By Chef wolfdreams01
It started as I was trying to go to sleep. I had brushed my teeth, flossed, and washed my face, but the faint sound of flowing water let me know that the toilet was still running. My toilet is a bit old, and sometimes the flush valve doesn’t close properly unless you jiggle the handle a bit. Sighing to myself, I got up, jiggled the handle until it caught, and went back to my bedroom. Then I froze for a second, because something felt very wrong. My couch is set against the windows facing the street, which means that even in an unlit house, I can see the outline of the couch from the street illumination. But in the split second that I had glanced into my living room before shutting the door, I had seen the silhouette of a person sitting on the sofa.
I quickly opened the door again. There was no silhouette. Maybe it was just a trick of the light. But because I’m paranoid as fuck from reading scary Reddit stories, I went to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and searched the whole house thoroughly. There was nobody here. The doors were locked. I sighed again, concluded that my tired mind had imagined the whole thing, and went to sleep.
It was over a week before I saw it again. I was walking from the living room to the kitchen to do the dishes, and as I passed by the doorway to the corridor that leads to my front door, I caught a glimpse from the corner of my eye of somebody very tall standing at the far end of the corridor. I was right in the middle of my stride so I only saw it for a moment before passing the edge of the doorway, but I knew now that this was no trick of the light. The head had turned slightly as I walked by, as if tracking my movement. I quickly stepped back to the spot where I could see the far end of the hallway to get a better look at the intruder, but it was gone. There was no place it could have disappeared to without me seeing it – the hallway leads right from the front door to my living room, and I hadn’t heard the squeak of my rusty door hinges so it couldn’t have left by this route. But nevertheless, the hallway was now empty.
I stood there for a long time, heart pounding in my chest. Eventually I calmed down and started to clean the fragments of the plate that I had dropped in my fright.
The very next day, I put a Craigslist ad out to find a roommate. Staying in the empty house all by myself really bothered me. I interviewed several potential candidates, and eventually settled on a charming transgender woman named Mary. She had a very calming presence and a stable job. Although I didn’t tell her this, part of the reason that I chose her was because of her size. She was very tall and well-muscled, and I wanted somebody who could back me up physically if I saw that thing again.
Mary and me got along really well, and I felt much more secure with her in the apartment. She was a night owl – whereas I’ve always tended to go to sleep early – and it was reassuring to hear the sound of the television while I was drifting off to sleep. Knowing that on any given evening there was another person within twenty feet of me did a lot to dispel my terror of seeing the apparition again. Maybe it’s the fact that I read too many ghost stories, but I somehow felt that the constant presence of somebody else would protect me from whatever it was I had seen. I was wrong.
It was August when I saw the thing again. I was walking to the basement on a Thursday night to get my laundry from the dryer, and Mary was sitting in the dining room looking towards the window. Even from my quick glance, I could tell that something seemed very wrong with the shadows on her face, but I didn’t want to say anything and so I kept walking. It’s not that she would be angered by my criticism, but one thing that Mary takes a lot of pride in is how feminine she looks, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by saying anything about her makeup. Descending the basement steps, I could hear somebody was already there… in the basement, moving around. I could hear footsteps shuffling on the floor. It’s important to note that our upstairs neighbors don’t have access to our basement – the only people who can get in are me and Mary.
Somehow – almost instinctively – my hand reached for the wooden mop handle that we kept at the top of the basement stairs. Slowly, I unscrewed the body of the mop from the head, and then quietly… ever so quietly… I descended the stairs. The shuffling continued. It was the hardest thing I ever did, but I leaped around the corner, the mop handle raised to bludgeon whatever intruder was in my basement.
It was Mary. She gave a little yelp of terror when she saw me leap out, and dropped the heavy storage boxes that she had been reorganizing. “What the hell!” she exclaimed. “That is SO not funny!” But I could say nothing, and the mop handle dropped from my limp fingers. If Mary was down here, then whom had I passed that was sitting in the living room?
I’ve always considered myself a rational person. Although I read scary stories on the internet, I never really believed in the supernatural. However, it was clear that whatever I was seeing could not be explained scientifically. So I went online to do some research. There are plenty of groups on the internet that focus on alledgedly real occult tales, scary stories, and folklore. Over time, I realized that my tale was not that unique. In fact, there were plenty of stories about similar sightings.
Germany had Der Großmann, supposedly the subject of Goethe’s famous poem “Der Erlkönig.” A tall man who would be seen in the woods, and kidnapped children, stuffing them in a large sack. The Caribbean islands had the “hupia,” a nocturnal humanoid without a face that would paralyze its victims with fear. In the British Isles, it was called the Clutchbone. And in more recent “urban legend”, there were countless tales of the Slender Man. All of these tales had some things in common with my experience. A tall humanoid that could seemingly appear anywhere. Reports on what its face looked like varied, but all accounts agreed that it was incredibly disturbing. Sometimes it would take its victims away, never to be seen again, but others it would leave alone after stalking them for a while. Often these victims were driven almost to the point of insanity from their experience.
One thing that made the stories different from mine is that they generally all happened in the woods, as somebody was travelling through them. I had only seen this… thing… through open doorways, and only for a split second. But when you think about it, is there really that much of a difference? When you are walking and see a doorway out of the corner of your eye, you get a split second glance at what lies beyond the threshold before the corners of the door block your field of vision. When you are walking through the woods, you get a split second glance at what lies in any given spot before a tree passes in front of your line of sight. Maybe there is something about those boundaries – where a person’s vision to a spot is momentarily clear before becoming obscured again – that allows us to see things that we otherwise could not. Or maybe there are some things so horrifying that our minds automatically edit them out as some sort of self-defense mechanism, so the most we can perceive of them are the fragmented glimpses that are too fleeting to give us a full mental image.
I realize that this sounds crazy, but it’s an idea I came to after much thought. I’m sure if I wrote about it in more detail, if I explained all the other times I saw it, I could justify why I arrived at this conclusion. But I have to get this story out, and I don’t know how much time I have left.
One thing that I don’t think many people realize is how many doorways we pass on any given night. Try walking down the street without catching a brief glimpse through somebody’s doorway, or an open window, or an open car door. It is impossible to avoid seeing them. I know this because this evening, I was aware of them all. As I walked home from work, I could see a quick glimpse of that silhouette behind every single doorway, every single open portal that I passed. Always just the faintest glimpse out of the corner of my eye, always with that subtle wrongness about the face – but never sighted directly enough or long enough to make out specific details. But tonight, I have a feeling that I’ll see it in its entirety, and finally know where it takes its other victims. Because even though I only caught fleeting glimpses of it out of the corner of my eye, there was one striking detail about its profile which was very different from all the other times I had spotted it.
Tonight, it was carrying a very large sack.