Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.
Something’s coming. I don’t know what, I don’t know why, only that it’s getting closer. I thought it was done but maybe I got it wrong. Maybe it’s coming back.
I’m sorry, I’m trying to explain this fast because for all I know it could be here any minute. But I’ll try to stay calm. I’ll try to slow down. And while I still can, I’ll type it all out…
A month ago, my life changed. And I don’t mean like “I moved apartments” or “I got a new job.” I mean my daily routine has been flipped on its head.
It was October 1st, I remember because it was the beginning of the quote, “the month of scares.” I thought it was fitting. My whole day was normal. I went to work, I came home, I walked my dog. And then I went to bed, or was about to.
Every night, before I go to sleep, I take my dog, Felix, out to go to the bathroom. We don’t go far, there’s a little yard right outside my complex which is pretty well covered. Well on that night, we went outside and Felix did his routine. He sniffed around, looking for that perfect spot and stopped. I was waiting for him to do his business, but he was frozen. His head was perked up, his nose pointed across the parking lot and towards the tree line. And then the hair along his spine shot up.
Now Felix is a scaredy cat, and he’s never been one to bark, so when I heard him growl, I cocked my head. I followed his nose, squinting to make out whatever was beyond the muted streetlamps, and looking closer, I could almost see the outline of a person.
It was probably another tenant, I thought. Maybe someone like me, just letting their dog out to pee. But Felix’s reaction had made me uncomfortable. So, skipping our potty break, we went inside. I had no problem going to sleep that night, but the next night wasn’t so easy. Because the very next night, it happened again.
Felix and I went outside, and he trotted to his spot. But this time he was quicker to stop and stare, pointed straight across the lot at that same corner of shadows. And there they were, the same person from yesterday – or at least, I assumed it was them. They were in the exact same spot, a silhouette just beyond the street. But they almost looked closer.
I ran back inside, rushing to my bedroom window which faced the parking lot and peeked through the blinds… There was no one there.
But they came back.
Day after day after day, they were there, standing in the shadows across the parking lot. And every day, they came a little bit closer. First, they were by the trees. Next, they were at the edge of the lot. And the day after that, they were one car down.
Now it’s one thing to have a routine – I have a routine – but this was borderline stalking. I tried reporting the stranger to my apartment complex, but my landlords have been useless. So then, after the first week of this creep shambling closer, I tried the police. But when the cops arrived the stalker was gone. They disappeared, just how they always disappear whenever I turn or run or hide.
There was little the police could do other than take my report, but even that was hopeless because I couldn’t even provide a description of the guy. Was he a guy? The best I could tell was that whoever this was might have been 5’9” or 5’10″, but I can’t be certain of that. The only thing I am certain of is that they’re coming for me.
Since then, mostly every night, I’ve stayed inside, peering out my window and playing eye-spy for a stranger in the lot. It was getting to be too much, to the point where some nights I didn’t sleep at all, so I asked my sister if I could spend a few days at her place. I had told her what was happening, and she readily agreed, a week away from my apartment was absolutely necessary.
And for that whole week… I was fine. I was alone. There was no creeper out my window, no stalker in the yard, and even Felix was acting like his happy, quiet self. For once I could sleep without having to worry about some shadow behind my back.
After a week, I went back to my apartment. I had to go back eventually, at the very least to make sure my place hadn’t been robbed. And when I came back, everything was where I left it. Yet even though I was feeling better, even though I dared to believe that the creep outside my window was gone for good, I still had to be sure.
I stayed up until dusk, until the late onset of night rolled over and the streetlamps came on. Looking like a kid on a stealth mission, I hugged the corner of my window frame, and carefully pulled the blinds. I looked around every car, every tree, and every lamp post. A few times I shot back on my bed at the sight of someone walking outside, but quickly realized they were only one of my neighbors.
Finally, after a few hours and a no-show from the shadow creep, I went to bed…
It might have only taken me a few minutes to fall asleep, but no sooner did Felix kick me as he jumped off the bed. I turned over, startled and half asleep, to find my dog pointed at the bedroom door, his hair standing on end…
I lept for my phone and the closest blunt object for a makeshift weapon. Even as I got out of bed, Felix wouldn’t take his eyes off the door. With a soccer trophy raised and a phone predialed with 911, I opened the door. Immediately, Felix ran out, stopping within my living room and letting out a low growl. I inched my way over, coming closer to the front door.
And finally, I heard it. It was whatever sound that had Felix on edge, and it was coming from outside. I couldn’t quite describe it at first. I might have said it was like a bike or a bag full of coins, but the closer I got towards the door, the more it sounded like chains…
I brought an eye up to the peephole and nearly dropped my phone…
He was there. At the end of a long hallway, he stood facing my door. My hands braced the lock as though he might charge, but he didn’t move. He only lifted his arms slightly, before dropping something that rattled and echoed through the hall. I couldn’t believe no one else in the building was hearing this, but then again, I could barely believe that I was seeing this.
The stranger, the figure at the end of the hall, was no less visible than he had been 100 yards away. Even with all the lights on, the dark shadow was blurry like my eyes couldn’t focus or the glass from the peephole had gotten all scratched. Quickly I fumbled with my phone to dial 911, but the second I looked up, back down the hall… the shadow was gone…
At this point, I couldn’t tell if what I was seeing, and now what I was hearing was even real. I still don’t know. I had never suffered from hallucinations before and why I’d be experiencing them now, I couldn’t tell you. But now, every night I would see him, and I would hear him, down at the end of the hall ratting chains like funeral tolls. And every night, he’d come one step closer to my door.
I can’t tell you the number of panic attacks I’ve had. I’ve called my sister crying numerous times, I’ve tried sending her videos of what I’d see, but like a bug that flies by your ear, I’m always too slow to capture it. The only thing I could do, the only thing I could see, was how far he had moved… and how much further he had to go.
One more week.
That was when he’d come. I had counted the steps myself. If the stranger kept to the same pace, then I only had a week until he was at my door. Of course, I tried avoiding it. I calculated three days until he was here and left to spend five at my sister’s… But when I came home, he was right back to where he left off. And then again, after I spent two more days in a hotel…
I stopped asking my sister for help. She had been so kind and so supportive, but I had gotten so tired and so drained by fear that I couldn’t stand it anymore. And I don’t want her to share that dread.
After trying so hard to run away from it, to escape the coming stranger at my door, “one day away” eventually fell on October 31st. Somehow, it just seemed right. If I was going to entertain the idea that whatever was happening to me was unnatural, then I figured this was fate.
I stayed home with Felix all day. I thought if I even tried to leave, if I even opened my door, he’d be there, a blurry shadow ready to pounce. Of course, of all days to fear someone knocking, it had to be Halloween. And of all the apartments to live at, I had to live at one which hosted its own trick-or-treat…
Every knock hammered on my spine, their giddy voices grating at my ears. And unfortunately, whereas adults might try once and leave, some of these kids were driven, knocking three or four times until settling for the next door. I waited on my couch, with half a bottle of wine, listening nervously for little feet to scamper off.
The parade of little kids was starting to die down and my 2nd bottle was near empty. I wanted nothing more than for this night to be over when another little brat wouldn’t let up, racking my door as if I would have to give him candy. I shouted, “Go away!” stomping towards the door, about to throw it open when…
The rattle of chains racked every bone in my body. Another and I took a step back.
My voice had already fled leaving me to stutter in silence. I could hear how some of the chains scraped against the door. I fell into a corner, balled up, and hands clapped over my ears. With every metal strike Felix went into a frenzy. But soon even he ran off to hide and now the sense of something coming was overwhelming. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying so hard to not exist, to turn off all my senses and make it all… stop.
I unhooked my nails from my hair and pried one eye open… The knocking stopped. It was gone. He was gone… I crawled to the peephole and saw no one. Then for the first time in what felt like eternity, I opened the door and found myself alone…
I have never been more excited to see Christmas come so early. Today was November 1st and when I saw a holiday theme scroll across my Spotify playlist I nearly jumped with joy. For me, it felt like it was over, like the curse of Halloween had been lifted. I could take my dog out for a walk, I could go back to work and not dread coming home, I could sleep without having to look out my window or check my front door. And that’s exactly what I did.
Felix is balled beside me, and my head is on the pillow. But I’m holding him so close as he shakes and typing feverishly on my phone, because I’d rather my story survive, even if I don’t.
I know I locked the front door, but that doesn’t matter. I still hear the chains…
They’re in my living room now, and I swear, they almost sound… like sleigh bells.