A long time ago, when I was around six or seven and my grandfather was still alive, I remember asking him about the kitchen door which led to an overgrown lot out back of our property. We lived in a rather secluded cabin up in the Northern Californian forests, and the hundreds and hundreds of evergreen trees packed tightly against our lot’s edge like starving animals itching to feed.
The backyard was never kept very well; the grass grew long and wild and the green-painted fence that separated us from the woods was always missing several fenceposts. At night, shadows clung to the trees and foliage, shrouding the entire forest in deep, deep darkness. I’ve always harbored a dislike for the dark –needless to say, I never stayed out after sunset.
The door in question was a perfectly normal door. It had a brass knob, and its paneled wood was worn with age. There was a small, square window in the door, giving a glimpse into the yard beyond. As the door was old and its hinges were rusty, it creaked terribly. The sound was so voluminous that anyone using the door would be heard throughout the house. After years of hearing the cre-e-eak of those decrepit hinges, I asked my grandfather about it. My parents both worked and I didn’t have school at the time, so I found myself alone with him throughout most of my childhood. He was a handy man, and was always tinkering in the garage or touching up something around the house.
“Why don’t you oil the kitchen door?” I asked one day. My grandfather was sitting in his armchair, reading a newspaper from the previous week.
“It’s always creaking so loudly, why don’t you oil it?”
“If I wanted to oil it, I would oil it,” his voice resorted to using the universal authority that an elder has over a child. I was not swayed.
“Well, why don’t you? It’s irritating.” My grandfather laughed.
“That’s a big word: ‘irritating.’ It’s a strange story; do you really want to hear it?”
He set down his paper and looked down at me. I nodded eagerly. “Don’t tell your parents this story, you hear?” I nodded again, anticipation growing in my youthful heart.
“I won’t, I promise,” I said.
“Get comfortable. The story begins when you were just a little baby. It was late one summer night. I was watching you alone, because both your parents had some business or the other to take care of. I was sitting right here in this armchair, and you were in a crib. I had the television on, but I wasn’t really watching it. To be truthful, I was dosing off. You were asleep, I was tired. I couldn’t help it. Well, I was a few minutes into a good nap when I heard it: a creak from over there in the kitchen. I turned the television off and tried to listen for it again, but it didn’t happen a second time. I thought maybe the door was loose or a cabinet hadn’t been shut, so I headed on over.
“The kitchen was completely empty. Nothing had changed at all from what I could tell. I shrugged and came back here. When I returned, there was somebody else in the room with you. He was sitting in this chair, here. Smiling. And singing, he was singing. Very softly, gentle-like. I didn’t hear the words.
He had been looking at you, but when I came into the room he snapped his eyes on me. The sight of him damn near gave me a heart attack, I tell you. He normal enough, except… well except for his eyes I suppose. And his face did look a bit odd. He had a sort of look about him. It didn’t sit right with me. I picked you up straight away and told him to get out or I was going to call the police. He didn’t answer, but he did get up. I don’t know what I expected, but he left through the kitchen door. I followed him out, locked it behind him. Then, I called the police. I had no real proof and they didn’t find anyone in the area, so they just told me to call if anything else happened and left.
“The next time he came was on a night like the first. Just me and you. I went to the bathroom, and when I came back he was in my chair singing to you. This time, I grabbed up your dad’s baseball bat and threatened to bash the guy’s brains in if he didn’t leave us alone. He just smiled and stood up. I thought he was going to leave again, but he began to reach for your crib. I smashed the bat on his arm and damn near broke it. He never stopped smiling. Son, trust me –if you get whacked that good with a nice wooden bat, you won’t be smiling about it. But this guy just stared into my face with those crazy eyes for a good five seconds before turning and leaving through the kitchen door again.
“The police still couldn’t do anything to help. I was very paranoid for a while there, especially when we were alone together. I’d watch the door with a shotgun with you in my lap. But he never came back, hasn’t since. I threw water on the hinges to make them creak more. I figured that if he ever comes through that door, I’ll hear it and finish the bastard.”
“And that’s it?” I asked.
“That’s it. Never told anybody that story. People would think I’m crazy.”
That was the last story my grandfather ever told me. He died the next year in his sleep. It was peaceful, a good way to go. I miss him every day, but never more than I did tonight. I wish he were still in that armchair, so I could tell him about the creaking I heard earlier, or the gentle singing echoing through my bedroom window.