I didn’t sleep that night at the motel. When Kimmy awoke the following morning, I showed her the picture of the house on Google Earth, but she pointed out the most logical answer: that since the house was in such a rural area, chances are the surveying hadn’t been done in some time, and that the house on Google Earth had since been demolished and a new house rebuilt in its place. Logistically it was a thin explanation, but it certainly made more sense than “ghost house”.
Once we were home, I dug up the old pictures I had of my friends and I from elementary school. I held up the polaroids I’d found next to them, and once again, I was as sure as I could be that the people in the polaroids were my old friend Kayla and Luke from Camp Minnetonka. I did all sorts of research online, checked out the missing persons website, but it was all for naught.
That night, I went down to the kitchen to get Kimmy some water, and when I got back up to our room, I walked along her side of the bed and set the glass down on her nightstand. As I walked around the bed, I stopped to close the blinds, but something caught my eye. It was the house behind ours, across our yard, opposite a fence, and past their own yard. It was the exact reflection I’d seen in my nightmare at the house. Even the same light was on. I stood there for a few moments, and I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t know if I wanted to see the silhouette of that figure appear, or if it was because I wanted to make sure it didn’t.
Whatever the reason, Kimmy’s voice snapped me back to attention. I got in bed and gave my wife a kiss before she rolled over to fall asleep. I wasn’t particularly tired despite only having slept the bare minimum I needed to in order to get us home, so I stayed up for a while watching TV. From my side of the bed, I have a clear line of sight to the end of the hallway, all the way to the back wall, where the stairs lead down to the left. Just to the left of our door stood the dresser on which the TV sat, and that’s where my eyes were glued for the next hour or so.
I was watching TV, but my mind was elsewhere. That’s why I didn’t notice her at first. It was her voice that pulled me back to alertness.
“Daddy?” Katie’s voice rang out in a high whisper, her tone calm and curious.
My eyes shifted from the TV to down the hallway as I sat up. From our room, Katie’s room is the last door on the right side of the hallway, and that’s where she stood. Moonlight poured into the hallway through the window on the back wall, which allowed me to see only the silhouette of my daughter. With my back against the headboard, and the feeling of pure nervousness in my bones, I meekly replied.
Her head, or rather the pure-black shadow that I could see of it, tipped slightly to her left, her hair hanging freely past her shoulder.
”What are you doing up, Katie?” I whispered just loud enough that she could hear as I began to slowly get out of bed. I only took my eyes off of her for a split second but by the time my eyes were back on her, she had her right hand up. I must have been more tired than I realized because I didn’t instantly make the connection. I asked her she was doing.
”Daddy….come here.” she replied.
Her silhouette was out of focus, so I took a few steps towards the hallway, intent on tending to whatever my daughter needed. It seemed like it happened instantly, in the blink of an eye, but in hindsight I can almost see it, the fingers on her raised right hand growing to over double their normal size. Once I realized it I stopped in my tracks. I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t know what to do. I spoke without first thinking of what I wanted to say.
”What do you want?”
The silhouette of my daughter, her hands with fingers much too long to be her own, twitched as she lowered each of her fingers save for her index, then lowered her arm, as if to point to me. There was a silence for a few moments that seemed to take a lifetime, but Katie’s voice broke it.
”You, daddy. It’s always been you.” the voice proclaimed, somehow sending my heart sinking to the pit of my stomach and rising to my throat simultaneously. “She” didn’t wait for a response. Instead, she simply lowered her arm, turned to her right, and walked down the stairs. I stood at my bedroom door, looking out to the hallway, for nearly 15 minutes, not taking my eyes from where “Katie” had been standing. I finally snapped out of my fear-induced stupor and slowly walked down the hallway.
I took slow steps towards Katie’s room. I walked to the point I could see down the stairs to my left and into Katie’s room on my right. The stairs were empty, as we the area I could see at the bottom of them. I took a closer look into Kate’s room. There she was, sound asleep in her bed.
I walked into the kitchen, where my mom had on the news while she cooked dinner. I remember it was already dark outside. I sat down at the kitchen table and flipped through a magazine while I waited to eat. As I sat there reading, the sounds of the news caught my ear and I looked over.
”…eighborhood that the eleven-year-old was last seen. According to a witness, the boy was riding his bike on 41st street, and since he turned this corner onto Center Street, he hasn’t been seen.”
The news reporter was standing in the middle of a residential block, four houses in from an intersection. The third house in from the crossroads was that house, as nondescript as any other.
”Mom! Mom!” I yelled to her. She turned to me expecting something to be wrong, as my tone suggested it may be.
I told her to look at the TV, that “the house that took Kayla was right there”. She looked at the TV, but only a moment later, the shot changed to one of the news anchor in the studio. My mom got upset after that, saying that she thought I was done with all that, but clearly I still had underlying issues related to the disappearance of my friend. She decided that I was in need of some therapy, and while I wouldn’t have ever admitted it then, in retrospect, I agree.
That night I got the all-clear from my mom to spend the night at a friend’s house, despite my claim that I’d seen a magic house. I often look back and wonder how different my life would be if my mom had turned around two or three seconds before she did, and seen the house that matched the ones I’d drawn precisely for such a time. I got to my friend Ryan’s house around 7pm, and we hung out for a bit. I soon learned that Ryan was waiting for his parents to fall asleep so we could sneak out of his house and meet up with a few other people.
We left his house around 11pm, the moon bright as I’ve ever seen it. We biked to a nearby park, where found our two other friends Joey and Tim smoking cigarettes atop a triple slide. We sat around for a while, doing what any 14-year-old would do when sneaking out of the house which is pretty much…nothing. We were each sitting on a swing when I thought I saw something move between some trees in the distance, backlit by the moon. It happened in the blink of an eye, but I was sure I’d seen someone.
I mentioned it to my friends, but they brushed it off, not paying it any mind. I kept looking at the spot I’d seen the figure, and I soon saw an arm reach out from behind a tree, with long fingers jutting out from a hand.
“What the fuck is that?” I said as I quickly jumped up form the swing. My friends also stood up, simply at the surprise of seeing me do so. The hand was gone by the time they looked up. I told them that there was something by the trees and that I was going home, but they just called me a pussy and said to calm down. In the middle of the verbal lashing though, we all heard the crunch of leaves to our right. The silhouette of a tall male stood at the edge of the playground, which caused us all to run. My friends assumed it was a cop or some other adult who didn’t want us in the park after hours, and that was enough to sprint without looking back.
But I did.
As I ran I turned my head around and saw that the silhouette was standing there with its right arm raised, its long, thin fingers spread out, waving back and forth, back and forth. I turned around and ran a few more steps before looking behind me again.
The figure was gone.
I didn’t go back to sleep that night. Instead I brought Katie into our room and had her sleep in our bed, which she was happy to do. I stared blankly at the TV, not taking in any of what I was watching. I thought about what I’d thought I’d seen, and wondered if perhaps I’d had some kind of psychotic break. It all felt so incredibly real. But I’d been inside the house, and nothing had happened. I’d been able to leave. My family was able to leave. They had to be simply nightmares.
About a week after that night, we’d gone to a movie, with nothing of note happening in the interim. When we got home, it was about 9pm, so we got Katie ready for bed, and because it had been a long day for us, Kimmy and I went to sleep not long after. I woke up the following morning to the feeling of wind on my face. I opened my eyes and realized I was outside, in the middle of my back yard.
Disoriented, I stood up and realized my back door was ajar. I rushed inside and called out for Kimmy and Katie, but heard nothing in response. I ran up the stairs and first looked in Katie’s room. No one there. I ran to the end of the hall, where our door was closed, as it usually is if we aren’t in there. Even so, I burst through it and it too was empty. I noticed the bathroom light was on so I slowly walked towards it. The door was only slightly open, and steam was drifting out of the room, but I couldn’t hear the shower. I took a deep breath and rushed through the door.
Everything was sweating, like a film of condensation was wrapped over the entirety of the bathroom and everything in it. The shower curtain was open, and the bathtub empty. Then I looked at the mirror. It was fogged up, but three words had been scrawled across it.
“They’re home now.”