There are days when it feels like I'm the only one awake.
The sun would be rising behind the trees and the town is typically deathly silent. Sometimes, on those days I stay in bed, listening, waiting. I wait to hear my father get up in the next room. I listen to him trudge down the hallway to reach the stairs, his heavy footsteps announcing his descent.
I wait for my dog to come up to my door, its panting breaths audible even from my bed on the other side of the wall. I lay in bed waiting for my mother to shoo him away and peek into my room.
She thinks I’m a light sleeper, for I always open my eyes when she checks on me. I don’t tell her that I’ve already been awake for hours.
Sometimes I don’t wait for my parents to wake up at all, sometimes I go out and walk the empty streets.
The dawn sun greets me in the pale gold streets, breathing life into the normally grey sky. Its light spills through the trees that line the road across from my house and brings awareness to the morning fog hanging low on the ground.
My town isn’t always so quiet and deserted in the morning, but when Autumn rolls around, the world seems to grow still, and not even the fallen leaves stir where they’ve come to rest.
Sometimes, if I take the road that would eventually lead me into town, I pass by the abandoned house hidden within the forest. It’s big enough that I can see it from the street, and light in color despite rain turning its once cream walls dark and spotty.
There’s a smudged and blackened window on the third floor easily visible through the thin barren trees; it’s the only one still intact.
On those slow, quiet days when I think I’m the only one awake, I see a figure standing near that window.
I think the figure is female, and when the light shines just right, I can see that she has wavy hair that comes to rest near her elbows. The thing that bothers me the most is that I can never see her face, but I swear I can feel her watching me.
I first started seeing her in the Summer, and every day since then, she’s been standing near that window.
One day, when I tried to tell my mother about it during dinner, she told me that it was probably just my imagination. “That place has been abandoned for years,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand. “Maybe those delinquents are trying to play a prank on people.”
She then turned to my father for support, and he muttered his agreement, his attention dedicated to the TV in the living room.
But I kept seeing the woman in the window. Months had passed and I tried to convince myself that she wasn’t real, that it really was just a bunch of older teenagers who wanted to spook people.
But no matter how I looked at it, how close or far away I stood, I knew she was watching me.
“We should go check it out.”
My best friend, Travis, suggested when I brought it up to my group of friends.
“No way, that sounds terrifying! I’m not going anywhere near that place,” Heather shuddered, and Travis rolled his eyes. “Come on, it’ll be fun! It probably is just a prank anyway, there’s nothing to worry about.”
I wanted to agree with Travis and my mother, I wanted to put my mind at ease with a simple “it’s just a prank.” If I wasn’t such a coward, I’d have checked out the house myself months ago when I first saw her, but I could never even bring myself to stand in front of the abandoned building.
“But what if it really is haunted?” Rebecca piped up, smiling at the very thought. “Imagine how cool that would be?”
They were soon lost in the idea of encountering a real ghost, and even Heather started supporting the idea of finding the woman in the window the more they spoke about it.
I had believed the house was haunted at first, but I didn’t want to admit it out loud. I was the only one who had seen the woman in the window, and no matter who I asked, no one knew what I was talking about.
If they were set on going to the house, I had no choice but to go along with them.
We all agreed to head out after school.
By the time we made it, the sun was setting and bathing the forest of tall, pale trees in soft orange light, the kind of sunset that was typical for our small town during the Autumn months. I remember how hard it had been for me to cross over the curb and follow my friends into the woods.
I remember the sound of the dead leaves beneath our feet and how no birds sang as we made our way to the building. I remember watching it grow closer until its shadow dropped over us and instantly felt colder.
But most of all I remember seeing the woman in the window watching us as Travis pushed the door open.
“There! Do you see that?” I had asked them.
When they turned, there was nothing there. Travis joked about how I was already getting spooked when we hadn’t even entered the house, and they all laughed it off while I tried to shake the horrible feeling in my gut.
The interior of the house was as expected of a building that had been abandoned for years. There was dust and cobwebs everywhere, and the air inside felt stale. I remember hating the smell, and how Heather had to go outside because she was feeling too stifled.
The rest of us explored the first floor and found old antiques scattered around the living room. There were also a number of porcelain dolls stacked by the back wall near a crumbling fireplace.
Naturally, most were in bad condition, but there was one that caught my eye; a small one sitting on the ground in front of all the rest.
It looked to be in far better condition than the others, its once bright blond hair still retaining some of its shine. But it wasn’t the doll that interested me, it was the framed portrait in its lap.
It was only a black and white photo of a young girl, smiling and holding a doll that looked eerily familiar to the one keeping the photo. But it wasn’t the way the girl’s hair was done or how she was gripping the doll, it was the look on her face that had a shiver running up my spine.
Her wide, unsettling smile didn’t reach her eyes, and her eyes had such a strange, almost crazed look in them. I could tell that her eyes were bright even though the photo was in black and white, and the way those eyes stared into the lens of the camera made me feel like she was staring into my very soul.
I was put off by it and moved the photo to rest on its face.
“Look at all this stuff,” Travis said as he inspected an old and damaged camera. “You’d think a place like this would have been looted by now.”
Rebecca had grinned at that. “Maybe the ghosts have made sure that no one can leave with their treasure.” She dragged her thumb across her neck with a giggle, and Travis laughed, but the disease I felt only got worse.
Soon after, we finally made our way up to check out the third-floor window.
When we found it, the room was just as stuffy as the rest of the house, with standard bedroom furniture pushed up against the right wall. While Rebecca and Travis went to investigate the furniture, my attention landed on the window.
It looked so… ordinary. Its dark wooden frame was chipped and molded with time, and the glass had the dark smudges I was so used to seeing. Most of all though, there was no dark figure standing by the window, and I wasn’t sure if the heavy feeling in my gut was from fear or relief.
While my friends were distracted, I headed straight towards the window.
And there it was, the street I always took to school. I could picture myself standing there staring at the window, watching as something dark stared back.
I couldn’t explain the feeling then, but now, I know it felt like a force had come to rest right behind me, pressing up against my back. A chill crawled up my spine and made me shudder, but my palms and neck grew hot with nerves and perspiration.
I felt heavy, like some unknown force was trying to push me down until I fell through the floor.
I couldn’t look away from the street, black noise had filled my ears, and I could swear that dark smoke was steadily rising around my peripheral to cloud my vision. I couldn’t think, I felt numb, and I wasn’t even sure if I was still breathing.
The world seemed to grow a little dimmer outside, and a black fog rose from the road.
I couldn’t look away, even as the fog began to take shape, as a black figure seemed to materialize out of thin air. I couldn’t look away, even as two, bright, and startlingly realistic eyes stared at me on a black, faceless figure.
And then just like that, I blinked, and it was all gone. Travis had jostled me to get my attention and the invisible weight left my once heavy shoulders, the street across from us was only companied by fallen leaves, and I felt like I could breathe again.
“You okay?” Travis had asked me. I don’t remember what I said at the time, maybe I answered with an “I’m fine” or a simple nod, but whatever I said that day, it had been a lie.
That day, I hadn’t mentioned the feeling that came over me while I stood at the window. That day, I hadn’t mentioned how I could see a dark figure standing in the street across the road, terrifying amber eyes watching me.
If I’d said something then, I might have had my feelings of unease be validated. If I’d said something, I might have slept over at one of their houses, just to be safe. If I’d said something, I might’ve known that someone would believe me when I said I could see a shape forming across from me in my room that night.
But I didn’t, and now I lay awake, eyes wide and heart pounding as I try to keep my breathing quiet, sweat collecting all over my body.
Now, I’m alone in my dark room with the sheets drawn up to my chin as if they could protect me from the bulging eyes on that void face, as the woman in the window stands at the end of my bed, watching.
About the Creator
I am a 21 y/o writer of over a decade who has been crafting fantasy stories for as long as I can remember, and am currently working on publishing my first work within the next year.
Constructive criticism is always welcome!