It wasn’t always that way. Usually I would turn over and go back to sleep. One day, it was darker and it was quieter. I didn’t know why, but I was afraid.
Like most kids, I was afraid of the dark. You know, hiding under the blankets, believing that they would protect you from whatever it was that was out there, lurking, stalking you. You had ’em fooled! You’re a frickin’ genius!
As I lay in bed in that old house, I woke in the middle of the night. The streetlight outside of my window always shone in, and my mom’s hand-made curtains weren’t ever enough to really block out the light. All that they did was emphasize the shadows and the fears of childhood.
My brother was sleeping heavily, his larger body heaving up and down, slowly, in time. He groaned and turned over.
I could hear the steps, one after another, creaking slowly up the stairs.
I knew it was not just the regular old creaking of the house – that’s what my mom told me. She said it was an old house and old houses settle and creak and groan, and to just go back to sleep, to stop letting my imagination get the best of me.
But I knew better. There was a step, the step was the fifth step from the bottom, that was the step that I knew to avoid when I was sneaking down to the living room to watch cartoons. My parents’ bedroom was was on the other side of the stairs, sharing a wall. If I made the fatal mistake of creaking the loud steps, I knew that they would get up and tell me to go back to bed. But, on Sunday mornings, all I wanted to do was go down to watch Hanna Barbera before anyone else got up.
Anyway, I knew. I knew which steps made which noises, and which steps to skip.
I heard the steps. I heard the creaking. I heard the Steps To Be Avoided. I listened that night, and I listened carefully. Up, one by one.
Creak. Creak. Creak. GROAN.
I hid deeper under the blankets and my breath was hot and a little stinky. My heart was pounding
Creak, creak, creak, they were continuing, slowly, terrifyingly, eerily up the stairs. The silence roared in my ears and the shadows played outside the comforting, safe cave of the blankets. Maybe if I stayed still enough, I could trick the monsters into thinking I was sleeping and they would leave me alone. Maybe. I didn’t believe it, but I wanted to.
Creak. GROAN. POP.
I shook a little inside because I knew that this was the second-to-last stair that groaned and popped like that. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I struggled to slow my breathing and I stared against the inside of my eyelids, listening as closely as I could .
The noise came up and stopped at the landing. I waited. Waited. I thought that it had gone, and I was reminded of my mother’s admonition that it was just this old house creaking, and I began to convince myself that she was right.
This time, she *was* right and the steps stopped. Or did they? The floor of the rooms upstairs didn’t creak and groan like the stairs, it didn’t have the tell-tale signs. The silence and my wandering thoughts lulled me back to sleep.
In the morning, I woke up, threw the covers off of me, and looked around – the sun was shining in and I was alone in the room. I wondered how my brother had gotten up before me – he never got up before me.
I sat and thought about my fright from the middle of the night, feeling silly that I didn’t get up to check out the stairs. It probably really *was* the house settling. Or maybe it was my sister getting up in the middle of the night to visit the only bathroom in the house – downstairs, on the main floor, and then coming back to bed. She wasn’t old enough to understand that there were steps that you should avoid, and she was light enough that she wouldn’t make a really big noise as she stepped on the two steps that groaned and popped and gave you away.
I smiled to myself and twisted around, dropped my legs to the floor, then something grabbed forearm and pulled on it, straightening my arm out next to me and pulling. I tugged back, heart racing, looking over, expecting to see my brother messing with me, but there was nothing there, only silence. No light, no shadows, nothing. Only a pulling on my arm. I tugged a second time and it let go – I heard a hiss as I ran out of the room and went downstairs and didn’t go back up until bedtime, making sure my brother was in there; I didn’t let on to anyone about what happened.
It never happened again – whatever it was that came for me, it didn’t come again. It was done after it couldn’t get me, couldn’t have me. It was there and then it was gone. I don’t know what it was, and I don’t want to know.
I lurk on Reddit a lot, and as I was reading through some writing subReddits, someone cross-posted a story from /r/nosleep. “Hmm, what’s this?” I wondered to myself and proceeded to go to http://nosleep.reddit.com to check it out.
/r/nosleep is a place where you post creepy, scary stories that, one supposes, scare the crap out of you so you can’t fall asleep. They are supposed to be true stories, or stories that you pass off as true.
Is this story true? I won’t tell. But if you live in an old house and hear the steps creaking at night, beware what morning may bring…