Babysitting is a dangerous job, and the story I am about to tell you is only further proof of this.
This tale occurs on a stormy Friday night in London. Lightning crashed, thunder rolled, and the wind whipped around the buildings with ferocity akin to that of a man who has come home and discovered his wife in bed with another. It took no prisoners and left destruction in the form of downed trees and scattered garbage bins in its wake. Despite the weather, Mrs and Mrs Oldingham intended to proceed with their weekly date night, feeling that it was more important than ever now that child number 3 was on its way and soon they would be able to have less and less personal time together. That’s how young Sarah Rodderick found herself in the Oldingham’s quiet apartment at ten o’clock on that stormy evening, having put the children to bed, cleaned the kitchen and painted her nails a lovely bright pink. She settled herself in front of the TV, intending to while away the next hour or two with the Comedy Channel. It would be the last television she ever watched.
Halfway through an episode of The Big Bang Theory (Sarah’s favourite show), she had been gently nodding off when a noise startled her. She muted the television and got up and checked on the kids, making sure they were still sleeping. They had not moved. She checked the front door, and the sliding doors leading to the apartment’s balcony. Both were still locked. She chuckled to herself, thinking that she was too old to be frightened by storms and things that went bump in the night. As she turned away from the front door, she heard a dull thump from the hallway outside the apartment. She turned back towards the door as another thump sounded, and looked through the peephole. The hallway was deserted. But the thumping continued, slowly getting louder as though someone was coming towards the door. Sarah’s heart began to beat harder in her chest, and she couldn’t seem to move away from the peephole. She watched the empty hallway and held her breath as the thumping came closer and closer. It seemed to stop right outside the apartment door, and then there was silence. Sarah blew out a breath and rested her forehead against the wood above the peephole. It’s nothing, she told herself.
BOOM! Something hard banged against the front door, seemingly right on the opposite side from where Sarah’s head had rested. She jumped back, and immediately flung open the door, heart racing. The hallway was empty. Behind her, the door to the coat closet creaked on its hinges. Sarah shut the front door, triple checked the locks, and rested her back against it for a moment, trying to calm her breathing. She noticed the closet door slightly ajar. Funny, she thought, it was definitely closed a minute ago. Maybe it hadn’t latched properly. She started back down towards the living room, pushing the closet door closed as she passed.
She sat back down on the couch, wondering whether she should call the police or not. After all, there hadn’t been anyone outside the apartment. Maybe she should call the Oldinghams. Yeah, and tell them what, something inside her hissed. She winced, realising how it would sound for the babysitter to call the parents raving about mysterious noises and invisible doorknockers. She took a deep breath to calm herself and picked up the remote to unmute the television. A thump echoed through the apartment. She jumped up and ran into the entrance hallway, knowing as she ran where the noise would be coming from. There she stood, and listened.
Another loud thump seemed to come from the coat closet near the front door. Sarah approached it slowly, her heart hammering in her chest. As she reached out to turn the handle, something inside her whispered to her to just leave it alone, don’t open the door. She pulled the door open, heart beating so hard in her chest she felt lightheaded. The closet was empty, aside from the usual coats and muddy boots. She opened the door wide enough for it to rest against the small side table in the hallway, and moved to go back to the living room. She paused, turned and flicked the light on in the closet as well for good measure. Now she could easily see that the closet was empty from the living room archway. She walked into the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea to help settle her nerves, and as she switched the kettle on a door in the apartment slammed shut hard enough to rattle the glassware. She ran back to the entrance hallway again, dreading what she would find. Sure enough, the closet door was closed, and no light peeked from the crack underneath it. As she approached the door, something began to thud against it from the other side, slowly at first, but then getting faster and faster as she got closer.
Sarah reached the door, took a deep breath, and put her hand on the doorknob. Abruptly the thudding ceased. She froze there for a moment, heart pounding, unsure what to do, before dropping her shaking hand and turning back to the living room. She had barely crossed the hallway when the thudding started again. She swung back around and hurried back to the door, immediately grabbing the handle and beginning to twist it open. The thudding stopped again.
Screw this, Sarah thought, and threw the door wide open. The closet still appeared to be empty. She stepped in and flicked the light switch. She saw nothing but jackets, coats, umbrellas and gumboots. She flicked the switch back off, and turned to leave the closet. Something caught her ankle and she fell forward, screaming, and twisted onto her back to try and see what had grabbed her. A wrinkled, blackened hand had wrapped itself around her ankle. The skin on the hand was cracked and dry, and led to an arm that disappeared into the darkness at the back of the closet. Sarah tried to wrench her ankle free, but the hand gripped tighter. Then she saw the eyes; two red glowing points staring at her, narrow and hungry. She screamed again and doubled her effort to try to free her ankle. The children she was supposed to be looking after ran into the hallway just in time to see her be dragged into the closet. As they ran toward it the door slammed. The oldest child tried to open the door, but it was locked and wouldn’t budge. They were crying and trying to open the door; they could hear Sarah screaming inside. They backed across the hallway and sank down onto the floor against the wall, holding each other and shaking. Suddenly the screaming cut off with a strangled cry, and then there was silence. A soft click came from the closet, and the door swung slowly open. There was nothing in the closet except for several coats on hangers, umbrellas and a pile of gumboots.
A neighbour rang the police that evening when they heard the screaming, and when police arrived and found the children alone they contacted their parents immediately, who returned home as quickly as they could. The police investigation showed no evidence that anyone had been inside the apartment besides Sarah and the Oldinghams. The rear of the closet was a solid wall, and showed no signs of having been tampered with. As the investigating officer closed the closet door and his notebook, he looked down at the floor one final time. There in the wooden floorboards, overlooked in the frenzy, were several long, deep scratches that led towards the closet. The officer opened the door again and followed the scratches until they disappeared at the rear wall. Caught in the end of one scratch, almost seeming to protrude from where the wall joined the floor, was a bright pink fingernail.