Scary Story: Night Watchers
It was a calm, quiet evening as the team of paranormal investigators were in the process of packing up their equipment. Their quest to uncover strange happenings at their current location -an old, rundown hotel- had proven to be an uneventful and disappointing venture. So, they somberly lugged their equipment, packed in heavy storage cases, back to their beat up but trusty van.
As they were loading up the last of the cargo they received an email message. It was a tip about another potentially haunted location that they might be interested in checking out. A bit perturbed with the uneventfulness of their last endeavor they glanced at each other with the same question grimacing across their faces.
“Should we take a chance and risk yet another disappointment?”
They collectively pondered this question before a sense of indignant pride welled up inside each of them. Compelled to not let their previous failure defeat or deter them from their passion, they made the decision to go for it.
After a lengthy road trip, and a few pitstops along the way, they reached the location of their newest assignment. It was early in the morning and the unrisen sun was gracing them with a soft prelude of light. The house stood desolate on the edge of a cul de sac. The deep black asphalt road leading up to it was curved and winding with a few sparse houses speckled along the way. While the other houses looked preened and cozy, the house they were certain was their point of interest was shabby and unkept.
As they approached the modest, two-story house they could see it held a certain charm but was clearly abandoned. The white exterior had taken on a greyish hue. The paint was cracked and chipping away. The grass around the house -which appeared recently mowed- was a dull yellowish green, which served to exemplify the potentially haunted nature of this once welcoming home.
Off to the right side of the house they heard a faint creaking sound which turned out to be coming from a rusty swing set. The frail, rusty metal frame guarded a small swing made of wood which was tethered by a thick chain. Beside it was an old tire held up by rope. The group considered it a little unsettling that the wooden swing had started moving upon their arrival, especially since there wasn’t a single gust of wind in the brisk, early morning air. Unsettling, yet exciting.
The group quickly started making preparations to enter the house. Once they had been awakened and warmed up by their freshly brewed coffee they began unloading the equipment from their van. About halfway into hauling their equipment into the house one of the group members heard an unexpected sound. It was the small, sweet, cheerful voice of a little girl.
“What cha doin’?” She asked.
“We’re setting up our equipment.” He responded.
“Oh, what’s it for?” The girl continued her inquiry.
“It tests for the presence of paranormal activity.”
“Para—what?” The girl giggled. “What’s that?”
“It’s like searching for ghosts and other strange phenomenon.”
“Oh, that’s interesting.” The girl remarked, fairly satisfied. She then ran over to the swing set and sat on the wooden swing while clutching her doll, and casually watched the team as they finished setting up their equipment in the house.
The group laid down sleeping bags in the living room, which was noticeably devoid of furniture. The inside of the house was dark, dusty and gloomy, as you might expect, but the team made every effort to not introduce too much artificial light or change the condition the house was in. They theorized such changes could thwart their attempts to observe any abnormal activity leaving them with yet another disappointing experience, like the one which they had just deserted. Or worse still, any major alterations could aggravate the spirits within the house and lead to them becoming hostile toward the uninvited guests.
They setup special cameras in key areas of the house. Some cameras would record normal footage, some were for night-vision to observe darker areas, and they also had thermal sensing cameras to detect changes in the air-temperature. There were also seismic sensors and highly sensitive microphones. The team was as technologically prepared to capture and observe any possible paranormal activity as they could be. However, one could fairly speculate on their actual preparedness.
As was standard practice for the team, they made sure to leave all the bedroom doors open. This was a way of inviting an interaction with any potential spirits. In their past experiences this was a crucial first step as it provided a great deal of insight. Firstly, they would have to wait and see if any of the doors moved or completely closed, this would signify first and foremost that there was most likely an entity in the house and possibly which room the team should focus more attention on. Some other indicators they took note of was whether the door moved or closed gently, or if it was slammed shut. These variations would determine if the spirit was curious and might be interested in communicating, or, -if the door was slammed- that the spirit was in no mood for company.
Each member took turns monitoring the equipment. Sometimes two or three would take a shift and monitor different elements to see if there were any subtle signs of
activity. During the later shifts it would often just be one member on watch while the rest slept in the living room. This shift keeper was known as the “Night Watcher.”
The first night was quiet and still. There was a mild chill in the air so the team member who had taken the night shift was bundled up in front of the equipment like a security guard on watch while he casually took hits off of his vape mod. Initially it seemed nothing was going to happen and he began to struggle to keep his eyes open. He was also concerned that in this state his mind would start playing tricks on him.
As the wee hours of the morning crept in the night watcher realized he had been day dreaming. He glanced at the camera monitors and noticed one of bedroom doors seemed to have shifted... but he wasn’t entirely certain. He continued to watch the monitor, but as he expected the door didn’t move.
Just as he began to settle back in he heard a noise like someone coughing, but it was very faint. He dismissed it as probably being one of the other team members sleeping in the living room. Then on the monitor he saw movement. He instinctively glanced at the clock and realized it was a quarter past seven which made him wonder how so much time had already passed. He logged the time in the notebook and prepared to log the event when he saw the little girl from earlier climb to the top of the stairs and sit down while playing with her doll.
He sighed, simultaneously relieved and disappointed. He was a little annoyed that he had not been able to witness any real paranormal event on this night. Just then he heard another sound of coughing but again dismissed it. Given the hour he figured the rest of the team might be about to wake up, so he put on some coffee. He considered confronting the little girl to see if he could convince her to not interfere, but he decided to wait until someone else from the team was awake so that they could keep on eye on the equipment.
A single team member emerged from the living room and reached for the coffee pot. He glanced at the night watcher through groggy, morning eyes with an obvious inquisitive look. The night watcher just shook his head to indicate that there had been no abnormal activity. He was just about to mention the little girl on the stairs when he glanced at the monitor and realized she was gone. He then double checked that all of the doors were still open just to be sure the girl hadn’t snuck into one of the rooms.
Throughout the day there was no noticeable activity and the team found ways to pass the time without being completely distracted from their primary task. As night drew near the team decided who would be on night watch and the rest withdrew to the living room. A few hours into her shift the new night watcher was joined by another team member who indicated that he couldn’t sleep, so the pair night watched together.
While sitting in complete silence, occasionally talking softly to each other, they both heard an unexpected sound. Again, it was someone coughing. The sound was distant and almost seemed to drift. It continued sporadically, often with several minutes
passing in between. One of the night watchers carefully checked on the rest of the team asleep in the living room, but none of them were stirring and the coughing didn’t seem to be coming from there. They both continued to attentively listen and watch the monitors; both were intrigued and yet slightly unnerved by the sound.
That’s when they heard the footsteps, which were a bit muffled. They looked at each other and both agreed it was the sound of someone climbing the stairs. They checked the equipment vigilantly, but then realized it was just the little girl again. Once again, she sat at the top of the stairs, humming and playing with her doll. One of the night watchers decided to go talk to her while the other kept watch on the equipment.
Carefully the night watcher turned the corner into the room leading towards the stairs. He was more concerned with not wanting to startle the girl than encountering any ghosts. The other night watcher stared at the screen waiting to see her counterpart when all the screens on the desk suddenly flickered off and back on for just a split second. In that instant the watcher who had ventured towards the stairs looked up to the top of the staircase, but the little girl was no longer there. The watcher at the desk also noticed that the girl had disappeared. At that moment a chill ran up both of their spines when they both realized that one of the bedroom doors was closed. Naturally they both concluded that the little girl had gone into the room and closed the door. Perhaps to play a game of hide and seek with them. The watcher continued to climb the stairs and motioned to the camera that he was going to investigate. The night watcher at the desk sat at the edge of her seat, intently watching the monitors.
As he climbed the stairs, gradually approaching the door he continued to hear the faint but slightly more pronounced sound of someone coughing. Cautiously and with his heart racing he reached for the doorknob and began to turn it. He slowly pushed the door open and peered inside the dark bedroom. After spending several minutes meticulously searching the room for any sign of the little girl or whoever had been coughing, he eventually gave up and vacated the room. As he walked out he deliberately left the door open and headed back down the stairs.
A few hours passed without a sound. No coughing, no gentle humming from the little girl. Nothing but stark silence filled the house. Then, as both watchers had begun to settle in, a different sound stirred them from their passive state. It was the wretched creaking of the rusty swing set outside the house. They both grunted softly in disappointment, mildly annoyed at the irrelevant disruption.
The morning light crept across the inside of the house filling it with an eerie pale blue ambiance. A fog had rolled in and seemed to have plagued the interior of the house. Once again, the sound the swing creaking could be heard in the distance and it almost seemed to be forewarning them of looming danger. An unbalanced energy began to surge through the house which stirred and roused its occupants. The whole team was wide awake and congregated around the equipment.
A loud, distinct thud echoed through the house startling the team. They each looked around in uncertainty and then glanced at the monitors. The sweet little girl was playing her own version of hopscotch on the steps of the staircase. A couple of the team members tempestuously went to go confront her. As they entered the foyer they found her sitting at the top of the stairs brushing her doll’s hair. When they started to approach her, the fog seemed to grow thicker and they heard the sound of coughing coming from one of the bedrooms. They paused and stared at the open bedroom door, uncertain of their next move. Just then the door slammed abruptly shaking them to their very core. The tremors caused by the slammed door reverberated through the empty rooms and seemed to make the whole house shift slightly from its very foundation.
The team members at the stairs asked the little girl, “Is anyone else here?” She nodded her head casually. The team glanced at each other and then asked the girl, “Who is it? Who else is here?” The girl placed her index finger up to her lips, “Ssshh.” She then let out a giggle that was notably ambiguous.
The rising sun swiftly changed the pale blue lighting of the house to a blazing orange glow. However, this did not improve the visibility inside the house as the stubborn fog continued to linger and even thicken. Some of the team members began to choke and cough in the thick fog. Desperate for edification, the team continued trying to coax more comprehensive answers from the girl.
“Please tell us who else is here!”
The little girl stared nervously at the closed bedroom door and then leaned towards the team as if she was about to tell them a secret.
“My daddy is very mad.”
“Your dad is here?” the team responded.
The little girl just nodded and then calmly said, “He’s going to set the house on fire again.... with all of us inside.”
With their eyes wide open they collectively asked, “Wait, what?!” “Why would he set fire to the house?”
At that moment the sharp sunlight pierced through the windows and holes in the walls; it danced with the slowly moving fog, casting unholy shadows on the walls above the staircase and on the tightly closed bedroom door. The girl responded to their question in a whimpering voice,
“I don’t know why he started the fire. My mommy and daddy were yelling at each other downstairs while I was in bed. I covered my ears because I didn’t like it when they yelled at each other. Then I heard a really loud noise and they weren’t yelling anymore... and it got really quiet. I heard my dad coming up the
stairs and it sounded like he was crying, then he slammed the door to his room. I waited for mommy to come tuck me in but she never did, so I got out of bed and opened my door, but I couldn’t see or breath because of all of the smoke. That’s when I saw the fire at the bottom of the stairs and everything got really hot. That’s all I can remember.”
As they listened, in abject horror, to the girl’s chilling words, the whole team began struggling to breathe and realized that what they thought was fog had somehow evolved in smoke. The swing set outside started swaying violently and the sound of crackling wood, like logs on a fire, built up into a horrifying roar. The orange glow of the sunrise morphed into immense flames. The team had to shout at each other in order to be heard over the inferno of fire that now engulfed them. They knew they needed to get out but not without saving the little girl too.
They tried to climb further up the stairs but the smoke had become so thick they could barely see anything. The whole team began to huddle together at the base of the stairs. Coughing and wheezing they desperately gazed around in a futile effort to find a way out. As glowing red ash and debris began to rain down on them like hellish snowflakes, they fell to their knees and huddled closer together. They had found the paranormal activity they had been searching for but were now on the verge of certain death. This was definitely not the tantalizing victory they had once imagined.
With their eyes closed tightly, they sat, huddled together, waiting for the inevitable. The fire was so close and so hot they could feel its searing tongues licking their exposed skin and the smell of burning hair filled their nostrils. Then, as the roar of the fire grew horrendously more deafening, and seemed to signal its odious grand finale, a sudden and jarring silence inexplicably took its place. Was this it? Had they crossed over into some sort of afterlife?
Hesitantly, one by one, each team member opened their eyes and looked around. There was no fire. There was no smoke. There was no little girl. A stiff cool breeze slithered its way through the group. At first it was a welcome relief in contrast to the now absent sweltering inferno, but it quickly chilled them to the bone. That’s when they realized, not only were the flames and smoke gone, but so was the house. The entire house had vanished without a single trace. It was still nighttime and all that surrounded them was the navy-blue cloak of the star-flush sky. The team remained stone silent as they rose to their feet, occasionally making eye contact with each other in search of some sort of absolution.
The sun was on the peak of rising and it cast an eerie dull luminance on the plot of land where the house once stood. The cold morning air prompted the team to take shelter, but they realized all of their equipment was still setup right where they had left it... except, like them, it too was now outside. The only other thing that remained was the rusty swing set, which was now stoically void of motion.
The team began to tear down and pack up their equipment. None of them had spoken a single word to each other. Still trying to wrap their heads around what they had just experienced, they were left speechless. There were no words. As one of the team members started dismantling the camera array, which was mounted to a tripod at the base of where the stairs used to be, something caught her eye several feet away from where she stood. She cautiously walked over to investigate the out-of-place object. As she stooped down to get a closer look she began to choke up. There, laying on the ground was the charred remains of the little girl’s doll.
Once the team had finished loading up their equipment into the van they couldn’t help but take one final look at the spot where the house once rested. As they gazed into the void, now filled with the starry night sky, they heard the now so familiar sound of the swing set creaking. However, this time the sound was different... almost jovial. The swing swayed playfully in the still night air and was augmented by an ethereal sound of the little girl laughing. The sound carried, echoed and then drifted away.