When I was ten years old I moved with my parents and two brothers from Milwaukie, Oregon to Portland. I was sad at first because I had grown fond of our old house. We were only able to stay in Milwaukie for two years because of... Complicated circumstances. Suffice to say it was a rough neighborhood, too rough for my brothers and me to grow up in. My little brother was only four when we moved out. I didn't like our Portland house at first because it was big and unfamiliar. There was only one kid in my neighborhood and he was seven. I also had to get used to sharing a room with my little brother, which was unfamiliar territory as well. I was used to having personal space while my older brother and the baby slept in the same room. I now had to share everything while my big brother got his own bedroom. I got used to it.
A year later I was more comfortable with the Portland house but I still had uncomfortable feelings in certain areas of the house. I had never felt this way with the last house. In my bedroom we had a huge closet where we kept most of our stuff. "Cleaning the room" meant stuffing all our crap into the closet and saying we were done. This usually didn't fly when my dad came in to inspect afterwards, but sometimes we got away with it.
One particular day (when it didn't fly) I was stuck in my room cleaning out the gigantic closet. We had a very large toy box in the back of the closet in which we kept (you guessed it) most of our toys. It was long and deep enough for an adult to lay inside with the lid shut. It was kind of like a coffin now that I think about it. The old box was built by my grandfather to store wood for the winter, when my dad was a kid. My dad filled it with firewood when he was growing up. Our new house didn't have a wood stove so my parents cleaned the cobwebs and bark fragments out for us so we could keep our toys stored inside. It was painted dark brown and made of wood. The lid was heavy and had a handle to help when it needed to be opened. The lid of the box was quite heavy for a five-year-old so I usually left it open for my little brother to access the contents easily. When I finished cleaning the room that day I closed the closet door and went about my business.
That night I lay awake in my bed, trying to sleep. While I don't have this problem anymore as an adult, I used to have trouble falling asleep at night. I would lie there staring at the ceiling, wondering if I would ever fall asleep. That night I sat in the silence, listening to my little brother's quiet breaths underneath me. We shared bunk beds, I was on the top. I glanced over to the other side of the room where the closed door to the hallway was. Next to the door were my dresser with a couple framed pictures and a digital clock with red numbers. I remember seeing the display read 11:11 in the darkness. My mom used to say that at 11:11 you should make a wish. I closed my eyes and wished that I could fall asleep.
I awoke suddenly to a loud noise. I was sleep-dazed and disoriented. I tried opening my eyes wide to adjust to the darkness but all I could see was the clock face on the other side of the room. The time was between 2 or 3 in the morning. My heart was jammed into my throat and beating rapidly. I had heard that sound before. I struggled to think of what woke me up and recognized it was the sound of the toy box lid in the closet slamming shut. The lid was heavy and if you weren't careful it would come smashing onto your head while you were grabbing something from inside. I leaned over the edge of the bunk and tried to look down at my little brother. I couldn't hear him breathing. It was too dark to see anything. I had to assume he was still there but all I could really hear at this point was my rapid heartbeat in my head. I swallowed a couple times, struggling to hear anything. After a few minutes I calmed down a little bit, and my heartbeat slowed. I still couldn't hear my brother's breathing, just deafening silence.
The floors of the whole house were old plank-style hardwood that creaked and groaned under any weight. I listened for footsteps, thinking maybe he went to the bathroom. I heard nothing for what seemed like hours. At some point I was legitimately freaked out and couldn't go back to sleep. Why did the toy box lid slam shut in the middle of the night? I squinted in the direction of the closet doors. I couldn't see anything in the darkness. It was then I remembered that I was playing with one of my dad's flashlights a few days ago. I had put the flashlight into a duffel bag that was hanging from the bedposts at the end of my bed. I sat up and grabbed the bag. The flashlight was still inside. When I twisted the flashlight to turn it on I suddenly heard my brother gasp - loudly. I quickly smothered the flashlight in my blankets and listened carefully. He was in the bed still, underneath me. His regular breathing resumed. I was relieved that he was still there and this eased my mind a little. But my heart began racing again when I thought about shining the flashlight over at the closet.
What would I see?
Was someone in there?
Would the doors be open?
It took a few seconds for me to build up the courage. Finally I shined the light at the doors. To my horror, the closet was open. I swear I had left it shut after I cleaned the room earlier. I could see the toy box in the back of the closet, closed. It had slammed shut that was for sure.
I realized after a minute that I had been staring into the closet for a long time. I turned the flashlight off. I really couldn't sleep now. I kept thinking about the open closet just sitting there in the darkness. It began to bother me, and I really wanted to close the doors. I was too scared to get out of bed so I just sat there, wide awake. I hoped that I would be able to fall back asleep but time seemed to stand still. When I looked back at the clock only five minutes or so had gone by since I woke up. Suddenly I heard another noise from the closet. This time it was a low muffled growl, not animal but electronic. It was the sound of one of my brother's stuffed animals, a lion, going off inside the toy box. I was literally paralyzed with fear. I couldn't move, I couldn't breathe. It growled two or three times, then silence again. After a few moments I decided I needed to wake my brother up. Terrified, I shined the light down to the bottom bunk and my heart stopped. He wasn't there. He wasn't in the bottom bunk. I began screaming and ran out into the hallway. I ran all the way to my parent's room and began pounding on their door to wake them up. When they rushed to the door and opened it, I saw my little brother asleep in their bed.
Who was breathing in my room?
What did I hear in the closet?
When I explained everything to my parents they told me I was having a bad dream. I wish that was the case.
I was WIDE awake.