My parents made a living off of buying and flipping houses, along with working odd jobs on the side. I never lived in one place for more than three years.
It was growing old; I knew my parents were getting tired of this. Besides, my parents made enough money to live comfortably now. Whereas I, on the other hand, had to worry about paying my bills on time, as living from paycheck to paycheck was cutting it very close.
Living in the city was draining on both my energy and my wallet, so I decided I would move back home for the summer.
“Home” was a small town north of Richmond, VA, population: 53,452. I remember the house being narrow, the white paint beginning to chip, and the red door fading to a dull color. As I walked onto the front porch step, if that’s what you could even call it, the stairs creaked underneath my weight.
There was a doorbell, which I rang, sending an echoing chime throughout the house. No answer.
I took out my phone from my back pocket, calling my mother.
“Oh hi honey, we decided to go into the city for the weekend. The key is under the mat! I’m sorry, I though your father told you,” she said in her sing-songy voice. I let out a sigh of annoyance.
Leave it to my parents to forget they still had a child after one passed away eight years ago.
I found the key under the dirty mat, just like my mother had said. Inserting the key into the lock, I had to really work at it before the lock clicked, opening the door.
From the outside, the house looked like a wreck, but the inside my parents really outdid themselves. It was a mix of modern and Victorian era furniture, done so tastefully it could be featured in one of those decorating magazines.
I spent the remainder of the day making myself comfortable, flipping through channels of shitty TV and ordering in. There were certain parts of the night in between flipping channels where the TV screen would be dark and it looked like a figure rushed past behind me.
I didn’t think much of it; I was a bottle of wine deep so I was probably imagining things.
I must’ve dozed off between Keeping Up with The Kardashians and TMZ when I heard the sound.
A bell ringing.
It sounded like one of those bells that had a handle, used when I was younger in school. You know, those large solid brass school bells?
There it was, chiming again – this time closer, in the next room over.
I sat up straighter.
The last one almost made me jump out of my skin; it was as if it was right beside my ear, and it was now faster, as if it was alerting me.
I leaped off the couch, the remote in my hand – my only form of defense.
“Who’s there!” I yelled out.
Of course, there was nothing.
I stood in my living room frantically searching around for anything – but nobody was there.
Sitting back down on the couch, I decided to turn on Netflix and watch something that would help get my mind off my paranoia. There was a stand up comedian featured on the main page, so I clicked play.
Laughter from the audience filled the room as the comedian told his story.
I laughed, and then I heard it beside me. Someone echoing my laugh in a childlike manner.
My heart seemed to have stopped momentarily, and as I turned to the side a scream caught in my throat.
There, sitting at the other end of the couch, was something that could have only been a resemblance to a child.
Its knees were up to its chest as it was looking straight at me. The hair on its head had gone thin, scraggly, and fallen out in many places, leaving bald patches all over.
Everything was proportionate to an average 7 year-old, except for the head. The head seemed to be larger, and the eyes bugged out, as if they were coming out of their sockets.
It laughed again, while its eyes locked in on mine. Its mouth was hollow and dark; the place where teeth should be was replaced with a dark red substance, almost tar-like, dripping down its chin slowly like molasses.
I sat there frozen.
Then it moved. Its arms stretched out, spiderlike, continuously growing almost double the size of the child. A cold fingertip rested on my knee, a long decaying nail poked at my jeans until it pierced through the material.
It felt as if I had just gotten stabbed; the pain was excruciating.
I found my voice, and I screamed. I screamed until my throat was raw.
I began to kick, wanting its hands off me, I wanted the laughing on the TV to stop, and I wanted this thing to stop echoing the laughter.
And somehow, somewhere, a higher entity must have found pity on me in my situation.
There were three knocks on the door.
The thing beside me immediately pulled back, its face contorted into fear.
The voice that came out of its mouth will haunt me for as long as I live. It was tiny and meek, identical to how my younger sister’s was before she passed away.
“Death knocks three times.”
A pause, and then once again, three knocks on the door. As soon as I turned my head towards the door and back to the couch, the thing was gone.
I spent the rest of the night at a friend’s house. I couldn’t explain what had happened. No matter how I put it, I sounded like I belonged in the loony bin.
“Oh yeah, that house is constantly up and down on the market,” my friend said as she gave me a cup of hot tea.
My hands shook as I cradled it in my hand, spilling the hot liquid out on its sides.
“I thought realtors were supposed to discuss when there’s something wrong with the house.”
I set the cup down. “What do you mean?”
Pulling out her phone, she Googled the address. There was my house; at the time in a newer condition with the headlines:
“FAMILY SLAIN: NOBODY SUSPECTED A THING.”
I read through the article:
“The brutal slaying of a small family in the local town of [REMOVED FOR PRIVACY] has shaken the community. Thomas, 34, came home after a night of drinking from a bar to his wife, Jane, 32, in the bathtub. An argument sparked between the two of them as their daughter, Lyla, 7 stayed downstairs and watched TV with the door closed. Thomas killed his wife in the bathtub, strangling her with a rope hanging around a bell. He then walked downstairs to where his daughter was, killing her too. He made it to Richmond before being detained by the police. A vigil will be held tomorrow evening at 7pm in the Town Square where snacks and refreshments will be provided.”
I put the phone down.
“They said that when he knocked on the door she asked who it was, and he just said ‘Death’ – how fucked up is that? Anyways, the house has been blessed and there’s been paranormal investigators out there, but its all a hoax.”
I don’t know if she was trying to calm me down, but it wasn’t working.
I knew it wasn’t a goddamn hoax.
That night, when I had finally got my head clear, and was ready to fall asleep, I heard that thing’s voice beside my ear,
“Death knocks three times.”