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[personal profile] davidmacluna
I don't believe in ghosts. That said, there's an old farm in rural Ohio that I have no doubt is haunted.

How do I know this? Because I grew up there.

The place was vacant for over a decade when we bought it; my father always made a point of mentioning how good a deal it was. I don't remember the early years very well - I was six or so when we moved in - but the regular-as-clockwork coming of the Haunt is something I'll never forget.



It came every Sunday night at 12:45 AM, just as Monday began. It started outside, in the barn, a loud pounding and thrumming that moved toward the house like the steps of a big man walking slowly, growing louder and gaining odd little squeaks and pops as it came. When it reached the kitchen porch, it wasn't just loud, it resonated, making the bricks in the walls shiver.

Then there'd be a pause. I always imagined the Thing fishing a house key from a hirsute monster-pocket, as next always came the slow, slow, slow opening of the kitchen door - then the loud BANG! of the door closing, as if to say, "I'm Here!"

Fast, odd-sounding steps all through the downstairs followed, steps that sounded like the world's largest basketball, overfilled with air and slammed against the old wooden floorboards - PANG! PANG! PANG! - the odd pneumatic sound ringing for a brief second between each.

Sooner or later, it headed for the stairs. To climb them nice and slow, floorboards shuddering in time with each thundrous step, until it came to the top... and my bedroom.

Right above the kitchen and open to the stairs, my room was the kind old-timers refer to as a 'dormer room'. I believe 'dormer' translates in modern English as "doorless, open and traps little boys on the wrong side of the stairs with scary monsters."

It wasn't so bad at first. The haunt would come up the stairs, making the house shake with each step - PANG! PANG! PANG! - until it reached the top. Then it entered stealth mode, wandering through my room quietly, just loud enough for me to hear, now and then purposefully bumping my bed or the  dresser next to my head.

The first few times, I kept my eyes screwed shut; it would lean over me, huffling gently in my face, daring me to open them. When I began hiding under the covers - the hell with being a brave big kid - it would slowly, so slowly, pull the bedclothes down. No matter how hard I held onto my blankets, it pulled them inch by inch away; it was like someone scrunching their fingers into the covers with super-strength, making them creep away despite my adrenaline-charged little kid grip.

And that someone would have to be standing at the very foot of my bed, less than a hand's length away from my feet.

I'd wait and wait, then try and pull them up. Sometimes they came.

Sometimes... they didn't.

Once or twice, I'd get the covers all the way back up, only to have them yanked completely off the bed.

Before too long, but never soon enough, the haunt wandered in to visit the rest of my family. Very early on, my Father made a stand. He was a big man, had served in the military, seen action and even had a .45 caliber bullet lodged in his back (although, truth to tell, that came from the father of his first wife).

But when he stood up to the dark figure that hovered over the foot of his bed, they both stopped for a moment. Then my father, almost conversationally, said, "Oh."

And lay back down in the bed. Despite all the stories told by my family about the Ghost, I never have had an accounting of what it specifically did to harass either him or my Mother.

After visiting my parents, it would usually move on to bedevil my sisters, and many a Monday morning came with their bedclothes needing washed.

Then we discovered that it wouldn't come out into the light. Someone left the bathroom overhead on, one night, and the Haunt stopped cold at the light spilling from the open doorway.

It was trapped on my side of the house. And it wasn't happy.

The first night the light blocked it, the Haunt shook the staircase for minutes; plaster dust rained and floorboards warped, but the light stayed on. Then it flew into my room at speed, making the walls shake and my dresser fall over, and yanked the covers from my bed. It leaned down to where it seemed inches from my little boy's face; I felt something like cat's fur dragging across my chin, my lips and then off the bed, only to have it come back up the other side and across me a couple of times.

I never wet the bed as a child. But that night I came damn close.

After It realized that I was not going to open my eyes, it backed off and started going through my things. We were a farm family, and not very well off, so I didn't have many toys.

Of the few I had, I loved my Hot Wheels the most.

If you're not hip to Hot Wheels, they're little metal replicas of famous automobiles. The Haunt slung them around the room like mini jets; one buzzed low enough to clip an eyebrow and make me bleed. Then It tore through the crawlspaces on either side of my room, where old books, clothing and other things were stored, leaving piles of shredded paper and torn fabric behind.

In the morning, I was blamed for most of the mess and, worse still, my Hot Wheels were gone.

The next weekend it did this again. I was asked a number of times that Monday to go to the Nurse's station, and finally my Dad was called to come get me from school early.

The next Sunday, just as the Haunt reached my bed and began to brood and shake the bed, I was desperate... so I spoke to it.

"Nobody can see you from where they're at," I hissed in the smallest little-boy whisper, "Just go shut the bathroom door."

Nine seconds later the bathroom door slammed shut so hard it cracked down the middle, the light snapped off... and all hell broke loose.

The next morning, I felt better than I had in weeks. I'd actually slept and my family's creeping denial about our Ghost had suddenly vanished.

Best of all, my Hot Wheels were back in their stands as if they'd never been gone.

Sunday nights after that stayed exciting for a long time, with a few really outstanding stunts by our Haunt. A birthday fell on a Sunday, and the cake that was left out became a film that completely covered our dining room from ceiling to floor - except for the plate the cake had been on, that was clean.

Another time, my Grandmother, a stern old Baptist lady, brought her Pastor up from West Virginia and they spent all of Sunday cleansing and praying the haunt away; they spent most of the Midnight hour running back and forth downstairs, chased by "some godawful, furry heathen spirit!"

But the best thing the Haunt ever did was protect the property.

Like most places, our little community had it's share of delinquents, especially of the juvenile variety. We had our stoner community, too, and there's always a few that fit in both categories. One, a perpetual High School Senior, went by the nickname of Tabby. His wingman and partner-in-crime was a sophisticated and reserved fellow known as Fat Rat.

These two lousy but unlovable troublemakers were behind a rash of thefts in the local farm community, though they hadn't yet been caught. Farmers keep fuel on hand for tractors; Tabby and Fat Rat would sneak up to a farm during the wee hours and fill their tank with someone else's gasoline.

They hadn't gotten around to our place yet when Dad decided upon a precaution against such theft: being a practical man, he switched the diesel and gasoline tanks.

So it came about that Tabby and Fat Rat tooled up our long, long driveway late one Sunday night and, by the light of the lone security lamp between the barn and the house, filled the tank of Tabby's '74 Chevelle.

Filled it all the way up. With Diesel fuel.

Right around Midnight or so.

Just as Monday morning began, just as the Haunt was scheduled to appear.

I heard that it started out with the security light - one of those brilliant sodium jobs that used to light freeways - growing dimmer and dimmer... then dying.

"That's fucked up," Tabby said to Fat Rat. Fat Rat, dependable as always, replied, "Yeah, 's fucked up."

Then, in the dark, there was this odd huffling sound. Stoned, there was some confusion about where it came from - but I could've told them. I would have recognized it in a heartbeat; I can recall it vividly, even now, as a matter of fact. Whatever was making that noise nuzzled up the back of Tabby's neck wetly, and suddenly Tabby realized he couldn't see a damn thing.

He screeched and jumped in the Chevelle, blaming and hoping it was Fat Rat, who was having his own trouble - something big and hairy was between him and the car door... something even bigger than he was, something that pinched him so hard on the nutsack that, later, it'd be found to have swollen at least twice normal size.

The Chevelle's engine roared; the diesel in the gas tank started it's journey toward the carburetor, helped along by Tabby's foot pushing the pedal to the floor. The car jumped forward and so did Fat Rat; his head bounced off the roof, breaking his nose, but adrenaline gave him the strength to heave his flubbery body into the passenger seat.

We heard the engine roar, and I got to the window just in time to see the boys flying down our driveway, arms outstretched and middle fingers extended. Dad had to dial twice to reach the County Sheriff, he was laughing so hard.

I didn't get to see it, but just about twenty yards onto the main road the Chevelle's engine clattered, shuddered... and died.

There's a certain darkness that comes only on a midwestern night when there's no moon, when the stars are hidden by the fall clouds and you're a dozen miles from the nearest neighbor. It's a darkness that circles your Chevelle as the headlights die, as the dome light flickers, a darkness that comes in bursts and snatches until it is complete.

And you find it's in the cold, dark car with you.
 

They ran as long as they could, something furry and nimble bumping them, pinching them, tripping them to fall so it could hover over them, huffling happily, until they ran again, screaming.

When the County Sheriff came looking for them, they flagged him down, happy to get in the cruiser. The Deputy had to take them straight to County Correctional, and sent another Sheriff to check in with us: the boys screamed when he tried to turn into our driveway, plus they needed medical care. They were covered in giant purple knots, almost as if a Monster of some sort had pinched them all over, most especially in those tenderest of places.

Maybe the Haunt got used to us, or us to It, but either way things slowed down over the years; by the time we could afford to move, it didn't seem so bad. At first it seemed almost distracted, then started doing less during each visit; it would barely roam through the house then it was off, as if in a hurry to get back to something more important.

Then came a Sunday night when it didn't show at all; soon enough, once became a few, and a few became common. By the time I entered high school, the rare visit by our resident spook was more a reassurance that it still walked than it was a night of terror.

The very last time came just as we were moving. I'd graduated High School that summer, my parents had divorced, and I was helping my Father move the last of his things. We were down to his huge, old steel desk; he'd used a Ford forklift tractor to move it into the second floor and I had no idea how we'd get it out.

Dad had gone home, to be back in the morning, while I decided that driving home and back wasn't worth the two hours sleep I'd lose. It didn't even occur to me that it was Sunday night.

Tired, I'd curled up in a corner with a pillow and blanket and fallen dead asleep, only to be wakened by the most horrific noise: every drawer in that huge steel desk had been slung open, at once, hard enough to bend some of the rollers inside.

I thought I'd have a heart attack. It took me a second to realize what was going on, that the Haunt was making a last appearance.

"Yeah," I said very quietly, into the empty house,"I'll miss you, too."

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