NIGHT IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Night In The Neighbourhood

CHAPTER 1

“What’s with all the noise?” I rubbed my sleepy eyes and began to walk down the stairs.

“Good morning, Sweetie!” My mom greeted me from the kitchen and I could smell the delicious scent of bacon and eggs.

“Mr. Dawson is relocating” My dad answered my question and I noticed him sitting on the couch with his morning cup of tea. He had his half-framed, golden rimmed glasses on his nose. He was reading the ‘Business Times’ as usual.

“Why?” I frowned, “That’s too sudden and…soon”

Mr. Dawson and his third wife moved into the house next to ours. They’re good people and we also hung out with them once during the one month they’ve stayed here. Last time I checked, Mr. Dawson wanted a permanent base and our locality is the best he could find. Then why are they leaving?

“If you dress up, we can give them a proper sendoff,” My dad said and I nodded.

My father is quite a disciplinarian. He likes things organized, people to be systematic and there is no scope for mistakes. Though I had my own secret life, I used to pretend like the perfect daughter for his sake. If he finds out about my drinking and parties, I’ll be grounded forever. Being a high school star cheerleader, I had a good fan base. And people expect me to show up at parties. As long as you are on the top of the popularity game, you have a fun and adventurous High School life. That’s how it is at my messed up educational organization at least.

I chose to wear my blue jeans and a white polka-dotted blouse. That should be decent enough. When I finally stepped down, I noticed that my parents were already out and talking to the couple. When I joined them, they were laughing about some man at the bank. I smiled formally and kissed Mrs. Dawson on the cheek.

“What’s the reason for the sudden relocation?”

The color drained out of Mrs. Dawson’s face. As if he had noticed, Mr. Dawson quickly answered, “Kelly! Such a pleasure to interact with you, Young Lady. Emily wants to live closer to her sisters. So, as a loving husband, I am trying to fulfill her wishes.”

Emily Dawson opened her mouth as if to object to that. But her husband cut her off and diverted the topic to something else. I tried to read her face but she did a good job to hide her emotions. Was Mr. Dawson lying?

“My business partner arranged this lavish get together for everyone. We both will be going there tonight. Mostly, we will be back by the morning or early afternoon.”

“Oh, that-”

“What about Kelly?” Mrs. Dawson cut her husband in middle.

“I will be staying back, Mrs. Dawson. I have an English essay to write”

Though Emily Dawson was careful in guarding her emotions, my answer somehow broke her self-control. I saw the flicker of fear and concern on her face. Her eyebrows knitted in tension and she looked at her husband helplessly. Am I the only one noticing her strange behavior or are my parents seeing the change too?

After that, Emily Dawson did not utter a word. The men were speaking and my mother dropped in occasional comments. But she stuck to her silence and stared at the ground as if she was expecting it to crack open and swallow us.

When it was finally the time to leave, my mom hugged Emily and wished her luck. I shook hands with Mr. Dawson and came to give Emily a last hug. But when I was about to let go, she held me tighter and I felt her lips near my ear.

“Be careful tonight, Kelly. Save yourself”

-x-x-x-

“What does that mean?” School can be a vibrant distraction from the mysterious pieces of advice.

“I don’t know,” I told my best friend, Hannah.

After I briefed her about the morning’s encounter with the messed up wife, she began laughing and called it a trick. She thought Emily Dawson was probably trying to scare me. Some people get a kick out of things like that.

“Babe, you don’t have to worry about an oldie”

I scoffed, “She is 29 years old but her husband is 45. Money made matrimony I guess”

My boyfriend, Austin, laughed at that, “Then she was definitely messing with you”

“She seemed so serious and scared!” I said to him, “You should have seen her, Austin!”

“Hey…” Austin reached out for me lovingly and pulled me into a side hug, “its okay. I’ll be there tonight and no one’s going to hurt you”

Hannah laughed, “Make that a ‘We’”

“Excuse me?” Austin glared at her.

“I and Sarah are going to be there too so whatever you lovesick people planned can be canceled”

There was a huge commotion about who is going to be there and who is not. I joined them and tried to fight on my boyfriend’s side. But after the epic verbal battle, it was decided that Austin will be there an hour sooner. We can do whatever we want and then the girls will be coming. That sounded very reasonable to me. Though my greedy boyfriend found it ‘Outrageous’, the plan was set and I was looking forward to the night. Of course, my dad won’t be knowing that I’ll have a male company in the house. He can tolerate the girls but not a boy who is probably dreaming about getting his baby daughter into bed.

When we finally stepped into the parking lot in the evening, we were in the party mood. I decided to pick up some snacks and drinks on my way back. Just when I pulled out of my allotted space, I had this lingering feeling as I was being watched. I checked my mirrors to see if someone was around. No one was looking at me directly but the eerie feeling remained till I drove out of school.

CHAPTER 2

My parents left at 7 PM. The freedom felt too overwhelming. I hardly get any ‘parent-free’ time. As soon as they left, I switched the TV on, put it on a music channel, and began swaying to the tunes. I picked out all the ingredients for the Thai dinner and set them on the table. Hannah and Sarah love the Thai noodles and soups. Well, Austin eats anything as long as it is edible. A knock on the door distracted me from my work. Thinking it to be Austin, I excitedly headed for the door and threw it open.

There was no one.

A gush of wind swept the hair away from my face and I looked around to see if someone was on the porch. Absolutely no one. I shrugged, shut the door, and went back to the kitchen. Raising the volume of the TV a little more, I sang along to ‘Senorita’. Currently have no neighbors and no one is going to complain to my dad about noise pollution. Smiling to myself, I prepared the lasagna tray and placed it in the oven.

A loud thudding sound came from the living room. I paused and spun around. I can see my couch, TV, and the tea table from the kitchen. There was no one there but I certainly heard the sound.

“Is someone there?” I asked.

I knew I was not going to get any response but there’s no harm in staying sure. I locked all the windows and doors. Our neighborhood is safe and no crime ever took place here. That is one of the main reasons why dad chose to buy a property here.

As soon as I turned to check on my lasagna, the loud thudding sound came again. This time, even louder. I frowned and headed straight to the living room. There was no one. The TV was playing, the couch was undisturbed and the main door was closed. Just then, the lights went off.

“Holy Christ! Not now!”

We had power back up but that’s a nuisance that I didn’t want to deal with. You had to tackle with few switches to get it working. I took the phone from my pocket and turned on the flashlight.

Out of nowhere, the loud thudding sounds multiplied into many. When they initially began, I panicked and dropped my phone. It fell flat on the ground and the flash turned off. The sound intensified. I closed my ears and sweat started to trickle down my face. Utensils began to drop out of their specified places. The kitchen was on havoc. I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t know if someone was in the house or this was all a fragment of my imagination. Then the utensils began to bang against each other, accompanying the thudding.

“WHO IS IT??” I screamed and the sounds only increasing by several decibels.

It was so loud, I thought my eardrum was going to rupture. I tightly shut my ears with both my hands and tried to figure out who it was. I squinted my eyes and attempted to see in the darkness.

“STOP IT, PLEASE!” I screamed but my voice couldn’t dominate the chaos.

My legs gained momentum and I ran for the door. I thought if I could go out, it will be easy to ask someone from help. I bent down to retrieve my phone. I wanted to call 911 for help. As soon as I reached out for my phone, a hand clutched my wrist and pulled me.

I screamed on top of my lungs and began punching the unknown person.

“Hey…hey! Stop!”

His voice was like a punch in my face, “Austin?”

“Yeah,” He said, “What’s wrong Kelly?”

I hugged him as if my life depended on it. He was here, flesh and blood, my own savior in shining armor.

“Thank God, you are here, Austin”

“But why were you screaming?” He pushed the strands of hair away from my face and blew at it. I was sweating profusely and I could hardly see him in the darkness.

“There is someone in the house, Austin. Did you hear the noise?”

He sounded unsure, “Umm…noise?”

“Yeah! The loud thudding and those utensils! They were…so…”

“Alright…alright…Kelly, you need to relax. You are taking that young wife’s words too seriously.”

I told him it was not the case. I really heard that loud thudding and the lights went off, didn’t they? But Austin told me that the whole neighborhood had no power supply. Apparently its some glitch in the supply route or something. He tried to soothe me with his soft talk but I was too stunned to react.

“Let me make you feel better”

He pulled me into a hug and I felt his lips closer to my ear. That’s my weakness. I am a sucker for neck kisses. His lips trailed down and planted soft gifts on the side of my neck. Then they traveled to the front and found my lips. This was magical, unlike anything I’ve ever felt. We kissed before but it was nothing like this. Maybe it was the adrenaline rush in my body or my body reacting to something normal after an abnormal experience. The kiss was heated, fast, and beautiful. When he finally pulled away, I wanted more.

“If you allow me, I’ll go and brighten your room”

I laughed at that, “Brighten my room, huh? I wish this night never ends”

He chuckled, “I’ll be right back. And yeah, here’s your phone”

I felt the cool metal of the phone on my palm. He planted a hasty kiss on my cheek and headed for the stairs. He sneaked into my bedroom so many times and he knows the map of my house. When my folks head out for work, we bunk school to have some ‘We Time’. Suddenly, the lights turned on and I sighed in relief.

I remembered that lasagna in the oven and ran to see its state. Surprisingly, the kitchen was undisturbed. None of the utensils were out except for the ones I was using. Shaking my head, I checked the food in the oven. The phone in my hand pinged.

It was from Austin. What did my baby want now?

*Babe, I won’t be able to make it today. My dad found out I skipped football practice. Enjoy with the girls. ILU! XOXO.*

I laughed and sent him a reply.

*Are you trying to be funny?*

*No…why would I?* Along with the message, he sent a picture of himself in his house.

My eyes widened and I gulped in fear. Then who was it upstairs?

*AUSTIN!* I typed frantically, *There’s someone in the house…PLZ I need help!*

 And I hit send.

Then a pop up appeared on my screen – MESSAGE COULDN’T BE SENT. TRY AGAIN.

I jumped when the oven began to make weird sounds. With shivering hands, I opened the door and a paper came out flying. I held it midair and something was written on it with black ink

Am I a good kisser, Kelly? Like you wished – I hope this night never ends too

CHAPTER 3

I was too shocked to do anything. My body froze in place and I gulped. If Austin was at his house, then there’s an intruder in mine. 

How am I supposed to save myself from him? I tried to message Austin again but the same error message flashed on my screen. I couldn’t gather the courage to go upstairs. I knew he was still there. I could hear the shuffling and movement. And he knew that I was aware of his presence there. I tried calling 911 but my phone automatically disconnected the call.

“What the hell!?” I cursed and banged the phone against the counter. 

I quickly realized my mistake and retrieved it to see if it was damaged. Thankfully, No. I tried to message Sarah and Hannah too. All my messages were bouncing back. To check why it was happening, I viewed the Outbox section. There was a message that I certainly did not send.

*Hey Hannah…I am sorry you cannot come over. I have a lot of assignments to do and a few relatives showed up. I am sorry.*

My mouth fell open. When did I type this? I never sent any message to Hannah! Even Sarah received the same message. They replied with an ‘Okay, NVM’ too.

For the first time, my hands started to shiver. Running out of the house seemed like a logical thing to do. I ran for the door without a second thought. I twisted the doorknob and the door opened immediately.

When I placed my foot on the doormat outside, an invisible force pushed me back into the house. It was so strong, I fell back on the floor and the air got knocked out of my lungs. White spots started to dance in front of my eyes. I must have hit my head too. Clutching my stomach, I got up slowly. The door closed with a loud thud and the doorknob twisted on its own. 

I felt something rough against my leg and saw that a piece of neon green paper was stuck to it. I pulled it from there and saw that it was another note.

Leaving so soon? Do not insult me like that, love

Though it sounded friendly, I knew that was a silent threat. He meant that I cannot leave the house without his permission. By doing so, I was insulting his decisions. But I couldn’t stay here and die either. I ran to the windows in the house and tried to pull them open. Suddenly, they all seemed to be stuck and none of them was opening. 

Involuntary tears of helplessness started to roll down my cheeks. I was going to die. 

I felt a tight slap on my back and screamed. I turned around but there was no one there. The pain ran down my spine and I felt my whole body shudder. Then I noticed on the blank screen of my sleek TV that there was something stuck on my back. I reached out with my hand to pull the piece of paper.

Why don’t you come upstairs? I have a surprise for you

“NO! You sick moron!” I screamed, “I am not coming anywhere near you”

From the fireplace, another rectangular shaped paper flew to me. It read – 

What happened to Rapunzel who wanted to choke the evil mother with her hair? Won’t you stay strong?

I was 12 years old when I wanted to kill the evil witch who kidnapped Rapunzel. I had shoulder-length hair and wished to have those long locks. When I first saw the Disney princess’s story, I cried when Rapunzel lost her hair. We were going to present a Rapunzel play on our school’s opera stage. I was playing Rapunzel that day. When I heard I’ll be losing my hair, I began fighting with my lecturer about it. I asked her to change the script into something fierce. The heroine need not be the damsel in distress all the time. I wanted her to make Rapunzel choke the evil witch with her hair, let the prince in, and push the witch out forever. And that lost me the role. My parents weren’t happy about it and I had to hear a lot from my father. My mother was proud that I thought girls could stand up for themselves. It freaked the hell out of me to know that this stranger knows about it.

Though his note sounded like a soothing motivation, I knew it was nowhere close to it. He was indirectly ordering me to come up and if I don’t, probably a boulder will drop from the ceiling and kill me. I cannot trust him anymore.

I pulled out my father’s baseball bat from under the couch and clutched it strongly in my hand. If I am going to jail for murder then I might as well do some gruesome damage. Just then, I saw a closed envelope stuck to the bat. Expecting it to be another letter from the sadist, I almost turned away. Then the flawless cursive handwriting made me pay attention again.

I tore it open and a letter with a tinge of floral scent was in it. I recognized the scent. I’ve smelled it this morning.

Dear Browns

I know that danger is still lurking in the neighbourhood. My husband hid the truth from you but I cannot leave without warning you. The place is haunted and I’ve had first-hand experience with that horrific soul. It will manipulate you, torture you and you can’t do anything about it. I’ve tried talking to the Priest too but it’s too strong. I’ve never believed in ghosts before but this one changed my perspective. No one is ready to trust me. Even my husband thinks I am overreacting. But what about those notes, the letters and messages? I can’t stay home alone without having its eyes on me. Relocate as soon as you can. And while you are still here…do not look into its eyes. Never.

Love

Emily.

CHAPTER – 4

She could be lying. In fact, she could be doing all this. We all know Mr and Mrs Dawson invested their money in real estate as well. Are they trying to make us vacate the house too so that they could sell theirs and ours? I mean, Ghosts don’t exist right?

More confidently, I took the baseball bat and headed upstairs. I was going to break the head of whoever it was. If that stupid couple are playing some brain tricks, they might as well get a taste of their own medicine. I will show them what it is to mess with a head strong girl like me.

I skipped steps and ran to my bed room upstairs. The door was ajar and the lights were switched on. Positioning myself, I kept the baseball ready and stood closer to the doorframe. I tried to peek in. From where I was standing, I could see no one. Taking a deep breath, I spun around quickly and entered the room. I was ready to launch myself at whoever was there. But the room was empty.

The sheets on my bed were neatly arranged, the clothes that I drop on my arm chair were nicely folded and the dustbin under my dresser was empty. Whoever it was cleaned my room. The sudden pinging sound of my computer scared me.

Ready for the game, Kelly?

The screen flashed the question.

“Not a chance!” I said bravely, “Get out of my house!”

MY HOUSE!

The words were fierce even though they weren’t uttered. The lights began to flicker in the room and I gulped with fear.

“Emily, if you are doing this…stop it!”

The screen of my computer began blinking and a video footage opened. It was Emily. But that’s her house and she was sitting on a chair. She was sweating and crying, her satin night gown stuck to her body and the strands of her hair were drenched in sweat. Her lips were quivering and she folded her hands as if she was praying. And out of nowhere, she was yanked out of her chair and flipped upside down. She was hanging in midair, screaming on top of her lungs.

I involuntarily moved back and stepped on something really wet.

Hand prints in red.

They were distinct and clear like a human’s. They started from somewhere outside the room and stopped right where I was standing. If I am not wrong, something crawled into the room.

Thup!

The sound drew my attention. New hand prints started to form on the wall next to me. It was crawling from the ground to the ceiling. I began sobbing and held my baseball bat tightly though my whole body was shivering in fear. The hand prints stopped right above my hand. Before I could bolt out of the room, I felt something heavy land on my head and clutch my neck. I shrieked and trie to get it off of me. I couldn’t see it. But it was too heavy. I felt the burden on my shoulders and I could no longer stand. I fell to the ground and the weight was on my chest now. It was disrupting my breathing. I could feel the blood rushing to my ears and my eyes rolling up.

“ST…STOP!” I managed to say. The lights went out again and my bedroom door closed on its own. Crying, I reached out for my bed and ended up on top of it. I always had a cross beneath my pillow. I quickly grabbed it and held it close to my body.

“Go away! Please go away!” I begged.

I wanted to be anywhere but my home. I wanted to call my friends but my phone was useless. No one could hear me. I tried screaming and shouting. None of the other neighbors showed up. Maybe they couldn’t hear me. Emily’s bedroom was right next to mine. If I wanted I could jump from mine into hers. How come I never noticed she was being tormented? It’s all a game. I was being trapped in an illusion. No one could hear me and I cannot reach out to anyone.

The thing did not try to touch me again. My breathing was raged and I was crying uncontrollably. I hugged the cross and pulled my sheets on top of my body. I rested my head on the pillow and my tears started to stain it. I should have listened to Emily and stayed at a friend’s place. She was not joking about anything. She left the house because it was haunted!

Right then, I felt a small vibration in my bed.

“No” I muttered, “Please, no…no…no…I did nothing to you”

Radium alphabets started to flash on the wall

You didn’t. But I will, Kelly

“What do you want?” I whimpered, “What do you want me to do?”

Suffer

Then there was silence. It started to get scary now. I craved for silence but even that has a hidden motive. It is the quiet before the storm. Just like I thought, I felt the vibration yet again.

Throughout my student life, I’ve learned that ‘Lub dub’ were the heart sounds. But right then, I heard something new. It sounded like heartbeat. But lub dub dubub…lub dub dubub is not normal. Gathering my courage, I rolled over to look at the ceiling.

I screamed and hugged the cross closer to my body. There was a huge heart stuck to the white background and it was beating. It was easily the size of a mini dog. The sound started increasing in volume and pace. I began uttering my prayers and shut my eyes tight. The sound was engulfing the entire room and my bed began to shake uncontrollably. I clutched the sides of it and left the cross in the process. Before I could realize my mistake, the heart fell on top of me and blood gushed out of it, staining my sheets.

I screamed, “GET THIS OFF! Please…GOO!”

I sprang up immediately but did not get down. I was scared a hand will me from underneath the bread. I’ve seen enough movies to know that. However, the blood splashed everywhere including my face. It felt disgusting and I wanted to scratch myself, peel my skin off.

It is torturing me. I cannot fail now. I tried to stay strong and pushed that heart away. It dropped from the bed but the red fluid kept coming out.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and my own heart almost stopped for a moment.

CHAPTER – 5

Turning around was a mistake. Sitting right behind me is the silhouette of a lady in a long gown. She folded her legs and rested her hands on her lap. Her gown was cut at the side and the fabric was flying in the air. I couldn’t make out her face but I knew she was slender. Her build was tall and she did not move. Her hair was long and few locks were dancing to the tune of the eerie whoosh of the air. She was staring at me.

I quickly moved away from her and reached the end of the bed. The heart was behind me, giving out the fountain of blood while she sat there. There was silence, a very unsettling one. She was looking at me, as if to decide if she has to kill me yet or not.

After what felt like ages, she started tapping her fingers against her leg. It felt like she was tapping on a metal surface. In the darkness, my computer came to life again and the screen read –

How do I look? Better than you, Kelly?

“Ye…yes” I quivered, “You do…”

Another message –

Good girls don’t lie

“You are beautiful in your own way” I said and tried to stay calm. What if she attacks me if I do something stupid? There is no point in running. She will catch me anyway and I didn’t want my neck snapped.

Right above her head, radium text appeared and it read –

Let me show you something fun

Before I could completely register the message, her hands enlarged and her nails grew longer. She ut them against her leg and began scratching it.

I quickly out my hands against the ear. The hair on my hands stood up and the irritating screeching sound you get when someone runs their nails against metal filled the room. It was tormenting, too loud to ignore. With no other choice, I got up from the bed and moved away from her. Slowly, one of her hand began to scratch the other. While doing that, she stood up and she was way taller than I thought. Her head almost touched the overhead fan. Her hair flew in odd angles and the fabric of her gown began wrapping around her

“Look…at….me” said her robotic voice, making each syllable clear.

I immediately remembered Emily’s advice.

DO NOT LOOK.

I shut my eyes and covered them with my hands.

“Kelly” It’s a nightmare to hear her say my name.

Some creepy thing started to crawl on my leg.

It’s her nail!

“Argggh!!!” I shrieked and moved away from there, without opening my eyes. As a result, I crashed into my computer and it fell on top of me. I was quick to push it off of me and stand up. Even though I staggered at first, I managed to maintain my balance. I ran without knowing where I was going.

It was too late. I ran right out of my window.

When I was falling, I felt the air against my face and body. I knew I was dying and there was no stopping it.

I hit something hard and the side of my body hurt like hell. I felt a snap and I moaned with pain.

“Kelly!!” That’s a voice I recognized.

“Sarah?” I said weakly.

“What the bloody hell? Damn you! What are you doing?” Hannah screamed along with her.

“Are you okay, Austin?”

Austin?

When I opened my eyes, the dark night sky was slowly changing color. There was a tinge of blue to it.

“It’s morning?” I asked, “Why are you guys here?”

“It’s 4 AM” Austin told from under me. When I fell, he tried to catch me and we both crashed to the ground, “Your neighbor…that Emily lady called us and said you called her and told that something was wrong. She couldn’t contact you again so she asked us to go check”

Thank You, Emily.

When I looked at her house, I noticed the lady’s silhouette at her bedroom’s window. It was looking at all of us. She slowly retreated into the house when Austin looked up to see what I was staring at.

I told them everything. There is no reason to hide. If there is anyone who’ll believe me, it’s my friends. They did some research about the neighborhood and found out that the land belonged to a lady named Margaretta. She was widowed at a young age and the acres of land passed on from her husband to her. When her family members cheated her and stole all her property, she killed herself in depression.

I knew the lady was Margaretta.

She believes all these houses are hers and we are the relatives she hates. Though she died in the 1800s, her soul still lingers here.

When my parents returned the next morning, I told them we had to consider relocation. They did not ask questions when I downright refused to say anything. I didn’t want them to brush the topic under the carpet concluding that I was hallucinating. Seeing how worried I was, my mother convinced my father to buy a new house. Within a week, we left.

Even now, I wake up to nightmares at night. After 15 years of that incident, now happily married to Austin, I still fear Margaretta. He keeps telling me that she’s not coming for me. But once you face her, there is no forgetting.

She leaves a mark that you cannot wipe away.