Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2010
Adult Winners

Third Place

Our third place Adult winner is Dana Fortier of Hudson, Wisconsin.

Don't Turn Off the Lights

Dana Fortier

I pulled the ends of my favorite blanket closer together, letting the silky smooth binding rub gently across my face as I watched my mom put on her make up.  It was Bowling Saturday.  Every other Saturday my mom went bowling with my aunt and uncle.  Usually my cousins came over to watch me and my older sister Sara, but with the winter storm outside, my mom had decided we were old enough to watch ourselves now.

"Why do you always carry that blanket around with you?  You're getting to old for that now.  And you know I don't like it when you have it pulled over your face."  I sat on the floor, stunned by the mystical powers of my mother, as most 10 year olds are.  How did she know I had the blanket up over my face?  Her back was to me as she put on her make up.  Slowly, I lowered the blanket, and then quickly brought it back up again.

"I see you in the mirror," she answered my unspoken question.  Wow, she could hear my thoughts too!  I lowered the blanket into my lap, making sure it was still wrapped tightly around my shoulders.

"Don't go mommy."  I pleaded, much as I pleaded every Saturday evening, and with about as much success. 

Putting down her eyebrow pencil, she turned to face me.  I started laughing at her crooked face, with only one eyebrow penciled in.  "Why do we have to go through this every Saturday?  Aunt Nora, Uncle Nick and I like going bowling.  It’s our adult time.  And tonight, you need to be good and take care of Buffy and Sara.  Can I count on you to do that?"

I frowned and hunched over, staring at the carpet.  I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.  I hated it when she left.  And Sara was always so mean to me.  Just because she was 13 she thought she was so superior.  I glanced back up at my mom, who had since returned to applying makeup at the bathroom mirror.

"And you can dry up those tears and quit the pouting. I'm still going.  But if you’re going to be a little girl about it and cry, I'll just put you to bed now."

That was my mother's last word and I knew it.  When she started with threats I knew my battle was lost.  Resigned to another Saturday night alone, I sprawled out on the hallway floor cocooned in my blanket.  I began to slither down the hallway, trying to stealthily creep up to my dog, Buffy, who was fast asleep in her bed.

"Leave the dog alone." my mother's psychic voice drifted down the hall.  It was no use.  In utter defeat, I collapsed completely flat on the hallway floor and pulled the blanket up over my head.

I felt the pain of my sister's foot crushing down on my hand and screamed out in pain.  "Stop it!!”  I cried.  "Mom!!  Sara's stepping on me!"

"Well she shouldn't be lying in the middle of the floor under that stupid blanket!  How was I supposed to know she was under there?"  Sara emphasized her point with a sharp kick to my side and an admonishing glare.

Clinching my hand into a tight fist, I brought my arm up and slammed my fist onto of her foot.

"Ouch!  You little monster I'm gonna get you!!"

I scrambled up as fast as I could, screaming for my mother.  I stumbled down the hallway, still wrapped up in my blanket, and ran head first into my mother.

"That’s enough!"  My mother shouted, grabbing the blanket off my head and stuffing it into my arms.  "Act your ages, both of you.  I've had enough of this bickering."

The dog began to growl, as if she were in agreement with my mother.  "Don't you start too." My mother added, looking down at the dog, still curled up in her bed, but gazing intently up the stairway that led to my and my sister's bedrooms.  I glanced up the stair case but could see nothing in the darkness.  The dog's body tensed up as she continued to emit a low growl.

"She sees a ghost!"  I exclaimed to my mother, with excitement.  I knew the house had ghosts!  When we had moved in a few years ago, the previous owners had told my sister and I about the secret attic room between what was soon to be our bedrooms.  They told us how the person they had bought the house from had died in what was now Sara's room, and that his ghost could still be heard in the house.  I had read up on ghosts and knew that dogs could see them.  I reminded my mother of this, as I tugged on her sleeve.

"Stop that.  There is no such thing as ghosts and you know it."  She reached down and shooed the dog out of bed.  "And I don't want you thinking of such foolishness when I'm gone tonight either.  It will only give you nightmares."  She headed into the kitchen to the back door to let the dog out.  I dejectedly plunked myself down on the stairs, letting my head fall into my hands.  Sara walked by and kicked me.  I grabbed her foot and made her trip.

"I heard that!" yelled my mother from the kitchen.  I could hear the nasty winter wind blowing around as she held the door open to the let the dog in.  I didn't understand how my mom could be psychic and not believe in ghosts.  It wasn't right. 

"Come out here and say goodbye." my mom called to me.  I slowly got up and dragged myself into the kitchen.  Placing her fingers under my chin, my mother raised my face up to look at me. 

"Don't look so sad," she said with a smile.  "You'll be fine."  With a quick glance to see where Sara had traipsed off to, and seeing that she was out of hearing range, my mother added, "You know I depend on you to take care of things while I'm gone.  Take care of Buffy, not too many treats, and make sure Sara doesn't get into any trouble.  You know where the phone numbers are if you need anything.  And I want you in bed at 11pm, ok?  And no scary movies or scary books."

I nodded my half hearted agreement.  It wouldn't be a night alone without a scary something.  I looked down at the dog, now back in the house, as she shook off her fresh blanket of snow.  I guessed it was still snowing. 

My mother gave me a hug goodbye and, now appropriately bundled up in her winter gear, headed toward the backdoor.  "Lock this as soon as I leave.  Good bye!"  And with a quick spiral of wintery air, she was gone.  I leaned against the back door, making sure the lock lined up right, and turned the tarnished brass lock, hearing it click.  I slid the chain into place, and then turned the lock on the doorknob, giving a quick twist like I had seen my mother do to make sure it was locked.  I pulled the curtain back and looked out the window.  I could see the tire tracks in the freshly fallen snow, two long lines drifting down the driveway and disappearing into the cold darkness.  The paw prints left by the dog only a short time ago were hardly visible anymore beneath the sparkling snow.  I switched off the porch light and watched the snow dancing in the air under the street lights.  I pressed my forehead against the cold pane of glass separating me from the swirling frosty wonderland that was December snow.  I closed my eyes and thought about Christmas, when suddenly my head was slammed completely against the glass.

Pulled out of my reverie, I quickly spun and pushed Sara as she tried to run by.  "I hate you!" I yelled after her in defiance, as I heard her foot steps bounding up the stairs to our rooms above, her laughter echoing behind her.

Rubbing my forehead, I scooted over to the refrigerator.  I poured myself a glass of grape Kool-Aid, grabbed the bag of pretzels, a treat for the dog, and headed toward the living room; stopping to grab my blanket on the way.

We weren't usually allowed in the living room, Sara and I, we were supposed to use the family room in the basement, but on special occasions or when my mom was gone, she let us watch TV on the big TV in the living room.  As much as I hated it when she left, I couldn't deny how much I liked scaring myself watching horror movies in the dark on the big TV.  I went around and "scaried" up the house a bit, setting the mood.  I turned off all the lights.  That was rule number one for creating a scary atmosphere, it had to be dark.  I put a couple of the couch cushions on the floor.  The only true scary movie position was on the floor mere inches from the TV screen.  Then, I went to the front door to make sure it was secure.  People in scary movies were always so stupid and forgetting to lock doors.  I would never be that dumb, and I was just a kid.  Even though we never used the front door, except to get the mail from the mailbox affixed to the house, I still double checked to make sure it was locked.  I reached up to undo the latch hook at the top of the door.  I could just barely touch it if I stood on my tip toes.  After a couple of jumping swipes, I finally managed to reach it and flip it open.  I looked down at Buffy as she scampered around my legs, tail wagging with mail time excitement.  "No, it’s not time for the mail.” I reassured her.  I pulled on the doorknob with both hands.  Since we didn't use this door often, it was fairly difficult to open.  With a sucking pop, the door creaked open.  I reached out and tried the handle on the screen door, assuring it was locked.  It moved slightly up and down, but no further.  It was securely locked.  I stared out into the peacefulness of the night.  It had stopped snowing now, and you could see all the snow glistening in the moonlight.  It had snowed a good 3 inches during the day.  You could see a slight indent were the sidewalk came up from the curb to the front door and then curved around the side of the house, leading to the back door and driveway.  The few cars that were sparsely parked in front of the neighbor’s house and down the street were thickly blanketed in the newly fallen snow.  Even the street plows hadn't been by yet, making the street seem part of one large yard connecting my front yard with the people across the street.  Buffy began to growl again, shaking me back to the task at hand.  Looking down, I saw that she was standing up on the screen door, growling at something only a dog could see in the blackness.  Was it a ghost?  I tried as hard as I could to see something, but all I could see was the glittering whiteness that seemed to go on forever. 

"Get down." I said as I stepped back to shut the inner door.  After several attempts at shutting the door tightly, I was finally able to properly secure the locks.  I was ready to watch my scary movie.  To assure I would not be disturbed, I went to the living room door and pulled the sliding door almost closed, after all, I didn't want Sara sneaking up behind me.  As I stood in the doorway, I could hear the distance tones of her voice trickling down the staircase.  She must be on the phone, I surmised.  I started back into the living room, and then paused.  On second thought, I went to the bottom of the staircase and shut the stairway door.  Now I would definitely hear her if she decided to sneak up on me.

I returned to the living room and started the movie.  With the bag of pretzels in front of me and my Kool-Aid on the coffee table, I curled up in the pile of couch cushions, pulling my blanket tightly around me.  I gave the dog her chew bone so she wouldn’t bug me during the movie.  Following her own routine, Buffy graciously took her bone, climbed up on the couch cushions and settled in for a long and satisfying chew.  The silence enveloped us as I waited for the movie to start.

About an hour had passed when suddenly the dog jumped up and started growling.  Startled, I let out a muffled gasp, then, as I realized it was just the dog, tried to settle back down and slow my racing heart. 

"Shhhhh," I crooned, as I reached back to give her a reassuring pat, but she was no longer there.  I paused the movie and sat up, looking around the living room.  As I did so, I could hear the foot steps of my sister coming down the stairs.  Buffy continued a low growl.  I followed the sound to where she was standing, a few feet from the front door, her gaze fixed and body stiff.  I heard the living room door slide open and saw Sara's outline shaped in the doorway.  Without notice or apparent provocation, Sara dropped to the floor in one motion; her finger pressed to her lips indicating I should make no noise.  I untangled myself from my blanket as Sara crawled across the room toward me. 

BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG!! There was a violent, incessant metallic pounding on the front screen door.  Buffy's body tightened as she answered in a series of staccato barks.  I started to scream when Sara's hand clasped tight against my mouth.  "Shh!!"  She insisted in a low hush.  "Don't freak out.  Just calm down.  When I came around the corner into the living room, I could see out the window of the front door and there is a man standing on the front step."  I tensed up, eyes widening in fear, as Sara tightened her grasp on my mouth.  "Do NOT make a sound!"  She insisted.  "Agreed?"  She asked.  I nodded my silent agreement.  She lowered her hand from my mouth.  I looked at her, eyes wide asking what we should do.

BANG BANG BANG continued the banging on the metal storm door.  The door rattled within the frame as if someone were pulling on the door determined to get it open.  Buffy continued barking her demands at the door to leave us alone.  I slithered across the floor, being careful to stay out of sight of the front door’s narrow window opening.  I slowly reached out a hand and latched a finger around Buffy's collar.  I yanked her toward me, pulling her close against my body.  I could feel how upset and intense she was and could feel her body vibrate as she continued to growl at the strange figure standing outside our front door.

Sara motioned to the living room door and we both began crawling silently toward what we hoped to be safety.  Staying as low to the ground as possible, we moved toward the door.

THUD THUD THUD THUD resounded through the room as a fist pounded angrily against the inner door.  Fear raced through Sara and me as the knowledge ran through us, he had gotten through the screen door!  Suddenly, it was quiet.  We both were still as we slowly turned our gazes toward the front door.  As we watched the door, all I could see was the door knob as it began to turn, first one way, and then another.  Then, with a rapid fervor, the door knob shook vigorously and the pounding ensued.  Sara and I scrambled through the living room door and into the dark kitchen.  We threw ourselves under the counter top that served as our make shift bar/table top.  Buffy strained against my grasp, trying to escape.  I pulled her closer to me.  I looked at Sara, pleading with her, "What should we do?"  I whispered with a croak.  THUD THUD THUD  Sara pulled me closer to her.  "I'm going to call mom at the bowling alley." she whispered back.  "And hope she gets here in time," she added quietly, but the implication it insinuated hung loudly in the room as if he had been shouted with a megaphone.  THUD THUD THUD

Sara looked at me, took a deep breath, then slowly rose up on her knees, hugging the wall as closely as she could, and reached up for the telephone hanging on the wall just above us.  She frantically punched in the numbers and we waited breathlessly for someone to answer.  I could hear the loud industrial sounds of the bowling alley break through the silence in the kitchen as the bowling alley employee answered the phone.  Sara asked for my mother, repeating the name several times until the man on the other end finally heard her and placed her on hold as he paged our mother.  We waited in longing silence. Silence.  Oh no.  We both froze in terror as we realized the pounding on the front door had ceased.  How long had it been since we heard the last deafening beat of the man's angry fist against our front door? Had he gained entry into our home?  Was he hiding just beyond the living room door that stood not 15 feet away from us?

"Hello?  Hello?"  We heard the distant voice of our mother coming over the receiver, cracking the silence of our fear.  Sara brought the receiver up to her ear "Mom! You have to come home!"  She pleaded some relief in her voice that we had reached someone familiar.  "Someone is trying to break into the house through the front door; we're hiding in the kitchen, come home quick, hurry!" The words gushed from Sara in a hurried frenzy.

I watched Sara closely, wanting to know what was going on and too afraid to look toward the living room door.  I clutched Buffy closer to me, too closely, as she struggled against me.  "Sshhhh" I whispered in her ear, stroking her head and ears.  Too terrified to move, I continued to stare at Sara as she bobbed her head up and down to whatever my mom was instructing her to do.  With a final nod, Sara slowly reached up and hung up the phone.  Slinking back down next to me, she pointed to around the corner of the bar and motioned for us to move behind the counter, out of sight from the living room door.  Silence pervaded the room.  Where was this strange person?  Perhaps he had given up and left?  Were we safe now?

I transferred Buffy into my other hand, setting my left hand on the floor to pull myself around the counter.  As I did so, I glanced up toward the back door and froze. There in the back door window was the silhouette of the unknown stranger.  I felt my body crumple and my arms turn to mush as I stared at the silhouette.  Sara knocked into me as she continued to crawl around the cupboards, her gazed fixed on the living room door. Reaching behind me, I felt around until I found Sara's leg.  I tapped in several times then pointed toward the backdoor, my eyes never losing sight of the silhouetted figure.  I heard Sara's quick intake of breath and knew she was seeing him too.  With a quick tug on the back of my shirt, Sara pulled me back around to where we had been sitting. 

THUD THUD THUD began the pounding on the back door.  The doorknob began rattling in a sickly duet.  My breathing started coming in frightening gasps as the thudding got louder and faster.  He was going to get in before our mom could save us.  What would he do?  Sara wrapped her arms around Buffy and I and pulled us close to her.  She began to rock us slowly back and forth.  I tucked my head down tight over Buffy, as if shielding her, mimicking the tornado drills we practiced in school so many times before.  I screwed my eyes shut and tried to block out the sounds of the male desperately trying to gain entry into our house.  I tried to imagine summer days of playing outside with Buffy and the feel of the warm sun beating down against my skin.

I was pulled out of my thoughts by the feel of the bitter December air as it gust through the room and circled around my ankles beneath my pajamas.  Someone had opened the back door!  I shrank back against Sara and felt the tears building behind my eyes.  I hugged Buffy closer to me; this was the end, like all the movies I had seen so many times before.  My mother had been right; I could hear her voice so clearly telling me I shouldn’t watch those movies.  If only I had listened! 

"Well?  How many times have I told you not to watch scary movies when I'm not home?  And you, Sara, I can't believe she dragged you in on this too.  Come on, both of you, get up."  Was it really my mother?  Was she really there?  Where was the man?  Was he in the house somewhere?  Was he going to kill us all?!

I had to warn my mom!  Forgetting my own fears, I looked up into my mom's clearly agitated face.  "Mom!  Watch out!"  I whispered, as seriously as I could.  "He could be in the house!"

"There's no one in the house.  Now get up and stop acting foolish."  The lights were on in the kitchen now, and looking around at the familiar surroundings, I suddenly felt like the fool I had so aptly been called.  Buffy struggled in my arms to get to my mother, and I set her free on the floor.  But instead of running to my mother, she ran past her and into the living room, where we soon heard her growling.  Stealing a quick look toward Sara, we exchanged the same thought, "Was he hiding in the living room?"  Before we could stop her, my mother went to the living room and opened the door wide.  We followed quickly behind her, all intent upon giving up our lives to save hers from the man who was most surely hiding in our living room.

We reached the living room as my mom was turning on the lights.  No one was in the room.  She walked over to the TV and snapped off the power, glancing at the DVD case lying open on the TV top.  “‘Don’t Turn Off the Lights’.  Wow, that doesn't sound scary at all."  She added sarcastically.  "I’m not surprised that, with all the lights off, you thought you heard someone trying to break in.  You know," she started, turning to face me, "you have to stop trying to get me to stay home on Saturdays."  She stopped short.  Sara and I were both still watching Buffy, who hadn't stopped looking at the front door and growling since entering the room.  We knew she sensed something, whether our mom believed it or not.  Some one, or something, was out there.

"Fine."  My mother sighed in resignation.  "I can't believe I'm doing this."  She added in exasperation.  "I didn't see anyone when I got home.  No car out front.  No man outside."  She continued to explain as she walked to the front door.  "See?"  She said as she reached out to turn the door knob, "Locked." She proceeded to unlock the door, pulled it open and reached for the storm door handle, "Just like the.. " she started, and then trailed off, as the handle turned easily in her hand and the screen door flew open in the wind.  "That’s odd" she mumbled.  Turning toward us she asked "Did either of you unlock this door?"  We both shook our heads adamantly.  Pulling the screen door shut, my mom locked the door and double checked it.  As she went to shut the inner door, her eyes stopped and she moved closer to the inner, wooden front door.  She carefully moved her hand across the surface of the door, and then repeated it, more forcefully with her finger tips.  "What is it?" asked Sara, as we both crept closer.  My mother reached out and turned on the over head entry light.  In the bright glow of the light, we both saw clearly what my mother had felt.  Despite the wetness of the dampness of the freshly melted snow, we could plainly see the indentations from the four firm and angry knuckles as they had pounded on the wooden door.

My mom reached out a shaking hand and switch on the exterior light.  We stood huddled together, looking at the two lone footprints on the top steps and stared in disbelief at the sidewalk, still covered in the undisturbed snow. Not a single step could be seen leading up to the stair case.  Who, or what, had been at our door?  And where were they now??

Continue to the 2nd place story

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