ignoring the sound. Like fingernails on a blackboard, deep and violent. It's
coming from the stairs, always from the stairs.
move towards my bedroom door. I can't make them stop. With each step, my heart
thumps harder. Something evil's in the air; thick and musty.
darkness, I pass my little sister's room and approach the stairway. The sound
grows. Eerie light climbs up the steps and reflects off the empty wall behind
round the corner and I face the stairs.
nothing except the steps leading down.
I breathe a
deep, hot sigh.
As I start
heading back, I feel something from behind. Sharp claws dancing on my shoulders.
into my room, I lock the door. Something's out there. I can almost hear the
scratching sound echoing in my head.
day, I can't stop thinking about it. Maybe it was just a nightmare. Ever since
we moved here, I haven't gotten a decent night sleep.
making lunch in the kitchen. "Nate, you look terrible. Another bad dream?"
I lie, burying my head in my Wolverine Annual.
just getting adjusted to the new house."
nothing new about this heap." I look at the cracked plaster walls and warped
historical landmark. We got a great deal. We're lucky to live here."
you can ignore the nightmares and scratching sounds coming from the staircase.
huge bite, I stuff the last half of my PB&J in my mouth.
sleeping over tonight?" Mom asks.
I look over
at my little sister, Mandy. She's hovering over her lunch. Her long dark hair
draped over her face. And she's mumbling to herself again. The same tune over
and over—something about knocking on a door. She's always been slightly off, but
this house has made her worse.
Dan's still coming."
friend to sp-spend the night." Mandy says, doing her best not to stutter.
young to have a sleepover, dear," Mom reminds her.
Dan arrives as Mom goes out to the garage to do laundry. We head up to my room
to put a new high-performance engine in my R/C truck.
house belongs in one of those old black and white horror movies," Dan says as we
pass Mandy's room. She's sitting with her doll, humming that stupid song.
your new cell." I grab his phone. "What's that on the screen?" I ask, looking at
hash marks across the glass.
It's off." I turn the phone to show him and they disappear.
been a reflection. Here, Nate, I'll turn it on."
I stop. A
chill creeps up my back.
I turn the
phone and it re-appears. A tic-tac-toe board—only raised like wood paneling.
sec." I hold the phone out so Dan sees the reflection. "See that?" I whisper,
almost unable to breathe.
a reflection of the door behind the stairs..." Dan turns to see what I already
know—there's no door. "What the-is this some sort of gag?"
stare at the phone's screen. In the reflection, I see panic on our faces. This
is no gag.
hoping we're being stupid, that there's an explanation. But nothing's behind us
except the old, gray wall at the top of the stairs. It reminds me of the
scratching sounds in my dream.
There's a mirror downstairs."
down, afraid to look back. I dig through some boxes that no one's bothered to
unpack and find an old hat mirror.
sideways on the upstairs landing, between the wall and the staircase. Slowly,
with a trembling hand, I hold up the mirror.
is an old weathered door with a tarnished brass handle all fancy and decorated.
When I turn to touch it, it's gone.
Think I'm coming down with a cold. Your mom better take me home." Dan starts
down the stairs.
chicken." I grab his t-shirt. "We've gotta figure this out...ourselves." There's
no way Mom would believe this. Even if she did, she loves this house so much;
something like this would break her heart.
I have to
fix this—but how?
doing?" My little sister's big brown eyes stare up at us.
"Go back to
your room or I'll tell Mom you're bugging us," I snap.
don't open that door." She turns and heads back.
did you say?"
and stands with her back to us. Her long nightgown draped down to her feet. She
starts singing that song again, only louder:
knock on the door. Thirteen times, the monster moves no more.
swiftly, don't make a sound. Except this song, the sp-specter to bound.
mirror, give thirteen taps. Make sure the creature can't come back.
fast, over the door. With fortunes luck, it'll be fettered evermore."
you hear that?" I demand.
around, "Don't know. Just heard it."
key, Nate, the song. It's gotta be!" Dan's voice shakes.
the brilliant insight. It obviously tells how to get rid of... the monster."
thirteen times. That must make it safe to enter," Dan says.
mirror? Tapping the mirror must trap it."
"But can we
trust a song?"
have much choice." I look at my sister. She's gazing down at her doll. Smiling
and combing its hair.
sure we got it right?" Dan asks.
repeats the song a couple of times, to make sure we got everything.
ready?" I ask, mirror in hand.
says forcing a smile.
the mirror, I reach back for the door, knocking thirteen times. The rough grain
of the wood stings my knuckles, but nothing happens.
focused on the mirror, I grab the knob. It's ice cold.
opens slowly, as if pushing against me.
I turn, and
now I can see the door straight on. It's open, but there's nothing except deep
don't say anything. I'll repeat the rhyme and tap on the mirror."
gripping my forearm so hard it hurts. I take a step into the room. The darkness
is so thick it seems to press down on us. I want to turn back, but like my
dream, something pushes me on.
tug at my shirt, and I glance back to see that Mandy followed us in. I start to
tell her to get out, when the door slams shut.
jump. I almost scream, but remember we can't say anything except the song. The
song—what are the words to the song? I can't remember.
Everything's black. My heart beats so hard I hear it in my ears. As my eyes
begin to adjust, I start to make out the room. It's dirty and coated thick with
dust. Layers and layers of peeling wallpaper, a broken rocking chair, bare wires
reaching down from the ceiling like long, skinny fingers.
something else. Another presence--cruel, old, desperate.
voice drifts into the air, "Knock, knock on the door..."
As she repeats the song, the creature's anger swells. My arms grow numb and
Dan's grip slips—something's zapping our strength.
be fettered evermore," Mandy finishes.
tons of effort to lift the mirror. Looking away, afraid of what the mirror might
reveal I begin tapping.
three. I feel breath on my neck, rotten and sticky.
six. A hissing sound fills my ears.
eight, nine. The whole room starts to rumble, like it's tearing itself apart.
eleven, twelve. The walls are closing in on us—I start to shake with panic.
There's a loud whoosh, and everything's silent.
I hear a
click and a sliver of light slices across the floor. The door's open.
jumps out. I put my hand on Mandy's shoulder as we leave. The door gently clicks
closed behind us.
little Sis," I say and turn. The door's gone. Just a bare wall—except for one
large rusty nail. "Wow. That was close."
I hang the
mirror on the nail.
thought we were dead when Mandy mispronounced specter."
A crack appears in the
mirror and spreads like a spider web.