My family had just moved to a new town. It was not a big place, but not too small either. Our new house was ordinary, lacking anything special to distinguish it from the rest of the neighborhood—unless you count that little closet in the bedroom.
Later on I would learn that they were not all that uncommon, but as a child I had never seen anything like it. The door was very small; one would have to crawl to get inside. It was tucked in the corner of what was to be my bedroom. I only ever tried to open it once, while we were moving into the house. It was locked, and we could not find any key that would fit.
My older brother, Matt, and I had just finished our first week at our new school when it happened. We were helping mother with the laundry, and she had loaded us with a pile of clean clothes to take up to my room. Being a couple of lazy young boys, we simply dropped our piles on my bed and were about to head back downstairs when I saw it.
The door to the little closet was open, shamelessly open, flaunting its dark hollowness in a mocking sort of way.
Matt came up behind me. “What is it?”
“Did you open the door?”
He looked at the closet. “No.”
“It’s bad. Can’t you feel it? Shut the door.”
Matt slowly swung the panel back into place, and I was relieved to hear the latch click.
“I do feel it,” said Matt. “I felt it the first day we moved here. You wanna know what the kids in my class say about it?”
“No,” I replied, “don’t—”
Matt continued anyway. “This place was empty for a while before we came. They said the last owners had two kids. One was really ugly, and the parents were embarrassed by it. They didn’t let him go outside, and if anyone ever saw him, they punished him by locking him in that closet.”
“One day the parents got really mad. They were so embarrassed by his ugly face that they smashed it in with a—”
“Matt, STOP IT!”
“Alright,” Matt finally relented. He started to leave the room, but paused in the doorway. “You wanna know where they hid the body?”
“Alright, alright.” And Matt left.
It was hard to sleep that night. From my bed, I could just see the corner of the closet peeking around my dresser. Every horrid detail of Matt’s story ran through my head, round and round like a demented carousel.
You wanna know where they hid the body?
I did not need Matt to tell me that. I knew where, and I was afraid to watch the door lest I see it swing open, afraid to listen too closely lest I hear the tortured groan of a mouth that could no longer open properly.
What’s in there? I wondered helplessly. Something faceless?
With a shiver I rolled over so I would not have to look. Matt was just trying to scare me. He didn’t feel anything bad at all. He was just playing along, getting me on edge.
It had worked. I could easily imagine the quiet squeak of turning hinges, so clear it might have been…
I wrapped the blankets tighter around me and let out a sick whimper. My chest was tight, my stomach rotten. I would not look. No matter how close those shuffling footsteps came, I would not look. I would not, I would…not…
My head slowly turned.
The light came on while I screamed, and soon Mother was sitting on the edge of my bed, gently grasping my shoulders as she cooed, “Shh, it’s alright. It was just a nightmare. I’m here.”
“I looked,” I sobbed, “I looked, I looked. I said I wouldn’t, but I did, I looked, I looked…”