through backyards, vaulted over fences, and ran through the river until I was finally there. I panted with excitement and fatigue as I stared at the cave in front of me.

This time I was ready for him. I knew he was in there. With a sense of reckless bravery I turned on my flashlight and charged into the cave. But it was empty. The hay was now scattered all over the floor, and dried up blood was spread in the corner. There had been a struggle. Romeo had put up a fight. That brave stupid cat. I shone the light up on the walls and looked on in horror.

The walls were covered in photos. They were photos of me. Walking in the forest, camping in the backyard, walking with my friends, and sleeping in my room. I realized that he hadn’t been followed me for a few weeks. He’d been following me for months.

I looked beyond the collage to see a small crack at the back of the cave. I peeked inside before moving the small board which was been disguised as a wall. There was a small crawlspace here. It was empty now but was big enough to fit a person. This was why Romeo was so hostile. He sensed something I couldn’t. He knew that the shadow had been here the whole time.

I rushed out of the cave, through the small forest, and into my backyard. All the lights were on and all the curtains were shut tight. Suddenly a figure appeared at the attic window.

There he was. Waiting for me. Now I knew why he had let me out of that cell. He wanted to end it here. And I was about to give him his wish.

I was home.

Home

The shadow stared down at me as I made my way towards the house. I wasn’t scared. I was terrified. But I knew what I had to do. This is where the nightmare had begun. And this is where it would end.

As I entered the backdoor I was suddenly surrounded in darkness. The electricity had been cut. I walked through the kitchen looking for anything that may have been useful. But it was pointless. The officers had taken every utensil, every tool, and every sharp object that I could have used to defend myself.

Slowly making my way through the living room, I turned my head looking for a weapon. The lamp was made of plastic. The television was too heavy. The picture of my father hanging on the wall was too flimsy. I was tempted to go to the basement to grab any old piece of junk. But I knew he was waiting for me upstairs. So I just kept moving.

Maybe I had a death wish. Maybe I thought I was invincible. Or maybe I just wanted all this to end. But I finally made my way up to the second floor. The attic door was already open. Suddenly something dropped from above. It was an old baseball bat. What was he doing?

I looked at the bat. It looked normal enough. But it definitely didn’t belong to me. Carved into the side of it was a name. “Dicky Jr”. I didn’t know that name.

I didn’t have time to think about it. So I picked up the bat and climbed to the attic.

There he was. Standing five feet away from me. The shadow was wearing a black mask, black shirt, and black pants. In some ways he truly was a shadow. But I realized something. He was just a man. Not a ghost or a demon. Just a man. He pulled a knife out and began to charge.

Any bravery or sense of invincibility was gone. I was scared. Aimlessly swinging at my attacker in the darkness hoping to save myself until help arrived. But I knew nobody was coming. In my nervousness I stumbled and nearly fell. The man swung his knife in a taunting manner, slicing my arm and causing me to jump back.

While the attack caused a sharp pain in my upper arm, it also snapped me back into my senses. This was an old house. It had a lot of flaws. Cracks, creaks, and loose boards. I walked backwards into the back left corner and prayed that he would fall into the trap. As the man followed he stumbled on a loose board that had caused me many injuries as a child.

As he fell forward I swung the bat at his head. I managed to hit the side of his skull as he fell to the ground. I ran to the other side of the room and stood my ground in slight relief. He was down for now. And I wasn’t letting him get back up. But suddenly I saw something at the stairs.

Another black mask. Another black shirt. Another shadow. There were two of them all along.

The one on the stairs climbed the rest of the way up. He too had a knife in hand. The one on the ground groaned before slowing standing up. I stood in the corner holding my bat, ready to swing at either of them. They looked at each other before pulling off their masks. It was a man and a woman. And I knew them both.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hannigan”

Richard and Marge Hannigan had lived three blocks away from me for years. It was a quiet little farming town. Everybody knew everybody else. But after the death of their daughter, Mr. Hannigan skipped town. Their son ran away. And Mrs. Hannigan was left all alone.

“But... why? Why would you do this?”

Mrs. Hannigan’s face turned from cold and menacing to the doe eyed warmth of a caring mother.

“On June 7 1983, God gave this little town a great gift. A precious baby boy. That boy was you. And exactly one month later on July 7, 1983, He gave us something else. A sweet baby girl.”

I stared on in horror and confusion. She explained further.

“That baby girl was my daughter, Emily Hannigan. Your mother and I used to be very good friends. Did you know that? I was a few years older than her. But she was like a little sister. And when you and Emily were born so close together, we just knew it was fate. You were going to grow up into a handsome young man. And she was going to be a beautiful young woman. We used to joke about the two of you growing up, falling in love, and getting married.”

She paused for my reaction as I forced a small smile before she continued.

“But you see that never happened. Because one night Emily and I were driving home from a play date at this very house. And your father was driving home from another night at the bar. And he was drunk just like he always was. We didn’t even see him coming.”

Mrs. Hannigan broke down into tears. Mr. Hannigan looked at me as if he was about to speak. But I quickly interjected.

“So what? You’re looking for revenge for something I never did? I’m really sorry about your daughter Mrs Hannigan. But why would you take it out on me? Why would you wait until now?”

Mr Hannigan’s eyes turned to rage as he snapped at me.

“You think that’s where it ends boy? Your drunk daddy didn’t just take our daughter. He got what he deserved that night. But he torn this family apart. Our boy couldn’t take it. He ran out. And I ran out looking for him. He was only 15 years old. Just like you.”

Mrs. Hannigan interrupted her husband as her tears began to dry.

“So we’re just taking what’s rightfully ours. Your father stole our family from us. Your mother only had one child. A life for a life. It’s only fair. Then your mother and I can call it even.”

I looked on in panic as Mrs. Hannigan began to raise her knife. I had to stall. I had to do something. And then I thought of something to say.

“But if you really wanted things to be even, doesn’t Emily’s father have to die too?”

Mr. Hannigan laughed at the absurdity. But Mrs. Hannigan stopped and pondered it. Mr. Hannigan looked in disgust and anger. This was all the distraction I needed. I swung my bat and knocked them both to the ground. Vaulting over the two I ran down the attic stairs and kicked the ladder out from under me. That would stop them for now.

I sprinted down to the first floor. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I ran across the house looking for something, anything to help me out. Suddenly I remembered my mother’s words.

“Your dad is always there to protect you.”

I looked over at the picture of my father hanging in the living room. After removing it I looked behind it to discover a small safe. I never noticed it before. This house was full of surprises.

There were 100 digits on the pad. I tried everything. My birthday. My dad’s birthday. My mom’s birthday. And then I heard the thumping upstairs. The Hannigans were out of the attic. They were about to end my life. But that sound may have saved it. Because it made me realize.

“09... 21... 83... The day of the accident”

It worked.

I opened the safe and saw a deed, some documents, a small pile of cash, and a revolver. One of these things was bound to help me. Fumbling the bullets under pressure I managed to get one into the barrel. As Mrs. Hannigan rushed down the stairs towards me, I aimed and pulled the trigger repeatedly. Click. Click. Click. Click. Boom.

She fell to the ground. But Mr. Hannigan was right behind her. He charged at me and raised his knife. Suddenly the front door crashed open and another gun fired. Mr. Hannigan fell to the ground. I turned to see Officer Walker with a gun in hand. And Officer Dixon behind him.

I’ll spare you the boring scene that came next with ambulances, stretchers, police cruisers, and my weeping mother suffocating me with hugs. Mr. Hannigan died several minutes after being shot. Mrs. Hannigan survived but she was institutionalized for life. Officer Walker retired from the force a few years later. Officer Dixon quit the force and moved away shortly after the incident. And my mother and I decided to get the heck out of that town.

The day we moved we were visited by Officers Walker and Dixon. No gloom, doom, or news of a breakout at the mental hospital. Just a friendly goodbye. Officer Walker was a lot friendlier than he had been when I first encountered him. Getting mutually attacked by a psychopathic husband and wife will do that.

Officer Dixon was standing on the porch with me as we made some not-so-casual conversation.

“You won’t have to testify or anything. We’ve got a strong enough case against Mrs. Hannigan to keep her locked away for a long, long time. You’re coping okay though?”

“Well I am sleeping a lot better knowing that nobody is stalking me or plotting my death”

Officer Dixon chuckled at the dark-humored joke as I continued.

“I still don’t quite get everything though. How they entered and exited the house without a trace. How they managed to break into the police station unnoticed. Or how they thought hurting me was somehow going to bring their family back together”

“Tragedy can really hurt some people kid. It’s best not to get too hung up on the details. Some people cope, some people run away, and some people just lose all control. Normal sane people just can’t begin to understand the mind of a crazy. Nor should they try.”

His speech was interrupted by the honking of my mom’s car. It was time to go. Officer Dixon and I stood up as he extended his hand. We shook and parted way. As I walked away he hollered.

“Don’t you go causing any trouble out west. Walker and I won’t be there to save your butt next time. Stay away from those attics, basements, and caves in the woods.”

I smiled and waved as my mom drove off. That was it. It was all over.

It’s been almost seventeen years since that day. It’s no longer 1998. And I no longer live in a quiet little farming town with my mother. I’m a grown man with a wife, a newborn son, and a quaint, midsized house in the urban sprawl.

So why am I telling you this story now?

The other day I received a package at the door. I opened it to discover a small kitten. He had black and white markings in a familiar pattern. He looked just like Romeo. He meowed with excitement at the sight of me. The minute my son laid eyes on him I knew we had to keep him.

Perhaps it was a strange prank or a random abandoned pet. But there was no return address. There wasn’t even a postage stamp. At the bottom of the box was a photograph.

It was a picture of a father and son. I didn’t recognize either of them at first. But I had seen them both before. I flipped the photo over. Handwritten in pen was “Richard ‘Dick’ Hannigan and Dickie Jr”. It was Dick Hannigan and his son. Dick’s... son.

And suddenly I remembered what Officer Dixon had said to me all those years ago.

“Stay away from those attics, basements, and caves in the woods.”

Except I never told him about the cave in the woods.

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