I’ve always had a disconcerting bond with the supernatural; or at least so it would seem on the surface. Despite constant evidence to the contrary throughout my life, I have remained a sceptic when it comes to the paranormal- the unexplainable- because I believe that the human mind is a flawed machine, one that feeds delusions for whatever reason the context demands.
Life- however- seems somewhat determined to prove me wrong. I have had more supernatural experiences than any person living on this earth; at least to my knowledge. All of that comes later however, I believe I shall begin with the very first contact I had with ‘the other side,’ for the simple reason that it seems the most appropriate.
When I was six years old I lived in a secluded house a good ten minutes from the nearest town. My father was a moderately successful writer, and my mother was his moderately successful publicist. Despite their limited success, they had come into a decent amount of money which allowed us to live in house I found myself in at the time. It was a beautiful home, large and spacious, and was positioned in a good location; it was surrounded by an encroaching forest aside from a slight clearing where our garden sat.
I never really liked the forest. It was dark and foreboding, and generally didn’t appeal to my childish sense of mystery and curiosity. I was always terrified to look out of the window at night, because I knew the forest would be there, just slightly in the distance- watching- waiting. I often had a terrible feeling the trees were moving closer each night, but I never dared look, how could I? The fear was far too great.
It was on one particularly windy night, when the trees shook and shivered violently, that my little brother found his way into my room.
“Tommy? What are you doing?”
I remember not fully understanding what was going on- I don’t believe I was fully awake- but knowing without a doubt that it was Tommy who was in my bedroom.
“There’s a man outside of my window, Timothy.”
If I didn’t understand what was going on before, I certainly didn’t now. A man? Was it possible?
“I’m scared; can I stay in here with you tonight?”
He held his shabby teddy firmly to his chest and was visibly shaking.
“Don’t be silly Tommy, there isn’t anyone outside!” I wasn’t as certain as I sounded; I’m sure.
“Can- Can you check?”
“I-I-“ I really, REALLY, did not want to check, but I was the elder brother and I felt a sense of responsibility. I agreed.
I made my way across the darkened landing, and slowly opened Tommy’s door; it protested with a frustratingly eerie creak. I remember seeing a square of black on the opposite side of the room. There was nothing visible inside the frame, no trees, no stars; nothing. For some reason, I wasn’t content with this evidence, I needed more, so I edged closer. As I drew nearer to the window, some of the outdoors came into view, I could see the trees that made up the forest; I could see the garden fence. My heart was pounding relentlessly. I do not know how I built up the courage to look out of that window; it was so unlike me- at the time.
My face was so close to the glass that my breath could be seen on the window. I could feel the cold night air leaking through, but there was nothing there- nothing outside- and that was the main thing; there was nothing there. The garden- whilst disturbingly still and silent- was empty, as was the forest, at least as far as my childish eyes could see.
I returned to my room to find Tommy already snuggled under my sheets and fast asleep. I wasn’t going to wake him, and truth be told, I didn’t really want to be alone now, he had put the fear of life in me, I needed some company. I edged into the bed beside him and lay awake for a long time- for how long- I do not know, I lost track of time, but it seemed to drag on eternally.
It was that night that I heard the tapping on the window for the first time.
And no- it wasn’t anything else- I wasn’t mistaken. It was separated by perfect intervals.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
So gentle, so slow, so unsettling.
I closed my eyes tightly, wishing it away, and it stopped; but there was no chance of me sleeping now.
When the morning came my brother woke up with a jump. He seemed to be afraid that our parents would find him in my room and think him a coward. He quickly left for his own room and begged me:
“Don’t tell mum and dad.”
I didn’t. I wasn’t going to mention anything. Like they would have believed me anyway.
Once the sun was fixed in the sky I went out into the garden and gazed into the forest with mild trepidation. Even during the day it was dark; it was fantastically eerie. The trees towered high with perfectly white barks, and they were all so close together, they seemed to be conspiring with each other.
When the night came again I had forgotten the events of the previous night, it had all drifted away like a bad dream that simply ceased to be.
It was only when my door creaked open slightly and someone shuffled in that I recalled. Tommy crawled into my bed, not bothering to ask this time, and shuffled up next to me.
“He’s there again.”
“Tommy, we went over this before!”
I didn’t have time to say anything more- Because there it was- The tapping. It was slightly louder, and somehow more urgent this time.
TAP. TAP. TAP
TAP. TAP. TAP
I closed my eyes tightly and imagined it wasn’t there again, just like before; but this time it didn’t work.
So we both just lay there, listening to the muffled tap, tap, tap.
There comes a point during any moment of intense fear, where even though you anticipate that nothing good can come from an action, you do it anyway, because if you didn’t- the fear would only continue and ultimately become unbearable. In this case, I could not continue to lie there listening to the unyielding tapping without knowing what was causing it.
I made my way- slowly- to the window. I pushed my middle and index finger through the blinds and pried them open slightly. There was nothing there. The garden was empty. The forest- for a moment I think that I see something move in between the tress, just a shadow; just something. At the last second, just before I released the blinds so they could snap shut and seal me from the outside world forever, a white eye appeared in the gap I had made.
Naturally I screamed. I fell back from the window and onto the floor, my mouth dry, and my heart thumping in my chest. How my parent’s didn’t hear my scream I shall never know. I scrambled back into the bed, where my brother was shaking more violently than ever. I remember telling him that everything would be fine. I told him that nothing could get us while we were inside, and while we were together. But I didn’t believe a word of it. The tapping continued long into the night and only stopped when the light began to shine through the cracks in the blinds.
At breakfast, I decided to question my mother.
“Mom, does anyone live in the woods?” She looked at me, slightly amused.
“No honey, there isn’t another village for miles past the forest.”
“No- mom- I mean, does anyone live IN the woods?” She raised her eyebrow slightly, clearly confused as to why I was questioning her.
“Well I don’t think so honey, why would anyone want to live in there?” To this, I shrugged my shoulders. Naturally there was no plausible reason for someone to live in the forest. My mother asked if I was feeling alright, placing a hand on my forehead and discovering I was somewhat above what she considered ‘normal’ temperature. She then commented on how pale I looked. I wasn’t going to tell her what had been going on. For one, she wouldn’t believe me, and also, I knew Tommy didn’t want her to know.
As if he knew I was thinking of him, he appeared in the kitchen at that moment and joined us for breakfast. He seemed to have recovered, but I could still tell by his eyes that he was terrified.
Night inevitably came once again. To my surprise however, my brother didn’t visit me, and there was no tapping to be heard- anywhere. For some time I simply lay there, waiting for it to start, waiting for something to happen. Several hours into the night I finally allowed myself to believe that everything was fine, that everything was normal again, and it was at that point I allowed myself to attempt to go to sleep. That was easier said than done however; I was still haunted by the eye I saw at my window, I still trembled in fear at the shadows that lay in wait in the forest beyond the garden. Sleep wasn’t about to visit any time soon.
Then I heard the back door slam. The noise reverberated through the walls.
I froze- paralyzed- Someone was in the house! The door had been opened- someone must have come inside! I listened intently; all of my senses hyperactive. I waited for the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs, or the sound of doors creaking, or slamming, or any sound at all. Nothing came after that. The house remained as silent as ever. Nothing stirred, nothing moved, nothing made a sound.
It took me some time to realise. If no-one had ventured inside, it must mean that someone went outside. At that thought I became aware of exactly who would have gone outside. But why?
I knew I had to look out the window; I had to see for myself, with my own eyes. But if I was scared to look out of the window before, I was absolutely terrified now. I had to face my fear. I had to do it. I wasn’t going to peer through a crack in the blinds this time though, no, I had to do it quick, like ripping off a plaster. I placed my hand on the thin string that controlled the blinds and pulled harshly.
At first there was nothing but darkness.
Then the sea of swaying trees came into view- the branches gently waving at me. I moved closer, so I could get a better look. The garden came into focus, there was nothing there, but the gate at the back was open. I looked on to the forest.
There he was.
He was clutching the wrist of a man- his teddy clutched tightly to his chest. The man wore a hood, so I could not see his face, but I could see his dead, white eyes staring directly at me. He raised a skeletal hand and waved, slowly and surely. My brother stared at me also, his eyes shining- glazed over and vacant.
Then they turned, and disappeared into the forest, slaloming between the thin white barks of the trees.
After the shock passed I ran into my parent’s bedroom and jumped onto their bed. I shook them wildly, screaming at the top of my voice. They woke with a start, clearly fearful and frightened just as I was.
“What is it honey? What is it?”
“He took him!” I screamed, amongst other incoherent nonsense, “The man took him!”
“What? What man? Took who?”
“The man in the forest! He took Tommy! He took my brother! Tommy!” I wailed and
pounded the sheets with my fist. My parent’s looked at each other, terror in their eyes, their faces white as chalk.
“Honey- you don’t have a brother.”
The next hour or so was a blur. I remember my parents trying desperately to console me; my mother cried quite a bit, my father was the one who did all the talking. I showed them his room, but when I went inside there was nothing except for a few boxes and old junk that came from the house my parent’s lived in before they had me. I didn’t understand, he was so vivid, so real, how was it possible for him not to exist?
My father explained to me later, once all the commotion had died down, that I was a twin, but my brother was stillborn, the umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck whilst he was still in the womb, and he was starved of oxygen before they could get him out. They didn’t want to tell me any of that until I was much older, but my father thought the only way for me to accept the truth was to explain it all.
The weird thing? They would have named him Tommy, had he been alive, I would have had a little brother named Tommy. Yes, Timmy and Tommy... stupid, I know.
My parents had me checked by several doctors after that, none of which could find anything medically or psychologically wrong with me, one explained that children often have these kinds of experiences when they are younger, that it is quite common to experience hallucinations and have imaginary friends and such. I imagine that may have put them at ease a little, but he was wrong, to this day I still have experiences similar to the one I had during my childhood. I still believe that there is an explanation for it all, one that isn’t paranormal or supernatural or whatever you may wish to call it. All of it is an illusion- a hallucination- concocted by our own creative, deceitful and devious minds. Or maybe- maybe I am wrong about it all, and there are spiritual forces at work. All I know is… That wasn’t the last time I saw my little brother.