The Knocking Girl

By J.J. Cheesman

 

When I was a boy I; like many children do I suppose, had an incredible fear of the dark. After being tucked in at night, I would beg and plead for my Mom or Dad to not shut out the lights, and they always agreed.  That is until the start of my second grade year. My parents decided I was a big boy and I needed to learn that the dark was nothing to be afraid of. To help with this transition, my Dad bought me a very bright night-light for my bedside table. I hated the idea of just having the nightlight on at first. But after my Mother shut off the room light switch and showed me how bright the nightlight was I warmed up to it. That first night with only that little light by my bedside is a memory that I can recall with certain clarity after all these years. For that night marked the first of many visits from the knocking girl.

The glow of that little light was comforting, like a beacon of safety in the dark. It made me feel safe and before I knew it I had fallen asleep under its protective glow. Three distinct knocks woke me from my slumber sometime later in the night. My eyes flew open and my head turned to look at my bedroom door which was left slightly ajar. The only thing there that intruded was the light shining in from the lamp in the hallway. Then, once again came three sharp knocks from somewhere beyond the foot of my bed. I shot up in a sitting position and stared passed the foot of my bed at my closet door. Thanks to my adolescent mind, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. I just sat there staring at the dark wood of that door, only partially illuminated by the light at my bedside. Then once again and so abruptly it made me jump, came three knocks. Only this time they were louder, and the time between each separate knock was greater. My breathing became heavy and my heart pounded, and just I was about to call out for my parents I was cut off. A soft but somehow warped little girl’s voice, called out from behind the closet door.

“Let me come out Joshua, I’m so lonely.”

I screamed. I screamed louder and harder than I ever had at the time, or ever since. Both of my parents burst into my room and asked me what was wrong but I couldn’t answer, I just kept screaming. It took some time but eventually my parents calmed me down and I was able to tell them what happened. They told me it was just a nightmare, but I wasn’t having any of that. I told them I was never sleeping in my room ever again. My father being the progressive problem solver that he was however, fetched a screwdriver from his toolbox and began taking the closet door off of its hinges. Once the door was off, my parents stayed with me until I fell asleep.

The knocking girl never returned to my room after that night, but she never left me alone either. I found out the very next day a couple of rules about the knocking girl. The first one was that it didn’t have to be dark for her to visit me. The second rule, is that it doesn’t have to be a closet.

The following day that I was first visited by my knocking nightmare, I was sitting in a bathroom stall at school. It was just after gym period, and the physical exercise had helped move along that morning’s breakfast to my lower intestine and I was pretty thankful when I found the bathroom empty. I was just finishing my business, when I heard the echoing footsteps of someone entering the bathroom. I froze in my seat. It was clear from the slapping sound on the floor that whomever the new arrival was, they were barefoot. I waited as the footsteps drew nearer to the stall I was in, which was located at the very end of the aisle and up against the wall. I decided to call out then.

“Hello?” I asked but received no reply, only the *Slap, Slap, Slap* of feet on linoleum. Somehow, the silence was more frightening than if anything at all would have answered me. I didn’t call out anymore after that, but out of instinct I picked my feet up slowly off of the floor and scooted as far back on the toilet as I could, placing my feet on the rim of the bowl. *Slap, Slap, Slap* The footsteps were nearly at my stall now, and I closed my eyes tightly as the sound of steps continued.

 *Slap, Slap, Slap* Whoever was out there was now directly in front of my stall. I kept my eyes closed and hoped the intruder would just leave. Then a familiar sound resounded throughout that bathroom stopped my breath in my throat. Three hard knocks pounded against the door to my stall, followed by that same warped voice.

“Joshua, there’s nothing to be afraid of. I only want to make you my friend.”

Tears began to freely fall from my closed eyes, and I shouted,

“Go away!!”

“Joshua” The voice replied,

“Don’t be like that. If you don’t let me in, I’ll have to come in there after you!”

The threat made me open my eyes, and what I saw under that stall door made me scream until I sent myself into a panic attack and blacked out. Under the stall I could see two bare white feet, but that’s not what caused me to lose consciousness.

 A face stared at me from under that stall. The face of a girl with a wide glaring blue eyes and a mouth that had its bottom jaw removed, so that her tongue hung down and swung loosely from her open maw. Her neck was unnaturally long, and twisted underneath the stall door just enough so that her head was partially in the stall with me. Those blue eyes are all that I remember before waking up in the nurse’s office.

Apparently the school janitor was mopping the hallway just outside the bathroom when he heard me screaming bloody murder. The school called my mom and I was questioned over and over about what happened to me in that bathroom. I really didn’t know what to say so I made up some story about falling asleep while I was on the toilet and having a nightmare.

 The school sent me home anyway, and my Mother was furious. She didn’t ground me or anything though, I think she just felt sorry for me and didn’t know how to help. I told her I was fine when she asked later that day. I lied.

From then on the knocking girl came to me at any time that I was alone. If my parents were outside and I was walking passed the hallway closet, I heard knocking. If I was alone in my kitchen, I could hear knocking coming from inside every single cabinet. Sometimes she would call out from wherever she was knocking. Telling me that she needed a friend to keep her company. I don’t know why she couldn’t just open the door and come get me, but I was sure as hell glad she didn’t.

 It didn’t occur to me immediately, but eventually I wondered how she could even speak in the first place if her bottom jaw was removed. I suppose if you’re being haunted by a spirit that is a silly thing to wonder, but honestly? I sort of got used to her. Eventually she even stopped speaking all together. She just knocked from behind whatever barrier she could for whatever reason not pass through. That made it easier become more relaxed.

I don’t mean to say I was never afraid of her. Don’t get me wrong I never wanted to see that horrible face again. But as I grew older, she sorts of became a normalcy. I just lived my life by specific rules. I never went to a public bathroom anymore, my bathroom breaks were scheduled at home and when there were people in the house. I also grew accustomed to never opening a door unless someone I knew was on the other side of it.

Then when I was ten years old, the worst happened. I was staying all night at my friend Reggie’s house. Yes, I had friends. Despite being known as the kid that passed out in the bathroom one year I was popular enough. I never told anyone about the knocking girl though, that’s probably why I didn’t have any trouble making friends. God I wish I would have.

Reggie and I were sitting in his basement playing Nintendo on the small T.V. down there when Reggie decided he was going to get us a couple soda’s. He opened the basement door and bounded up the stairs, shutting the door behind him as he did so. I continued playing until I heard a loud knock from the front door. I then heard footsteps as Reggie walked from the kitchen to his front door and open it. I heard the muffled noises of what I took as quiet conversation, and then the front door slammed shut. All of this happened, but I was only half paying attention as I was pretty immersed in my game. I heard Reggie walk back to the kitchen and then after a moment, I heard footsteps on the basement stairs again.

Then from the bottom of the door, rang out three hard knocks. *Bang, Bang, Bang* I froze and my heart raced in my chest as my thoughts immediately went to the knocking girl. “Reggie?” I called out.

“Yeah man, could you open the door for me? I brought down some snacks too and my hands are full.”

It was Reggie’s voice alright and although he sounded a bit off, I assumed it was from the strain of holding a load of junk food. “Hold on just a minute.” I said, getting up off of the couch and walking over to the door. Before I could reach the door however, he knocked three more times with his foot. *Bang, Bang, Bang*

“Hold on, I said I’m coming!” I said a little irritated, but then I stopped just before my hand touched the door handle. A half-formed idea was brewing in my mind. A mystery that I had wondering about for quite some time but I was just missing one piece of the puzzle, a piece that I would never have because it would mean endangering my own life. I hoped I was wrong then, but I thought that Reggie must have unwittingly provided that first piece when he answered the three knocks at the front door. I then knew how the knocking girl could speak without a bottom jaw. It was likely that I once thought belonged to her, never did.

There was a sizeable gap at the bottom of that basement door, and I fell down on my hands and knees to peer under it. When I did, I was met with the immediate sight of two piercing blue eyes. I threw myself back and scooted on my butt all the way against the far wall as the basement door began to immediately be assailed by a flurry of angry knocks.

“NOOO!” I could hear a voice from the other side of the door shriek as the pounding on the door grew louder. The voice was not quite the knocking girl’s and not quite Reggie’s, but an amalgamation of the two voices along with several others.

“NO!!!! YOU WILL BE MINE BOY IF IT TAKES ME ONE-HUNDRED YEARS, YOU WILL BE MINE!!” The myriad of voices assaulted my eardrums and I had to cover my ears because the pounding and screaming became too loud. My heart began to race and I began crying loudly as I was stricken by my second panic attack, and I fainted.

I woke up sometime later in Reggie’s living room surrounded by my parents as well as Reggie’s crying mother, along with some policemen in uniform. The police asked me questions while my Dad stood by listening to the interrogation and my Mother tried to console the woman who would never see her son again. They asked me if I remembered what the intruder looked like, and they asked me how I kept the door barred while he attempted to break it down. I didn’t really know what to tell them so I just shrugged and nodded to most of it. I was confused and scared, I didn’t know how to tell them there was no conventional intruder. Why would they believe me anyway? I later found out that Reggie’s Mom had left the house just before Reggie came up to get snacks for us. She needed to get some milk for the dinner she was going to prepare for us and thought that we would be fine in the five minutes it would take her to get back. When she got home she found the basement door had several scratches and indentations in the wood. She found me at the bottom of the stares unconscious and immediately called the police and the ambulance. While she was on the phone she frantically searched the house for Reggie. Like I said, she never found him. I felt bad for Reggie, and I felt bad for his Mom. But I didn’t know the knocking girl would come after anyone else, how could I have? Still, I wish I would have said something, even then. If I had, maybe Reggie would have been the only disappearance I would have to mourn.

That day at Reggie’s house was so long ago. I am a fully grown adult now, living in my parent’s house that was left to me in their will after they too disappeared.  Every door in the house is removed of course, except for the front and back door. Tonight I’m opening my third bottle of whiskey this week, it’s always easier to handle the nights when I’m toasted. Tonight will be like every other night, I will sit in my easy chair facing the front door and I will wait for the knocking girl to come. She always does, sometimes she speaks in Mom’s voice, sometimes she speaks in Reggie’s voice. Sometimes she speaks in Dad’s voice, and sometimes she speaks in a completely different voice that I may or may not recognize. But she always knocks, entreating entrance into my home. I have dealt with the knocking all my life, and at thirty-three I have grown quite tired of the knocking.

With each bottle of whiskey however, I believe I am growing closer to answering that knock. Maybe tonight will be the night, that I let the knocking girl inside to play.

The Knocking Girl

Battle Road

By J.J. Cheesman

Driving home late one evening last week, I was extraordinarily tired. I had just finished a twelve-hour shift at work, and I had to be up early for another twelve the following day.

I lived about forty-five minutes away from work, outside of town and out in the country. I should move closer I know, but I just cannot deal with the sounds that come with living in an urban area.

At any rate, I was driving down that last long stretch of road that veered off from the main highway and eventually led to my house. That road was enigmatically called ‘Battle Road’. It has been called that ever since I can remember, and I still don’t know why.

I was nearly ten miles out on that road, my eyes feeling heavy from the long night of work and the little sleep I had gotten due to previous nights of the very same.

It was then and there; nearly on the halfway mark to my home, that the beam of my headlights began to weaken. I knew the telltale signs of a car beginning to break down. I pulled over to the shoulder of the road as the lights on my dash board began to dim. My engine then stalled as my truck slowed to a stop. I inhaled deeply and leaned back into my seat, exhaling as my scalp hit the headrest. A sense of looming dread washed over me as I prepared myself to check the hood.

“Dammit” I said out loud to no one as I reached under my seat for the hood release lever. A hard *thunk* resounded as I pulled the lever, and I opened the driver-side door and got out of my vehicle.

I walked around the front of my truck and opened the hood, examining the alternator and battery but found nothing amiss. The belts were fine as well, and there was no evidence to suggest the engine was in any disrepair. In fact, it was very odd that my truck had broken down at all as I made sure to take very good care of it. Finding nothing wrong under the hood, I closed it and as I did I was frozen by the immediate sight of a shadow within the cab of my truck on the passenger side.

I fell back from surprise, landing on the hard dirt that lined the shoulder of Battle Road. I was panting and sweating, and standing up straight took me more than one try. But once I had regained my footing, I saw no one within my vehicle and I had not heard any movement besides my own. I walked around to the passenger side of the truck and peered in through the glass and saw nothing at all amiss. I walked back around to the driver’s side and got into the seat.

I had planned to try turning the ignition in hopes that the engine would once again spring to life, but I was all at once stricken with a tiredness that I cannot explain. I fought it as best I could, but try as I might my head became cloudy and my vision soon became dark. I was asleep before I knew it.

I was startled awake in the wee hours of the morning by the ringing of my cell, which lay on the passenger seat of my truck. The name on the screen was that of my son, Christopher. I could not believe I had fallen asleep on that road, but perhaps it was for the best. If I was that tired, I could of likely killed myself, or worse. Picking up the phone I said,

“Hello?”

“Daddy when are you coming home, I’m worried.” Though I felt horrible for falling asleep, I couldn’t help but smile at the sound of my son’s voice.

“Soon son, I’m sorry, Daddy is just running late is all.” I said.

“Okay Daddy, I love you.” Tears began to form in my eyes then, despite my smile.

“I love you too Christopher.” I hung up the phone, my smile now turning into a grimace of guilt. I turned the key that still rested within the ignition and my truck sprung to life, as it always did.

I arrived at my home twenty minutes later and bounded upstairs passed all of the framed pictures of Christopher and I that were taken quite some time ago. The one at the very top of the stairway gave me pause, as it was the most recent one of my son and I.

Christopher had badly wanted to go to the carnival that had made its way to town one week, and though I had worked double shifts every day since, I promised I would take him Saturday. When I got off of work that mid-day, I picked Chris up from his baby sitter.We spent nearly all night at the carnival having Father and Son time, bonding over carnival games and cotton candy. It was my favorite memory of us. The picture in the frame depicted me and Chris of course, him smiling and me laughing. I held him in my arms as some nice stranger I had asked to take our picture agreed and snapped the photo. Just before the photo was snapped, Chris pushed the cotton candy he had in his hand on my nose and told me to stop being a clown, and I burst into laughter. He was such a funny and intelligent boy.I turned from the photo as tears returned to my eyes and I let them fall from my face freely as I looked to the open door of Chris’s empty room.

I walked inside and sat down on the bed, picking up the blue stuffed teddy bear he had won from a ring toss game the night he died. I hugged the bear close to my chest as overwhelming sadness in my heart pushed forth water from my eyes as if a damn had been opened.

“Thank you…. I’m so sorry… god I am so sorry.” I whispered to the ever listening but never speaking blue bear, who would just stare blankly with his brown button eyes.

I was so tired that night that Chris and I were coming home from that carnival. It is no excuse, but as a single parent you have to work twice as hard to provide for your family. The long hours had caused me to fall asleep at the wheel, and my car slammed into another going the opposite direction. I survived the wreck along with the other driver with minor injuries. But it was the passenger side of my car that received the blunt of the wreck. Chris died on impact, as two tons of steel crushed his fragile head.

 I have not forgiven myself for what I did to my son, and I had tried to make it right by ending my own life several times, but I was such a coward I could never go through with it.

Christopher though, he is still with me. You see, I am mechanic. I keep my truck in pristine condition. There is no reason it should ever stall or break down, and yet every now and then it does.

On late nights, my truck stalls and I always pull over to the shoulder of the road and I am NEVER able to fight the extreme exhaustion that forces me into slumber.

Most times Chris calls me, sometimes he doesn’t. I think it’s hard for him sometimes. He protects me every time, without fail. But I think it’s difficult even for his spirit to speak in that place where he lost his life ten years ago.

That place they call Battle Road.

 

Battle Road

Green on White

 By J.J Cheesman

My Father was an artist. Not just an artist, he was a pretty damn good one. I’m not boasting in any form, but my Father’s work was well respected and our house reflected that fact. Unfortunately, my Father’s choice in career left him little time for my sister and I.

He would spend long hours in his studio at the end of the hallway on the second floor of my childhood home. My sister and I were not permitted inside the room where my Father painted his masterpieces and we weren’t even aloud on the second floor where our bedrooms were located if he was painting. Mom said the noise was too distracting for him.

 

One night however, when Dad felt very ill and was laid out on the couch downstairs slumbering, I got it into my head that I wanted to see what lay beyond the door to his studio. The mystery of a closed door is so entrancing and enticing to that of a seven-year-olds mind. I decided that I would tell my sister so that she could keep a look out and make sure Mom wasn’t coming up stairs to bring laundry or that Dad wasn’t awake yet.

“No way!” Jennie screeched in her sizeable room when I told her my plan.

“What if we get caught? I don’t want to get in trouble!” She whined.

“If we’re caught I will take all the blame, and if you do this for me I’ll give you all of my Halloween candy this year.” Jennie considered this for a Moment, her face scrunching up and I swear I saw the gears in her head turning as she weighed the cons of getting caught, and the pros of having two whole hauls of candy that year. Jennie was actually two years older than me, but I was a stuck up child I will admit. I believed myself to be the more mature of the two sisters, and I didn’t need any childish treats to pine over. Finally, Jennie agreed.

“Okay Lanie, but if I don’t get my candy I’ll tell Mom and Dad everything about you going into Dad’s room!” Of that, I had no doubt.

So Moments later, Jennie sat at the top of the stairwell pretending to play with her dolls as she kept watch over the staircase. I walked as quickly as I could with little regard as to how much sound I was making until I got to the door that Jennie and I knew back then as and only as ‘Dad’s room’. I knew Dad painted back then, except in my childish mind I thought of Dad in that room with crayons of all colors drawing on scratch paper. It’s funny how a child’s mind works. Nevertheless, I had never seen one of Dad’s paintings. Jennie and I were both forbidden to know. I had heard before that Dad drew his inspiration from Picasso, though at that age I couldn’t have any idea what that meant. I was in for quite the surprise.

I reached for the doorknob of on the oak door of Dad’s room, and turned it as slowly as I could as to not make any sound until the handle quietly creaked to a stop. I slowly opened the door, bracing myself for the loud creak of the aged hinges. Luckily, there came none. I decided to open the door only enough for small body to squeeze through, which I did with some effort.

Once inside, my eyes were met with a daunting sight. There were paintings everywhere. Canvases plastered every inch of every wall in that small room. The paintings on each canvas held its own monstrosity. Faces with twisted mouths that stretched over their heads. Bodies that were riddled with bloody infected puss filled holes, and from out of the holes sprouted fully healthy flowers of all kinds.

 One canvas I saw depicted a child with cuts all over its face. Its eyes were gone and its hair was ripped out of its head in oddly random spots, leaving a patchy bloody mess on top. Its nose was split, revealing a gruesome opening of bone and white, gooey liquid. I say ‘it’ because I could not tell you even now if the painting was supposed to be male or female, although it was certainly human.

I stumbled backwards in fear, tripping over my own feet and falling to the floor. I landed on my back, though I saved my head from smacking into the wood by keeping it elevated as I fell. My eyes were then met by the grandest and most terrifying painting yet. There, covering the entirety of the white ceiling and painted in a sickly green, was a face. A face that I can only describe best as ‘demonic’. It smiled down at me revealing rows of needle-like teeth. It had two slits in the center of its face that I can only assume were supposed to be his nose. The eyes, oh god the eyes. The iris was a wicked burning-yellow surrounding a fiery orange pupil, and when my eyes met the paintings gaze I swear to this day that awful thing’s smile grew ever wider.

I scrambled to my feet in a madman’s dash and ran out of that terrifying room. I slammed the door of that hell, not caring whether or not anyone heard or investigated, and I sprinted to my own room slamming in locking the door. I ran to my bed and dove onto it, pushing my face as deeply as I could into my pillows and sobbing. Jennie came to my door and knocked asking what was wrong but I just screamed at her to go away.

Later, Mom came upstairs and knocked on my door to tell me dinner was ready. When I came out of my room, Mom said I didn’t look good and she felt my head.

“Oh my you’re warm! Maybe you caught whatever your Father has, get back into bed and I’ll bring dinner up.” I did as I was told, and although I was still quite shaken, I felt much better after I ate. One thing I knew for sure though, I was never going into Dad’s room again.

It was a couple months after that incident that Dad grew to be very moody. Whenever my sister or I would try to talk to him he would brush us off. When Dad had his sessions of painting in his room, we could hear him shouting profanities and curses from all the way downstairs.

“What’s wrong with Dad?” Jennie asked Mom after one of these episodes.

“Your Father is looking for inspiration dear, don’t worry he will find it, he always does.”

Then, one bright and sunny day, I was stuck inside with a cold while Jennie and Dad were out fishing and Mom was making soup. I remember that day so well. The warm sunlight streaming in through my bed room window making the shadows of my curtains dance over my covers in wondrous patterns that made me wish I was outside playing with my friends. I heard the ring of the phone in the kitchen downstairs and then silence as my Mother answered it. Then I heard the shrieking, tormented cry of my Mother. Though I was sick and very weak, her scream forced me out of my bed and downstairs faster than I have ever ran before. When I reached the kitchen, I saw my Mother kneeling down with her back against the wall and receiver in hand. She was crying so agonizingly. When she saw me she howled at me through angry tears to go up to my room. Her shouting startled me, and tears streamed from my own eyes as I sprinted back up to my bed.

Dad and Jennie went fishing that day out on Crystal Lake which was common place for everyone in our sleepy little town as we didn’t have much to do. There was a long wooden bridge at the center of the sizeable lake that stretched from one bank to the other, the middle of the bridge being directly over the deepest part of the lake, and also the point where Jennie had fallen in and drowned. There were many people fishing on the bridge that day, and many people witnessed my sister fall through the wooden slats in the railing of the bridge. She didn’t lose her balance they said, at least it didn’t seem like it. It was more like something pulled or pushed her off that bridge.  Witnesses that I’ve talked with to this day have said that my Father was digging through his tackle box, that there was no way he was responsible. That at least, brings me some comfort.

Two other men alongside my Father dove into that deep water after my sister, but they never found her. When the Police and rescue teams came with all their equipment and all their training, they never found a trace of her either.

My Father blamed himself for the whole thing. A week after the incident, some unfortunate soul found my Father hanging from the railing of the bridge at Crystal Lake, his body swaying back and forth in the fog that rolled on the water.

 My Mother blamed Dad too I think. For while I was deeply torn and broken by the loss of my Father, Mom showed little remorse. Maybe Mom did show remorse though, because after Dad hung himself she turned to the drink. She would spend long hours in her bedroom reading and drinking, though she didn’t ignore me. Mom still cherished me as ever before, maybe more so. I was still well taken care of, don’t get me wrong. Mom just understandably had her demons, and this most certainly is not a sob story about me. Poor Jennie is the victim in all of this.

Yes, alcohol was just simply at that dark time, my poor Mother’s only escape. I found my escape however, in my best friend Madison. She too had lost someone; her brother David, who died while her entire family went on a hiking trip. David slipped and fell after misjudging the fortitude of a rock and stepping on it, the fall sent him tumbling down a rocky hill thirty feet down. He didn’t even make it until the paramedics got there.

Madison was there for me, and even my Mother as well. A bond was built on our shared anguish. And her cheery attitude despite our shared tragedy, warmed our hearts.

Then came the day not too long ago when things changed for the worse. It has been many years since Jennie and Dad passed away, and I think about them every day. Although time cannot heal all wounds, it does make everything a little better as it moves forward. I was happy enough, on summer break before entering senior year. Mom was talking about needing to clean out Dad’s old room where he performed his gruesome art, but she didn’t know if she could bear to do it. No one had set foot into Dad’s studio since he hung himself, we never felt the need or want to. But Mom who had stopped drinking regularly for about five years now, decided it was time to close that final door.

 Though the thought of going into that room sent shivers down my spine, I knew I could handle it better than Mom. For me, all that it entailed was dealing with the sight of those macabre paintings again. For Mom who had been married to Dad for fifteen years before his passing, I am sure it held a maelstrom of emotional strain that I could not (and wished not) understand.

So I called Madison and asked if she would help. Madison said that of course, she had no problem helping me. Madison came over shortly after I called, and we collected empty boxes from the basement saved from various birthdays and Christmas’s with the intent to re-use them for gift packing.

Gathering as many boxes as we could, the two of us headed upstairs and down to the door at the very end of the hall. I stopped before opening the door and took a deep breath.

“Whatever you do, don’t look up.” I told Madison.

“Why?” she asked.

“Trust me, it’s just creepy.” I said.

Madison nodded, and I figured the best way to get this done would be like ripping off a bandage. I twisted the doorknob hard and flung open the door quickly. For some reason, my head jerked upward to look at the ceiling out of some morbid curiosity, and I could not shut my eyes in time. But there was nothing there. In that dark and dusty room only partially lit by the sunlit that poured in from its singular window, I thought somehow my eyes were playing tricks on me. I stared at that empty white ceiling waiting for the green demonic face to suddenly materialize, but it never did.

“Oh my god.” Madison said quietly, and I turned to her. She was looking all around the room in amazement.

“Your Dad was freakin’ brilliant!” She exclaimed. I was taken off guard. “You think so?” I said looking back up at the ceiling and once again finding it blank.

“Yes I do; this is really great!” She said walking over to the eastern wall and examining one of the many small canvases. My gaze wandered from the ceiling over the twisted faces and mangled bodies depicted in the paintings, not wanted to look at any of them directly for long.

“Don’t you think they’re sort of dark?” I asked, my eye catching and stopping on one particular painting that depicted the bloated and blue corpse of a child. I crept closer to the painting, thinking that it was somehow familiar. Madison did not reply to my question, so without taking my eyes of the painting I called back to her.

“Maddy?” Immediately after the words left my lips Madison cried out.

“What the hell?” She said in a troubled voice barely louder than a whisper. I did not ask her what bothered her, I was becoming wrapped up in a realization of my own as my breath caught in my throat. I heard a shuffling sound of wood on wood, and then footsteps as Madison broke my line of sight with the bloated corpse depicted in the canvas, with a corpse depicted on yet another. On the canvas, was one of the same paintings that gave me nightmares so many years ago.

I stared at a child without eyes, and a split and broken nose.

“Why did your Dad paint MY Brother?!” Madison demanded, thrusting the canvas at me.

“What?” I asked, starting to feel the room spin. “My Brother Lanie, why in the hell did your Dad paint a picture of my dead Brother?!” I had no answer for her. I could only slowly shake my head and look back up at the canvas which made my breath catch in my throat. I stared into that awful bloated corpse, floating in a body of water. The twisted blue body, of my once beautiful and radiant older sister.

Madison and I left that room as it was, leaving the painting of Madison’s poor brother lying there on the floor. I explained to Madison through tears that the painting of the drowned girl was my sister and she consoled me for a very long time before suggesting that I stay at her house.

We told my mother that we had worked all day taking down paintings, and that we would finish in the morning but we were exhausted. She said that was alright, and I packed some things to take to Madison’s.

Once at her house, Madison and I shot back theories about what the paintings meant.

“You don’t think your Dad had anything to do with….” Madison said before I cut her off.

“No! he loved us both very much. besides  there were witnesses, he didn’t even touch her.” Madison sighed.

“Yeah, I guess that wouldn’t explain my brother anyway, I was there when it happened, do you think he might have been psychic?” I hadn’t considered that, although I didn’t believe in the paranormal I guess after what we saw anything is possible.

After a long night, Madison and I finally went to sleep. For now, that’s where my story ends. I have caught you up with everything that has happened so far, aside from one small part.

Last night I dreamed of horrible faces on the ceiling in Madison’s room. The faces spoke to me. They said awful terrible things in low hushed whispers. I woke up sweating this morning on Madison’s floor, I told her I was sick and needed to go home. She told me that it was okay and she would see me soon.

Once home, I found myself drawn to my Father’s art room, so I entered it. I now sit here, surrounded by drawing instruments of all kinds. I have an urge to draw so badly. I don’t know why. I don’t know what gave me this urge, but ever since I awoke this morning I have not been able to rid my mind of the image in my dream, and I feel that for some reason if I draw it will go away.

 I don’t think I have mentioned how beautiful I think Madison is, I think I would like to draw her.

Hopefully when I am finished drawing Madison, this image will leave me.

This horrible green on white.

Green on White

Sudden Stop

By J.J Cheesman

 

Lately, I have been addicted to an online poker game. I have spent the past couple of weeks down in my furnished basement at my computer desk, playing hand after hand of Texas Hold ‘em. I would come home, take off my work boots, and be right down at my computer on the weekdays. On the weekends, I would get up early and make a pot of coffee before sitting down with a mug of joe and playing poker. By the evenings, I would already be on my third pot of coffee.

My wife hated this, as you can imagine. Often she gave me irritated looks as I bounded toward the basement steps. She was light-hearted about it though. She knew I had an addictive personality that burned out quickly, all she had to do was weather the storm for a week or two, and I would be sick of card games for a while.

 When I was down in my cozy little basement, my wife would send a text to my cellphone every thirty minutes or so. It was usually something funny like a picture of our dog snuggled up close to her face, her expression one of mild annoyance. If it wasn’t a humorous text, it was to let me know dinner was ready. My wife has always been good to me.

One night after returning home from work, I performed my usual routine of making coffee while my wife and I talked about each of our work days. When the pot of coffee was finished I poured me a cup, kissed my wife, and headed down to the basement to play poker.

 

I was eager to play that day because I had recently made a new friend named Dan. He and I shared the same love for the game of poker and as we played, we would talk about politics and anything else in the media that was relevant. Thanks to one of these conversations over a particularly long game, I lost track of time.

 

I had already spent an hour and a half playing and talking with Dan; so enthralled with our conversation that I didn’t even get up to refill my coffee, when I heard an abrupt *BANG* from somewhere upstairs.

 

“Alex?!” I called out overhead, but got no response. It could have been nothing more than a door closing and Alex not hearing me while she was in the bathroom, but I started to rise from my seat to investigate anyway. Then my phone lit up notifying me that I had a message. I grabbed my phone and saw that the text was from my wife.

When I opened the message it had a picture attached to it of our dog Opie, lying in bed. The message below the picture held the words ‘Sorry, he fell of the bed’.

Then that picture was followed by an emoticon of a tongue sticking out of a smiley face. I sent a reply that said ‘LOL, is he okay?’. I didn’t get a reply back but I heard footsteps upstairs which probably meant Alex left the phone in our bedroom and was about to make dinner. I began playing poker and talking to Dan again, but just a minute later I was interrupted by another text message.

‘Bet I can sneak up on you without you knowing’, the message read. I replied back ‘Ha ha, you are welcome to try’. And after that I waited for a minute listening for my wife’s footsteps.

 My phone lit up once again, this time another picture message of my dog. Opie lie there curled up on top of a pillow on my side of the bed. The words below the picture said ‘If I do you have to sleep with us tonight no matter what!’ and there was another smiley face.

On my latest nights in the basement I made a bad habit in my sleep-deprived and groggy state, of passing out on the couch because I was just too exhausted to make it into the bedroom. ‘Sounds like a deal!’ I typed back. Again I waited to hear my wife’s footsteps on the basement stairs, but all I heard was the distant steps of her somewhere overhead.

Then, suddenly the loud *Bang* from upstairs came once more and I heard footsteps head into the bedroom. My phone lit up, heralding yet again another text message. This time the message was just simple text, but it contained ten words that sent horrifying shivers down my spine. ‘Sorry, went to the store and left my phone here’.

I sprung up from my chair and grabbed the baseball bat I kept at the bottom of the basement stairs. I ran upstairs in a frenzy, searching every room. My wife was understandably troubled by my behavior and kept asking me what was wrong but I didn’t answer her at first.

Once I searched every room in the house I went to my wife in the kitchen and asked to see her phone. She was confused, but reluctantly showed me the messages on her phone. Only two messages shown on her phone from that day. One while I was at work that I never replied to about what she should get for dinner, and the very last one that was sent to my phone that sent me flying upstairs. Confused, I said

“Hold on, I’m going to show you my phone, I left it in the basement but I swear you were texting me this whole time.”

I left a very bewildered-looking Alex in the kitchen as I headed toward the basement steps. I was stopped abruptly however, when my eyes caught sight of something on the ceiling.

Starting from the very top of my basement steps; ending down further into the basement, were deep dark stains. Stains in the shape of footprints that were too small for a grown adult’s. Footprints that suddenly stopped on the space of the ceiling just above my computer chair.

 The chair I was sitting in when I promised whatever was watching me, that I would be sleeping with it that night.

 

Sudden Stop