image obtained from: psychicsuniverse.com
I started off as an observer, like a camera person, or an audience member magically looking in onto another’s life. I did not know who the girl in her early 20’s was, but I had a strange connection with her, understanding her thoughts, but distanced enough to be unable to affect them.
She had been pacing her room since before I’d arrived, wondering how to gain the attention and affection of a boy she’d just started crushing on. This irritated me immensely, as I somehow knew she also had a boyfriend. She kept telling herself that if she only had another room that she could use, she would be able to convince her crush to date her, and that would solve all of her problems. Her room was a pastel pink. Like something you would expect a young girl to live in, ruffles everywhere. I rolled my eyes as she made her way to the windowsill, one of the ones that had a sitting area under the window that popped out just a bit, typically seen in a Victorian styled house.
It was something like this, but there was no water, and the stilts were straight, no angled bars for support. the staircase to get to the door just straight out at a 45% angle down.
Image obtained from: floridamemory.com
She stared at the carcass of the abandoned house that sat outside her window. It was a small, two bedroom home that was a dark wooden brown color, possibly because the entire thing was made of an unpolished, unfinished wood. The entire house sat atop stilts that held it up 2 or 3 stories in the air. It had a long single 45 degree staircase that was a straight shot from the ground to the front door. The house was abandoned long ago, and to me it looked structurally unsound, especially with how skinny the pillars it sat on were.
It was immediately apparent that she did not share my fears about this house, as she grabbed her backpack and raced up the rickety old stairs, which didn’t have a handrail, and up to the door of the tiny house. It wasn’t until she opened the door and stepped into the living room, that I realized the entire house was smaller than my first apartment. The living room was about 10 feet by 15 feet and seemed to also include the kitchen. The room was very dimly lit though, so I really couldn’t tell. Straight forward, about 10 feet from the front door, there was a small bathroom, and to the right of the room, in the center of that wall, maybe 7 feet from where the girl stood, was a door to a bedroom.
I followed the girl through the door and into a small dusty bedroom. Carefully, she placed a pearl necklace on the bed and took out her laptop to video chat with her crush. I had a very uneasy feeling about all of this, like I was not supposed to be there, like I was somehow invading someone else’s space, but another glance at the bed reassured me that nobody had been here for a while. Even though the house wasn’t lived in, and the bed was made and fairly clean, but everything else seemed to be dusty, the way a movie would portray an old abandoned room or house.
Around the time I finally relaxed about the trespassing thing, I heard the front door open and close quickly followed by the girl telling her crush that she had to go and that she’d talk to him later. All of her panic and worry flooded into me as soon as her laptop snapped shut. It mixed and stewed with mine as we both heard two distinct sets of footprints flood the tiny wooden living room.
Before either of us had time to reach the door and peek out at whomever just entered this supposedly abandoned property, we heard a deafening gunshot. Without thinking, I cracked open the large wooden door of the room we were in and saw a balding man in his mid 50’s. He was standing over a woman in her late 70’s who was writhing in a pool of her own blood on the hard wood floor. The man had his back turned to the doorway that I was staring from, but I could clearly see the handle of a pistol sticking out of the back of his pants. The man stepped around the woman and grabbed her arms, dragging her to the bathroom while her body twisted in pain trying to resist him.
I must gasped or made some sort of noise to alert him of my presence, which shocked me, as I wasn’t really aware I could be seen, or heard. I mean it made sense that I could be seen, but up until this point, nobody had paid any mind to me, especially the girl I had been following. He held his finger up to his lip in a shushing manner and told me in a deep, calm voice that I would die too if I so much as hinted to what I’d seen. I nodded, promising that I wouldn’t speak, fear creeping through my entire being as I saw the woman twitch on the floor. I closed the door and sunk to the hard wood paneling that seemed to spread through the entire house, unsure what to do.
image obtained from: wikimedia.org
I pulled out my phone to dial 9-1-1, but I wasn’t sure if that would just make things worse. I didn’t know if they could get worse, but I sat there, imagining the police trying to storm the place, but getting shot one by one as they entered the small shanty on stilts with only one narrow entrance. Besides, I thought, after he killed them, I knew this girl and I would be the next targets, with no hope of escape.
I decided to tell the girl who was with me what I had seen. We were both hiding behind the bed, knowing that it would block anyone’s view of us if they were to open the door. Apparently, she could see me too. Her eyes grew wide and wild when I told her what I had seen, and what the man said to me. We decided to run, to bolt for the front door at the same time and hope we could make it down the stairs with our lives. I pulled the door open a crack. I didn’t see the man, but the bathroom door was closed. I could still see the puddle of blood in the middle of the living room floor. It was at this point that I noticed the other bedroom of the house, on the right hand side of the wall opposite the room we were in, had at least a dozen people huddled in it.
A sad state of knowing loomed above me and I wholeheartedly regretted not calling for help. There wasn’t much I could do about it now though. I followed the girl out the front door and we raced down the old steps of the house. There was a lush green lawn that lay between the abandoned shanty on stilts and her home. We had somehow made it all the way to her house without any more shots being fired, locked the door behind us, and took a deep breath of relief. Once safe in her kitchen before I told her what I had seen in the other bedroom.
Her face dropped, she was horrified. She told me that we couldn’t go back, and that if we called the police, they would all be dead as soon as the man heard the sirens, and that we might all be. I hadn’t realized it, but in the kitchen with us was a larger man in his mid twenties. He had been listening to our whole conversation, I think he was the girl’s cousin, or brother, but I really didn’t know for sure. He told us that we were being ridiculous and that the old house on stilts had been abandoned for years, and he would prove it. We told him not to and tried to stop him, but he was much stronger than the two of us combined and simply shrugged us off before beginning his trip to the house.
By this time, the girl’s entire family had gathered around the kitchen’s screen door, which had a direct view of the front door to the house on stilts. I told them to close the door and get away, but they all just stood there and watching the young man climb the steps to the house and disappear behind its front door. I could feel my voice crack as I yelled to them to run, to leave this house to flee to safety, but my cries went unnoticed, or just ignored. I stood about 5 or 6 feet back from the crowd, still able to see the grass between the houses.
By the time I had heard the family’s gasp of horror, it was too late. The young man was sprinting across the lawn yelling for his family to run when I heard the gunshot, watched as his shirt turned crimson and saw him slump to the ground. The man from the abandoned house was behind him barreling towards the door. I yelled for the family to run, to lock the door, to flee, but none of them moved. It was like they were stuck there, frozen in time. By the time the man had reached the front door, I knew I needed to leave.
image obtained from: uwpd.wisc.edu
As I was inching toward the door on the opposite side of the house, I looked over my shoulder and saw the man had produced a large knife from somewhere and the floor near the kitchen door was splattered red. I threw open the screen on the opposite side of the house and began running. I wished I had been wearing shoes as I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and dialed 9-1-1. I cursed myself for not doing this sooner, when I was in the house on stilts, and couldn’t help but feel responsible for the slaughter that was probably still going on at the girls house, the girl who was my age.
When the operator picked up I whaled at her that I needed help immediately. Screaming that there was a crazy man murdering people and that I was running for my life, but he had a gun and I didn’t know if there was anywhere I would be safe. The woman calmly asked where I was and I screamed something about my cell phone having GPS and that she should use it to find me. I then realized I knew the address of the house I was running from, and told the lady on the phone where to go. I also told her the name of the gas station that I was approaching, that I planned to hide in.
When I got to the gas station the clerk looked at me in horror. I didn’t blame him though, I frantically explained to him the situation, as he stared at the bloody footprints I was leaving in his store, apparently the ground was in worse condition than I thought. The clerk had a shotgun and a handgun, the later of which he handed to me, and let me hide behind the desk, knowing my footprints would be a giveaway. I told the clerk to be careful, and that it might be best just to hide. He heeded my warning, ducking behind the counter-top on the other side of the station.
The cops were taking too long to get to me. I heard the door open and the armed man enter. I knew he was trying to eliminate all of the witnesses, and that he wouldn’t rest until I was gone. I crawled out of my hiding place behind the desk when I saw him approaching the clerk’s hiding place. He shot at me, and somehow missed. Instinctively, I shot back, aiming for his hand. He dropped his gun, but had another in his other hand that I hadn’t noticed. He shot at me again, I thought he missed, but I couldn’t be certain, too much adrenaline was coursing through my veins to pay enough attention to if I had been injured. I shot at his other hand and his knee. He dropped to the floor of the store and I, still crouched down, leaning against the counter, heard the sirens of the oncoming police. I squeezed my eyes shut, the nightmare had ended, and I was finally awake.
Image Obtained From: public.media.smithsonianmag.com