Nathaniel Axel
Weird Tales
February 4–March 3, 2015

39 Great Jones Street
New York, NY 10012

This is not an artistically rounded off story, and nothing is explained in it, and there seems to be no reason why it should have happened. But that is no reason why it should not be told. You must have noticed that all the real ghost stories you have ever come close to are like this in these respects—no explanation, no logical coherence. Here is the story:

We were living in a big house out in the woods someplace where it was always dark and always raining, and outside between the trees, behind the bushes, were strange men with eyes like basement windows and big railroad gloves and I was the only one who knew, but I couldn’t tell whether they were trying to get in or trying to keep us from getting out.

I was in the library, sitting by the fire, listening to the rain. No one came here anymore. Even the groundskeeper kept his distance. The house stood empty and emptier. After I’d left, everything continued to grow and change. In the evenings I saw things: shadows rushing into doorways, reflections in the floorboards, faces peeping up inside the drain. I heard fingers testing the handle of my bedroom door.

And it was getting worse. Last night, October 12, during the storm, I lost power. Luckily I was in the library, and was able to light a candle to find my way upstairs. I was nearly at the top when someone whispered to me, ‘Push, pull. I’ll push, and you pull.’ The voice seemed just inches from my ear. Had I dropped my candle, as I all but did, I can only imagine what would have happened. As it was, I managed to rush up the last flight, and was quickly in my room with the door locked. I stayed up for hours watching the door and watching the windows; listening. But nothing more happened that night.

October 15—I was much troubled in sleep. No definite image presented itself, but I was pursued by the very vivid impression that wet lips were whispering into my ear. After this, I suppose, I fell asleep, but was awakened with a start by a feeling as if a hand were laid on my shoulder. To my intense alarm I found myself standing at the top of the lowest flight of the first staircase. The moon was shining brightly enough through the large window to let me see that there was something huddled on the second or third step. At first I thought it was a bundle of linen that the maid had forgotten, but then I saw it shudder. I crept up to bed again. I do not know how.

October 20—I am afraid of everything inside this house.

It was Saturday, the 4th of April 1998. It was about 3:30 am. She was in the library. She was on the stairs feeling the carpet between her toes. She was in the bathroom, standing in front of the mirror with the lights off. The tub was running and the sink was running too. It was pouring outside and even with the faucets going she could hear the rain against the windows. She was going to get a drink of water. There were no cups. He must have been there the whole time, watching.

“My bedroom was his favorite place inside the house. He had a headlamp or a flashlight that he would shine in through the window. He would come in through the window like something being poured inside the room.

I went to the living room to go to bed. That’s where I sleep now. I put my hand on the wall to put the light on, but the light did not work. I looked up at the fixture and then moved my eyes down. He was right there in front of me but I wouldn’t look. I was shouting for help over and over again. I ran as fast as I could only I was unable to stop to open the door. I ran straight into the wall and fell back on the floor. My head was all pins and I was screwing my eyes shut but he pulled them open with his fingertips and made me see his mask.

It was not a mask. It was a face—large, smooth, and pink. I could see the minute drops of perspiration that were starting from its forehead. I remember that the jaws were clean-shaven and the eyes were shut. It seemed as though the face had been pulled over the head like a pair of tights.

Then he switched on another slide, which showed a great mass of snakes, centipedes, roaches, and flying things that were long like dragonflies with the texture of moths. Somehow he made it seem as if they were pouring out of the picture and getting in among the crowd. There was a dry rustling sound and soon a high-pitched kind of clicking drone that made us press our hands against our ears. We shut our eyes. Still we felt things writhing at our feet, pelting our faces, working in- between our lips and underneath our clothes.

When he opened his eyes he was back inside the library, sitting by the fire. He could remember her coming in and asking what he was doing there sitting alone in the dark. He could remember opening the door, and it was day, and then he was sitting there, and it was night. She turned the lights on, and she had this look on her face. It was like she was terrified but didn’t want him to know she was afraid. He had the feeling that she was afraid of him, but she never said. He saw the moon through the window, rippling with the rain. He remembered opening the door and the sun was up. Then it was dark outside and he couldn’t remember anything that happened in between. He is trying to remember but he can’t. When he is outside at night he feels like he is being watched. Sometimes he remembers things he doesn’t understand. It gets especially bad in the evenings. There are too many shadows, shapes that correspond to nothing at all. He tried to remember, but nothing came to mind. He went back to his book. Yet, while he tried to read the curtains kept catching his eye. That is, he found himself looking across at them every now and then. There was an effect as if someone kept peeping out from inside the curtains, in between the folds.

Then I dozed, and then I woke, and thought that Roger, my brown spaniel, who ordinarily slept in my room, had not come up. Then I thought I was mistaken: for happening to move my hand which hung down over the arm of the chair within a few inches of the floor, I felt on the back of it just the slightest touch of a surface of hair, and stretching it out in that direction I stroked and patted a rounded something. But the feel of it, and still more the fact that instead of a responsive movement, absolute stillness greeted my touch, made me look over the arm. What I had been touching rose to meet me. It was in the attitude of one that had crept along the floor on its belly, and it was, so far as could be recollected, a human figure. But of the face which was now rising to within a few inches of my own no feature was discernible, only hair.

Many times over the years I would wake up suddenly in the night, unable to move a muscle, except for my eyes, as I looked around the room. And many times I would see a dark figure standing at the side or end of my bed. I would lie in the bathtub listening to someone else’s breathing. I could wait with whatever patience was required.