It was quiet. Amanda and I were home alone. We had been working on her room for several hours, throwing out piles of worn out shoes, old clothes, and useless handbags. Her bedroom was hidden beneath three massive piles – one of books and movies, one of clothes and shoes she liked, and the one that was trash. She sat down on the edge of the bed to take a break, and I volunteered to go into the kitchen to get us glasses of water.
I turned down the little hall at the entry of her room, and made it to the door. It was a good door, well-oiled and balanced on its hinges. We had been passing in and out of it with no problem throughout the day. It opened and closed effortlessly and soundlessly. This time was different. I grabbed the doorknob and gave it a pull, but the door froze. I felt it pull against me, as if someone was on the other side, holding it. I planted my foot against the wall and pulled with all of my might but to no avail. After a second, the doorknob was ripped out of my grasp and the door slammed shut. I stumbled back.
Amanda came running, thinking that I had tripped on something and fallen. When I told her what had happened, she just stared at me in shock. “Someone…wouldn’t let you out?” she had to ask. I nodded, and showed her what I had done to try and force it open. When Amanda tried to open the door, it opened as it was supposed to, without any trouble.
Half an hour later, we resumed our work. “Audra, will you go with me upstairs? I don’t like it up there… It gives me the creeps, and I always feel like something is watching me…” she pleaded with me. I gave in, although not exactly sure I understood what she meant. It ended up that I led the way up the stairs, and she directed me into the storage room. The windows were shut, the blinds pulled, and the window units were turned off. The closet door was shut, and the overhead lights were off. The only light was a glow coming through the window blinds, turning the room orange like the sunset outside. It felt dark, heavy, and hot. It wasn’t the lack of cold air kind of hot, either; it was a make your skin crawl kind of hot.
In the back corner of the room stood four dusty Christmas trees, a stack of clear storage boxes, and a couple of rolled up rugs. Against the side wall was a mound of assorted cardboard boxes and a container of black garbage bags. “You need these?” I asked her, gesturing to the cardboard. She nodded, already hastily picking up a couple of boxes in her hands and tossing them down the stairs, coming back for more. I stooped to get a couple, but a sound made me pause. It was a peculiar sound, just barely audible and it made the hair on my arms and neck stand straight up. It was a deep, hollow, breathy hiss.
It disturbed me. I glanced at Amanda, and she was still going. She had not heard it. My eyes kept wandering over to the closet door, but I didn’t know why. After a moment, my heart settled and I reasoned with myself, It’s just a rodent. I hissed back at the unidentified creature, hoping to scare it off. I went back to work.
Amanda and I kept transferring boxes down the stairs. On our third trip, there was a loud knock in the bedroom, on the other side of the floor. She went running into the room when a piece of metal rang and echoed, and a curtain fluttered against an unexpected breeze. There was a metal cup on the floor, and a pencil had landed beside it. We searched the windows and the walls. There were no cracks, no openings, and still no power. Everything was off. Everything was stuffy, stagnant, and still. I was standing near the wall, next to the door, and then it happened.
There was a rush of wind behind me, a hot wave that sent a shock of electricity up my spine. I felt some of my hair get pulled along, like fingers brushing through it; everything led back into the storage room on the other side of the stairs. I swore, and followed it, freezing in the doorway when I saw that the closet door was open. “Amanda, did you open this door?!” I called, heart pounding in my chest.
“Which door?” she answered back, peeking over my shoulder.
“The closet door!”
“What? It’s open?!”
Obviously, her answer was a ‘no’. I swallowed. Something felt wrong. The back of my neck began to itch. It spread down onto the back of my left shoulder, and it began to sting. A tingling sensation spread across my entire upper back, down the back of my left arm, all the way to my elbow, and around. I shivered, trying to shake the feeling. Amanda watched me, nervous. “You okay? What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. I feel weird…”
I went to the closet, slammed the door shut, and we rushed back to the staircase, closing the storage room door behind us. I ran down the stairs as my back and arm began to burn and itch intensely, but I didn’t dare reach back and soothe it. Amanda closed the door to the stairway and we vanished back into her bedroom.
“Look at my back,” I commanded. “What do you see?”
“Nothing. What is it? You’re really pale. What happened?”
“It’s my back! Are you sure there isn’t anything there?”
“I’m sure! You look fine!”
It didn’t make sense. I went to my purse, fumbling around for my digital camera. “Don’t touch me. Just take a picture!”
I handed her the camera and pulled my hair up out of the way. She snapped two pictures, one with flash, and one without. I waited for her to do something else, anything else, just to break the silence. After a long moment, I turned to face her. She was staring at the little screen on the camera. “I don’t know what that is…” she whispered.
“Give it to me,” I told her, offering my hand. I took the memory card out of the machine and went to her computer, sitting on her dresser. I turned off the music that was playing softly in the background and inserted the card. When the device registered, I opened the file and studied the picture.
I muttered a little prayer, terrified by what I saw. They were invisible to the naked eye, but there were claw marks all over my neck and shoulder, some of them stretching down below the fabric of my shirt. “Amanda, did you ever touch me?” I asked her, voice soft.
“No. I never got close enough. What is it?”
I swallowed hard. “Claw marks… Someone…something scratched me…!”
Two minutes later, Amanda put her own little night light in the power socket at the bottom of the stairs.