When I was eight years old, my family moved from Tennessee to a small town in Texas where I had, for the first time, a room of my own separate from my sister. From the very first night in our new house, I had difficulty sleeping through the night. My parents would wake up to find me lying in the kitchen floor or standing, asleep, in their doorway.
I began complaining to my parents about voices in my room, and people that I claimed would sit in my floor or at the end of my bed and watch me through the night. It wasn't every night, but generally at least once a week I would wake up to someone in my room, speaking very quietly. Often I would be able to give long, descriptive stories of these people's appearances and lives. My parents believed that I was having elaborate nightmares, or that I was simply making up these people like imaginary friends because I was scared of the dark.
One of the few repeat visitors (that's what I called them, visitors) in my room was a young man, nineteen or twenty, named Elliot. The only physical feature I can remember about him is blue eyes, but I do remember that he gave me the most terrible cold, nauseated feeling. Sometimes, when I was scared at night, I would call for my parents and whatever figures were in the room would be dispelled, but I could never find my voice when Elliot was with me. He made my whole chest tight, and usually I found it hard to even breathe.
I have never been able to explain what it was about Elliot that scared me so much. He never felt like he was a solid, physical presence in the room like some others did, so it wasn't that I thought he could hurt me. He would just kneel by the edge of my bed and whisper what sounded like a chant or prayers. Sometimes he would pause and tell me what a pretty little girl I was, and several times he asked me my name, although I didn't respond.
The only person who believed my stories was my best friend and next door neighbor, Bethany. I told her about Elliot and how he made me feel sick, but she couldn't see the downside. She was very into scary things (she'd read all the Goosebumps books, watched the X-Files, etc.) and thought that ghosts were the coolest. To her, it would be the most exciting thing in the world to see someone otherworldly. She asked me a few times if I could call up one of my night-time visitors, but I don't think we ever tried it. I got quite enough of them without asking for it.
Besides having my stories believed, my favorite thing about going to Bethany's house was her black Lab, a big, furry cuddler named Pepper. He was the sweetest-tempered dog you will ever meet, and he put up with anything (after all, he lived in a house with four noisy children). He slept with Bethany at night, and when I would sleep over at Bethany's, he often slept between us in her bed. I had absolutely no reason to be afraid of him.
I had been in the house and dealing with my disturbing nights (with the help of a baffled child psychologist who was a friend of my mom's) for almost a year when Bethany started badgering me about wanting to see ghosts. She was tired of me whining about how scary they were and wanted to experience it herself. She thought it would be like a scary movie, only "way more awesome."
Now, I was a selfish child. I was all too happy to send whatever visitors her way. I would have gladly slept soundly in my room. So I told her I would send anyone I saw to visit her instead. I told her to expect them that night. When I got home, I told my parents the same thing, that any visitors were going to go right next door and see Bethany. When my mom tucked me into bed, I announced to my room that it was closed and all visitors should see my next door neighbor.
When I woke up around one to see Elliot in my room, I was just as scared as usual, only I was also angry. It didn't seem fair to me that Elliot would come to me when Bethany wanted to see a visitor. He was kneeling next to my bed, and I whispered for him to go away. It was the first time I had ever spoken to Elliot. He didn't seem to hear me, he just kept whispering the same as always, and for some reason that shook me. Instead of curling up silently and watching him until he left like I had always done before, I started screaming and screaming for him to go away, go find Bethany, get out of my room, for all of the visitors to go next door and just leave me alone; I wasn't really thinking about what I was saying, I was just letting words pour out of my mouth.
My dad came running in, expecting to see someone breaking in to our house or something, but I was just screaming and crying, huddled up against the wall with my comforter pulled up around my chin.
My parents spent the rest of the night with me in shifts as I alternately sobbed and threw up all night. When morning came, I insisted that my parents let me call Bethany to ask if she had seen Elliot. She hadn't; the only disturbance to her sleep had been the fact that Pepper had been barking, racing through the house, scratching at the front and back doors and generally doing his best to wake everyone in the house up. They'd finally put him out in the backyard where he could calm down a little and they could get some rest.
I was excused from school that day because I had been vomiting into the wee hours of the morning, so I went back to bed and slept just fine, well into the afternoon. I woke up when Bethany got home from school and came over to see if I wanted to play. Since I wasn't feeling sick anymore, my dad let me go next door.
Bethany, her little brother and I were rollerblading up and down the driveway and sidewalk in front of our houses when Pepper started barking in the backyard. Pepper rarely barked, so naturally we had to investigate. As soon as Bethany opened the side gate, Pepper came bounding out, snarling, running straight at me. We all scattered, but it's hard to run in grass in rollerblades, and Pepper caught up with me pretty fast. He bit me in the leg about halfway up my thigh, and when Bethany's dad came out of the backyard to pull the dog off me, Pepper bit me again along the side of my knee. I still have the scars.
There was never an explanation for why such a mild-tempered dog would suddenly turn on a neighbor kid without any provocation. The vet determined Pepper didn't have rabies, and although it might have been coincidence, I believed then and believe to this day that whatever entities they were that terrorized me also drove Pepper to attack.
I've never seen Elliot again, though I continued to see and hear people in my room until I left for college.