top of page





          A slight breeze gently danced the flower-patterned curtains over the aluminum-framed, sliding glass door—open but an inch or two. Above the glowing luminance of the small city, the ninth floor unit was still and undisturbed. The amber tinge of the street lights lit up the interior of the building from across the street—even the floors which were taller than the light posts. Across the road from the apartment building, the secondary school was just as still and quiet. During the day, the area was always alive with commotion, as the light frivolity of high school students accompanied the sounds of roaring engines and blaring stereo systems on the fairly busy street corner of Palmer Road and Harder Drive. During the night, however, all was silent and hushed by united slumber. Though the cool, fall breeze which carried the scent of dead leaves and autumn usually brought a sense of humble serenity to the quaint two-bedroom unit, there was something not quite right about tonight—something . . . unusual.

   The silence within the apartment was broken by a gentle snore—more like the purr of a large house cat than a snore. The flat screen television, though the volume was lowered, resembled a series of low hums and indistinguishable banter, as the brightness of the illuminated screen frolicked upon each surface of the tiny living space, where a small Jack Russell Terrier lay before a brown, leather recliner. Its cushioned surface was cracked from overuse, its primary use once no more than comfort, these days served as a means of sleep. Her head tilted back and mouth agape, Meredith Rhoads was passed out after a long, exhausting weekday, a thin line of saliva glistening in the light of the television.

  The nightly news was on its third repeat of the night—the usual celebrity trends and Hollywood gossip now the main topic of conversation, and all current events of importance brushed aside to entertain rather than inform. Meredith commonly kept the channel locked on the news network in the late hours of the night, as she had recently become reliant on some sort of background noise in order to fall asleep; more to remain so than anything. The news, though often interesting or alarming, mostly bored her just enough to lose interest and pass out, leaving just the right level of noise to keep her mind tranquil—to numb and subdue her train of thought and slow the gears in her head to an acceptable rate.

   The recent change in situation had altered her entire life, regretfully uprooting her family. A constant state of exhaustion seemed never ending, her days of a simpler existence now fleeting in her tired memory.

  Once upon a time, she lived in a clean suburban neighbourhood, comfortable and content in a spacious four bedroom house, two-car garage, a white picket fence and room to stretch out. She was a stay-at-home mother and devoted wife, and although she may have found her existence somewhat boring at times, she would have done anything to reverse the events that lead her to separation. She simply wasn’t prepared for what was to come. It was on principle alone that she found herself separated from her husband, after a respectable time, for the better part of seventeen years in an otherwise happy marriage.

  Of course, that was all behind her now. Decisions had been made and lives upheaved, divorce a common lingering thought at the forefront of her mind when the clatter of everyday life silenced, never discussed aloud as it would only prod the children’s already delicate emotional state.

   Meredith had worked two jobs since the separation; a full-time position during the week and a part-time on the weekends. In fact, if you would have asked her, she probably couldn’t even recall her last day off. Working seven days a week had become the norm, and with two children stuffed into a small cluttered apartment, privacy wasn’t a luxury the fierce provider could afford. She hadn’t quite come accustom to storing her minimal amount of clothing on the bathroom shelves, the very place she changed her daily attire, and the only private area she had to do so.

   And so she rested her overworked muscles and tired bones, letting the television submerge her mind below the line of tranquility, embracing the subtle quiet of the few hours rest she managed each night.

   Bright green eyes suddenly jerked open as she sprung to her feet, the sound of a bedroom door creaking jolting her instantly out of the recliner. The stunned mother stumbled over the family dog, catching his tail with her bare foot. Eye’s half-open, she staggered in a zombie-like manner, a barely conscious sentinel rising to purpose. Righting herself, Meredith raised her brow to spot her daughter moving in a similar fashion out of her bedroom, shifting the skin on her face, and hoping to snap herself out of the half-awake stupor.

   Her dark brown hair askew, the ten-year-old child peered through one squinted eye, beneath the amber glow of the hallway light. Her pink lips were more plush than usual, the base of her purple flannel pyjama top caught on one of the lower buttons, exposing her tiny frame. Ashley’s bare feet pressed into the soft carpet as she pulled the messy strands of hair from her eyes.

   ‘Mom?’ She asked, barely coherent as her narrowed green eyes spotted her mother at the end of the hall, who was making her way toward her.

   ‘You alright, Sweetie?’ she replied.

Meredith knew her daughter to be a fairly deep sleeper. If she was awake at such a late hour, it was for a specific reason.

   ‘I had a nightmare.’

   ‘Are you kidding me, again?’ she asked light-heartedly, moving to embrace her daughter. ‘This is the third night in a row—’

   Without warning the child backed away, her arms raised, eyes no longer squinting but alert and aware. Something about getting close to her mother set her on edge—unorthodox behaviour for an affectionate child such as Ashley. Meredith stepped back, noticing a glimmer of fear in her own daughter’s eyes.

   Was her nightmare lingering beyond sleep, or was her only daughter genuinely terrified of her? She wondered in that moment.

   ‘I was just trying to help.’ She assured, her sympathetic eyes lowering to the floor.

   ‘I know.’ Ashley replied, now growing more lax with her mother’s concerned reaction. ‘Just . . . don’t.’

   Meredith wasn’t quite sure what to say or how to react. Her teenage son had grown bitter, distant and even cold at times, over the last few months, but not her Ashley—she was huggy and affectionate, regardless of circumstance. Jason had always been the great consoler of nightmares. Their father had a way about him, always knowing what to say and exactly how to say it. He would often state:

   “It’s a mother’s job to nurture, but it’s the father’s duty to make his kids feel safe.”

   Meredith, however, hadn’t quite got the hang of it, filling in the paternal role in his absence.

   “Easily accomplished when you carry a gun.” she would usually reply. Jason Rhoads was a career police officer since before their daughter was born. His profession doubled his fatherly duties as a sentinel in the night, the children both humbled knowing that at a moment’s notice, he would be there to protect them. His cruiser was commonly not far from home; not like now.

   ‘Do you wanna talk about it?’ Before Meredith could even finish her sentence Ashley was shaking her head, her long chestnut brown hair bouncing over her delicate, youthful cheeks.

   ‘I just want to go home.’ the pitch of her voice rose, bottom lip slightly trembling.

   ‘We’ve been through this, Sweetie—the house is sold. Like it or not, this is our home now.’

   ‘Well buy it back!’ She demanded with a stamp of her tiny foot, and then turned toward the bathroom opposite the kitchen, slamming the door behind her.

   Meredith leaned against the frame and let out a hopeless sigh, listening to her child sob, her heart cracking like glass with every tear. Although James was overly vocal at times about the move and his parent’s separation, Ashley had generally kept to herself until this very moment. She always tried to stay positive—an enduring optimism one of her many wonderful attributes. Though young in years, she observed with an unspoken wisdom, well aware of just how hard her mother worked to provide for them both. Even so, there was a lingering bitterness that dwelled within her most muted of thoughts: silently, the child blamed her mother for breaking up their family, the reason her father had left them—at least that’s what she was led to believe.

   Meredith knew different, however; the truth a tad more complicated than she led on.

   Listening to her high-pitched sobs from the other side of the bathroom door, she searched her heart for the right words of comfort, but could think of nothing that could possibly sooth what her daughter was feeling. It broke her heart, knowing there was little she could do to set Ashley’s mind at ease.

   ‘I miss Daddy.’ She whispered just loud enough for her mother to hear through the hollow door.

   ‘I know you do, Sweetie—so do I, though it may not seem like it at times.’ Meredith shook her head, second guessing every word. ‘I just wish missing him would have made a difference in the end. Your father was always the great consoler nightmares; a talent I haven’t quite lived up to. Had I known . . . I would have taken notes or something.’ She grimaced. ‘I’m trying, Ashley.’

   Pushing the door open slowly, she watched the child blow her blushing nose with a sloppy fistful of toilet paper.

   ‘Then call him.’

   Meredith sighed, and then pulled her phone from her back pocket to check the time. It was nearly two-thirty in the morning and it was a school night.

   ‘Come on.’ She gestured toward the kitchen. ‘A hot cup of chamomile should help you sleep.’

  Filling the electric kettle full of tap water, Meredith flipped the switch and opened the cupboard doors.

   ‘You really think I wanted to move?’ she asked as she went about her task.

   ‘Yes.’ Ashley bitterly retorted with no hesitation.

   ‘Oh yeah, I’ve always dreamt of camping out in the living room of a two bedroom apartment and juggling family time between two jobs.’ She stated sarcastically while reaching for the canister of tea and two mugs. ‘Of course I’d rather stay in the house. Neither of us could afford the mortgage on our own. A house is for dual-income families or at least someone with a college degree—’

   ‘Then don’t get a divorce.’ Ashley stated plainly, the taboo word now out there for all to hear, and like herding cats it would be impossible to reverse. The time for discretion had finally come to an end, and Meredith could no longer avoid the inevitable discussion she had been putting off for much longer than she had planned.

   ‘I wish it were that simple. Young lady, one day you’re going to be a grown-up. When that day comes, you’re going to learn just how complicated relationships can get—especially marriage.’

   ‘What’s to understand?’ her tone was almost bratty, as though she knew more than her mother. ‘Be a family, or don’t be a family; it’s not rocket science. Just call him and say sorry for kicking him out.’

   ‘Is that what you think happened?’ Meredith’s look of shock took the child by surprise, even though she had dismissed her daughter’s belittling tone, silently reasoning that the kid had been through enough, and empathy trumps discipline in these complicated moments of parenting.

   Ashley simply shrugged her shoulders while the kettle whistled. Meredith dropped a few tea bags in each mug with more bitterness than she had meant, and poured the boiling water, her temper just steaming, though she would not allow it to be too obvious.

   ‘Milk please.’ she requested, knocking around the teabags within the steaming water. A moment later they were sipping away awkwardly, waiting for the uncomfortable silence to break as emotions hung in the air like a thick smoke.

   ‘I would probably understand if you’d just talk to me.’ Ashley opened the freezer door and dropped a few ice cubes into her mug, the tea instantly cool enough to drink. ‘What exactly happened?’

   Before Meredith could answer, Ashley cut her off.

  ‘And don’t give me any of that “Some people just aren’t meant to be” crap. I know you better than that. You wouldn’t have kicked him out of the house and uprooted us all just because you were unhappy. Family shouldn’t lie to each other.’

   The mother pressed her lips into a thin line as she let out a huff of frustration.

  ‘I knew my own wisdom would come back and bite me in the ass.’ she replied with an awkward curve in her lip, not quite knowing how to proceed—or even if she should. ‘Look, sometimes parents have to lie to their kids, alright? Most lies are told to deceive, but some are meant to protect. Maybe when you have kids of your own you will understand. Besides, I promised your father I wouldn’t get too much into detail, at least not without him standing in the same room.’

   ‘Fine.’ Ashley sighed with much less attitude than her mother was expecting. ‘But you can’t keep us in the dark forever, Mom. You know that, right?’

   ‘Yeah, I know that.’ She took a deep breath, glad to avoid the conversation yet again. ‘But there are things about us both that we thought best you learn when you’re old enough to understand.’

   ‘That’s not going to happen anytime soon.’ She shrugged her tiny shoulders.

   ‘It might.’

   ‘Well, James has his driver’s license and facial hair, and you won’t tell him. What chance do I have?’

   ‘Your brother may be older, but I believe you are the mature one of the two.’ She replied, and the child seemed to lighten up at the thought. ‘That’s why when the time comes, I’m confident you’ll both be the same age, at least mentally anyways.’

   ‘We do mature faster from what Ms. Hanover tells me.’ Ashley chuckled under her breath, referring to her teacher.

   ‘That’s why we ladies have to stick together in times like these. Boys can be so much more sensitive than they let on—very unpredictable at your brother’s age. I need to be able to rely on you keeping your shit together. Can I count on you?’

   Gulping down a mouthful of tea, she nodded, forcing a smile.

  ‘I knew I could.’ Meredith replied, and Ashley wrapped her little arms around her waist. In a split second all tension was released, and the once distraught child seemed relatively back to normal.

   ‘I’m sorry, Mom.’

   ‘Me too.’ Meredith sighed. ‘I’m sure this can’t be easy for either of you, all this drama and squeezing all your stuff into such a tight space.’

   ‘Yeah, but we’ll learn to adapt.’

   ‘That’s my girl.’ Her mom replied, kissing her forehead before they released. ‘Now, off you go.’ she gestured to the child’s bedroom door. ‘You have school in just a few hours, after all.’

   Ashley downed the last of her tea and made for her bedroom, but her mom stopped her just as she pushed open the door.

   ‘Wait, what was your nightmare about?’

   ‘Uhm—’ she hesitated for a moment. ‘Nothing I can’t handle.’ Ashley lied, the vision of her horrific nightmare still vivid in her mind.

   ‘Okay then, but I’m here if you want to talk.’ she reminded.

   ‘G’night Mom.’ She forced a smile before her bedroom door closed.

   ‘Sweet dreams.’

   Within her room, Ashley suddenly found herself in the pitch dark, and it didn’t take long before the vivid memories of her nightmare came screaming back to her. She quickly turned and engaged the lock on her bedroom doorknob, then leapt across the small room and quickly pulled open her curtains, allowing the light from the streetlamps below to serve as a night light.

   Shifting around in her twin bed, the child struggled to get comfortable. Merely the top of her head exposed from beneath the comforter, she kept a steady gaze on the doorknob, pulling her focus away just long enough to check her cell phone. As the screen lit up, she pulled up a contact number labelled “Daddy”. Keeping her thumb ready to dial at any given moment, something had disturbed her greatly. For the first time since the move, Ashley felt unsafe—threatened even. The chamomile tea kicking in, her eyelids grew heavy, and before the child could worry any further, she slipped into welcomed slumber.

   Moments later, she found herself watching a horrific event—the same reoccurring nightmare the child had been plagued with for weeks. Before her stood five inverted crosses, all erect in a circle as five woman screamed into the night, their hair and flesh ablaze, mounted and crucified. The sight felt more realistic than her other dreams, the smell of burning flesh lingering every time she woke. In the center of the circle of burning crosses, a member of the clergy stood in their black and red cassock, their eyes unnaturally wide, reveling in their torment.

   Meredith stood bewildered and slightly worried, listening to the lock on her daughter’s door engage from within. She had never locked her door before, at least not that she had noticed. James always locked his door, even when making a quick run to the bathroom and back. Teenagers and their privacy, she supposed. But it had only been since her nightmares began a few days ago that Ashley hadn’t slept with her door cracked open a few inches, just enough space to allow the dog in and out of the room while she slept.

   What was she so afraid of? She wondered, concerned for the psychological wellbeing of her only daughter. What could possibly have her so nervous?

   Meredith turned her thoughts from the situation, hoping that the newly locked door was merely the overreaction of a child’s nightmare and nothing more. Moving the coffee maker away from the wall, where she kept a small mickey of vodka and a pack of cigarettes, the exhausted mother took two quick gulps of her favourite liquor, cracked open the kitchen window, and lit up, allowing the slightly cool autumn breeze to pull the smoke from the apartment.

   A thoughtful and cautious mom, she made a point to keep her bad habits hidden from her children. Both were well aware that she occasionally smoked, but rarely lit up in front of them. In her youth, Meredith had been a fully fledged smoker, but kicked the habit for the most part as the children got older and more influential, limiting the use of nicotine strictly to times of great stress—or when she indulged in the odd drink from time-to-time.

   Leaning on the window sill, the exhausted mother took a long haul from her cigarette and let out a distressing breath. The cool air upon her cheeks set her at ease, the rustling leaves blowing through the school parking lot across the street keeping her in a calming daze as the alcohol set in. Outing her cigarette half-way through, Meredith took one last swig of her mickey and capped the bottle, then slid the window shut and began preparing Ashley’s lunch for the next day.

   Usually she would quickly throw her lunch together in the morning, as her daughter was getting ready for school, but given the late hour, she reasoned that it would afford her an extra half-hour sleep if she did it that moment. James, being in the twelfth grade couldn’t be seen in a social setting with a homemade lunch, which suited Meredith just fine. Slipping a five dollar bill in his coat pocket for the school cafeteria saved her time and effort each day. If only grade schools had cafeterias, she often wished.

   Combing the contents of the fridge, she noted the obvious lack of groceries. She silently regretted not hitting up the grocery store after work that day, but Ashley had violin lessons, and Pricehack was on the other side of town. Not exactly ideal when facing rush hour traffic, as the busy-body had no desire to spent what little time she had trapped in gridlock. Grabbing the remaining carrots from the middle shelf and salad dressing for dip, she closed the refrigerator door, retrieved her wooden cutting board from the lower cupboards, and began chopping them into snack-sized portions.

   As she began shaving the skin from the carrots, Meredith suddenly heard the dog growling—nothing too loud, but certainly out of place for his tame and gentle personality.

   Stepping out of the kitchen curiously, she spotted the dog sitting before the front door. His lips were tightened, teeth bared and eyes locked on the door, very much out of character for such a gentle and loving pet.

   ‘What is it, Venkman?’ She rhetorically asked the dog named after her son’s favourite Ghostbuster, when he was just a small boy. Upon hearing the sound of his master’s voice, the small canine broke his focused gaze from the door and began whimpering, his little brown eyes shifting back and forth from the door to Meredith.

   ‘Keep it down, will you? You’re gonna wake the kids.’ She requested, turning back to her task. 

   After cutting through the biggest carrot of the bunch, she wondered what had bothered the family dog. Venkman was a good boy, never the type to bark or growl even when there was a knock at the door, beyond a quick warning. His behavior warned there was someone approaching, but a residential building had many occupants, some who enjoyed the night-owl lifestyle. But this was different, she knew in her gut. He never bared his teeth unless the children were in danger.  

   She paused, something obviously out of place. The sound of the blade hitting the wooden surface of the cutting board seemed to continue after her wrist stopped moving.

   Perhaps exhaustion had finally got the best of her imagination, she reasoned, but Venkman was now growling much louder than before. When she reached for the next carrot, she heard it again, slightly louder than before and now unmistakable—a knock at the front door, three in an eerily timed sequence—almost hypnotic in nature.

   For a moment she stood conflicted with the small paring knife in hand, and slivers of carrot skin clinging to her grip.

   “Who could possibly be calling at such a late hour?” she pondered, checking the time on the stove.

   The phone hadn’t rang from the downstairs lobby, she was sure, but perhaps the intercom system which granted entry from the main entrance was having some technical difficulties; it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Then again, everyone she knows would have—at bare minimum—texted her before showing up, most certainly at such a late hour.

   Meredith thought back to the sleepless nights when her husband would be out on the streets, serving and protecting his sworn duty. A late night knock at the door was a wife’s worst nightmare, and she couldn’t help but picture the worst case scenario in her mind’s eye.

   ‘Please, let him be alright.’ She muttered to herself before approaching the peep hole, pressed her hand next to the encased viewer, and peered through. Breathing a sigh of relieve, her worries were instantly laid to rest, the concern subsiding for the wellbeing of her separated husband. Rather, the spherically warped view of a small child could be seen standing as still as a cardboard cut out. Their age or sex was impossible to determine with a lowered brow, the shade of their hoodie covering any distinguishing features.

  ‘Hello?’ A youthful feminine voice asked. Meredith naturally assumed the late night visit had something to do with her kids.

   ‘James is sleeping right now, and you should be too.’ She replied, assuming she was a shorter than average teenager. There was no way anyone Ashley’s age would be roaming about unsupervised this time of night. ‘A bit late for a social call . . . are you in some sort of trouble, dear?’

   ‘There’s someone chasing me. Could I please come in and hide?’ The young voice requested, but as Meredith watched her closely, she eerily noticed that the child’s mouth hadn’t moved, nor did the young girl show any sign of motion in the slightest. It was like staring at a still image through the peep hole.  

   ‘Who’s chasing you?’

   ‘A scary man.’ The bizarre girl replied. ‘He’s searching the building for me. Please, can I come in just for moment while I wait for my dad?’

   Meredith stood conflicted. There was an innate maternal intuition that had her reaching for the door knob, but a sinking feeling of dread in her gut protested. There was something not quite right about this late night visitor, instinct overcoming all.

   ‘Please hurry; I can hear him in the stairwell.’ she pleaded, but Meredith knew better. The apartment was a corner unit, right next to the stairs. The slightest movement could be heard in the hollowness within, the stairs themselves made of hard steel and concrete. But then again, Venkman’s growls could have masked whatever the girl was claiming to hear.

   What she found concerning was the lack of panic in the tone of the strange child’s voice. If the kid truly was as worried as she proclaimed, why didn’t she sound frightened?

   ‘Can you lift your hood so I can see your face, dear?’

Silence followed, and after a moment passed the child finally moved. Lifting her brow, Meredith caught sight of her ghostly white features, but her eyes were hidden, as the girl wore a pair of dark sunglasses much too big for her head.

   She was female—that much was obvious. Her cheeks were pale, almost the shade of a corpse’s skin, as though blood flow had ceased, and the natural healthy glow of life had departed. Meredith was Caucasian, but would be considered dark in comparison to the girl’s bleach white complexion.

Heart pounding in apprehensive uncertainty, she could feel the sweat slick the palms of her hands, a sense of dread building deep inside like a boiling pot.

   ‘Take the glasses off, please.’ She requested with a gulp and a slight tremble of fear in her voice.

   Just then, the stairwell door on the opposite end of the building slammed hard in its casing, echoing through the hollow space, and the alarmed tone of fear she had been expecting finally shot out from the child’s lips.

   ‘He’s here! Please open the door!’ She yelled out. ‘LET ME IN!’

Meredith instinctually reached for the deadbolt lock, but suddenly Venkman began barking like a rabid beast, and before her hand could reach the knob she felt the dog’s teeth chomp down hard on her ankle.

   ‘Ahh! Venkman, what the Hell? Hold on!’ She yelled.

   As the door opened only just, the chain bolt caught her momentum, and the heavy door slammed hard back into its frame. The lock was above her eye level, and Meredith had a habit of forgetting it was engaged.

   ‘Damn!’ Kicking the dog away, she reached to slide open the chain lock, but then stopped herself. Something wasn’t right, and she could feel it in the pit of her stomach, as though proceeding was against everything she ever stood for. Every morsel of her being was warning her to keep out the late night intruder, her maternal senses sharpened like a mama bear protecting her cubs.

Why was the child knocking on her door over any other? Why not try the neighbour across the hall when she neglected to open the door the first time? She could neither hear any footsteps, nor the child fleeing into the stairwell as expected.

   Leaving the chain-lock engaged, she peered through the peephole once more.

   The child was still standing there.

   Surely the man she had claimed to be fleeing from would have caught up to her by now, so why had she not fled?

   Acting on her protective impulses, she reached for the deadbolt, but the knob suddenly turned and the door slammed against Meredith’s face, so hard that she stumbled backward off her feet, the sting of the blow instantly blurring her vision and ringing her ears. Though dazed, she was thankful the door was caught once again by the chain.

   ‘GET OUT!’ she screamed, tears filling her eyes in terror as many twisted and deformed hands reached through the space between the door and its frame, arms and wrists feeling about, the chain tight creaking, threatening to break.

    ‘Let—us—in.’ Course whispers repeated, as though many were chanting the request at once.

Meredith’s heals slammed blunt against the base of the door, as many inhuman cries of pain could be heard from the hallway, and many warped fingers with burned and scorned flesh moved outward.

   ‘Somebody help!’ Meredith screamed, hoping to wake her kids, a neighbour—anyone at all. Again she kicked her feet hard against the door, throwing her weight into it until the heavy fire door slammed back into its frame. Still woozy, she wasted no time scurrying to her feet and reengaged the deadbolt with the slight window of opportunity.

   Shaken and befuddled, she pulled herself up and stepped back, eyes wide with terror and out of breath.

   The three knocks repeated, so much heavier than a mere child was capable, as the entire wall trembled with each rap, shooting Meredith’s heart into her throat. She stared at the metal hinges, subconsciously praying they held.

   ‘LET—US—IN!’ the many voices grew louder, and far more aggressive.

   ‘Leave me alone!’ she cried out, then reached in her back pocket and unlocked the screen on her cell phone. ‘I’m calling the police!’ she threatened, but before she could tap the “call” button, an empty silence fell like a shroud of despair over the apartment. Breath heavy, heart pounding like a war drum, she gulped nervously and peered through the peephole one more time.

   The child was gone.

   Head throbbing, she tried to catch her breath, relieved that the terrifying ordeal seemed to be over.

In that moment, she hopelessly wished for her husband’s presence, as she had never felt so vulnerable, helpless or alone. She picked up the paring knife she had dropped when the door slammed into her cheek, gripping it tight.

   ‘Are you . . . still out there?’ again she gulped nervously, but there was no answer.

   Meredith lowered her eyes, taking a deep breath.

   ‘Thank God—’

   Thump . . . thump . . . thump—horribly dense, almost robotic, she could feel each knock in her rib rage, though no one stood on the other side.

   ‘Please let me in.’ the voice persisted in a sickly-sweet and feminine tone, though there was no one standing in the hallway. Tears filled her eyes as terror gripped her soul, an obvious supernatural force at play.

   Meredith hit “call” as fast as possible, and put the phone to her ear expecting a ring, but when nothing happened she lowered the phone. There was no signal, and she watched in awe as the battery quickly drained before her eyes, until it died in her hand in mere seconds from a full charge.

   ‘Ashley!’ She reminded herself, bolting down the hall. Turning the knob, she remembered that she had locked the door and began pounding hard on its surface.

   ‘Honey, open the door—it’s an emergency.’

   ‘Go away!’ the child screamed, utter fear trembling in her voice.

   ‘It’s mom; open the door this instant!’

   ‘LEAVE ME ALONE!’ Her daughter’s horrified voice screamed back.

   Lacking the patience to argue, Meredith repeated the actions with her son’s door, but there seemed to be no answer whatsoever.

   ‘James, open the door!’ She yelled. ‘Call 9-1-1 right now!’ But again, there was no reply. Slamming her shoulder hard against the door, she felt the hollow wood cracking at the latch. Again she pounded, throwing her weight until the door finally gave, and Meredith burst into the room in search of her son’s cell phone.

   James was still and unmoved in his double bed. The commotion hadn’t stirred him in the slightest. Stepping cautiously toward her son’s bed, she quickly noted the sound of heavy breathing. He was sleeping—snoring even.

   Ignoring the strange enigma, she reached for the cell phone which had been charging on his bedside table. As the glow of the screen lit up her features in the darkness of the room, she stared at a locked screen requesting a password.

   ‘Fucking teenagers.’ she scoffed bitterly. ‘James, wake up!’ she yelled.

Placing the phone back on the night table she climbed onto his bed and shook him.

   ‘I need your password. Wake up James!’ She yelled at the top of her lungs, but he simply wouldn’t wake. Suddenly, a dead silence caught her attention once more. Venkman had finally stopped snarling, and there wasn’t a single knock to be heard.

   “Is the eerie child finally gone?” She hoped with every fiber of her being, but promised herself nothing.

   Climbing off the bed, she left her son to slumber and stepped cautiously toward the door. Breathing heavy, her palms glistening and head still queasy, Meredith walked bravely into the hallway one foot before the other, unsure of what to expect.

   The dog was nowhere to be seen, the commotion seemingly passed, but she had been fooled once before.

   ‘Venkman?’ She pushed a trembling voice from the base of her throat as the hallway light began to surge and darken over and again. Whistling for the dog, she expected him to come running, but he would not come. ‘Here boy.’

   Reaching the front door, her eyes combed the area for any sign of the family dog. He had sensed the disturbance before it happened, and only he would know if the supernatural entity had left. More so, she was thankful to not be utterly alone.

   ‘Are you still out there?’ She yelled toward the door, but after a moment lingered there seemed to be no response. She waited much longer than before, expecting someone—or—some thing to reply.

   ‘Hello?’ she called out again.

   One cautious foot before the other she approached the door, double-checking that the deadbolt was still engaged and the chain lock secured. Peeping through the hole, she stared once again into an empty hallway.

   ‘I can’t see you. Are you still out there?’ She asked yet again.


  Meredith then charged to the dining table, grabbed a chair and wedged it beneath the doorknob, barricading herself as best as possible.

   ‘What the Hell are you?’ she muttered under her breath.

  Suddenly, she heard the whimpers of her dog, and quickly traced the sound behind her recliner, where Venkman would usually hide during thunderstorms. Pulling the recliner forward, she spotted the frightened creature shivering in the corner, his face buried where the two walls met.

   ‘You did good, boy. Someone’s getting a juicy steak for dinner tomorrow.’ she sighed, thankful the ordeal was finally in the past. ‘Thanks for warning me; I should have listened.’

   Suddenly her heart sank as three distinct knocks could be heard, but echoed on tempered double-paned glass. Meredith hyperventilated instantly, freezing in place as tears leaked down her cheeks and she could hear the little girl’s voice, much less muffled than before.

   ‘Please, let me in.’

   Turning ever so slowly, eyes widened and jaw dropped in utter dread as Meredith looked upon the girl standing on her balcony, nine floors up and tapping on the sliding glass door.

   She screamed like never before as the balcony door slowly slid open seemingly of its own accord. The child’s sunglasses fell from her face, and the sinister Black-eyed Child stood mouth agape, skin whiter than freshly fallen snow, and her long hair lifting as though gravity had no effect.

Meredith starred screaming into the charcoal eyes of the demon child, as all the fury of Hell pulled her into chaos and madness, devouring her very essence as her blood-curdling bellows echoed through the night, and all went silent—still and evermore hollow.

bottom of page