October 29, 2013

A Visitor in the Night || A Halloween Story

A Visitor In the Night  
By: Kiersten Sahlberg

 I was suddenly roused awake by the whistle of the train sharp in my ears.

Stupid train, I grumbled, lifting myself out of bed begrudgingly. This was one of the things I had forgotten to factor into my decision to move back into my parents’ house. The late night screeching of metal on metal has been a constant source of annoyance throughout my childhood.

I pulled the curtains back from the windows. The storm had really picked up since I fell asleep around ten. The rain was beating sideways and the trees were doubled over in a struggle to fight the wind. The clock glared the time at me, 1:27 AM. I forced myself to my feet, fighting the veil of exhaustion. I had one intention; water.

Stumbling, I made my way out of the bedroom and into the hallway. It was dark. Quiet. The walls were lined with portraits from the past as many household hallways are. I remembered as a child I had always felt discomfort making the trek to the kitchen late at night. I didn’t like the way my deceased relatives watched me, their eyes empty, following my every move. 
I padded quickly past them. C’mon, I thought to myself, you’re 24 years old. Get a grip. Still, flipping the kitchen lights was a welcome relief from the darkness. I made a beeline to the sink and grabbed an empty glass from the counter, trying to avoid looking out of the window to the field in the backyard.

Suddenly, my eye was caught by something peculiar. The field was a blur of heavy fog. It was so thick that the flower pots on the patio, barely two feet from the window, were nearly indiscernible. The fog twisted and turned like smoke, unwavering and sinister. But hadn’t it just been pouring rain? It must have been a dream, I thought, pushing it out of my mind.
Without warning, the kitchen lights flicked off. I resisted the urge to let my silly childhood fear of the dark keep me from thinking rationally and took a deep breath. It’s no big deal, it was really storming out there, perhaps a tree fell on a power line. But when I glanced out again, there was no rain or wind. Just the fog, now inching closer to the windows, little wisps clawing at the window panes like fingers. I suddenly became aware of how eerily quiet it was. The hum of the refrigerator, the tick tock of the hallway clock, even my own shallow breaths seemed to be muted.

The pounding of my heart echoed inside my head, little beads of sweat forming in my palms. Quickly I dashed to the light switch and frantically switched it off and on again. Without protest, the light flipped on. A brief wave of relief washed over me followed quickly by the realization that the light had been turned off not by some electrical mishap, but by someone…or something.

I turned around, staring blindly into the hallway. The path to my bedroom seemed somehow longer and more ominous. I felt a prickle reach from the bottom of my back to the top of my neck. A soft scratching at the front door suddenly interrupted the quiet.

I stared at the door, paralyzed by the fear of what I might find either staring back at me through the peephole or waiting for me at the end of the long, dark hallway. In a snap decision, I bolted back through the hallway, avoiding the hollow stares from the portraits and jumping into bed before I could register the uneasy feeling in my stomach, the quickened beating of my heart.

That’s when I saw it. A figure, shadowed and grotesque, lurking at the foot of my bed.
It was a woman, her skin leathered and tight across her brittle arms, her white hair matted into knots against her face. She suddenly appeared to me as familiar.

“Gr-grandma?” I stammered, all at once relieved and confused. My grandma lived hours away, what was she doing here, and looking so worn?

She lifted her head and my heart stopped.

This face was not my grandma’s. The cheekbones were hollow and skeletal, her eyes sunken and glazed over, her lips cracked and bone white.

And then she smiled at me and the air went cold. The cracked lips turned into a wide grin that stretched across her face and her eyes pierced deep into me, registering no emotion.

“Come closer, Karel,” her voice dripped as she beckoned me slowly with her bony finger, “You’ve grown so big.”
I gasped awake. A pale dawn light peeked through the curtains. So it was all a nightmare.

I pushed my sheets aside and climbed out of bed, feeling oddly shaken from the experience. The portraits were much less intimidating in the morning light and I strolled past them with ease as I made my way to the kitchen. Mom was standing with her back to me in front of the sink, staring absent mindedly into the back field.

“Everything okay?” I asked. She slowly turned around and I knew something was wrong.

“I just got a call,” she said hollowly, “Your grandmother died last night.”

I felt myself go rigid.

“Wh-what?” I asked. “Do you know what time?”

Mom looked at me a little confused, slowly replying,

 “Around one-thirty.”

*This story was written by Kiersten Sahlberg. It is based off of true experience her mom had when she was younger. Hair, Makeup and pictures of me by Paige. Other model is Taylor. Be sure to check out yesterdays Halloween story, written by Dane, based off of a ghost experience my grandma had. 

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