Each night, the footsteps were the same; deliberate and heavy. The
sound would slice into my hazy dreams, and I’d drift helplessly back into the
world. My eyes would start to focus, gradually taking in the shadows lurking in my room.
In the corner, my dresser would morph into a dark shape of some menacing,
faceless monster, crouched and ready to pounce. A creeping,
gnawing feeling of being stripped bare, vulnerable and exposed, would begin to
crawl up my spine and seep into my thoughts. A shaft of pale
moonlight would stream through the gingham curtains of my
bedroom’s narrow windows, illuminating them like a pair of glowing pink eyes. Night after night, I would slowly pull my crocheted afghan up to my ears and wait to hear it again.
If my breathing was still enough, maybe I wouldn’t.
Thwick, thwick. Thwick, thwick. Thwick, Thwick.
I knew the sounds weren’t of this earth. Incredibly, the noises
seemed to be oozing and dripping with every step. Some nights, I imagined the
footsteps were of a slimy creature from the murky depths of the ocean. I was
convinced a giant menacing octopus was mucking across my grandmother’s pea green
kitchen linoleum and heading straight for my bedroom door. Yet as soon as I
would hear them, they would disappear again, melting into the symphony of the
crickets softly chirping outside my window.
But this night was different.
Thwick, thwick. Thwick, thwick, thwick, thwick–
The footsteps hesitated. The door to the basement, right
outside my bedroom, slowly opened, producing a
high-pitched screech that sent a lightning bolt of panic down my back. The warm
lump at the foot of my bed began to move. My dog raised her head, nose
twitching, as she cocked one ear toward the sound. Peeking through the delicate
holes in the afghan, I noticed the moonlight sparkling, tiny diamonds dancing in her brown eyes. I drew in a sharp breath then slowly let it back out, producing a feeling of
comforting warmth inside my little cocoon.
Suddenly, she heaved herself off my canopy bed and landed on the
pink rug below, sending herself sliding across the hardwood floor. She
scrambled back up, her nails clicking on the wood, and leaped toward the
bedroom door. Her tail wagged furiously as she looked up at the ceiling, ready
to greet this nightly visitor. Or thing.
The squishy steps resumed and I held my breath as I heard them going
down into the basement, each stair creaking under their weight. I threw off the
covers and glanced at the clock by my bed. 2:30 the bright red display flashed,
taunting me. The terror of a possible burglar in our home seized my racing
mind as the back of my neck turned to ice. I jumped out of my bed and stood frozen in the bone white moonlight.
The crickets were silent. My dog began to whine at the ceiling.
“Shh!” I hissed through clenched teeth. I tiptoed barefoot toward the
door and peered through the crack.
The kitchen was empty. I held my breath as I took one step onto the cold linoleum. In response, the footsteps on the stairs abruptly stopped, leaving me to listen to the refrigerator’s low hum. The light above the stove flickered. My dog
was now at the top of the basement steps, tail wagging in slow circles as she
peered down into the darkness. She gently barked and the tags on her collar jingled,
startling me out of my reverie.
I knew I had to look.
I rested my shaking hand on my dog’s head. “What’s down
there, girl?” I whispered.
The dusty basement steps didn’t answer.
Closing my eyes, I reached into the shadows to find the light switch. With a loud click,
I heard the faint crackle and buzz of the bare light bulb hanging at the foot
of the stairs. Electricity surged through every cell of my body. The hair on my neck prickled as my eyes adjusted to the bright yellow light. I crept halfway down the steps, scanning the dirty cement floor. The walls were thick with shadows and cobwebs. The washer and dryer sat silently in the corner, dirty laundry still waiting in a pile in the basket. My dog sat down at the foot of the steps, looked up at the ceiling and whimpered.
The next morning, I sat at the kitchen table, bleary-eyed from
the night before. My mother placed a carton of orange juice in front of me and
turned back to the pancakes browning on the stove.
“Hey, did you leave the basement light on last night?”
she asked over her shoulder, stacking the pancakes onto a plate.
“Yeah, sorry,” I mumbled. I gulped some orange
juice and looked down at my dog, curled up at my feet. She raised her head and
seemed to look right through me with her liquid brown eyes. I nervously twirled
my hair around my fingers.
“Can I ask you something? And promise me you won’t think I’m
“Well, I’ll try,” she laughed. “What’s up?”
she asked, sitting down across from me.
“Is this house haunted? I mean, have you ever heard a ghost
here? Or sounds?”
“Why do you ask?” My mother’s eyebrows arched and she sipped
“I heard something. Well, every night I hear something.
Footsteps–going downstairs into the basement. And they sound, oh I don’t
know…they sound almost squishy or wet. I know, I know. It’s crazy.” I sighed and picked at the pancakes in front of me.
“Oh!” My mother laughed. “That’s just your
grandfather,” she said and waved her hand at me. He’s probably just come
back from fishing. I hear him sometimes, too.”
My grandfather grew up loving the great outdoors. He often spent
his time hunting and fishing, never passing up a chance to go camping. When my
mother was a little girl, she remembers her dad happily coming home after another
weekend fishing trip up in the dense forest of northern Maine. He’d stroll into
the kitchen with his catch, kiss my grandmother on the cheek and hand the fish
over to be cleaned for that night’s supper. Then he’d walk down into the
basement in his muddy hunting boots to put away his fishing gear and tackle box. For
my mom, these were some of her warmest memories of her father.
He died at the age of 53, long before I was born.
The following night after the conversation at breakfast, I heard the familiar steps again. I smiled and looked up at the ceiling. “Hi, Grandpa. I can hear you, you know,” I whispered.
“Did you catch some fish again?” I added, giggling, unsure of why I
was talking to the air. Almost expecting an answer, I listened, holding my
The footsteps stopped. The crickets’ chirping grew louder, and I knew the night would hold onto the secrets of this world a little longer. The soothing glow of the pale moonlight enveloped me once again as I stroked my dog’s silky ears and sighed. Looking into her eyes, I felt she knew these secrets well.
I never heard the footsteps again.
Thanks for reading.
Happy Halloween to all of my blogging friends and readers!
I want to thank you all for your support and kindness with your positive comments.