Though it has been many years, I can still remember the events of that midwinter’s night as though they had happened only yesterday. I was in the seventh grade then, and all of my older siblings were married, save for the younger of my two sisters, who lived in Valdese at the time with a friend. Only my mother, father, and I were still living in the old Victorian style farmhouse, in which I had spent nearly all of my childhood. My dad was a member of the J. Mack Moore Hunting Club, which had leased the tract of woodland that bordered our land on two sides. My tale begins on what seemed to be just another Tuesday…
I sat drawing at the dining room table, having long since finished my homework. A warm fire blazed in the old kettle stove nearby driving any trace of the winter’s icy breath out of the house. Mom was all but lost to reality in the living room as she sat in her chair reading one of her many romance novels. She would occasionally look up to see what was playing on the television. Pop had gone to one of the monthly hunting club meetings, and so she and I had the house to ourselves for the largest part of the evening. It had been awhile since any of us had checked the fire, and the cool air had begun to creep in bringing a chill to the rooms.
“Randy?” Mom called from the living room. “Have you checked the fire lately?” She asked.
I looked up from my sketches, and answered. “No, but I can.” With that, I reluctantly stood up from my seat and walked over to the stove. The lid scraped loudly as I opened the top to peer inside. The wood inside had almost completely burned to a bed of glowing hot ashes. I glanced over to the corner where we usually kept the wood stacked only to find a few meager sticks to put in the fire. I sighed heavily, knowing that I was going to have to bring in the wood for the night. Once I had put the remaining wood in the stove, I grabbed my jacket and started toward the front door.
“Are you getting the wood in for tonight?” Mom asked glancing up from her book. I nodded.
“Yeah,” I said half-heartedly. “I might as well.” It was a job that I had always dreaded during the colder months, however; I knew too that it was one of my responsibilities. Without much else to say, I reached for the doorknob.
“Don’t forget to bring in a good sized log for the end of the night.” She added as I walked through the door.
“I won’t.” I replied, taking a sharp breath under the sudden exposure to the below freezing temperatures outside.
Night had cloaked the neighborhood in a nearly opaque darkness making any kind of visibility difficult at best. I walked carefully around to the side of the house where the wood lay in a disheveled pile. Somewhere, a dog barked in the distance, its voice echoing across the way as it broke the leaden silence that seemed to suffocate the air around me. The gnarled shadows of the barren trees appeared as skeletal fingers reaching to claw at the nearly overcast sky above.
My breath came in white clouds that hung suspended in the deathly still air before drifting off to join the night. Using the light that filtered down from the second story bedroom, I began sorting through the pile for suitable pieces of wood to carry in. My fingers hurt as I picked up one log after another, stacking them in my arm. To my surprise, something moved in the upstairs window. It was a motion too quick for my eyes to register what it was, so I glanced up for a better look.
I took in the scene, surveying it carefully. The light had been on since earlier that afternoon when we had been up there cleaning. At first, I thought that maybe I was imagining things, but then I saw a most peculiar thing. It was a disembodied hand that moved across the window. The sight of it caught me unaware, but I knew what I had seen. The hand was completely incomplete, having all of its digits, and ended just behind the wrist. Even though I was sure of what I had seen, I wasn’t going to jump to conclusions. In my mind, there was a mildly skeptical side that told me of the possibility that Mom had gone back upstairs for something. After that, I quickly gathered my first armload of wood and took it inside.
“Hey Mom,” I said as I struggled with the front door, “were you just upstairs for any reason?” I shut the door behind me sending a cold draft through the living room. Mom lowered her book, and looked up at me as though she had no idea of what I was talking about.
“What do you mean?” She asked, sitting up in the recliner so she could better listen.
“Did you go upstairs for anything while I was outside?” I replied attempting to get an answer. I carried the load of wood into the dining room stacking it in the usual corner with a heavy thud.
“Why no,” she answered curiously, “I’ve been sitting here the whole time. Why what‘s wrong?” I walked back into the living room and looked at her.
“Well, someone or something is,” I explained, very suspicious of who or what was in that old bedroom, “because I just saw a hand in the window while I was gathering wood.” I was already walking toward the stairs as I uttered the last words. Mom had placed her book on the coffee table and hurried to join me on the staircase.
The upstairs was dark except for the bedroom light of which I had used to help me gather the wood just moments before. Mom had only stopped long enough to grab Pop’s flashlight before fully catching up with me. We both knew that the only way in or out of the upstairs was the same staircase that we had just climbed, and since no one was seen coming down the stairs, we knew that if anyone was in the house, they’d have to be hiding upstairs. I stopped by my brother’s pool table to pick up one of the short pool cues to use as a weapon just in case someone was upstairs.
We checked the bedroom, only to find it empty. One by one, I began searching every room on the second floor. Not even closets and secret storage rooms went unchecked; however, no one was there.
The winter passed on, though I had not forgotten about that night. The story of the hand in the window spread among many of the people we knew. Soon the winter cold was replaced by the warmth of the spring. My sister had come to visit, announcing that she was going to be moving back home. She decided that she wanted to take the old bedroom upstairs and so began coming over to help clean it out. One day when we were taking down the fifty or sixty year old wallpaper, so that we could begin painting, we made a shocking discovery. There, in the center of the western wall, and hidden for however long the wallpaper had been up, was a large bloody handprint.