Everything was clean, the AC was set to a comfortable temperature, I had finger foods out, chill music playing, and a candle going. I was still new and this was one of my first solo events, but I felt like I was ready.
The house was cute. It was one story, three beds, two baths; a perfect starter home. It needed some updating, but it was nothing too crazy that the average DIYer couldn’t handle. I was surprised at the time that the family had wanted to sell at all, they had only lived here for a short time. They had tried to distance themselves from the process as much as possible; they’d even refused to set foot in the home since they left.
I was feeling good and had an hour to spare before the open house started and people started streaming in. To pass the time and calm my nerves I decided to wander through the house as another last-minute refresher for any questions I’d get on the house itself.
I walked around the kitchen, living room, stairs –
Wait – I stopped so abruptly that I nearly tripped myself.
This house was one story. There was no second floor visible from the outside and I was fairly certain that these stairs were NOT here when I got here, I was sure of it. The staircase looked like it fit with the house, and since staircases don’t appear out of nowhere, I thought maybe I was so nervous that I was just losing my damn mind. I decided to check my paperwork – it did say this was a one-story house. Maybe it was just an attic or crawlspace and I’d missed it before? There was a small landing with just a door at the top. I figured it’d be good to check it out in case I got questions about it.
As I stepped through the door, it was like stepping back in time. I also felt pressure in my ears as if I were on an airplane making a landing.
The upstairs had a musty smell to it. There was a small extra kitchen, another living room, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a locked room with a glass door, but a full-length curtain on the inside of the door obscured the interior from my view. I stopped to take it in, and the curtain seemed to flutter slightly as if there was a slight breeze, or something moving behind it.
The bedroom had wallpaper consisting of ornate patterns and velvet flowers – I had never seen anything like it. This place looked like it hadn’t been touched in decades, but there was no dust or other signs of age-related wear. A sudden sound from around the corner made me jump. I followed the source, a radio had suddenly started playing in the living room, it made a sound as if it were in between stations. There was a soft lime green sofa and a TV that looked older than I was. Yeah, this place definitely was straight out of the 70s — the thing is the house itself was built in the 90s. There was another odd curtained room off the living room, too. It looked identical to the first, but this door was open, just a crack. I couldn’t describe why, but it made me nervous. I suddenly noticed that despite it being only 6 PM in July, it was pitch black outside the windows up here.
Something about this floor (besides it appearing out of nowhere) gave me a really weird feeling, despite the cheery colors. It felt like a thin veneer painted over something much, much darker. I decided I’d spent enough time up here and found myself thinking ‘I hope the upstairs disappears again by the time the guests arrive’, which was a sentence I never imagined I’d find myself uttering. I rounded the corner back into the tiny kitchen, but it was different – cabinets were open that had been closed, but worse, the door to the stairs was just… gone.
This top floor couldn’t have been more than a thousand square feet, there was no way I had just gotten lost. I decided to retrace my steps, maybe I hadn’t come in through the kitchen after all? I went back down the hall to the bedroom and bathroom – the curtained room was gone.
I felt a raw, ‘I know this doesn’t make sense, but I don’t know what to do about it’, sort of panic.
I leaned into the bedroom with the fuzzy wallpaper and noticed the curtained room was in the bedroom now, but the door was open more. I could hear some faint sound coming from behind it and I knew that I didn’t want to stick around for when that door opened all the way.
I walked quickly back and stuck my head into the living room, the curtained room was gone and the door to the stairs I had taken up here had yet to reappear. A new door had appeared though, at the back of the kitchen. I debated and decided to open it. To my immense relief, there were stairs! But the more I looked, the more I realized it wasn’t right.
It was dark at the bottom, so dark that part of the stairs blended into and then disappeared into blackness as velvety as the old wallpaper. These stairs also looked old, much, much older than the rest of the house appeared to be. Before I realized what I was doing, I had already walked down several steps. I had an inexplicable urge to continue downward.
Something was down there that I needed. It was old, ancient maybe. It needed me, too. I was here, and it had waited so long.
It felt good to be needed.
It felt right, descending into the darkness. Its elation was infectious, it vibrated through the air. No, elation isn’t the right word – it was the yearning for something hollow, dangerous, looking to be full. It was needful.
I was terrified, I knew something horrible was down there, and I kept continuing towards it against my will – in my mind, fear and self-preservation were fighting a losing battle against whatever it was down there that had its hooks in me, pulling me towards it. The air was electric with its excitement.
My foot began to disappear into that horrid, beautiful, foreboding, darkness.
In the distance, a door opened and closed, shattering the silence. Someone was calling out, I blinked. It was a light in the darkness.
The open house.
At that moment, the connection between the thing in the darkness, and myself was broken. I took advantage of the distraction and ran back up the stairs and slammed the door behind me.
Someone was downstairs, looking for me.
I ran through the kitchenette and the door to the stairs was back. The real stairs. I could’ve cried in relief but didn’t dare blink or let anything obscure my vision lest it disappeared again.
The curtained door had also moved again so that it was right next to the door to the stairs, the door opened towards the back hall so that I could look inside from where I was standing. It was halfway open this time. My instincts told me, do not look in there. Don’t. Look.
I reached for the handle of the door to the downstairs. A soft cry was coming from the curtained room. It was alien, unlike anything I had heard before. It was not a mournful sound. Don’t look. My hand tightened on the handle, and I heard the cry become louder, closer to the entrance of the partially opened door. It was coming.
I open, spun around, closed the door, and darted down the stairs. I looked over my shoulder, but nothing followed me.
Someone had shown up early, and I must have made a terrible first impression as I came flying down the stairs, sweaty, eyes wide with terror.
I tried to get myself together and think of some way to explain my terrible state, but before I could even figure out what to say, he gestured to my ears.
“Ma’am, are you okay?”
I gingerly touched the first one, and then the other and sure enough, a small trickle of blood was leaking from each one. I hadn’t even noticed it, but it had been dripping down, staining the collar of my blazer.
I managed to collect myself a bit before the rest of the potential buyers came filing in and let my hair down to hide the bloodstains. The rest of the night was a blur, honestly. I was on edge, ready to leave and lock myself in my apartment, and sleep with all of the lights on. I was never going into a dark room again. I could barely focus.
I hoped, more than I’d ever hoped for anything before, that no one would go up the stairs or make me go up there again. The stairs were still there but not a single guest approached them, asked me about them, or even looked at them. They walked around them like there was an invisible obstacle there.
For a while, as I nodded and answered questions robotically, I wondered if I had imagined the whole thing. Was I losing my grip on reality?
The only thing that confirmed to me that I hadn’t had some sort of waking nightmare, was when the first guest stopped me on his way out. He told me to take care, that it was going to be okay and I almost hugged him. I think he saved my life by giving me some sort of anchor to reality.
He took one last look at me, and then very clearly stared up at the door at the top of the stairs, for quite a while.
That was one of the weirdest and scariest things I’ve experienced, but that’s not even the worst part.
When I got back home, I noticed something in the hallway of my apartment, a door that had never been there before, made of glass with a curtain obscuring the view from the inside. It was only open a crack, but it was enough for me to hear that sound, like a failed attempt at mimicking a crying child, echoing down the empty hall.