(Read Part One first!)
The story continues...
That’s when I saw him.
A man was across the room. He looked very agitated and seemed to be pacing the floor, hands clasped behind his back, face turned downward. When he turned and paced back the other way, I noticed that he was the only thing I could see. I couldn’t see the door to the bathroom that was to my left. I couldn’t see the chest freezer that sat behind him. All I could see was this strangely illuminated man that I didn’t know.
As I watched, he turned again to continue his pacing. I caught a glimpse of his face. He seemed to be talking as his dark mouth moved but I couldn’t hear anything. It was the eyes that made my eyes go wide. They weren’t like eyes at all, just black smudges, as if they had been drawn in with a heavy pencil only to be smeared away.
Fear heightens the senses and there was no pretending that I was anything but utterly terrified now. I heard someone next to me move in their sleep and knew immediately that it was my brother. The frame of the bathroom door came into focus, closer than I had thought before. But the man…he continued his silent pacing, his anxious movements making no sound as he turned again. Given my proximity to him and the bathroom, I realized that his path took him directly through the ping pong table.
I might have stopped breathing.
There was no rational explanation. The man I watched was no man at all. It was a ghost. Plain and simple. A ghost. Only a few yards away from me. In a strange house, with everyone else blissfully oblivious as they slept.
I’d read all sort of stories. R.L. Stine was at the beginning of his scary story career and I had devoured his books, laughing as the hero vanquished the terrifying creatures. But a book read in comforts of one’s own room was something entirely different than what I was experiencing at the moment.
The ghost continued his eternal pacing and I silently watched his every move, too scared to turn away, too scared to close my eyes long enough to blink. It seemed like hours before I noticed that the ghost was beginning to fade as other items in the room were coming into focus. The sun was rising.
With the spectral image gone, I finally found the strength to move. I recovered my sleeping bag, still wadded up in it’s place between my sister and Emily, only three feet away. Crawling inside, I zipped it up to the top and buried my head under my pillow.
It seemed only moments later that I heard voices and movements as everyone else woke up, ready for more fun before it was time to leave. I was too exhausted to pay much attention. I can’t even remember what we had for breakfast or what we did before returning home.
I do remember the next day. While my mother had her hands deep in dough, I sat in the kitchen, watching her, trying to find the words to explain what had happened. Without turning away from her task or noticing my turmoil, Mom asked me to run downstairs to the pantry and get a can of vegetables.
The pantry was in the basement. Did we have a ghost in our basement, too? I’d never spent the night down there to find out, but it did have a dark, creepy feeling to it...especially in the pantry.
Images from the sleepover filled my head as I started down the stairs. Once I thought about it, I realized that nearly every basement I went in had a creepy feeling to it. They were darker and usually smelled different than the rest of the house. Maybe those lonely basements were the haunts of choice for ghosts everywhere. I didn’t hesitate when I entered the pantry. Instead, I grabbed the closest can from the vegetable shelf and spun on my heel. Heading back up the stairs, a chilling tingly feeling crept up my spine, like someone - or something - was just behind me, reaching out to grab me and the only way to escape was to move a little faster. I was in a full on run by the time I burst through the door. Slamming the door behind me, I was convinced that I could hear steps retreating back down the stairs. It could have been my pounding heart but I wasn’t in any condition to be rational at that moment.
And I’ve been irrational ever since. Twenty years later, as I stand at the top of the stairs leading down to my basement, I can still feel the tingling shoot through my spine. I hesitate, weighing the need for more tomato sauce against the desire to run away and hide.
There’s nothing down there, I try to tell myself, just get this over with!
My footsteps sound heavy on the wooden stairs as I once again descend into the darkness...
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