Eternally Seeking a Playmate (Halloween Short Story)

Here there be ghosts and a not so happy ending. Enjoy.

Eternally Seeking a Playmate
By: Dementia’s Knight

In the daylight the house didn’t look so bad. Sure it needed a lot of work, but with the light of the sun on it, it was just a house. After the sun went down, however, the house seemed to morph into another entity entirely. The normal creaks and groans of a settling foundation took on the ominous sounds of footsteps in the dark and moans of ghouls long dead. During the day the house was accessible and accommodating to your presence, but once night had fallen every corner turned into a dark crevice for things to hide in just waiting to pounce on you, at least that’s what the neighborhood kids would tell you.

I’m not one for haunted house stories, and as far as I’m concerned my Aunt dying and leaving me her house was just another stress I didn’t need in my life. Sure the money I’d get from selling the old house would make it all worthwhile, but my Aunt wasn’t exactly Bob Vila and the house’s disrepair drove that point home as I pulled up in the cracking driveway. I stepped out of my car and surveyed the front of the house with the eye of a practiced handyman, taking mental notes regarding the numerous glaring issues that needed to be addressed first before I walked up to the front porch.

Dead leaves crunched under my work boots as I made my way along the small concrete path from the driveway to the porch. The grass was getting quite long on either side of the pathway, and the leaves from the twisted tree in the front yard were just another chore I could look forward to in the coming God only knows how long. I climbed the set of wooden stairs to the porch, taking note of the loose second step and the rotted handrail, my hopes of slapping a coat of paint on things and calling it a day rapidly diminishing with everything I came into contact with, regarding the house. I set my toolbox down and fished my keys from the pocket of my jeans before unlocking and opening the front door.

The large entry room was decorated like you’d expect an old woman to decorate it. Lots of old and expensive looking items setting atop other equally old and expensive looking pieces of furniture. Extravagant looking area rugs covered most of the beautiful mahogany flooring which made me both happy and sad since I hoped that flooring beneath the rugs would be in better shape than the exposed sections. The walls were painted a deep purple color and were trimmed with now yellowed crown molding. Overall, the house looked like every other big old house you’d see in a horror movie, and I wondered for a moment if that was actually some secret design that architects used to give neighborhoods more character.

After shutting the door and setting my toolbox down, I decided to have a look around the house and get a more concrete idea about what kind of Hell I’d inherited. I made my way up the stairs and went through each of the rooms on the second floor and found four bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, counting the insanely luxurious master bath. Upon returning to the second floor hallway I spied the pull cord for the attic stairs and opted to continue my tour by heading up.

The musty attic air hit me like a ton of bricks as I ascended the creaky stairs. I took a few steps into the attic and found the dangling chain of the light and gave it a yank, bathing the attic in a browning light that did little to light the room. I surveyed the area and managed to make out stacks of boxes, an old birdcage, and some paintings without too much trouble but resigned that to see more, I’d have to either replace the light bulb or come back up with a flashlight, neither of which I was eager to do at the moment. As I pulled the light chain and turned to head back down the stairs, one of the boxes fell over and sent its contents spilling into the now dark room.

When the box fell I thought I might leap out of my skin like some kind of cartoon character, but I quickly recovered and took a few breaths to calm my racing heart before turning the light back on and checking the mess that the box had made. Most of the items were papers and old photos, but one thing in particular caught my eye, an infant’s rattle. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember my Aunt ever having kids nor could I remember any family functions being held at her house that would cause a baby’s toy to somehow be left behind. I shrugged and quickly cleaned up the papers and pictures before righting the box and dumping the items inside, tossing the rattle in last, before killing the light once again and heading back down the stairs.

I made my way all the way down to the basement, stealing a peek at the kitchen, dining room, and living room along the way, and found the basement to be twice as disorderly as the attic and almost twice as full. I sighed as I looked at the mountains of boxes and discarded furniture and made the decision to make the basement my first order of business. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work sorting out the junk from the items that could be sold.

Cleaning an old woman’s basement out is a little like searching the wreckage of an old ship, you might find one or two worthwhile things, but the majority of what you come across is water damaged crap. A good eighty percent of the things I pushed aside were warped and almost completely ruined. I wondered, as I breathed in the musty aroma of a particularly damaged box of kitchen junk, whether or not mold was an issue and if I should go get a protective mask. As I made my decision and moved the box in my arms to set it out of the way on a pile of other boxes I’d made, the bottom dropped out and sent various kitchen utensils and devices clattering to the floor, one of which being an insanely large butcher knife that dropped tip first into the center of my boot and thus my foot.

With a sound that I wasn’t sure I was capable of making, I threw the box aside and looked down at my foot. Almost comically, the large knife rose straight up from my foot and wobbled ever so slightly with every movement I made. I leaned down and grabbed the handle of the blade and as straightly as I could, pulled the knife from my foot. A string of shouting and profanity followed as I tossed the knife to the floor and quickly hobbled upstairs. I made my way, cursing the house and my foolish Aunt for storing a knife in a water damaged box, cursing myself for not supporting the bottom of said box, and finally throwing a few choice words at God, out of the house and to my car so I could drive myself to the hospital.

By the time I made it out of the hospital it was nearly dark, and I complained to the interior of my car the whole way back to the house about the day that’d been wasted, and once again about my Aunt’s foolhardy packing choices. When I got back to the house I just wanted to climb into bed and forget the day had ever happened, opting to start fresh in the morning with renewed vigor.

I found the least musty and dust covered room I could and began disrobing as I sat on the bed. Pulling a pair of pajama pants from the suitcase I’d brought in with me, I changed for bed and limped my way under the covers where I stared at the shadows of the tree branches outside cast onto the ceiling like bony fingers stretching overhead. I scoffed and rolled away so my back was to the window and shut my eyes to allow sleep to come, and within minutes it did.

I awoke with a start sometime later, my brow beaded with sweat and my pajamas sticking to my sweat drenched body. I groaned, and on instinct I cast the blankets aside and swung my legs over the side of the bed to go and check the thermostat. Once my injured foot touched the floor I was instantly awake as blinding pain shot through my body, and I cursed my way to the bedroom door. I realized shortly after I’d stepped into the hallway that I hadn’t seen the thermostat during my travels through the house earlier. I sighed as I made my way tentatively in the darkness to the stairs and down to my toolbox to retrieve my flashlight so I could check the furnace in the basement.

The beam of the flashlight cut through the darkness of the house and showed me the clear path down to the basement where I stepped around the remaining boxes and clutter on the floor to get to the large furnace on the other side of the room. The monstrosity was cold and quiet, much to my dismay, and I was left to wonder how long it would take me to fix this problem and whether or not I should just open a window for the night and explore the problem more in the morning. It was while I was weighing these choices, that I heard a shuffling sound to my right, as I swung the flashlight in that direction I thought I saw someone move from the area my flashlight now pointed, to behind one of the support beams nearby.

“Hey, I don’t know how you got in here, but you better come out now.” I commanded as I tried to hide the fear in my voice. When I got no response I shone the light to the support beam, “Seriously, I have a gun and I’ll use it.” I lied.

With no response from the person I was now honestly not sure I’d seen, I started to sidestep my way back to the stairs as I kept my light focused on the support beam. Once I’d gotten far enough I began walking backward, and as I got closer to the stairs I began feeling a bit more relaxed and quite frankly a bit silly for my earlier reaction. The next step after that thought found my foot stepping onto something that decided to move with my foot, causing me to slip and tumble backward onto the concrete floor. The wind had been knocked out of me as I stared up at the ceiling and I struggled to catch my breath as I checked the back of my aching head for blood. Finding none, I sat up slowly with great effort and patted the ground for the flashlight that had rolled away when I fell.

I tried to shake the stars from my vision to see where the light of the flashlight was pointing when I thought I heard whispering somewhere behind me. I turned quickly and scanned the darkness and turned back when the whispering sounds started to come from the other side of the room. I struggled to make out what the sound was, sure that it couldn’t actually be whispering, and then I caught what sounded like a hushed male voice whisper my name, ‘Andrew’, and something about a toy. I was understandably creeped out by this point, and quickly got to my feet and hurried up the stairs and back into bed like a child whose imagination had gotten the better of them.

I lay there panting with the blankets pulled up to my chest despite the heat in the room and the heat that I myself, was giving off, and I listened to the silence in the room. For a time all I could hear was the rapid beating of my heart, each throb distorting my vision as my eyes searched the darkness for some kind of entity or person that might have followed me up from the basement. As my heart rate slowed and my eyes adjusted to the darkness I saw what I already knew to be the truth. I was alone in the room and the house, and my scare earlier was merely a product of too little sleep and too much stress coupled with the spookiness of an old house’s basement at night. With a chuckle at my own foolishness, I once again rolled over and with sheer force of will I fell back asleep.

The sun poured in through the window and onto my face, waking me up much more pleasantly than the heat of the previous night. With my first stirrings I immediately felt the pain of my fall and with a groan got up and out of bed before shambling down the hall to the master bathroom. I marveled once again at the luxuriousness of the bathroom with its large Jacuzzi style tub on one side, and full shower in the opposite corner. I decided that the bath was a safer bet with my injured foot and quickly set to filling the tub before disrobing and climbing in. I savored the warmth of the water as it slowly covered my aching body, and laid my head back onto the rim of the tub while closing my eyes to luxuriate a bit while I waited for it to fill.

It was only once my eyes had closed and I’d allowed myself to completely relax that I heard something. The sound I heard wasn’t coming from anywhere in the bathroom, that much I was sure of, but it seemed almost too clear to be coming from outside or somewhere else in the house. It started as a softer sound, like when someone has the radio on really low while they’re talking to you but you’re more interested in the song that’s playing and strain to hear it under the other noise, and built to something much clearer and more audible; humming. I was sure that what I was hearing was humming, a quiet melody that wouldn’t have seemed out of place if the master bathroom were a nursery.

I sat forward and opened my eyes, looking to see if maybe one of the windows was open and all I was hearing was a mother passing with her child, but found the windows to be as closed as I remembered them being. As I sat back against the tub and returned my head to its perch on the rim a raspy voice in my ear whispered the word “naughty” as harshly as any word I’d heard spoken to date and when I opened my eyes I was face to face with my Aunt’s rotting visage. The skin of her face receding like that of an animal carcass in the sun causing her shriveled little lips to cover nearly none of her yellowed and crooked teeth. Her left eye was a milky bluish color and her right was bloodshot and looked like it was seconds away from deflating like a forgotten beach ball, and spilling putrefied liquid down onto me like some sort of vomit inducing shower. She stank of stale cigarettes and the fetid stench of rot, a combination I was sure I’d never smelled before, but wasn’t likely to forget.

As I tried to scream she just hovered inches from my face. No sound escaped me as I struggled to cry out and make my fear and protest of her presence known. Her alabaster skin cracked as she smiled and large flakes of it chipped of like paint from the side of a house as she smiled the best she could, given her lack of lips. My horror mounted at this sight, and I absently felt my bladder give way in the nearly filled tub. With supernatural quickness and silence her hands appeared from nowhere and clapped themselves to either side of my head as she leant closer to me and choked out the words, “Give Mommy a kiss.”.

I woke up screaming. Those times that someone wakes up in a movie and is screaming as loud as they possibly can while thrashing wildly to fight off whatever they wanted to be rid of in their dream? Yeah, that’s a one hundred percent realistic portrayal. I screamed like someone was dismembering me and thrashed so hard that I rolled from the bed and onto the floor. The shock of the fall actually stopped me from screaming long enough to realize that I was back in bed and that the whole bath/dead Aunt make-out session had all been a horrible nightmare. I let my head fall back onto the floor and tried to catch my breath as I looked up at the sun brightened ceiling, and despite the terror I’d just experienced, I laughed with relief that the horrible event was all in my head.

After I’d caught my breath, I realized that at least one aspect of my dream wasn’t a figment of my imagination as I felt the cool dampness of my pajama bottoms and smelled the acrid stench of urine in the air. I shook the prospect of having to do laundry off, as I was still just grateful that my rotting Aunt wasn’t shambling through the house waiting for me to take a bath. I got up from the floor and headed down to the bathroom I’d just escaped from, to wash off the shame of my accident as well as the stench of fear that somehow permeated my clothing.

I felt a skip in my still injured step as I exited the shower and wrapped myself in a towel before gathering up my wet night clothes and headed back to the bedroom to get dressed and strip the bed so I could do the laundry. I dried my hair as I walked down the hall and tossed the towel and the wet clothes onto the bed as I entered the room before rummaging through my suitcase for something to wear.

With the laundry in the washing machine I headed to the kitchen to make some coffee for the road, making the last minute decision to grab breakfast somewhere before I went to the hardware store to get some items I needed for the upcoming basement project. I set the coffee maker up to start brewing a pot while I went down to the basement to retrieve the flashlight that I’d left down their last night. I descended the stairs and immediately spied the black and yellow flashlight not too far away from the base of the staircase. Walking to it, I picked it up and shut it off and turned it back on again to double check my suspicions that batteries had in fact died before turning to head back up the stairs, and that’s when I saw it, the item that had caused me to crash to the floor the night before. There on the floor a few feet from the flashlight was a toy car, one of those die cast cars that nearly every boy on Earth has played with.

As I stared at the car, the memory of the whispering I thought I’d heard the night before, came rushing back. I remembered the whispers saying my name, and saying something that I thought was the word ‘toy’ and now I was looking at a toy. A chill went up my spine, and I feared for a second that I may wet another pair of pants in less than a twelve hour period. I took a few bewildered steps backward and as I felt the bottom stair touch my ankle I heard a soft male giggle from somewhere in the basement and I turned and bolted up the stairs as fast as my feet could carry me as the giggling continued.

I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t in the house anymore until I nearly ran the stop sign at the end of the block. I wondered for a moment whether I’d even closed the front door, then I wondered if I was even planning to return to the house. I went through the stop sign and pulled over the car, suddenly angry at myself for running like a little girl when a noise scared me. I sighed and turned the car around and as I pulled back into the driveway I thought that it might not be the worst idea in the world if the house suddenly burned down “accidently” and left me with a nice insurance check. I shook that dream from my mind and headed up to the house, walking through the still open door and back down to the basement.

“Alright, listen up!” I shouted from the middle of the staircase. “Whoever is down here, I’m not in the mood for your shit! Yes, you scared me, but you’ve had your fun and now it’s time to get the Hell out of my house.” I said to the room, my anger at the whole situation steeling my resolve and giving me the commanding voice that a man that’s ready for a fight should have. I listened for any kind of response or sound of movement within the basement, but nothing came.

There was no screams of protest, no sound of running feet accompanied by the laughter of children that had been caught somewhere they shouldn’t be, just the silence of the basement and the sound of my own breathing. Just when I was about to give up and leave was when someone decided to speak up.

“Andrew.” The quiet voice called from somewhere in the recesses of the basement. “Will you play with me?” asked the voice.

That familiar chill went up my spine again, and I gripped the banister until my knuckles whitened. “Who are you? How do you know my name?” I asked the still unseen voice.

The voice laughed. This was not the laugh of an adult, though the tone and timber of the voice was clearly that of an adult man, but rather something more akin to the playful giggle of a small child. “Come down here and play with me Andrew, I can’t see you all the way over there.” The voice said.

“Answer me!” I shouted, my heart now racing along with my mind.

The silence in the basement was deafening, and for a moment it seemed like whoever had been talking to me had lost interest and given up. “Why won’t you play with me Andrew?” the voice asked.

Fed up with the game being played I turned and headed up the stairs, and as I neared the top, the door slammed shut, thrusting me into almost total darkness save for the small amount of light coming through the high windows of the basement. I reached out and grabbed the knob, wrenching it this way and that while pushing with all my weight on the door to try and open it to no avail. With a groan of frustration I gave a final kick to the door and turned my attention back down the stairs. “You got some friends blocking the door? Huh? You so desperate to keep me down here with you that you need someone to lock me in?” I called out.

“You’re no fun anymore Andrew.” The voice said.

I scoffed as I took my time descending the stairs. “Clearly you’ve never met me.” I said. “If you had, you’d know that I’ve never been fun.” I added.

The voice giggled again, this time a more unsettling sound than the previous ones, this one sounded like the person knew something that I didn’t, not something you’d typically want in a disembodied voice. “You don’t remember.” The voice said before giggling again.

“Remember what?” I asked, now almost back at the bottom of the stairs.

The voice stopped sounding like it was everywhere and nowhere at once, and went to being directly next to my ear. “Me.” It whispered simply, the air from its breath ice cold.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I lost my mind a little bit after that, I defy anyone to experience something like having an ice cold breath whisper something directly in your ear without anyone actually being next to you and not want to run through a brick wall like a cartoon character to get the Hell away. I spun as quickly as I could to try and catch the perpetrator and found no one standing near me, I saw no one running away from me nor did I hear anyone come or go from my general vicinity. “And who are you?” I asked, my voice wavering and cracking slightly.

“I’ll show you.” The voice said before the sound of quick moving footsteps moved across the basement to the very back of the room where several objects clattered to the floor and the sound of wood splintering ripped through the otherwise quiet room.

I took a few tentative steps toward the back of the basement, sidestepping boxes and junk where I could and shoving items aside when I couldn’t until I finally reached the far corner of the room. The wall was partially covered by a now split piece of thick plywood. I slid the board aside and saw a large hole in the wall leading to a small room on the other side. Stooping to avoid banging my head I entered the room and fumbled around the air near my head for the chain of the light, after several attempts I found the chain and pulled it down, bathing the room in light.

The room was a stark contrast to the basement to say the least. The walls were painted pastel blue and had colorful cartoon trucks adorning the border where the walls and ceiling met. Despite the room only being about four feet by four feet, a small child’s bed sat in the corner opposite the entrance and a small trunk sat at the foot of the bed. Attached to the head and foot frames of the small bed were pairs of beige leather straps, like something you’d expect to find in a mental ward.

As I surveyed the room a flood of long buried memories came flooding back to me. I remembered being in this room what seemed like a lifetime ago. I remembered being about five or six and visiting my Aunt with my mother, they had been upstairs chatting and drinking tea and I’d wandered off to explore the house. I’d ended up in the basement, and had heard someone playing in the far back corner of the basement, with childlike curiosity I’d rushed over to investigate and had found the room I currently stood in. I’d also found a boy in there, not much older than me.

“Jacob.” I said in a hushed whisper, more to myself than to the room.

The giggle came again, a giddiness replacing the unsettling tone from before. “You remembered.” The voice said, not sounding surprised, just happy.

More memories came washing over me. I remembered Jacob sitting on the small bed playing with a few toy cars, he smiled at me when he saw me and immediately offered one of the cars to me. I remembered his face looking different to me, not scary or anything, just different. His right eyelid drooped a little bit and his teeth, what few there were, were crooked and his hair was stringy and sparse. Remembering it now, it was painfully obvious that I’d stumbled upon my Aunt’s defected child, her dirty little secret that she’d hidden from the world. I remember playing in this secret room with this different looking kid without any care as to who he was and why he was alone. I suddenly remembered numerous encounters with Jacob over the years, until one time I went down to the basement and found the room boarded up and only silence in the basement.

“What happened to you Jacob?” I asked.

A coldness rushed over my body a moment later, and I dropped to my knees as images I couldn’t possibly have been privy to flashed through my mind. Jacob’s memories raced through my brain, blurring past in a constant stream like when you try and look at a passing bullet train before stopping and bringing one memory to the forefront. I saw Jacob laying on the bed, the restraints securing his hands and feet. Despite looking like he was about fifteen years old he was clad in only a cloth diaper and plastic pants which his mother was in the process of checking to make sure they would hold any accidents. His mother began stroking his hair as she sat on the edge of the bed looking down at him. She started humming to him, and I recognized the song immediately as the one I’d heard in my dream.

“Give Mommy a kiss.” She whispered to him before leaning down and kissing the boy on the cheek.

I watched her reach down to the foot of the bed and grab the pillow sitting there before bringing it up to his head and pushing it down onto his face. As Jacob thrashed against her struggling to breathe, she resumed her humming as she began to cry. It was only once Jacob had stopped struggling that she lifted the pillow and openly wept as she hugged her child’s lifeless body.

The coldness left my body as quickly as it had enveloped it and I found myself on my knees in the middle of the room crying as the emotions of both my Aunt and Jacob overloaded my senses. I found myself struggling to breathe as I looked up from the tear-stained floor beneath my face, to see Jacob sitting Indian style on the center of the bed smiling at me. His face was no longer different looking, all of his imperfections had been wiped away and he looked like any other normal child aside from the fact that I could clearly see the wall behind him as I looked through his semi-transparent body.

“I’m so sorry.” I told him in a hoarse whisper, my throat dry both from crying and from feeling like I was being smothered as Jacob was.

Jacob looked down at the bed and nodded slowly. “Me too.” He said quietly. “Every day after that I watched my mom try and cope with the guilt she felt for what she did.” He said. “She prayed three times a day from that day until the day she died for forgiveness.” He explained.

I wiped my eyes as I rose on shaky legs to my feet. “Why did she do it?” I asked him. “Why did she keep you down here like some kind of animal?” I added.

Jacob shrugged. “I guess she was ashamed of me.” He said with a profound look of sadness on his face. “She did the best she could to try and give me a happy life even though I was a freak and a burden.” He added.

I shook my head. “No, fuck that. She was your mother, it was her job to protect you from the world, not protect the world from you.” I told him. “More importantly, she wasn’t supposed to smother you with a goddamned pillow.” I added.

“There’s nothing that can be done about it now.” Jacob said.

I scoffed. “So, you’re just stuck here alone forever and ever and that doesn’t bother you?” I asked.

A shuffling noise came from the other side of the wall followed by a cacophony of noise and the hole leading out of the room being blocked by seemingly every piece of junk in the basement as it moved from wherever it was in the room to right in front of the only exit. As I pushed against the debris I heard Jacob get off the bed and I turned to look at him. He hovered an inch or so off the ground as he moved toward me with an unsettling yet knowing smile on his face.

“I won’t be alone much longer.” He told me before he began to giggle uncontrollably at my predicament.

Even as I was screaming, I knew that no help would come in time to save me and I could only wonder whether I’d suffocate or starve to death within the confines of this tiny child’s tomb

Re: Eternally Seeking a Playmate (Halloween Short Story)

The level of “mentaly disturbed” in this story is there, but it’s more subtle. Please keep up the great work.

Re: Eternally Seeking a Playmate (Halloween Short Story)

I came on today looking for a few Halloween stories to enjoy and boy did you not disappoint! Having read your older stories, I was expecting them to be pretty dark and was quite pleased by what I saw. You, Long Rifle and authors of your particular taste are among, if not are, my favourite authors. Thanks for all the dark stories!