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The touch was faint, but enough to startle him. He gathered the quilt closer to his chest, and lifted it above his neck. He could hear the whining sound outside his window. A slow back and forth whine, like a pendulum rocking to the rhythm of a sluggish wind.
He knew what was out there, but did he dare to look again? He saw it two weeks ago, when they finally moved to his grandparents’ house, and there were no desires to see such a troublesome sight again. Maybe it had been a hallucination brought on by the ugly structure of the house that went back over two hundred years. His great-great-grandfather had built it with his own hands. Well, at least that's the story, but after eavesdropping on a conversation between his father and his grandfather, the boy learned the house was built by slaves.
He had never like the house, even as a little kid, and now that he was twelve, almost thirteen, he hated the place with passion.
It was an old Victorian edifice, resembling those Southern plantation mansions, where his great-great-grandfather originated from. Before he came to the Yankee side to seek his fortune. The entire house had an evil look to it, the typical sinister appearance usually reserved for B vampire movies. There were two large posts framing the front porch, and the black shutters on all the windows gave the white panels a grey haunted look.
But what scared him the most, had to be the tree that rose out in the front, with its huge branches that reached out straight to his bedroom window. Just the sight of it filled him with apprehension and assured him that something evil grew out of it. Even the shape of it possessed and eeriness that had no natural resemblance to any other tree, especially the large lumps that covered the trunk; grotesque tumor-like lumps.
The tree rose at least seventy feet high, and it appear as solid as a piece of rock. And last week’s storm showed its strength. Hurricane Sandy went in the history books as one of the fiercest storm to ever hit New York and its aftermath left a path of destruction. Many trees were uprooted as if they were mere twigs, yanked out by invisible giants. A house at the corner found its destruction when two huge trees fell crisscrossed on top of it. But this tree, which his parents feared the same fate, stood there as if made out of steel. That day, the boy swore the high winds bypassed their home because even Mother Nature knew the foulness the tree possessed. Even the many dogs in the neighborhood didn't go near it. They all pulled on their leashes a bit harder, when passing it; even the squirrels and birds avoid its branches.
He tried to brush those thoughts out of his head as a relaxed doze began to consume him, until the whining outside unexpectedly became a piercing scream. It sounded too human-like to be ignored. Why didn’t his parents hear it? The urge to run to their bedroom overpowered him, and it took a lot of his will power not to given in. Still he wanted to cry out to them, and demand their presence in his room and be able to hear the nightmarish shrieks outside his window. Besides, it troubled him that none of his neighbors in the nearby houses, or even across the street, opened their windows or doors to investigate the screams that were now driving him insane.
He felt another touch—no— it felt like more than a touch. It felt like a pinch; yes a pinch right on the lobe of his right ear. He brought his hand to the spot, maybe a fly or a mosquito was the culprit, but he knew better. He touched his ear and there was soreness on the pinched spot.
He cocooned himself under the quilt, his breathing turning into a stale sourness that came in and out in hesitating gasps. He wanted to scream, and probably that would surely wake his parents and make them run to his room. Then the whining stop, and hushes overcame his room; but the silence had a more frightful tension than the ear-piercing whines.
He swallowed hard, and slowly began to lower the quilt, and when he peeked around, he noticed how bluish the room gleamed by the rays from the full moon.
Then a floor board squealed, and he shot a look toward that direction. He could see the billowing of the curtain from the breeze coming through the half-opened window. It was an old house, and those sounds were normal. He tried to coax himself. What do they called it? An old house settling in. He pulled the quilt back to his neck and closed his eyes, striving to sleep.
Another squeal on the floor, and then the distinct screech of the window been pushed upward. He could hear the rusted chains grunting, and a yell in his throat trembled within. He could feel his heart racing. A strong breeze parted the curtains aside and rustled his hair. Even the gust seemed to join him in his growing fear of the night. He kept his eyes shut, tight enough to produce tears on both corners, and he begged God for this to be a nightmare that the sooner he forced himself to wake up, all the madness in his head will disappear.
With no warning, the wind stop, and a creepiness seemed to take control. He could feel tightness in his breathing, and a cold tremble shook the marrow in his bones. He remained still, afraid, then something grasped his attention. It came from outside the window; an annoying and grinding sound. He listened closely. My God what the hell is that? Am I dreaming? He could hear a tapping clatter coming from the window, like nails rapping on the window sill. Heavy sounds echoed in the small room.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
And to his panic, the boy knew that those terrible sounds were steps landing on the floor!
He held his breath as those horrible pounding thumps slowly approached his bed. He pulled the quilt above his neck and buried his head under it, but something was pulling it back. Something strong trying to yank the quilt away from his shaking hands! Wedged shouts of fear remained shaking at the bottom of his throat as someone—something—jumped on top of him. A pungent odor shoved into his nose and he could feel wetness seeping right through the heavy quilt.
He tightened on the quilt for dear life, but a strong pull ripped the quilt away. And the violent momentum of his distress forced his eyes to open wide, and to his wild relief, there was nothing before his bulging eyes, but just the empty room.
He jumped to his feet, his entire body shaking in uncontrollable fits. It must be a dream, he kept repeating as he allowed himself to laugh. Still the laughter came out unconvincing; it was a nervous laugh.
“Just a dream,” he said it out loud, hoping that his own voice would fill him with bravery. Yet, such bravery had a short life, when he saw the window was lifted all the way up with such a force that now it hung crooked. And on the floor there were muddy footprints that went from the window sill, and stopped at the foot of his bed.
A movement behind him, every hair in his trembling body standing straight like fine prickly pines.
The paralysis spread through him, and the stench that attacked his nostrils could be imagined as a foul smell that only hell could spit out. The stink was sickening. Its potency as raw as freshly dirt dug from a grave. He could smell the plants’ broken roots severed by the sharp edges of shovels. He could also smell the sliced bodies of earthworms, the carcasses of hard shelled bugs, and the bloated bodies of maggots bringing up the stench of the dead flesh they have consumed.
But didn't curiosity killed the cat? And just like a cat—a scary cat—he turned his head slowly, and with that movement his body followed.
The boy screamed! Because right there—right there!—in front of him, stood the body of a dark, decomposing man with glowing yellow eyes crusted with wickedness, sending shivers down the boy’s back. He coiled back, his legs hitting the cold steel of the bed frame, still he couldn’t lift his eyes away from the hideous monster in front of him. It was impossible, but this thing in his room was the body of the man—or spirit—who he saw two weeks ago outside his window. The same rotten body that hung from one of the strongest branches, and every night made that horrible whining noise. My Lord…yes! There was no doubt in his mind, it was the same body that moved by the force of the wind every night outside his bedroom. Whining back and forth, like the pendulum of a clock keeping time—keeping time—for all eternity!
Then to his horror, the dead body began to slowly walk toward him. And as the repulsive creature passed by the window, and into the bluish spotlight of the moon’s brilliance, the boy could finally see him in full view. And no nightmare in the existence of life or death could have spawned such a ghastly sight as the one who approach him with dirt crusted hands.
Many lumps covered the monster’s disfigured face, and deep lacerations ran across his cheeks and lips that dripped with blood. The nose, a repulsive sight, because half of it was missing, as if a wild animal had bitten it off with savage teeth. The tight curls of his hair, or the clunks that coated his skull, let out an acrid smell of burnt skin. And from those dreadful eyes a brownish pus oozed out. Yet, nothing could have been more gruesome than his tongue. It was bloated and purple, and hung out of his mouth as if unseen hands were pulling it out of his throat, and straight to the mass of loose skin, which had transformed his neck. To the boy’s distress, that mutilated neck still showed the deep marks where the hanging knot had squeezed the life out of him.