My neighbors are quiet people. I rarely see them, but when I do there’s always a friendly wave or a warm smile. We almost never interact, so when they asked me over for dinner I was a little surprised. And truthfully a little uncomfortable - I had gotten used to our somewhat antisocial relationship. I had grown accustomed to our distance. I’m a bad liar, so it was easier to say yes than to make up some excuse. They told me the night and the time and I told them I would be looking forward to it.
I’ll admit that I had a very nice time. We didn’t say much during dinner, but I felt welcome, comfortable, and relaxed. Closer to 8:00, I noticed they had begun glancing at a clock on the wall. Often, and with great discomfort. And then with a palpable panic.
They feigned reassurance when I asked about their change in demeanor. They both attempted to explain their behavior in overlapping dialogue. I found this particularly unsettling. Over their frantic words, I announced my appreciation for their hospitality and began to stand.
But then he asked, “Do you believe in ghosts?”
I was startled by the question and very uncomfortable. I wanted to leave. Badly. I answered his question and told him that I had an open mind to such things. And he asked me to sit. He told me that he and his wife have had experiences. He said that their house had a presence…a ghost. He said that it came often. Every night in fact. He said it started in a corner of the basement, came up the stairs, opened the cellar door, and walked through the living room, into the dining room, and through the furthest wall. He pointed at the wall next to where I was sitting.
I realized this was the purpose of the invitation. They wanted a witness. Needed one. I could only think of two questions: What does it look like? and When does it happen?
He answered my last question first: At 8:18. Every single night.
We looked at the clock on the wall - 8:12.
Then he answered my first question: We don’t know what it looks like.
When I asked him to explain, he told me they had both been unable to look at the presence. He said he and his wife have tried all these years, but can’t. I found this absurd. And the entire story, which I had actually begun to believe was now either a hoax, a distasteful joke, or a delusion of two very disturbed people. I pushed back my chair and stood.
A noise. From under our feet, in the basement. They looked down at their plates. I looked at the clock - 8:18.
I could hear deep slow labored footsteps. They sounded miles beneath us, but I knew that wasn’t the case. And then I felt the vibration. A sickening wave of a nauseating low hum forced me hard into my chair, my legs and knees weak and useless. I could hear the basement stairs creaking underneath a massive shifting weight. I wiped cold sweat from my face. The nausea was unlike anything I had ever felt. I heard the knob of the cellar door be gripped, and then turned. Slowly. The door began to open. The vertical crack of darkness from the creaking door seemed to release an even more intense low frequency hum. I tried to stare into the darkness, to see. To see IT.
But the putrid vibration was overwhelming. My body contracted. My legs and arms were drawn inward. My entire body gripped the chair. I could feel the muscles of my face contorting, and my eyes, as much as I fought to keep them open, closed. Tight.
I could hear It. Moving across the wood beams of the living room floor. They seemed to be groaning and splitting. The sickening waves of vibration seemed to rattle every loose object in the house. I wanted to cover my ears, but the piercing hum kept me frozen in place. I tried to scream out, but the muscles of my jaw refused. So I listened to it, coming closer and closer. Ripples and waves of the sickening sound covered me. I felt myself on the verge of fainting. And I welcomed it.
But then It was gone. I opened my eyes. Just the three of us, in a quiet undisturbed house. Nothing seemed out of place. Except for the open cellar door.
That was three months ago. We haven’t spoken since. And each night, despite making every effort to be busy or out of my house altogether, I find myself standing at the window which faces their house. Looking out across our ordinary lawns. Staring at that wall. At 8:18.