Tap Tap Tap
Damien shouldered his bag and laughed. Really it was ridiculous, but what did he expect, his uncle really did have an odd sense of humour. He stopped, the smile crumbling on his face. No, he had had an odd sense of humour. Uncle Spence had died, quite unexpectedly and quite recently, leaving Damien everything, including this house, if he spent an entire night within its walls. Damien laughed again quietly. Obviously it was Uncle Spence's great last joke. The house in question was empty, derelict really and had stood on the edge of Uncle Spence's land for as long as Damien could remember. As a child the younger man had been terrified of the place, and although he refused to admit it to himself, he still was a little. Maybe that's what Spence had meant in his final request, some last ditch attempt to get Damien over his fear. Whatever the reason the young man was determined to fulfil this last wish.
The floorboards creaked ominously as Damien stepped up onto the porch. He laughed again, only slightly worried in the bright sunlight. He patted his pockets a couple of times looking for the key. Eventually, putting his bag down in front of the door, so that he could use both hands, he found the key and grinned nervously. Well this was it. Time to get over a childhood fear, honour his uncle's last joke and start a new life on said uncle's estate, all in one foul swoop. 'Click' the key turned easily in the lock and the door swung open. Damien took a cautious step into the hallway and looked around in the near darkness. Well he might as well explore as much as he could in the daylight.
It was strange how the very walls of the house seemed to suck any light from the room. With the windows boarded up, and no electricity, even in full daylight and with Damien's torch, everything was in darkness. Unfortunately the interior of the house was pretty much as he expected it would be. It was damp, it was dark, it was depressing and for no logical reason it was as creepy as hell. Damien huffed; somehow he doubted he was ever going to get to sleep tonight.
Finally after a very slow and careful climb up the rickety and probably unsafe staircase Damien reached the landing that led to the bedrooms. It was probably a very stupid idea to be up here on the first floor of the obviously derelict building but there was something in him that prevented him from sleeping anywhere except in an actual bedroom even if the room itself had absolutely no furniture. Fortunately he had though ahead and brought not only a sleeping back but a blow up mattress and foot pump. Resigning himself to an uncomfortable night Damien adjusted the bag on his shoulder and stepped into the first room to his right.
That had been a mistake he realised quickly. This room was one of the only ones which still held any furniture. The site of the few remaining pieces in the room, covered with large dust sheets had given him quite a fright when he had seen them in the dim torch light. Berating himself for his jumpiness Damien moved towards the window and pried the heavy internal shutters open. There was an explosion of dust as the shutters swung open. He couldn't see it but he could feel it as it invaded his lungs. Silently he cursed his uncle's ridiculous idea before a wave of guilt swept over him. Spence had insisted he do this, Spence had cared enough about him to leave him all this land, and the least he could do was honour the man's final wishes. The light that filtered into the room was faint even with the shutters thrown open, the windows were so black with grime it was inevitable. But it was better than nothing. Damien turned away from the window expecting to feel better about the room in the dim light, but he felt worse. The strange shapes threw seemingly impossible shadows onto the walls. Shadows that seemed to move and sway around the room. Through the gloom Damien glimpsed old and deformed photographs, and paintings distorted by damp. Bedroom or not, there was no way he was staying in here.
Across from the staircase Damien found the bathroom. The facilities where still there, not intact and definitely not in working order, but recognisable. Then he moved across the landing and found two more bedrooms. Neither of these fit his standards any better than the first had. Completely empty of furniture they would have been perfect, but the roof was badly damaged on this side resulting in an overwhelming smell of damp that made Damien gag.
Eventually Damien made his way back down the stairs and into the room closest to the front door. This would have to do, at least he would be able to make a quick escape in the building looked like it was going to crumble around him. He laughed but even to his own ears it sounded contrived and hollow. Deciding he might as well get himself sorted while there was at least a little light Damien pulled the mattress and pump out of his bag. Might as well get comfy he had quite a few hours to last here in the dark.
Damien leant forward with his hands on his thighs and tried to catch his breath. Don't ever believe anyone who says using a foot pump is easy, he thought. It had taken him so long to get the damn mattress up his legs were aching and there were spots in front of his eyes. He glanced over towards the door he had left open and squinted at the thin shaft of light penetrating the gloom. It was starting to get dark outside. Begrudgingly Damien unpacked the rest of his equipment for the night and tried to make himself comfortable.
Within a couple of hours he was climbing into his sleeping bag. He had cooked and eaten a simple dinner on his camping stove, he had found and turned on battery powered lantern and then he had become bored. The sooner he fell asleep the sooner the morning would come he justified as he lay down. When morning came he could leave this horrible old building and never set foot in it again. Damien lent over and turned off the lantern. No use in using up all the batteries. Damien closed his eyes and eventually fell asleep.
Damien's eyes snapped open. Suddenly he was wide awake and he didn't know why. It was pitch black, so dark that for a second Damien wondered whether he had opened his eyes at all, then he remembered where he was. Sighing he leant over and clicked the lantern on before falling back down onto the air mattress. That's when he heard it.
Tap Tap Tap
Damien frowned. What was that noise? He was in an empty house in the middle of the night.
Tap Tap Tap
The frown lines deepened until inspiration struck. It was probably rats or something, some creature moving around in the darkness. Possibly disturbed by his presence in the usually empty building.
Tap Tap Tap
Damien tried to ignore the noise and get back to sleep, but he could hear the noise as if it were right above his head.
Tap Tap Tap
That was when he remembered the shutters in the upstairs bedroom. Maybe that was where the noise was coming from.
Tap Tap Tap
He was never going to get back to sleep at this rate.
TAP TAP TAP
Damien shoved the sleeping bag off of his legs and groped for his shoes. Shoving his feet roughly into his trainers Damien stood grabbing the lantern in one hand and his torch in the other. Then slowly he made his way through to hall and up the old staircase again. With every step Damien cringed at the creaking of the floorboards. He couldn't hear the tapping noise anymore but he was half way up the stairs already so he kept going.
When he reached the top of the stairs Damien peered around the doorframe. The room looked even worse in the pitch black. Trying his best to ignore the looming sheet draped furniture Damien moved towards the window and closed the internal shutters. He had to put his lantern down to put his full weight behind it, but luckily there was a desk next to the window. Glad that he would finally be able to get back to sleep Damien turned away from the window and picked up the lantern again. That was when he saw the leather bound book. Sitting on the desk next to where he had placed the lantern there was what looked like a journal. Curiosity getting the better of him Damien pulled the sheet covered chair away from the desk and sat down. Luckily the lantern was just enough to read by. The writing was neat but the panic could be seen clearly in every word.
There is something wrong with my baby girl, I just know it. Ever since she went out into that place she has changed. That horrible place she decided to visit with the very best intentions. Who would have thought going away to do conservation work would change her so much.
As soon as she got back I knew there was something wrong. She spent all of her time locked away in her room. She stays up late into the night and sleeps in. She has even moved her bed into the walk in closet in her room so that she can be in darkness as much as possible. I don't know what to do.
Things are going from bad to worse. I finally managed to get her to come out into her room today. I forced her to come out into the light to speak to me and I hardly recognised my daughter. Her eyes are huge and bulging. Her hands are small and delicate, except for the index fingers on each hand. I have called the doctor but she refuses to let him examine her.
My brother Spence came to see us today. Even living so close it has been some time since we last saw him. It was such a relief to have him here. He has been such a big help so far. The changes in my little girl have been terrifying beyond belief, but Spence being here has given me a little perspective.
Today has been our lowest day in a while. I was just starting to get used to my daughters schedule when she shocked me to the very core. It was the middle of the night when I was awoken by a persistent tapping. Getting out of bed I made my way through to her rooms only to see her perched up on top of her desk tapping on the wall with her long fingers.
Tap Tap Tap, Tap Tap Tap
As she tapped her head tilted to one side as if she was listening. Then suddenly she stopped as bugs emerged from the woodwork. To my horror she swept the creepy crawly up with one spindly finger and scooped it into her mouth. What is happening to my baby?
Spence came round again today. He really has been a treasure and has kept me sane these last few weeks. He has made me realise that no matter what she is going through she is still my daughter. Somehow we will get through this together.
Damien's head snapped up when he heard the noise again.
Tap Tap Tap
The diary had given Damien a terrifying idea of just what that noise could be.
Tap Tap Tap
Maybe that was why Spence had sent him here? Surely Uncle Spence would have known if she was still here.
Tap Tap Tap
It was only then that Damien realised how much smaller this room was compared to the one directly below it.
TAP TAP TAP
Damien crept along the far wall sure there would be some sort of opening somewhere. The noise had stopped but it didn't make Damien feel any better about what he would find.
Finally Damien located the opening, little more than a doorway half hidden behind the stacked furniture. Lifting the lantern through the doorway before himself he stepped over the threshold. That was when he saw her, the tiny little creature cowering in the corner of the tiny room shying away from the light. She looked so fragile sitting there hiding behind her legs with her big round eyes and her tiny little hands with those single long fingers thin and twig like in the lantern light.
Suddenly he was overcome with pity for this creature here all on her own. How long had she been here without anyone? How long had Spence known? Why hadn't he brought her back to the house? Then he remembered what the journal had said. The bugs, she was probably happier here in the dark with her main stable all around her. There was a battered old armchair across from the ragged bed which Damien sat in. He put the lantern down on the floor beside him to try and shield some of the light from her. She relaxed visibly when he sat down and so did Damien.
"It's alright; I'll look after you now."
Damien said with a small smile on his face.
After a while Damien's eyes closed of their own accord, despite the unusual situation he was exhausted and the dim light was making him drowsy. In the other room the book sat open at the page Damien had been about to read when the tapping had started. On this page the writing changed to a spindly untidy hand.
Now I am alone, really alone. For years we have lived here together, my mother and I. For years she allowed me to live as peaceful a life as possible. For as long as I can remember our only visitor has been Uncle Spence. Now I see no one, Spence knows I want to be left alone. I explained to him what happened to me that night, how the creature had bitten me. They feared it the natives, they called it a demon and I didn't believe them. Now I'm doomed to live this half-life surviving on the bugs I find in the walls. Mother has been very understanding these last few years, but now she is gone. Life left her body and now I am all alone.
Damien snapped awake again when the tapping started. He looked over towards the bed and saw her perched there on the bedhead looking intently at him while she tapped her long fingers on the wood.
Tap Tap Tap
Her head tilted to one side just before she grinned widely and pounced. Unfortunately Damien had not had the chance to read the last words scrawled across the last page of the journal.
I left the body where it fell and learned a valuable lesson. I learned that Dead bodies bring bugs by the hundreds. Big fat juicy bugs that keep me fed for months.