- = 2005 = -
Don thought that the stories about the house were all a bunch of hoo-ha. Little girls giggling from the basement in the middle of the night? Please! His wife was equally unconvinced. First off, the previous owners of the house were retiring and moving into a condo in Florida, they mentioned nothing about ghosts in the house. When Don called them up to ask them about it they just laughed and said they had heard the same ridiculous stories. If there truly were ghosts in the house - and Don didn't believe in that phenomenon anyway - why would only some of the past owners of the house experience them and some not?
Every night before making love - or just going to sleep - Don and Emily would laugh, asking each other if they've heard the gigglings yet that some of the neighbors had sworn that they would be hearing by now.
"Maybe they're being naughty little girls, like you!" Don would tell Emily some nights.
Emily would then look at him with her playful little brown eyes and respond: "Maybe, maybe I need a spanking!"
Then they'd laugh and start pawing at each other.
It wasn't until the night of September 11th - an ominous date, but probably just a coincidence - that Don thought he might have possibly heard something. This was about six months after moving in. Why did they wait so long? was Don's first thought after possibly hearing some far-off giggling as lay there in his bed that night. His wife was already zonked out; Don had stayed up later to work on his laptop, churning out his latest node for Everything2.com.
There it was again. It was very faint, and could have very well been his imagination, but that time he really thought he heard little girls giggling, coming up through the vent on the floor next to his side of the bed. He placed the laptop on his night stand, putting his latest video game review on hold, and rolled out of bed. He crouched down to the floor and put his ear right on the vent. Again, after a frustratingly silent moment, he thought he heard faint giggling and this time it was accompanied by whispers. A chill break-danced down his spine when he thought he heard his name whispered by them.
Don jumped up and wiggled out of the fresh funky freakness that had just lambasted his body. "Had to have been my imagination," he whispered to himself as he calmed down.
The next morning he decided not to tell Emily about it. It was very late at night, he could have imagined it all, or he could have been dreaming. He asked Emily how she had slept. She said she had slept fine, like a baby.
The next night, while Emily was grooming herself in the master bathroom and Don was posting a daylog, he thought he heard whispers and some giggles again coming from the vent. This time they were very clear. And there was no doubt about that fact that he was awake. He had just consumed a midnight snack of cookies and Mountain Dew. Don was wired.
"Did you hear that?!" Don exclaimed. He asked quite loudly, not because he was scared or anything, it was so his wife could hear him over the bathroom's exhaust fan.
"Hear what?!" Emily asked.
"Nevermind!" Don called.
Don jumped up, his skin dancing around on his muscles to the tune of his singing, tingling back. "Son of a bitch!"
"What is it?!" called Emily.
"I just heard my name whispered!"
"Cut it out!"
This continued for several days. Every night when he was alone, sometimes in his bedroom again, other times in the living room or the bathroom, he would hear the whispering or the giggling. Finally one night something happened that he had most feared.
Emily switched on the hall light as they prepared to head to bed. Bang. It flicked on, then blew out. "Looks like we need a new bulb."
"Uhhh, yeah," Don said nervously.
Then Emily asked the dreaded question.
"Would you go down to the basement and get one, honey?"
"Well, do we have to change it right now?"
"Why not now? Don, you know how I hate procrastinating when it comes to the lights. If we don't do it now two weeks from now we're still trying to flip on the light and there'll be nuthin. Now go get a light bulb, please."
"Why don't you go get it?"
"Why don't you?!"
"Well, you're the one who blew it out!"
"Don, you're the--" Oh no, great, here it comes... "--man! It's your job!"
Don sighed. There was no way that he could argue that he was not a man.
"All right, fine," he sighed. Then he sheepishly scurried away.
Now Don at this point was beginning to believe in ghosts. He was beginning to believe that there was something, in fact, down in that basement. Why his wife couldn't ever hear the giggles and the whispers was beyond him.
Every creak of the old wooden steps chilled his blood. He slowly went down them as if he was on death row and walking to his execution. The cool, stale air of the basement slowly swallowed him as he descended. When he got to the bottom he realized he hadn't heard or seen anything out of the ordinary. He tried to convince himself that maybe he was going to be spared by whatever was down there as he stared into the inky blackness. He nervously swiped around, looking for the chain to the basment light.
"Damn chain!" he yelled. Where the hell was it? It should have been right there somewhere.
Calm down, Don...calm down.
He shrieked like a little girl as his heart and lungs seized up. He swung around widly for the chain. Finally he found it! He yanked it as if doing so would save his life. He sighed loudly as the basement became bathed in the dim, yellowish light. "Whew!" He swallowed a burning bit of saliva, then walked over to the old wooden shelf where the bulbs were. It was located near a section of the basement wall that was brick. He actually started to calm down as he examined the variety of bulbs they had, looking for the correct wattage.
About that time the air around him became terribly cold. It bit him to the bone as if he had just been tossed out into a snowy winter's night with nothing on but his tighty whities. His breath condensed into a white cloud around him. He cursed and hugged himself.
There was that giggling again, only this time it clear as a bell, and right behind him! He yelled and turned around. There stood three little identical, black-haired, dark-eyed little girls in pale pink night gowns. They looked sevenish and, despite apparently having been giggling a moment ago, all wore ominous frowns on their faces.
"We wanna go see Dad!" the one in the middle yelled.
"Yeeeaarrrgghhh!" Don screamed. He ran right through them (eek!) on his way to the stairs. His heart felt like it was going to explode and his brain felt like it was going to implode as he began bounding up the steps, continuing to yell. He thought he heard his wife exclaiming something right before he tripped. He hit a step ahead of him nose-first. His head exploded in pain and stars burst all over his field of vision. He felt wetness gushing down his lips and chin. No matter, he regained his bearing and continued upwards as if his life depended on it.
- = 1965 = -
Dad was just not right lately, the Andrew sisters decided. Katie, Meaghan, and Sandy had become increasingly more anxious every day since their mother was killed in the auto accident almost a year before. They did grieve heartily, and dearly missed their wonderful, beautiful mom, but their thoughts had almost become entirely consumed with their father's increasingly erratic behavior. They did not understand what exactly was happening, but they knew that something was most definitely not right with him.
Dad would come home from the plant already drinking most nights. Home cooked meals were a thing of the past; their meals almost entirely consisted of tv dinners now, as that is all their father would purchase and cook. Meaghan had exclaimed at one point that she would puke if she had to eat one more Salisbury steak. Katie and Sandy were equally as displeased with the dish but were not as vocal as their sister. Even though the triplets looked and sounded pretty much equal in every respect, Meaghan had somehow become their ringleader. Most of the time if the three of them were standing together Meaghan was in the middle, with Katie on her left and Sandy on her right.
"You'll eat yer Salisbury steak and you'll like it!" Dad would yell at her, his bloodshot eyes bulging out of his head.
Dad was never up for the Nice Guy of the Year Award, they had always much preferred to spend time with their mom, but after her death their remaining primary care giver cranked his meanness up a few notches. Even though the girls liked to tell each other jokes and get each other giggling so they'd feel better, the sadness they all shared under the surface was profound and burrowing deeper into their spirits with each passing day.
Katie, while eating her breakfast one morning - heat 'n serve sausage - couldn't take it anymore. She was tired of always eating crap for food, tired of never doing anything fun anymore except any activities she enjoyed at school, and tired of never having Mom around anymore. The spicy, all-too-familiar aroma of the sausage tickled her nose and was beginning to make her nauseous.
"I wish you'd died in that car, not Mom!"
Dad froze on the spot, right before he put a piece of sausage on Sandy's plate. He turned around slowly to face Katie. "What'd you say?" he hissed.
"Katie!" Meaghan warned.
"I wish you'd died and Mom was still here!" Katie exclaimed. "I'm sick of eating this damn sausage every morning for breakfast!"
Dad slowly lumbered over to the little kitchen table. He bent down so he was eye-to-eye with his daughter. He was so close that she could almost count every hair on his sloppy-shaven face and smell milk on his laboring breath. "Well, I didn't, even though sometimes I wish I had, but you'd best watch it, little potty-mouthed missy! I'M ALL YOU'VE GOT NOW! ALL OF YA!" He raised up to included everybody else. "So you'd best appreciate the food that I give ya every day, you're lucky you get any! I work for peanuts and your mom left me takin' care of you three little brats! Now shut up and eat yer breakfast!"
"I miss mommy!" Sandy squeaked, her eyes growing wet.
"If you'd like to see her again, THAT CAN BE ARRANGED!" Dad bellowed.
The girls suddenly held their breaths and their hearts skipped a beat. The kitchen grew deathly quiet. Dad continued to stare at them, rage dancing in his big, brown eyes.
"What do you mean?" whimpered Meaghan.
Suddenly, Dad's expression softened. His cheeks drooped. It was as if he'd had some mad plan in mind, but thought better of it.
"Nuttin," he mumbled. He turned around and continued to fry the sausage.
Now that had truly frightened the Andrew triplets, more than anything else in their life had. After that their father grew increasingly mad. He always mumbled to himself, while he heated up their tv dinners, while he fried their sausage, while he watched the Ed Sullivan Show - his favorite one, and even while he was in the bathroom. Most of the time they couldn't make out any of his inaudible ramblings, but sometimes they would hear him say things like "no, no, you can't," "lousy brats," and "leavin me with those goddamn girls, Claire!" He was going to do something, something not good, the girls figured, but what they couldn't even guess at.
What he was really planning the girls would have never guessed, not in a million tries, not in a million years.
- = 2005 = -
"So, you...you saw the ghosts of three little girls?" Emily asked cautiously as she drove Don home from the hospital. He reached up and felt the cotton dressing on his swollen, broken nose for what might have been the hundredth time. He had never had such an injury before and it was making his entire face feel really weird.
"Yeah," he sighed. "You still don't believe me, do you?"
"Well some part of me thinks you just don't wanna have to go down to the basement anymore for things," Emily admitted.
"Come on, Emily!" Don exclaimed. His nose and face hurt afterwards.
"Well, I think you're one of those people afraid of going down into dark basements and you let your imagination go wild!"
"They were standing right there, clear as day, as if there were totally real flesh and blood little girls right there in the basement," Don said slowly. "You're my wife, I can't believe you don't believe me."
Emily sighed. "Hon, I want to, I really do. Maybe you should take me down in that basement. Maybe I'll see these girls and realize you're right, or you'll realize that there really is nothing down there."
And that is what they did when they got home. For several minutes they both stood down there - with the light on of course - in a perfectly normal basement. Don became embarrassed as he looked around, looking for something - anything - out of the ordinary. When Emily's cell phone went off he almost jumped out of his skin!
"Geez, hon!" Emily said as she grabbed her phone out of her jeans pocket. "Get a grip! It's just my phone!" She answered it. "Hello? Hello? I'm sorry, Mom, could you speak up? Hello? I'm in the basement, the reception down here sucks. Yeah. Hold on."
She shrugged apologetically to Don, then headed up the stairs. Don frowned, but continued to stand in his spot, looking around at everything: the washer, the dryer, laundry baskets, boxes, his wife's glassware collection, and the shelf with the light bulbs and tools. He found himself staring at the brick section of the wall. It had never occured to him before, but for some reason now he was wondering: why, exactly, was that section of the wall brick? The rest of the walls in the basement were grey concrete, like just about every other basement he'd ever seen.
Then the giggling started again.
It startled Don, but not as much as it had before. He'd almost been expecting it. Even though his body still tingled with nervousness, this time some of his fear had transformed into curiosity. He swallowed, then slowly walked over to the shelf near where they had appeared before.
"H-H-Hello?" he stuttered. "L-Little girls?"
They all three appeared out of thin air in front of him. This time they smiled at him. It comforted Don a little. The one on the left turned and whispered something to the one in the middle. The middle one in turn whispered something to the girl on the right.
"Why are you here?" Don asked them. "Who are you?"
The girls began whispering rapidly, as if trying to tell him a story, but he couldn't understand any of it...until one of them yelled "WALL!!"
Suddenly, they vanished and quickly reappeared nearer to him, one at his left, one at his right, and one in front of him. They joined hands, opened their mouths wide, then began to scream. It was so shrill that it stabbed at his ear drums; he tried to put his hands over his ears to drown it out, but it didn't do any good. They vanished and reappeared right in front of the wall, squeezed up against each other, as if tied together. They continued to scream.
"STOP IT!" Don yelled. "STOP SCREAMING!"
They vanished again. This time only one reappeared and stood right in front of him. Her gown was tattered, her eyes were sunken, her body emaciated, and her flesh white and decaying. Her bony mouth opened and she growled "Wall!" as she reached out and grabbed Don's wrist.
Immediately his body and soul was gripped with such a powerful feeling of terror and despair that he couldn't handle it. Don screamed and jumped away from her. The girl vanished, but he still fell to the ground and rolled up into the fetal position, crying his eyes out. This is how Emily found him when she came back down the stairs.
- = 1965 = -
"Come down in the basement!" Dad said excitedly. They had been watching Howdy Doody and were annoyed at the interruption, but he seemed happy for a change. It'd been weeks since they'd seen him crack a smile. But there was something about his mood that disturbed them. Meaghan was afraid.
"For what?" she asked. Dad had been doing odd things down there. First he dragged a big, grey bag of something down there one day. Then a few days later he and a friend of his brought some bricks down there as well.
"It's a surprise," Dad replied, grinning.
"It's not our birthday," Sandy said as they timidly followed him into the kitchen towards the basement door.
Dad ignored their apprehensions and urged them onward. When they got down to the basement they saw that he had been building another brick wall out from an existing wall. It was already about a foot high. Meaghan noticed a bunch of rope coiled up near the wall.
"What's this for?" Katie asked, her face puckered in suspicion.
"It's a special hiding spot!" he said, grinning widely. He was starting to look crazy. As they looked at what he had done so far, it did look like there was just enough room for somebody to hide in there.
"But how do you get in and out?" Meaghan asked as she absently played with the rope.
Dad didn't answer.
- = 2005 = -
"Don, put that down!" yelled Emily. Don was wielding a sledge hammer and wore a crazed look on his face. He was staring at the brick wall.
"I must destroy this wall!" Don yelled. "If I do, they'll go away!"
"Who?!" Emily exclaimed. "Those ghosts? Honey, you've got to take a look at yoursefl! You've gone insane. Please, I'm begging you, put that down and come upstairs with me! You might bring the house down!"
"Stand back!" Don yelled.
"I SAID STAND BACK!"
Don took his first crack at the wall. His hardest swing only cracked it and kicked up some dust. He growled and took another swing. The cracked area began to give. A few more swings created a hole. By time time Emily was screaming. But he ignored her. Four swings later he had taken out an entire section of the wall. When the dust began to settle, they could see something unsettling beyond it, inside the wall.
- = 1965 = -
"Daddy, NO!" screamed Meaghan. She and her other two sisters were tied up and against each other behind the wall. They watched in horror as Dad continued to build the wall - slapping on more mortor and bricks - even though they were inside of it.
"Please, we'll be good!" Katie wailed. Tears flowed freely from all of their eyes.
"You're all bad, you'll all always be bad!" Dad yelled as he slapped on another brick. He had called them each to the basement, one by one, the day after he'd shown it to them. It was easier to tie them up that way.
"Why are you doing this?" sobbed Sandy. Dad ignored their desperate pleas and sobs as he continued to build the wall. Soon he didn't have to see them anymore as he built the wall higher than their faces.
"DADDY!" Meaghan screamed over and over again as Dad placed the last of the bricks, cutting off their remaining light bit by bit. Katie and Sandy were crying too much to form any words.
"There!" Dad said as he set in the last brick. He could barely hear them anymore now, and once he was upstairs watching Ed Sullivan, he didn't have to hear them at all.
- = 2005 = -
A bone-biting breeze of cold air smacked Don and Emily as soon as the dust began settling. It seemed as if it had come from inside the wall and it had been waiting to get out for a very long time. As the breeze passed by them they both felt the most intense anger they'd ever experienced. Fortunately, that and the chill went away seconds after the breeze was gone.
"Oh my god!" Emily yelled. Inside the wall, tied up with rope, were three small, skeletonized bodies. The mouths were agape and the heads were tilted upwards. Strands of black hair were still attached to the skulls.
"It's THEM!" Don said, pointing at them. He dropped the sledge hammer and it landed with a DONG on the cement floor.
"Who?" Emily asked. She was beginning to cry as she realized they had been just children.
"The Andrew triplets that mysteriously vanished in the sixties!" Don yelled. "Their father, Nathan Andrews, HE'S THE ONE WHO DID THIS!"
"My god, their own father?!" Emily gasped. "How do you know all this?!"
"Well, I visited the library yesterday, did some research on the town. He went crazy after their mother was killed in a wreck. I saw an article about the accident. There was also an article by a reporter who believed there was something suspicious going on with him and his daughters. Suddenly the girls stopped showing up at school about a year after the accident. And then he quickly moved out of the house and nobody saw or heard from the girls ever again. They were never registered with any other school; it was assumed that they were home schooled after that.
"But they were really DEAD! That bastard walled them up here ALIVE! But it was them, mostly, those ghosts, that told me; that feeling that hit me when that breeze did, that told me it was their father. I'm gonna go find him!"
"What?!" Emily said. Don picked up the sledge hammer again and strode towards the stairs.
"He has to pay!" Don exclaimed.
"Is he even still alive?!" Emily said. "Shouldn't we call the police? My god, what are you planning to do?! Don! Stop!"
"He is alive, he lives in an assisted living apartment complex outside of town!" Don said as he reached the top of the stairs. "I found him using zabbasearch.com!"
"Don, put the sledge hammer down!" Emily said as she ran up after him. "Honey, please, just call the police!"
But Don ignored her as he ran to the car and got in.
When Don arrived at the apartment complex he headed straight for Nathan Andrew's unit, gripping the handle of the sledge hammer tightly. He rapidly knocked on the door when he arrived. No answer. He checked the door. It was unlocked. He opened it. As it creaked open, he saw an old, white-haired man in a bathrobe hanging from the ceiling fan by a rope coiled around his neck.
"Nathan Andrew," Don mumbled as he looked at the body. Its eyes were bulging and its mouth wide open in a look of total terror and shock.
"Looks like they got to you first."
"I'll be damned," said the frail old man as he stood in the basement while forensic photographers shot pictures of the three corpses behind the partially-demolished brick wall. "I always thought something bad had happened to those girls."
Don nodded to him. "It was your article that helped me figure it out, Mr. Stumpf. Well, and the ghosts."
"Call me Jack, please," said the old reporter in his raspy voice. "And, I'm glad I could be of help. I'm glad to see my suspicions confirmed, albeit it forty years later. Not sure I believe the bit about the ghosts, but it was awfully strange how their father hung himself right after you busted into that wall."
"Well they must have gotten out when I did and found him," Don said. "Glad he got his. I haven't slept a wink since I found them, neither has my wife. Can't believe anybody would do something so horrible."
"I've seen plenty of horrors in my day," Jack replied, "been reporting for nearly five decades, but I must say, this one is at the top of the list."
"Hey, take a look at this!" one of the investigators exclaimed. "It's apparently written in old blood or something, didn't see it until I flipped this on!" He was illuminating a section of the wall behind the bodies with an ultra violet light. Everybody, including Don and Jack, walked over to take a look. There, scrawled on the wall, showing bright in the special light, was a message.
"THANK YOU DON."