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There’s Something Out There Digging

By J.T. Robertson

There’s something out there digging at my bedroom door. Sometimes it stops for a minute or two, but it always comes back. I hope it doesn’t make it inside. Please don’t let it get inside.

It knocked on the front door this morning and my mother let it in with a smile. She was happy, and hugged it, and kissed it on the head. I told her I thought it was bad, and I think my daddy agreed, but she seated it at the breakfast table anyway. She said we were being unfair and that it was her little miracle. Its smile reminded me of some kids in an old magazine I saw once , with their thin gray lips and black, empty eyes. It smiled like a mask at Halloween. Now it’s digging at my door.

It was a quiet, uncomfortable breakfast. The thing didn’t even seem to know food was there. When mother excused us, daddy went to his workshop, and I went to my room . Mother decided to make cookies for that thing in her white apron. I tried to forget the thing, but it kept smiling just outside my bedroom door. I could smell it down the hall. It smelled like the trash dumpster at Miller’s when they throw out all the wilted flowers. I wondered if daddy smelled it, too. I can smell it now. It always comes back to the door.

Mother made us come back to the kitchen table for lunch. I didn’t like being close to it. The thing smiled and touched daddy’s hand. He recoiled from ash-colored little hand, knocking over his chair as he stood up. He picked it up hurriedly, and disappeared into his workshop, despite mother’s call for him to stop being foolish and come back. I ate quick as I could, and hurried back to my room. The thing watched me go, smiling stuck and sinister like a jack-o’-lantern. Its eyes looked milky, like daddy’s dog Pepper, before she went away.

The doorbell rang. Mother answered it, and the thing went with her, that smile floating alongside like a week-old helium balloon, with a warm cookie clutched in one pale hand. I snuck out of my room and peered around the corner. I’d forgotten the pastor was coming. He’d come every Saturday since the accident. He usually met with mother and daddy in the den, and prayed. He just came to listen, and now I’m alone.

The pastor began to greet my mother, but he stopped with a step back when he saw the thing. “Caroline?,” he asked, eyes wide. My mother explained that it was a miracle, but he looked afraid. The pastor wanted to know where daddy was, and said the thing was very, very bad. That’s when that thing sprang out and got him. My mother didn’t move. She just stood there. I ran back to my room and closed the door so they wouldn’t know I’d seen. I remember how the pastor looked falling backwards, his hands grasping in the air with that thing wrapped around his chest. She stood there and now it’s halfway through my door.

I didn’t hear anything for a long time. I sat with my legs to my chest, and away from the door. The sun set, but I didn’t turn on the light. Then my daddy started yelling in the kitchen, asking “what has that thing done?” He said he was calling the police, and she “never should have touched that old book.” He started to yell something else that started with “Can’t you see that isn’t,” but cut off suddenly, and something went thump. I rushed to lock my door, and put my hope chest in front of it. She didn’t listen and it got my daddy. Please don’t let it get inside.

Mother passed outside my door. She was crying. Something heavy bumped along the hallway, dragged along. I tried not to think of daddy and the pastor. “This isn’t how it was supposed to work,” I heard my mother say. “It was supposed to be better. The book said it would be the same.” The thing didn’t answer, but I knew it was smiling, with faded lips like my favorite old doll. Another thing dragged down the hall, and I heard my mother again, her voice high and shaky. “I read it just like it said,” she moaned, and then added something about a deal. They moved down the hall toward the kitchen, and I couldn’t hear them anymore. It was quiet as church. Then mother screamed from somewhere outside in the yard. She didn’t listen, and it got her too.

It slammed the front door and dragged her down the hall. Then it came back and stood quietly outside my door, only a creak in the floor giving it away. That was when it began to scratch at the door. At first it was a long slow scratch with one fingernail, and then two, and then another and another. It sounds sort of like a mouse chewing through a box. The smell of it seeps through the cracks. I can feel those milky eyes looking at me through the wood. The carpet beneath my door is red and wet and covered in curly wood shavings like the floor of daddy’s workshop. She didn’t listen. It’s digging at the door. It stops, but it starts again. It starts digging again.

There’s something out there digging at my door, and it looks like my sister, Caroline. She died when a car hit her. That thing looks like her and she’s trying to get in. Sometimes she stops for a minute or two, but she always comes back. She didn’t listen and she ran in the road. She died. I hope she doesn’t make it inside, but I know she will. Please, don’t let her get inside. When she does, she’ll be smiling. She won’t listen, and she’ll get me too.