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Visceroys and Artisans

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I was born in a small town surrounded by hills, factories and railroads; its weather was mostly dominated by rain, hail and snow and its streets were poorly adapted to handle such drastic climatic changes. Being a small town, the places that you could visit during your spare time were limited, so it wasn’t unusual that you saw half the town in the movies during the weekend or even buying groceries for the week. There weren't many schools to attend, careers to study or places to work. You just knew that if you lived there you would probably do the same things everybody else did, you'd had the same friends you grew up with and probably marry one of them. People there were comfortable with this monotony. Extremely boring if you ask me. I hated it there. I guess the only cool thing is that whenever we had snow, school got cancelled and my brothers and I went outside to make snow angels and snow fights.

It was in this old, forgotten and non-pretty little town that my parents bought their first house. It was relatively large. Considering the continuous movement of trains, tractors, and traffic-- chaos that was common every day-- they were lucky enough to get a house away from all that in a relaxed and familiar colony. It was originally a one story house, which turned out to be perfect as there were only my parents and my two brothers. However, after I was born space became an issue so they decided to expand it and build a second floor. This is basically how the house was distributed: on the first floor was the dining room, the kitchen, one bedroom I shared with my older sister, a full bathroom and a small hallway that led towards my older brother’s room. On the second floor was a TV room and at the end my parents’ bedroom with their respective bathroom.

There was a small balcony with metal railing at the foot of the stairs to go to the second floor; it was pretty cool as you had a panoramic view of the TV room and you didn’t need to go all the way downstairs to call someone, you could just do it from the balcony. It was poorly designed, I must say, as the ceiling was at such a high level that not even a six-foot-five-inch tall person could reach it. This abnormal height between the floor and ceiling caused everything to look darker than normal at night. Now that I think about it, it was a very strange house.

I have good and bad memories during the eleven years I lived there; you could say we were a close but dysfunctional family. I got along well with my two older brothers, although it wasn’t unusual for us to have differences from time to time as we were each five years apart. My parents, however, used to fight horribly almost daily. Unfortunately, my brothers and I were the main witnesses. These fights normally ended with my dad breaking something and leaving the house furious and my mom crying and cursing out loud in our presence.

My mom used to get very irritable and suffered from severe episodes of depression. She vented her frustration on us and exploded at the smallest detail by hitting us or saying things a child should not hear. After these episodes, she got remorseful and promised us that it wouldn’t happen again. It didn't matter how much we loved our parents and that we understood not everything could be perfect, we knew it would happen again. It was a vicious circle full of tension.

You might be wondering, why do I tell you all of this? Well, I think it’s important. I’ve heard some people say that a negative environment attracts negative things, but to be honest, I’m not sure if it applies in this case. Yes, my parents had trouble but I always felt that these issues were intensified by whatever thing it was in that house. Trust me, It’s not easy for me to recall all of these bad memories, but I really need to get it off my chest. There is something that I can’t get out of my head, and that is the terror I experienced whenever I was on the second floor and, mostly, near those stairs.

Have you ever entered friend's or stranger's house and gotten a heavy suffocating vibe? Well, that's the kind of feeling I got whenever I went downstairs. I can't tell you when It started, I'd had that feeling as long as I can remember. It was just there.

I had a golden rule: never get near that area when it got dark. Unfortunately for me, I woke up almost every night due to biological necessities. I couldn’t stand going to the bathroom on my own because outside my bedroom you could see the edge of the stairs, and that freaked me out. I had no choice but to wake my older sister who unwillingly joined me. I wasn’t inconsiderate, let me be clear. She used to do the same to me. Being together gave us a false sense of protection.

I can’t fully explain how I felt when I was near the stairs, the TV room or my parents’ bedroom but it wasn’t pleasant. I felt watched, stalked, and unwelcome. I felt somebody was following me. I felt there was something there, something that badly wanted to harm me. I fell off those stairs more times that I can remember even though I tried to be extremely careful; I can’t find a rational explanation for those occurrences. I remember one time, my sister and I prepared a puppet show in the balcony. It was my mom’s birthday and we wanted to surprise her, so we covered up the balcony and its metal railing with a thick blanket. We got two small plastic chairs and sat down while we extended our arms so you could only see the puppets from the other side. I was in the middle of the balcony, when suddenly it felt like my chair was being pushed to the edge. I freaked out but before I could react properly, and the chair reached the edge and slipped. I fell off the stairs and hurt my coccyx badly. My mother blamed my sister, but I knew she wasn’t guilty. When I tried to explain what had happened, my mom told me to stop trying to defend her by making stuff up and said I had an overactive imagination. I wasn’t lying. Something had pushed me and it wasn’t my sister.

I had nightmares almost every night. The funny thing is that my nightmares consisted of the same things, with slight variations. It always started with me waking up at night with an extreme thirst. When I headed to the kitchen for water, I stopped to watch a curious porcelain doll with dark hair and a white dress in the balcony. When I got close to her, I noticed one of her arms move and an evil glint in her eyes; at that moment I realized that something was not right. Something was inside that doll and whatever it was, it wanted me.

Terror filled me, I knew it was coming for me and if I wanted to live I had to run and reach my bedroom. Only then I would be safe. That’s what I did. I ran desperately but I couldn’t run fast because my legs did not respond like they were supposed to. Some nights I reached my bedroom and I was safe, it couldn’t touch me. Most times, though, it reached me, dragging me downstairs and tearing me into pieces. Every night I woke up drenched in sweat and full of tears. It was horrible.

I wasn’t the only one that felt something was wrong. My brother had a lot of problems sleeping and he told us that night after night he could hear someone playing the piano on the second floor. We didn’t have a piano, and our house was far away from the rest, so we could not hear our neighbors. My sister could not stand being downstairs when it was dark either, and even less so in my parents’ bedroom. She claimed that she heard strange noises or had the light suddenly turn off by itself. My mom was religious to an almost extreme level, and she decided that the best thing to do was to find a priest so he could bless the house. That didn’t stop it.

Strangely, I remember we mentioned all of these things between us in a vague manner but we never questioned why they happened. We didn't like to talk much about it. In my case, I thought the less we spoke of the matter, the better. I didn't like thinking about it and pretended everything was ok. It was not.

As time passed, my parents fought more constantly, and my nightmares grew worse. I vividly remember one dream in which my father was lost. We were desperately looking for him all over the house, and I thought he was gone forever until I found a hidden corridor in the closet of my parents’ bedroom. When I followed it, I ran into a dusty trunk. Opening it, I found a smaller box. Inside was my father, cut into pieces. I knew someone or something in that house had killed him and it would come for us next. I remember I woke up crying and shaking and went directly to check on my dad, but he wasn’t home. I went outside, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. His car was completely smashed. He had an accident when trying to leave the house and he was in the hospital. Fortunately, there were no complications and he was back with us the next day.

Anyway, I think I’m losing track here. My point is: there was definitely something in that house, something I can’t quite explain, something evil and it was clear that it didn’t want us there. There were so many things that happened in that house, but among all of them there was one particular event that marked me completely.

I was about ten years old. I woke up late at night, this time due to an extreme thirst. I wanted a glass of water but I didn’t want to go alone to the kitchen so, as always, I turned to my sister to go along with me. This time, though, it was different. No matter how many times I tried, she did not wake up. She just ignored me. I was scared but I couldn’t stand the thirst and my throat was raspy. I decided to go the kitchen alone and made up my mind not to look toward the balcony/stairs when I got back to my room.

I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to drink water that much. I took the biggest cup I could find, filled it all the way to the top and drank it all almost in a single gulp. I headed back to my room but froze in the hallway as an eerie feeling overtook me. I could clearly feel someone watching me from behind. I remained still for a few seconds before turning around slowly towards the balcony. Everything was dark but I had a strong impression that someone was standing at the foot of the stairs. I was paralyzed, and thought I had to be hallucinating. I was definitely wide awake so I had to make sure. With all my willpower, I moved a little closer to the stairs.

I turned pale. It was not my imagination. Somebody was standing there. I froze, I could not move. I started having trouble breathing.

It was a woman. Her skin was pale, grayish; she had long dark hair and a long white dress. She looked like the doll in my nightmares. She was staring right at me; her eyes were entirely white and she was sort of grinning. I did not want to believe what I was seeing. That moment seemed eternal. Before I could find out what to do, she contorted in a fast and horrible way. Her right arm disjointed and I heard her bones creak. I ran as fast as I could back to my bedroom, slammed the door and put my hand to my chest. I felt like my heart was about to explode.

I started crying hysterically, made sure the door was closed and got into my bed. I kept on looking at the door, fearing it would burst open, and thinking she was coming for me. But nothing happened. I kept staring towards the door when, to my horror, I heard the knob move and saw the door opening slowly. I couldn't stop crying, I was terrified, but I didn't dare scream, move or say a word. However, no woman entered. Nobody came into my room. I just waited, scared shitless, but nothing happened. I couldn't sleep all night.

Even though I wanted to, I couldn’t tell my mom. I knew what she would say: I was making it up, I had an overactive imagination. I couldn’t tell my sister because I didn’t want to scare her. She was afraid enough already. I didn’t tell anyone and kept it all to myself. I did not understand. I tried to deny that it ever happened, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. It became part of me and tormented me, every night in my dreams. She came for me, she tortured me and laughed at my suffering.

A couple of months later, one of my cousins came for vacation. He spent the night on the couch down in the TV room. The next day when we all woke up, we found him in the kitchen wandering. He was shaking and his face was pale; he had dark circles under his eyes. It was obvious he had not slept. When we asked him what had happened and I heard his reply, I felt like I was going to pass out.

There was a woman standing on the stairs,” was all he managed to say.

After a while, he calmed enough to describe to us the same woman I saw months before. I finally knew I wasn’t losing my mind. She was real. But I never understood.

We moved from that house and left the city a year later due to my dad's job. Unfortunately, my brother did not. He spent six more years living there on his own while he finished his university and settled down with his girlfriend. He lived there until he couldn't stand it anymore. Later he moved in with us and told me he was afraid of the house. He did not want to go back to it; he told me he saw horrible things. When I asked him what he saw there he went mute. I never knew what he meant, but he was clearly traumatized by it. He was never the same. I regret it still, not being there for him, to have left him alone when we moved out.

The house is currently abandoned and I haven’t been there in more than ten years. I don’t intend on going back. I was talking to one of my best friends about it, and he told me he heard there might be someone or something buried in that house. When he told me that I felt the chills. That would explain a lot.

We were a broken family but even still, we loved and took care of each other. I like to think that the being that inhabited that house did not hurt us physically because of this.

Up until today, sometimes I still ask myself: Who was that woman and what did she want? Why was she tormenting us?

I don’t think I’ll ever have the answer and I don’t really want to know.

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