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The original story can be found here.

When I was 8, my mother’s mother’s sister, my Great Aunt Regina, passed away. I barely knew her, but my mother took me and my brothers and sisters out to Indianapolis to attend her wake. There were many relatives visiting for the funeral and the accommodations were limited, so we ended up staying in her now empty house. Her husband, my Great Uncle Peter, had passed away a few years prior. Of course, by empty I mean that it was no longer occupied. As for furnishings though, the house was palatial. Every room was filled with antique furniture, antique lamps, all manner of extravagant decor. We (my two brothers and I) were directed to a dusty living room and a small wicker basket of ancient wooden toys and told that beyond that basket, we were not allowed to play with anything else. No climbing on the furniture, no turning anything on. Nada.

With that one rule in place, we were then foolishly left to our own devices, as everyone else left to attend a reception before the funeral itself. We were abandoned in a crypt of a living room with a basket of wooden blocks and toy trains. So, naturally, we ignored the baby toys and started exploring the enormous house. We didn’t touch any of the things, we just went from room to room. The place was so big though, that we quickly got separated and were calling each other from room to room, eventually making a game of it, purposefully losing my little brother until he’d cry.

Through a foyer, I found a set of winding stairs leading up to the second floor and followed them. The second floor was just a long hallway with doors all up and down it on both sides. All of them were closed. One door in particular caught my attention, because someone had driven two hooks into the wall on either side of it and draped a long sash across them, effectively cordoning off the doorway. This made me curious. Ignoring the calls from downstairs of my brothers, I walked down the hall to the door with the sash. There was nothing that immediately jumped out at me as being different about the door itself, just a plain, white door with a brass knob and a key sticking out of the keyhole. I jiggled the knob and found it locked. Inside me, I fought with myself for all of about ten seconds as to leaving the door alone and going back downstairs, but I wanted to know what was in there, so I turned the key and tried the knob again.

I pushed the door opened inward and there was this long sigh, like it had been holding its breath and was finally exhaling. The inside of the room was as black as night. Even with the door open and a lamp on a small table just behind me across the hall, the light stopped at the other side of the door frame, as if the room were swallowing it. I couldn’t even see the door, except for the edge and hinges. It was like I was standing on a precipice of nothing, and I got dizzy just looking into it. I had to hold onto the door frame to keep myself steady at first, then I took a step back and felt the rush of vertigo fade. At the same time, all of the sounds around me seemed to become muffled. From downstairs I could hear my little brother crying again, but it sounded so distant. Conversely, my breathing became loud in my ears. I wasn’t breathing heavily, but it just seemed to thunder, and I started holding my breath. When I did and a hush came over me, my ears sensitized and I heard it.

tap, tap, tap, tap

It was coming from inside the room, inside the blackness. Maybe fifteen to twenty feet into the room, moving perpendicular to where I was standing. I felt dizzy again for a second and had to let out a ragged gasp of air before I started turning blue. The tapping stopped for a second when I exhaled, then started anew, only now it was different.

tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap

Whatever was making the sound was now moving toward the door. I was mesmerized by listening to it, and I just stared into the nothingness, waiting to see what was approaching. I was scared, but at the same time I was frozen in place by my own curiosity, damn it to Hell.

tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap

I noticed that the sash across the door was moving, fluttering gently in the middle, into the room, out to the hall, into the room, out to the hall. And as I watched, all I could think was that the room was breathing. I bumped my ass against the little table with the lamp on it before I even realized I had started shuffling slowly back from the door. I reached back and gripped the edges of the table for support. And still the tapping drew nearer and nearer.

tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap

And under it, I detected another awful sound.

clack, click-click, clack-clack

Like somebody gnashing their teeth together over and over again. I couldn’t even hear the first floor anymore. My breathing had gone quiet. All I could hear was the tapping and the clacking coming closer and closer and at any second their maker would step into the doorway and show me its teeth and its claws.

It was that insane image of a monster with long, tapping nails and hungry, gnashing teeth that drove my feet forward, toward the door. I sucked down a deep breath like I was about to plunge into icy waters, and then leaned across the billowing sash, stretching my arm into the room, into that all-enshrouding darkness and grabbed for the doorknob. I could barely reach it, but I hooked my fingertips across it and pulled, straining my shoulder even as I held the door frame with my other hand and leaned as far as I could go into the pitch black. I pulled and the door swung slowly toward me. I almost cried, I was so grateful to feel the door moving. The clacking sound was right in my ear. I imagined hot breath on my neck.

As I got a better grip and the door swung shut, it bumped against something for a moment, and the tap that was right at my feet made a scritch for a second, then the door swung shut completely and I held tight to the knob before remembering the key, turning it and stumbling back, almost overturning the table and lamp. I was shaking so badly that I ended up collapsing to my knees; they just couldn’t support me anymore. The tapping had stopped. The clacking had stopped. The sash was askew from my draping myself over it to reach into the room, but I didn’t care. I wrapped my arms around myself and rocked for a moment, listening until the world seemed normal again.

I ran back downstairs and told my brothers what had happened. My little brother didn’t like the story. My older brother wanted to see the room for himself. I told him not to do it, but he was dead set on seeing it. I was in a panic, trying to get him not to go. I even told him I had just made it up to scare them, but he wanted to see. I followed him upstairs, begging and pleading for him to leave it alone. All the way down the hall, and I could tell when he saw the sash across the doorway that he wasn’t going to back down. But when we got to the door, he tried the knob and found it locked. He turned and looked at me, frowning, and I realized that when I had stumbled back, I had pulled the key out of the keyhole, and was now gripping it tightly in my fist. My brother didn’t know about the key. I started to smile, and he mistook my relief for smugness and stormed back downstairs, my little brother following close behind. I quickly set the key behind the lamp on the little table and ran from that door.

That evening when our parents returned, we were all lead upstairs to our selected bedroom on the other end of the hall from the room of pitch black. As we reached the top of the stairs, I asked my mother:

“Mom, what room is that?”

“Which one?”

“The one with the thing across the door.”

“That was Uncle Peter’s office. He was a lawyer, and when he’d bring work home with him, he’d do it in there.”

“Why is it sealed off like that?”

“I’m not sure. I do know that before he passed away, Uncle Peter spent a lot of his time in his office. After he died, Aunt Regina locked the room and wouldn’t let anyone go in. I guess she wanted to keep it just like it was when he was alive.”

I laid awake that night, listening to my brothers snore and imagining I could hear the tapping coming down the hallway to my room. When I finally slept, I had a nightmare that I was in the room of pitch black, blind, and something was hugging me to its chest and clacking its teeth in my ear. At one point, I woke up with the need to pee, but the thought of finding the bathroom in the dark had me thinking a wet bed would be preferable. Somehow, I held it all night.

The next day, we attended Aunt Regina’s funeral. It was rather surreal for me as an 8 year old, seeing this dead person in a coffin. Even more surreal was the photo someone had chosen to put up beside her and hang a wreath around: it was an enlarged color photo of her and my Great Uncle Peter, standing side by side in the yard in front of their luxurious house and smiling. Despite being in her late 70s, she was permed and pretty, wearing a green jacket, her arm entwined with his. Uncle Peter on the other hand, was pale and sickly-looking, despite his smile. His eyes were sunken, his hair shock white and his face gaunt. He was hunched over in a business suit, gripping a black cane in his left hand to keep himself up. He had such big teeth.


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