Although I’ve told this story many times, it never fails to send a chill up my spine. The events of that bizarre night still play all too clearly through my mind. It all began on a midsummer’s evening when my friend, Stacy came to stay the night…
The car pulled into the driveway of the old Victorian style farmhouse, its headlights illuminating the boxwoods and trees that lined the front yard. A small group of dogs raced off of the porch, yipping and barking, announcing our arrival to anyone inside. Stacy and I got out of the car, both of us eager to try out the “Nintendo” games that we had rented from the local video store. Wading through the overzealous welcoming party of pooches, we hastened our way to the front door.
Pop looked up from his chair, taking a sip of his beer as he watched Stacy and I practically burst through the door. He had been listening to the evening news, but was surfing the channels to find the nights ballgame. He eyed us carefully while we crossed the living room to go to the staircase.
“You might want to eat before playing those video games, boy.” Pop stated flatly, his distaste for video games evident in his tone. With that said, he went back to flipping the channels on the television.
“Oh”, I replied starting to climb the dark stairwell, “don’t worry, we’ll be right back down after we take them up to my room. “
“Yeah, after all“, Stacy interjected, “we’ve never met a pizza that we didn’t like.” He stopped for a moment to think. “Well, maybe veggie pizzas, anchovies, and a few others, but who’s counting?” Pop answered the remark with only his trademark, quirky, half-smile and a shake of his head before retuning his attention to finding his ballgame.
The two of us raced up the stairs taking them two at a time. The upstairs hallway was dark, despite the moderate glow filtering up from the living room. I went ahead of Stacy, navigating the overshadowed walkway as I had done on numerous occasions. My eyes had grown accustomed to the low light allowing me to avoid tripping over anything that may have been in the path. With well practiced steps, I worked my way into my bedroom door, slipping through almost effortlessly. Within seconds light filled the room, flooding out into the hallway, illuminating the immediate surroundings.
“Are you ready for pizza?” I asked tossing the video games onto the bed by the window. Stacy had just poked his head through the doorway.
“Are you kidding? What’re we waiting for?” Stacy replied ducking back into the hall. His heavy footsteps could be heard drifting toward the stairs.
“Well let’s go!” I said in a burst of laughter, dashing passed him. He returned the laughter unable to contain himself at my crazy antics.
“Wait up ya goofball!” He called following my lead. We tore down the steps resembling more a herd of elephants than a pair of teenage boys.
The pizza was the Special Express Pizza from “Pizza Express”, twenty-four inches of Italian goodness made on a hand-tossed crust. Just one slice of this monster meal would cover all but the most extreme edges of a full-sized plate, while overlapping others. With five choice toppings, as well as extra cheese and sauce, Stacy and I gorged ourselves until we felt our sides were going to split if we dared another bite.
After supper, we retired back to the comforts of my room where we could play our rented games in peace. Stacy played his chosen game first, only to find that it was a disappointment. He continued to play until frustration forced him to lay down the controller.
“Man, that game sucks!” Stacy protested as he turned off the game system. He stood up shaking his head, and removed the game from the console. “Dude, I hope you have better luck with the one you rented.” He walked over to take a seat at the foot of the twin bed by the window. Again he shook his head, annoyed with his choice of games. A cool summer night’s breeze blew in through the window stirring the curtains, and reducing the stuffiness of my room. Stacy couldn’t suppress the yawn that overcame him as he sat watching me fumble with my game.
We talked about movies, games, as well as hurled playful insults at each other, laughing all the while. Between the game and our antics, we failed to notice that time had slipped away. A grim silence had fallen over the house, an uneasy hush that neither Stacy nor myself recognized at first. It was the quiet that one could almost feel its presence, where even a whisper sounded like a silent scream. That silence would haunt us for the rest of the night. In our preoccupation, we hadn’t noticed that my parents had long since gone to bed, and my bedroom light was the only thing illuminating the hallway through the cracks between the door and its facing.
I had been laughing at one of Stacy’s crazy impersonations when, without warning he grew quiet.
“Hey Randy,” he said in a low whisper, “Randy!” He waved his hands to get my attention. I turned to regard him curiously, attempting to quell my laughter.
“What is it Stace?” I asked, restraining the urge to laugh once again. Stacy’s face revealed that something had come to his attention.
“I think we’ve been getting too loud.” Stacy replied grimacing as though we were about to get into trouble. I answered by cocking my eyebrows and returning a questioning look of my own. “I just heard your dad calling you from the stairs.” He hoped that they weren’t mad for us keeping them awake. Seeing his concern, I paused the game so that I could better listen for him.
“Randy!” Pop’s voice called from the bottom of the stairs.
Mildly dismayed by the tone of my dad’s voice, I answered reluctantly. “Yeah Pop, what do you need?” I was fully expecting him to tell us to shut down the game, turn off the lights, and go to bed. I exhaled heavily, my breath bearing the weight of the enjoyment that we had being lost by a single order, which I anticipated to come; however, it never did. Instead of a vocal answer, there came a sudden sharp and violent hiss, a disturbing combination of a cat’s warning and that of a snake concocted together, telling the two of us that something was just outside the door of my room.
Any thoughts of laughter that we once had, left at that moment. Stacy and I turned to look at each other, both wearing a look that asked, “Did you hear that?!”, before turning to face the door. Though only the pitch dark of nighttime shadows could be seen through the cracks of the door.
“What the Hell was that?” I voiced aloud, not really expecting Stacy to answer.
“I have no idea, but by the sound of it, I’m not sure I want to find out either.” He replied his voice a little shaky from the experience.
I returned my gaze to Stacy, speaking calmly, trying not to let my imagination take over. “Okay, I’m going to begin playing the game again. If you would, watch the door and keep an ear out for anything else that might happen.” I reached over to turn the volume down a few notches.
With the television turned down, we recognized for the first time that a deathly calm had settled over the old house. The house settled with a loud creak, nearly startling us. The night seemed to throb, pressing its shadowy borders upon the room in which we sat, making the whole feel like little more than an illuminated prison cell. Although my parents were asleep in their room downstairs, Stacy and I had never felt so alone as we did at that moment.
Everything remained quiet for nearly a half-hour, I was progressing fairly rapidly through the game, Stacy was relating the details of his last trip to the mountains, and the thrills of tubing down Wilson’s Creek. Just when we thought things were getting back to normal, we heard my name once again.
“Randy?” Called Mom’s voice. “Randy!” I cast a glance toward Stacy. His eyes were fixed on me, wondering what I was going to do.
“If Mom wants me bad enough“, I said in a low voice that was borderline to a whisper, “she’ll come to the door.”
“Randy!” Called Mom from the hallway. The two of us waited patiently to see if she would come to the door; however, everything soon faded into the dreadful silence once more.
Wary of the events taking place, we continued with our conversation as well as our game playing. Another half-hour passed slowly, the air growing heavy with anticipation. Soon came another voice, summoning me to the hallway, only this time it was the voice of the younger of my two sisters.
“Randy?” Brigetta called from the hall. “Randy!” The sound of Brigetta’s voice sent a chill down my spine. I knew that it wasn’t possible for her to be calling to me from the upstairs hall. She was married and lived in Hildebran. Again, I refused to answer. Soon Brigetta’s voice became silent, leaving Stacy and I to guess who would be next.
Somewhere nearing the Two-O’clock hour, my older sister began calling me to come into the hallway. Crystal lived in Hickory at that time with her husband and daughter. Though it struck us as more than fairly odd, I refused to answer just like with the previous times before.
“Randy!” Crystal called. “Randy!” Her voice seemed to linger in the air long after it was gone. Without an answer it soon joined the others which had come before.
Stacy and I returned to the game, though our true attention was focused on what lay in wait beyond the safety of my bedroom door. We conversed on many different topics, trying not to reveal that we were waiting for what was to come.
A short time later we heard the sound of the younger of my two brothers, calling me. I knew that it wasn’t him as he was married and lived over an hour away. Stacy and I continued about what we were doing, pretending that we didn’t hear anyone.
“Randy!” He called. “Randy!” James’ voice rang out. Stacy and I wondered why Mom and Pop wasn’t able to hear this going on. After a moment or so his voice died out leaving us in silence once more.
The night was becoming early morning, though, staying up was nothing new to neither Stacy, nor myself. We both could feel the strain of sleep wearing down on us. The clock read a quarter until Three when, we heard my oldest brother calling from near the stairs.
“Randy!” Roy called. “Randy? Randy!” I found this odd, for of all of my family that lived nearby; Roy was completely in another state altogether. I turned to regard Stacy, and then shifted my gaze to the door. “What on earth could be so adamant to get me out of my room that it was exhausting all efforts to do so?” I thought, all the while looking for anything to move just beyond the border of the light.
All was silent for a few moments. Stacy and I exchanged glances on a number of occasions, quietly wondering, hoping, that it was all over. We got our answer, however, when just a few minutes later, the most shocking voice came calling from the hallway. As Stacy and I were looking at one another, his own voice called me, summoning me to the pitch dark of the upstairs hall.
“Randy! “ We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. “Randy” Slowly, Stacy and I faced the bedroom door watching, waiting, for anything to happen. Just as we started to turn around, out of the corner of our eyes, there came a movement like that of a shadow slipping in through the cracks in between the door. In a motion too fast to see clearly it ducked into the shadows beneath the bed that sat by the bedroom door. We could feel the hair stand up on the back of our necks, a chill course over our body.
“How long is it until the sun comes up?” Stacy asked in a low whisper.
“Well”, I said glancing at the clock, “it’s going on Three-thirty, now. We’ve still got another two and a half to three hours before dawn.” Stacy nodded with an uncomfortable smile upon his face.
“Do you think we can make it until then?” He asked turning to look at the other bed. “Because I don’t know about you, but I’m not finding myself very sleepy now.”
I knew what he was saying, in a lot of ways I was feeling the same. We both felt that whatever was beyond the door or possibly under that bed was just laying in wait for us to turn off the light, giving it the darkness it needed for whatever purpose with which it was there. “You won’t catch me sleeping anytime soon.” I remarked. With that, neither Stacy, nor I slept a wink until several hours later when the sun had risen banishing all of the shadows of the night back to whence they came.