This story is by Anthony Mantuano and won the Readers’ Choice Award in our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Anthony Mantuano is the Materials Manager at a local hospital. However, his passion is reading and writing horror, science fiction, and fantasy. After the birth of his son, he decided to pursue writing more seriously. “Who’s There” is just the beginning of many stories to come.
How many times had I told them? They didn’t believe me. My whole family thought it was a phase, a childish trait. Every time I listened to them and forgot about it, I heard it again. It was loud and clear, unmistakable. Again, the knocking that came from inside my closet was not in my head; it was not my mind playing tricks on me. This was real.
I cried out for my mother.
My mother ran in my room. She was agitated. I must have bothered her, or disturbed her with my nonsense once again.
“Honey.” She always began her sentences towards me with “honey.” My mother then began to explain to me that if this was about my closet door again then she would be extremely angry with me.
It was real. I told her it was real. I heard it; it was in my closet. I explained this to her with a stream of tears flowing over my cheeks.
My mother stood in my doorway, then swiftly walked to the closet door. She said this was the last time she was going to tell me that there was nothing in my closet. She swung the door open revealing a small empty room.
I was somewhat disappointed when I saw the space was bare. I didn’t want anything to be there; however, I did not want to look crazy either.
My mother closed the door gently and sighed loud enough for me to hear her frustration. She told me there was nothing to be afraid of. She explained that there were no monsters or boogeymen in the closet, or anywhere at that. She walked over to me, kissed me on the forehead and left my room. The door was cracked and minimal light entered my bedroom from the nightlight in the hall. I looked at the cable box to see 10:37 lit in the front. Finally, I succumbed to the weight of my eyelids and welcomed my much-needed sleep.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Not again! Why can’t it stop? Why am I such a baby? I thought to myself, questioning my own sanity. The cable box read 1:42. I did not want to call my mother again just to be made a fool of. Just to have her show me that there’s nothing to be afraid of. But I couldn’t help myself; I needed to call her. I needed to be reassured again.
I couldn’t. I couldn’t open my mouth nor could I make a noise. I could not move; I was numb. It could have been fear, but this had never happened to me before.
Another noise. This time it wasn’t a knock. Instead, a creak.
The closet door was opening slowly. Petrified, I lay helpless on my bed, unable to put the covers over my head or run away. I wanted to scream, but again no sound.
A shadowy hand exposed itself slowly out of my closet grabbing the door one finger at a time. I wondered if I was petrified, under a spell, or dreaming. My thoughts immediately came to a halt when the door opened a bit more. The figure exposed itself. The light was too dim to make anything out. All I knew was that the figure, no bigger than I, stared intently at me. Then I was able to make out a smile. I thought it was all over. I thought I was going to die.
The figure turned away from me and mockingly walked to the entrance of the hallway. My heart rate slowed, calmed. It was a relief until I thought of what it was doing. What does it want? Why is it here? Why my closet?
Knock! Knock! Knock!
This time the sounds came from another room. My parents’ room, most likely.
I could hear my father. I knew he thought it was me knocking when I heard him ask me if I had any idea what time it was. Then he opened the door.
I couldn’t hear what he said after opening the door, but the next sound was the worst thing I have ever heard in my life. It was a loud thud and a high-pitched shriek, no, scream that came from my mother.
She screamed several inaudible statements and questions, but the fear in my mother’s voice told me what happened. Whatever this thing was killed my father. I hoped I was wrong.
My mother continued screaming with a few no’s thrown in between until she could not be heard anymore. Silence. Nothing.
The creature walked back to my bedroom. It wasn’t a creature; it had to be human. It had human traits, human features, but a human couldn’t teleport to an empty closet to intrude. Could they? Could anything do that?
It wasn’t until the closet door closed completely that I was able to move again. But why? No time to answer; I needed to help my parents.
I shot up out of bed and ran down the hall to Mom and Dad’s room. I saw Dad first. He was lying on his side with dark red blood flowing from his neck. The puddle was still expanding slowly. I screamed. My eyes blurred from the buildup of tears.
Mom, I thought. I had to check on my mother.
I leaped over my father. My bare foot stepped in the blood flowing inside the bedroom. There she was, three stab wounds in the chest. The third still had the knife protruding from her rib cage. Her eyes still wide, still screaming. I stared for what felt like hours, days, before I called the police.
My life was over, my parents were gone, and I quickly learned that the police, like my parents, did not think there was anything in my closet.
“That was twenty-four years ago, Doctor. That is what I remember—no, Doc, that’s what happened. No one believes me and I understand why. This is why I am stuck in this pathetic excuse for a sanitarium talking to you once a week, in my room, for twenty-four ridiculously unfair years,” Michael stated.
“Michael, you may disagree, but I think we have seen some progress today,” the doctor said as he leaned back in his chair.
“You’re expressing your emotions. You’ve had them suppressed for twenty-four years. Did you notice your frustration, Michael?” the doctor pointed out, leaning forward in a supportive fashion.
“I guess I would be lying if I said I didn’t.”
The psychiatrist thought it would be a good idea to leave off on a positive note.
Positive note? What’s so positive about being frustrated?
Two nurses entered my all white, slightly padded room after the doctor walked out. They gave me my meds and ensured I was ok before I called it a night and went to sleep.
Exhausted, I lay there gazing at the ceiling, wondering what I’d done to deserve this, to deserve a life in prison. I knew what I saw. Who were they to call me crazy? I thought about it a little longer before I began to doze.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
It felt as if all the blood in my body had scattered away from my core when I heard the knocking. What was it? I couldn’t move again; I couldn’t get up; I couldn’t feel anything. My eyes darted to my left when a shuffling sound was heard. The sound of my closet, which was locked with a bolt, was now slowly opening, slowly revealing a dark figure’s hand, then revealing a dark figure.
Not again, I thought.
He was bigger than I remembered. Taller and wider. He reached the door to the main facility. When he opened the door, he looked back, smiled, and waved at me.
What do you want? Why are you here? Where did you come from?
Joanne Rizzo says
Thank you, Joanne!
It’s a common theme like the ones you see in films, but well written.
Great piece of work
Thank you, Esther!
Kathleen Visone says
Wow! You gave me goosebumps, and I don’t like goosebumps! Good job. Left me wondering if he is crazy or if there really was something in his closet! Either way, I don’t really want to know!
Thank you, Kathy! I know what it is, but I left it open for the readers to interpret.
Lyn Blair says
Great story! I liked the bookend effect with the beginning and end. You did a wonderful job of using the same inner dialogue and ending the story with its title.
Thank you, Lyn! I appreciate it.
Cathy Ryan says
You did a great job of using ‘all events happen in one room’ prompt in an unusual way. Also, you captured the boy’s frustration very well. Congratulations on winning the Readers’ Choice Award!
Thank you, Cathy! I had to ask about the first part of the story, thankfully it was allowed since its considered a flashback as michael was telling this story to the Dr.
Sue Moreines says
Congratulations Anthony!! Great story which flowed very well. The best part for me, was the boy was spared. Of course he had to suffer emotionally and psychologically, but his life was spared. Of course you left the reader wondering what’s going to happen next.
Thank you, Sue! I do have a drafted longer version of this story that has a significant amount of detail that explains many questions. But after keeping it under 1500 words, I discovered the fun in hearing others perceptions of it.
Ayesha Harben says
Congratulations Anthony. Great story. Left me wondering. Was there really a monster in the closet? Did the boy kill his parents? Sent a shiver down my back.
Thank you, Ayesha! You might be on to something there!
DONNA KINGSTON says
Great job Ant! Proud of you. Now, because I am a close friend of the family, I expect at some point to be private messaged and know who or what it is….lol
Haha, we shall see.
Erika Shadow says
This story kept me in suspense the entire time. Great job and congratulations.
Thank you, Erila!
I want more!! I was hooked from the very beginning..congratulations! I llook forward to reading more!
Thank you, Jai!
Linda Kiefer says
I enjoyed the suspense and the building emotions and thought your ending very well written. Great story!
Thank you, Linda!
Debra Campoli says
Great story Anthony! The suspense was captivating and I also thought he killed his parents! This is the kind of story that should win the top prize! I LOVEd it!
Thank you, Debra! That was kind. I’m glad you liked it.