I woke up in a cold sweat, my sheets wear messily thrown onto the floor from a fitful sleep. The warm glow of the sun filtered into the room from the open curtained window across from my bed. A glance at the clock on my nightstand told me that it was only a few minutes past 6 AM. I sat up and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
As I got dressed for the day, I remembered that today was the day I’d be visiting an abandoned house from the holocaust that had helped hide Jewish people from the nazis. My friend Steve had told me about how there was a large group of refugees staying in the attic and crawl spaces between the walls. According to records, when the nazis searched the house they found no one there, but they did find all the possessions of everyone that had been in the house. They found the diaries of children and food left out half eaten. As they read through the diaries, they were slightly amused to find that the children had been hearing strange noises around them, and seeing shadow people during the night. The children said that they were afraid the “monsters” would take them in the night. The soldiers took everything they found and reported the experience to their superiors. A few months after searching the house, every single soldier that had been there either died suddenly, or mysteriously disappeared.
I went downstairs, and was welcomed by the smell of freshly cooked bacon and eggs. I walked into the kitchen to find my girlfriend putting the food onto plates. As she set the plate down, I snuck up behind her and pulled her into a bear hug. She let out a small shriek, then turned around and hit me playfully in the arm. I gave her a quick kiss and grabbed a plate. I ate quickly so that I could meet Steve sooner and we could get on the road.
The driveway was very long and narrow, crowded with copious amounts of shrubs that had crept up from the woods on either side. The pathway was marked with gravel that had been worn down to small pebbles by the environment. We had nearly missed the turn where the driveway met the main road because forest had almost swallowed it whole. The trees and shrubs at the end of the gravel path had been left undisturbed for so long, that they hid most of the evidence of human civilisation completely.
When we finally got to the house, it was around seven-thirty. The house was surrounded by overgrown vegetation, with vines climbing the lattice work of the house. It sat at the end of a long, neglected, gravel driveway. Sixty years of abandonment had left the building in very poor condition. The roof had caved in several places, and the stairs leading up to the porch were cracked and decaying. The windows of the house were caked in dust, and many had been broken. The front door hung crooked on only the top hinge, and was leaned in a way that left the door frame slightly ajar. There seemed to be cobwebs hanging between every structural surface of the tattered house.
As we stepped through the doorway, each footfall was accompanied by the deafening sound of the ancient wood creaking under our weight. We were met with the musty smell of rotting wood caked in dust and soaked with year of moisture build-up. The interior of the house appeared to have been untouched since the Nazi soldiers scouted through. There was nothing on the main floor but a rug and a decaying, wooden dining table. From the entryway, we could see that many parts of the floor on the second floor had fell, leaving gaping holes in the ceiling of the main floor. We cautiously made our way upstairs, each ancient step groaning and crackling under our feet, threatening to send us down into the cellar below.
When we finally reached the second floor, we could see that house did not have an attic. Looking up, we could peer through the holes in the roof at the trees and grey sky outside. The second floor was made up of a single room spanning over the entire surface area of the lower level. There was a small blanket in one corner of the room, bunched together and moth-eaten. In the middle of the room sat a small, tattered stuffed bear, also moth-eaten, and next to it was a dainty, china teacup. The three windows in the room appeared to have been, at one time, covered with blankets, but they were now hanging desperately by nails, or fallen off completely into heaps on the floor.
Steve slowly crept over to the bear. I held my breath as he knelt down in front of it. He reached a hand out towards it, being visibly weary of its ominous presence. He gently picked up the time-tattered toy, carefully turning it over in his hands. Seemingly underwhelmed, he set the bear down again and turned his attention to the cup. He didn’t reach for the cup.
Having found nothing interesting on the second floor, Steve and I made our way down to the basement/cellar of the old house. The door leading to the stairs was very heavy. It had been only slightly ajar when Steve and I reached it, but it still took our combined strength to get it open far enough for us to squeeze through. The stairs leading to the lower level were stone instead of wood, so we were relieved to not have to worry about falling through them. Being a very old building, it never had electricity, therefore it never had light fixtures, and the slight crack of the door let in a sparse amount of dim light from the room above. I pulled out my phone as we descended into the eerie abyss below, and turned on its flashlight. The small LED gave off very little light in the dense dust of the new atmosphere.
As we reached the bottom, we felt a sudden rush of chilling air fill the space around us. I shivered, and I could feel Steve shaking next to me at the rapid cooling of his skin. I swept the beam of light from my phone around the room. The condensed dust of the room allowed me to only see about four feet clearly in the light. We stepped towards the wall, sticking to the sides of the room as we investigated the perimeter of the cell. As we started walking, Steve and I figured out where the captives had been subsiding.
On the packed dirt floor, moth eaten blankets and long flattened pillows lay in heaps along the walls. Books, pens, and papers lay scattered over ground, wrinkled from moisture and covered in dust. In the centre of the room, the remains of a small fire-pit lay abandoned and crumbling, the ashes from its last fire still settled in the middle. Dirty dishes lay discarded around the pit, the deserted food long since devoured by the insects that resided in the depths of the dissipated house. Few personal possessions sat near the sleeping arrangements. There was another stuffed bear, this one more worn and moth eaten. Next to one blanket sat a primitive pocket-watch, caked in dust and, with no doubt, long since inoperative.
We continued scanning the room, and as I grazed the light over the walls, we saw shallow claw marks scaling the height to the ceiling. The both of us silently agreed to assume that the marks were from a wild animal that had wandered into the house. As Steve and I slowly moved around the perimeter of the room, we noticed a small hole in the foot of the wall. I knelt down to peer inside. The hole was too small for any person above four feet tall to fit into. I shone my phone’s light into the hole, and I was appalled to see that the hole when on farther than my light beam could reach. I beckoned Steve over with a nod of my head. He meticulously made his way over to me, and knelt down beside me. I handed him the phone and backed up so he could get closer. After a few moments, he let out a slight, stunned, “Huh…” and stood back up, handing my phone back to me. We looked at each other with questioning eyes, but neither of us said a word.
I turned and continued to skirt the confines of the accomodation. I hadn’t even taken two steps toward the steps before we heard a sound echo faintly out of the hole behind us. The sound reminded me of when kids would whisper to each other about something inappropriate, occasionally letting out hushed giggles and sharp gasps. Steve and I whirled around simultaneously, searching for the source of the hushed, distorted murmur. We saw no person, but instead, from the hole protruded a pale, gnarled, and clawed hand. A thick fog began to billow from the tunnel, flowing out over the floor in delicate wisps and curls.
I stood, frozen in a mix of terror and wonder, watching as another hand appeared from the spewing abyss, the whispering slowing growing louder into piercing, garbled screams. Steve broke me free from my trance, turning around and shoving me toward the stairs. I turned toward the exit, stumbling from the force of Steve’s push against me. I fell to the ground. Steve ran past me, glancing back briefly. He grabbed me by the arm and tugged me up and toward the stairs. I stumbled forward, trying to regain my balance while Steve yanked me around like a rag doll. I stole a glance back, over my shoulder. I saw the fog beginning to marble with swirls of black and a deep, wine red. There were now two arms extending from the depths of the tunnel. I turned back and grabbed Steve by the arm, sprinting toward the flight of stairs.
When I was within arm’s reach of the bottom step, I flung Steve at the ascending platforms. I took this opportunity to steal a glance back behind me. Every hair on my body stood on end when I realised what I was seeing. The thing had made its way almost completely out of the crevice. It was staring at me with piercing amber eyes and a mouth full of large, jagged teeth stretched wide across its face. It’s arms and fingers were extremely long and almost as thin as the bones inside. It’s torso was twisted and thin. I could clearly see the outline of each rib and each spinal segment. We locked eyes for a moment that seemed to last for hours, then it opened its gaping maw and bellowed a distorted roar. It sounded like that of a tiger, but underlying the deep sound was a high pitched screech that made my ears ring. The sound stunned me out of my bewildered paralysis, and I turned back to Steve. He was scrambling up the stairs, but not making progress. I dove onto the stairs and shoved Steve with my shoulder, helping him move up.
Suddenly, all sound stopped. I whipped my head around to see that the thing was gone. The thick blanket of fog was being pulled back into the hole. I shrank onto one wall of the stairwell, breathing heavily. I realised that I had tears streaming down my face and I was shaking.
Steve and I sat there on the steps for about twenty minutes. It was starting to get dark, so we decided to go back to the car and leave this that terrible place. As we made our way up the remainder of the stairs, Steve stopped suddenly in front of me, staring at the doorway. I looked around him to see what he was gawking at. Sat in the doorway at the top of the stairs was the old bear we had seen on the second floor. It was facing us, it’s cold black eyes staring at us. We quickly ran up and past it, back out to the car. I sped down the rough path at a dangerous speed without caring.
It’s been two weeks. Steve died suddenly yesterday without any discernible cause. I’m next.