Kayla’s parents came to our house a few hours after she’d gone into the house, worried. I’d told my mom about “Kayla’s new house” earlier that day, but my claims that the house had simply “appeared” fell on disbelieving ears. I’d heard Kayla call out to Mike and I, letting us know she’d see us at school; it had quelled the immediate unease, but deep down I still felt that something was off. I knew when the doorbell rang that it was her parents, and I knew why they were there.
Her parents and my mom asked me if I knew where Kayla was, and I told them exactly what had happened earlier that day, the house, the voices. Naturally they were skeptical, commenting that there were no houses on the other side of Walnut, but I offered to take them to the house. My mom drove the four of us, and in under a minute we were turning onto Walnut. As we made the turn, the area the house was in came into view. But there was no house. There was nothing, like there had been the countless times we’d driven past, walked past, and played in the field. Just an empty lot, grass and a handful of trees.
Their reactions were what anyone would have expected. Kayla’s parents cycled from confusion to outrage to grief while my mom took a more singular approach, and was simply angry with me that I’d made something like that up. I don’t blame her one bit, if I were her I would have been mad at me too. As for me, I was just confused. I insisted that there had been a house there, and I described it to everyone, but when we walked to the grassy spot where I’d thought the had stood, there was no evidence to support my claim; the grass was undisturbed.
Shortly thereafter, the police were called, and I relayed my story to them as well, getting much the same reactions I had from everyone else. Search parties were organized and spent weeks scouring our neighborhood and the surrounding areas, all to no avail. Mike wasn’t in school for a few days after Kayla went missing, and when I did finally see him again, it took only a glance to know that he different. He had a distance in his eyes, an emptiness. Even at nine years old, I think he truly loved Kayla, and her going missing was akin to losing a part of himself.
The police never even entertained my claim that there was a house in the field. I was frustrated, afraid, and more than anything nonplussed, but in retrospect I see why no one took me seriously; my claim was outrageous. They continued the hunt for Kayla but ultimately ended up with nothing. Mike’s statement to police eventually found its way to me, and it was markedly different from my own. He simply told the police that we were walking home, and that “at some point near the field, [he] just turned around and noticed Kayla was missing.” I tried more times than I can count to ask him why he lied, but he never spoke another word to me.
People treated me like a fool for what I’d seen. No one believed me; Kayla’s parents never spoke to my mom again. For a while, I stuck to my story. I knew what I’d seen, and I knew that it had happened. But as time went on, I started questioning myself. Maybe I was just confused. Had I imagined it? Was there something wrong with me that would make me thinks things that weren’t true? I convinced myself there was no house. I began to come to peace with the fact that I had somehow made this story up in my head and believed it for long.
But then just under two years later I went to Camp Minnetonka.
Kimmy’s voice rang out from the house, and it was her voice, I just knew it. It wasn’t an imposter, it wasn’t a recording, it was her. Even though I knew that, I couldn’t bring myself to climb the stairs.
”What are you doing?! Come in here guys! Katie!” she called out again.
I was so stuck in my fear, so frozen in my terror that I didn’t have a chance to react before Katie darted up the stairs. The same pathetic ”No…” left my lips at hardly higher than a whisper. It seemed like the world was going in slow motion as she went up the stairs, her backpack bouncing on her back. Though it lasted only a moment, countless thoughts raced through my head, the most prominent of which was “I just lost my family.”; shame, regret, embarrassment, fear, anxiety, every negative emotion one can feel coursed through my veins in that second and a half.
Katie reached the porch and took two steps to the door. The darkness around her was the same size as it had been Kayla all those years ago, but as she crossed the threshold, just as the darkness was going to consume her, light flooded around her, and she ran to my wife, who gave her a hug. I breathed a massive sigh of relief. My family wasn’t gone. This house hadn’t captured the people I loved and taken them away from me like it had done to Mike when we were kids. Then I thought that even though this house looked like the one I thought I’d seen over the years, it didn’t take them away. It didn’t do anything. It was just a house. I began to question again the validity of what I swore was true with regards to the house. I questioned what had really happened to all those people, if not the house.
Even still, I was apprehensive to go into the house. Kimmy walked out of the house and told me it was okay, that she’d been in and was able to leave. I sided with reason and entered the house. In my mind, I was finally seeing the inside of the house that had haunted my nightmares for years, and I was…underwhelmed. It was a normal looking house. The furniture Kimmy’s uncle had left behind was a bit dated, and dust had began collecting on all the appliances and his other belongings, but there wasn’t anything inherently “creepy” about it.
The first floor contained a living room and dining room, a kitchen, half bathroom, and an office. The second floor was where the bedrooms were, three of them, and a full bathroom. Our plan was to stay for three days, most of which would be spent doing an inspection of the house and going through the deceased’s belongings to see if there was anything worth keeping, seeing as it all now belonged to my wife. But that night, we were all tired from the drive, and decided to turn in early.
We got Katie set up in the guest room, hooking up my old Xbox to the TV so she could watch a movie as she fell asleep. Kimmy and I changed the sheets of the bed in the master bedroom (as we had in the room katie was staying in), and I hooked up my laptop to that television (since I was around 13, I’ve never been able to sleep without something playing on TV in the background; Kimmy is great enough to deal with it, and has even come to prefer it as well). I put on my Archer playlist and found a good episode to fall asleep to and within minutes, we were both asleep, which in retrospect surprised me, because I wasn’t entirely comfortable with being there.
I don’t think I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep since I was eight years old, so when I woke up around 3:30am, I wasn’t immediately concerned. I turned over and looked at the TV; several episodes of Archer had passed, Kimmy was still sound asleep next to me. Then I inexplicably felt my heart travel to my stomach. I started breathing heavily, the overwhelming feeling of all-consuming dread flooding over me. I stood up from the bed and walked across the room to the window to look out to the backyard.
The night was silent and completely still. Behind the house was a small yard leading up to a fence that separated it from another lawn, which itself led up to the back of another house, a thin, two-story home with a small balcony and a deck. I thought it was odd that I hadn’t noticed another house in the immediate area, yet there was one directly behind us. Just as I was going to turn away, a light turned on in the other house, in a room on the second floor. The farthest window to the right was filled with pale yellow light, and in the window, the silhouette of a man stood facing me.
I was frozen, in a way. Not necessarily out of fear, but out of curiosity. I didn’t know if the man across the way was looking at me, or if he just happened to be looking out his window at the same time as I was looking out mine. How could he even have seen me? My lights were off, and I doubted the dim light from the TV would be enough to cast the same silhouette around me that he had around him. I kept my eyes on the man in the window, and after what seemed like an eternity, he moved slightly to his left; I could now only see the right half of his upper body.
Then he slowly raised his right hand. Even though he was across two lawns, I could still tell that the fingers on his hand were much longer than those of any normal person. I hadn’t thought my heart could sink any lower, but at that moment, it did. I was terrified, but I still couldn’t move. It was as if something were pressing down on my shoulders, keeping my feet firmly planted to the ground. I stared at the silhouette, which was slowly waving its hand with the elongated fingers from side to side, when suddenly, a hand with those same kind of fingers slapped against the window, and in the next split second I saw the shadow of something scurry across the thin overhang outside the window before finally being able to move.
Except now I was back in bed. I jumped out from under the covers, not entirely sure what was going on. The same episode of Archer that had been playing as I fell asleep was on, albeit further along. I looked at the clock; it hadn’t even been 15 minutes since I’d closed my eyes. My commotion must have woken Kimmy, because she rolled over and asked if I was okay. I silently did the rational thinking exercises I’d learned throughout years of therapy as I told her I’d simply had a nightmare. I felt bad for being such a burden on what should have been a nice trip. Before I went back to sleep I walked over to the window and looked out, seeing nothing but a set of woods past the yard.
We started cleaning the attic after breakfast. Boxes were stacked up as high as the area would allow, and I started with one closest to the attic entrance. It was filled to the top with polaroid pictures. The first one I picked up was of a girl of maybe sixteen standing in front of the house we were currently in.
I couldn’t be 100% positive, but I was as sure as I could be that the girl in the picture was Kayla.