By J.J. Cheesman
When I was younger, I always loved going to my cousin Jimmy’s house to play. My Aunt and Uncle were a bit more well off than my parents were, so Jimmy had a bigger house that was perfect for our Hide-and-Seek games. We would spend hours in that two-story home, hiding in all the crevices and cracks that our seven-year-old bodies could fit into. Jimmy’s room itself was big enough to have not one, but a number of good hiding spots. I remember feeling a bit envious of Jimmy back then.
The very last time I ever stayed at that house is a horrifying stain that I’ve never been able to wash out of the fabric of my memory. That day was a day like any other. Jimmy’s Mother and Father were outside sitting on the patio drinking lemonade and chatting with one another, which meant that Jimmy and I had free range over the inside of the home. It was my turn to hide, and we had already been at our game of Hide and Seek for nearly an hour. Playing for so long had meant that most of our usual hiding spots had been used already, but I had been intentionally avoiding one hiding spot in particular; Jimmy’s bedroom closet. At the beginning of our game, I didn’t choose the closet as a hiding place because I thought it was too obvious, and as I expected, I heard Jimmy check the closet almost immediately from my hiding space under his bed and then again when I hid behind his large curtains. However, I had not heard him check the closet the last couple times that Jimmy went searching. I was a crafty kid, and I figured that Jimmy must have realized what I had, that it was TOO obvious of a hiding spot. So obviously, I elected to make that my next hiding space.
We started the round of the game as we always did in the upstairs hallway. Jimmy covered his eyes with his hands and began counting down from ten. We were only feet from Jimmy’s room and my intended hiding spot from where we stood in the hallway, so I knew I would be heard if I went to the closet immediately. So, moving as quietly as I could, and keeping my footsteps in time with Jimmy’s counting, I made my way into his parent’s room and slid under their bed feet first. My plan was to wait until Jimmy was searching somewhere out of ear-shot, then change hiding places. It was a dirty trick, but it was sort of an unwritten rule that if you didn’t get caught doing it, it was fair game.
I hardly had time to get comfortable when Jimmy shouted,
“Ready or not, here I come!” and I heard him bound into his own room searching for me. To my surprise, I heard him open his closet door almost immediately. A moment later, I heard him shut the door again. I was relieved, both that I didn’t choose to go there first and that he checked the closet already so he wouldn’t think to check it after I switched spots. I heard Jimmy’s footsteps as he went about his room, searching a couple other places until finally I heard him step out of the room and head downstairs. I was fairly lucky Jimmy hadn’t checked his parents room even though we technically weren’t allowed to play in there. But again, as long as my Aunt and Uncle didn’t catch us in there, there was no harm done.
I stayed still for a couple of seconds underneath the bed until I was sure Jimmy wasn’t coming back any time soon. Then I slid like a snake out from under the bed, and I creeped as quietly as I could across the hall, to the closet that had been my intended hiding spot all along. I slowly turned the handle and slipped inside the closet, shutting the door behind me as I did. When the door closed I was plunged into darkness, and I had to feel my way around to pushing passed the hanging shirts, hiding behind them for good measure. All there was to do then, was wait. Standing there in the dark behind those clothes, I couldn’t even see the crack of light underneath the door. There was nothing I could do but listen and smile as I thought about Jimmy somewhere downstairs searching fruitlessly for my hiding spot. I even chuckled to myself a couple of times thinking about the look on his face when he realized that I duped him.
I stood there in the black of that space for a long time, and after a while I grew tired of standing. I relaxed and let my back hit the wall behind me, then I slid to the floor. From my new position, I could see passed the hanging shirts to the light under the door, but not much else. I remember staring at that light, and listening to the sound of my own breathing as time ticked away. I don’t know how long I sat there with my back against the wall waiting on Jimmy. Hours seemed to pass, but it must have been only minutes, time works differently in the mind of a child. Somewhere in that amount of time though, I must have fallen asleep, because my next memory is waking up with a jolt to a faint sound.
For a moment I was confused. I was still sitting down, leaning against the wall, but I didn’t know where I was right away. The room was completely dark, and I looked everywhere for some sort of light but I couldn’t see anything at all. I reached out with my hand, my fingertips grazed along the hanging shirts and I realized I was still in the closet. The faint sound that woke me up was getting louder by the second, and I could make it out as a soft giggling. I wondered if it was Jimmy, maybe he found me sleeping in there and shut the door and was waiting to scare me once I woke up and came out. I looked for the light under the closet door, but I still couldn’t make out anything. ‘Great’ I thought, ‘Jimmy must have shoved some blankets under the crack’. I stood and pushed passed the hanging shirts and made my way to the closet door, but after a moment or two of walking in the dark I realized something was very wrong.
Although Jimmy’s house was bigger than mine, it wasn’t a mansion, and his closet was no bigger than any of the ones I had ever seen. My stomach churned as I kept moving forward and I started to sweat as reality began to creep its way into my mind. I definitely should have reached the closet door by that point. How could it be possible that the closet had grown in size? I increased my speed, in near panic mode by then. As I walked I came to another horrifying conclusion. The giggling that I had first thought was Jimmy was getting louder, and it was coming from somewhere close behind me. Before I had been cautious, afraid to bump into something in the dark, but when that giggle echoed all around that pitch-black room I broke out into a run.
The giggle was light and shrill, and it sounded like it was coming from a little girl. I was terrified, and I began to cry and scream as I ran, calling out for Jimmy, and for my Aunt and Uncle, for anyone to get me out of that awful place. The only thing that answered me back was that incessant giggling. All I could do was run through that endless void of black, and soon that giggle became so loud that I couldn’t even hear my own cries for help. I began to feel as if the darkness would soon swallow me whole, and I wouldn’t even be able to move.
Somewhere in that dark madness I tripped over my own feet and fell to the floor. My fear had become paralyzing, and my breath’s became short and fast. At that moment I realized footsteps were now accompanying that shrilly giggle, and they were approaching very quickly. I was so scared that all I could do is curl up in a ball and wait for the owner of that giggle to grab me and take me away into the dark. Then, a bright light flooded the closet, banishing the darkness and with it, the approaching footsteps. I looked up to see Jimmy’s confused and concerned face blinking down at me from the closet doorway.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked, “Were you crying?” I stood from my fetal position, and wiped the tears from my eyes. Trying my best to sound calm I said,
“No, nothing, I’m fine, just a little sick is all.” I looked back behind me to confirm that the closet was just that, a closet. I saw nothing but hanging shirts on a pole with a flat wall behind them. I turned back to Jimmy who was still looking at me strangely.
“Well should I tell Mom and Dad?” he asked.
“No, no, I’m fine, you found me, so it’s your turn to hide, but can we play outside now?”
Jimmy looked upset for a moment, then he smiled,
“Yeah, that’s a good idea, there are plenty of good spots outside!” Jimmy turned, and bolted out the door, and I ran after him but I stopped just outside his room when I heard the sound of giggling once more. I turned slowly, to look behind me at the closet door that had been left open.
There in the doorway, so tall that it had to stood so it didn’t hit its head on the ceiling, was a large white creature. For just a moment I stood with stone feet, unable to move at the sight of that awful thing. It had two spindly legs that seemed too thin to support its weight, and its arms were long and bent at odd angles. But its face was the most striking of all its features. The creature had no eyelids, just wide unblinking eyes. Its mouth hung open in an ‘O’ shape and within it was only blackness. The horrifying thing giggled once again and I sprinted down the steps and dashed passed Jimmy who was putting in shoes on by the front door, I ran outside and began begging my Aunt and Uncle to take me home. After several questions about why I wanted to go home and getting answers about me being home sick, they obliged. I hurt Jimmy’s feelings, but I didn’t care. I swore a silent oath that I wasn’t ever going inside that house as long as I lived.
I haven’t been inside my Aunt and Uncle’s house since then, and I never once said anything to anybody about what happened on that day. I always kept thinking that I would wake up and be told Jimmy had disappeared in the middle of the night while the family was sleeping, but that never happened. I’m glad for that, I think the guilt would have destroyed me. There is one issue though. That incident was fifteen years ago, and I would like to pass it off as a childish imagination-fueled fever dream but I can’t. I can’t because ever since that day, when I’m in my bed late and night and it’s very quiet. I can hear the sound of a little girl’s giggle, from just behind my closet door.