When I was ten years old, I made a deal with the Bogeyman. In hindsight, I should have known better than to trust anyone from such a vile netherworld.
An abysmal report card and a series of transgressions occasioned my foster parents to exclude me from a family holiday. I begged them to reconsider, but they remained resolute, and so it came to pass that I spent three weeks of my summer break with Aunt Gwendoline.
Apparently, a year or two before I was adopted, my foster parents had a falling out with Aunt Gwendoline & her husband; Frank. Thus my stepsiblings and I seldom got to see our cousins; except at the occasional family barbecue or Christmas dinner.
Frank and Gwendoline ended up getting divorced. She was awarded sole custody of the kids because of his abusive behaviour. As far as I could tell, Frank’s stubbornness had been a leading factor in the feud’s rigidity. With his influence no longer an issue, there seemed a better chance for reconciliation and as a gesture of good will she had agreed to look after me.
She lived in a double story house in the township of Martinborough, some sixty-five kilometres east of Wellington. It was an old-fashion type of home with large rooms and high ceilings, and a spiral staircase leading up to the second level where my temporary bedroom was situated.
“Whatever faults that may have led to you being here are between you and your stepparents,” said Aunt Gwendoline as I unpacked. “You come here with a clean slate and as long as you behave yourself, and don’t break any of the house rules, I’m sure we’ll be the best of friends.”
“I don’t plan to break any rules, Aunty Gwendoline,” I assured her.
“Good boy. Please remember that other guests will require this room in the future so treat it with respect. No writing or drawing on the walls, spilling anything that will stain the carpet, jumping on the bed or doing anything that may damage any part of the room.”
“Yes Aunty Gwendoline.”
“You can call me Aunty Gee if you like. Gwendoline is such a mouthful when one has to say it for so many times over the course of three weeks.”
“Okay Aunty…Gee; a bit like Auntie ‘em from the wizard of Oz, or Missus Cee from Happy Days.”
“Yes, something along those lines. You can freshen up a bit once you’re finished unpacking. There is a guest bathroom down the end of the hallway, please use it instead of the one downstairs.”
My Stepmother had packed my suitcase for me the night before and ended up putting far too many clothes in. I tried to tell her I would only be gone for three weeks and not several years, but she did not seem to take much notice.
Halfway down the hallway I became suddenly aware of an unsettling presence; as if I was being watched. I carefully scanned my surroundings but could not see anyone. Goosebumps shivered up my spine.
“Calm down,” I told myself. “It’s just your imagination playing tricks on you.”
The presence seemed to slowly dissipate and I continued on my way. After a quick shower, I returned to the room without incident, then got changed and wandered back downstairs to be reacquainted with my cousins.
“Hi,” said Daniel, unenthusiastically extending his hand. He had only just turned twelve but his short lean stature gave the impression he was perhaps a lot younger.
“Nice to see you,” I replied politely, trying my best to make a good first impression.
Sasha seemed a little reluctant to offer me her hand at first, but after a stern glare from Gwendoline she shook mine with a half-hearted “hi”.
It was obvious neither of them were overly thrilled by my visit, which I did not hold against them. I knew what it was like having relations in the house; the disruption to daily routines, being forced to entertain, not being able to watch your favourite shows and…well the list goes on.
Chubs, their chocolate Labrador was a little stand-offish at first and wanted nothing to do with me until I fed it some ham under the table during lunch. From that moment on we were the best of friends. Another aunt of mine used to say the way to a pet’s heart is through its stomach and I guess she was right.
We went for a picnic at a local beach that afternoon and I managed to obtain a number of interesting seashells to take back home for my collection. I wasn’t a very good swimmer, so I spent most of the time making sand-castles and playing fetch with Chubs, but Sasha and Daniel seemed very much at home in the crashing waves, grousing bitterly when it was time for us all to pack up.
Day turned to night, dinner was digested, dishes were taken care of and we all went our separate ways. Chubs made his way up to my room and seemed insistent on sleeping at the foot of my bed. This arrangement hadn’t been included on the House-rule list so I obliged.
Later that night I woke up with the urge to pee. Whilst donning my slippers I noted that Chubs was no longer in the room and assumed he had gone off to dutifully patrol the house.
I opened the door, and wandered quietly down the hallway trying my best not to disturb anyone. On the way back I once again became aware of this presence, only this time it seemed to be originating from the ceiling above. It felt more intense than before and something told me it was full of pure evil.
Fear got the better of me, and as I hastened my pace the presence started descending down toward me from behind. My eyes were filling with tears when I finally reached my room. Heart pounding twenty to the dozen, I locked the door and scrambled back to beneath the safety of the bedsheets.
The honeymoon settling-in period was unsurprisingly short-lived and it didn’t take long for Aunt Gwendoline to find certain flaws in my behaviour. The inconsistencies between the house-rules enforced by my foster parents, and those of hers were many, and I found it hard to keep track of which ones she expected me to follow and those that now superseded them.
On the fourth day, Daniel and I were playing outside (despite the inclement weather) when she called us back in for some mid-afternoon sandwiches. Driven by greed I ran inside without removing my shoes and inadvertently tracked mud all over her freshly mopped kitchen floor.
“Just look what you did!” she scolded pointing angrily at the muddy footprints. “I spent all that time cleaning this floor just for you to mess it up in less than ten seconds.”
“I’m sorry Aunty Gee, I didn’t mean to. Tt was just an accident.” I replied tearfully “I’ll mop it up for you.”
“Don’t bother Norton; you’d only make a lousy job of it anyway. You never do anything right!”
“I’ll clean it properly, honest I will.”
“Honest? What the heck would you know about honesty? If you weren’t such a dishonest, cheeky little brat I wouldn’t have had to put up with you for three weeks. I don’t blame them for leaving you behind. Why would anyone want to take such a disappointment like you on holiday with them?”
“Well it would be better than taking a grumpy old witch like you!”
My heart chilled as I realised the extent of my insubordination but it was too late. She turned me round and swatted the seat of my jeans twice with her open palm. Stinging pain surged and the kitchen started swimming before me.
“Go to your room and stay there for the rest of the day!”
“Suits me, I’m sick of your nagging anyways. I hate this house and I hate you!”
I ran upstairs to my room, slammed the door, then lay face down on the bed and cried bitterly. My thoughts strayed to my stepparents. Spite hoped they were having a miserable time. Denial pictured them coming to their senses and starting back on their way to pick me up from this madhouse. Rationality acknowledged that, though disappointed at my absence, they were probably proceeding with their plans.
Time wore on and I eventually settled down. I dried saturated eyes and began read comics to take my mind off the confrontation. It was then I decided to do a bit of an experiment; to see if this Bogeyman, for the want of a better word, patrolled the hallway 24/7, or did he only exist there at night when all was dark.
I opened the door checked to see it the coast was clear and started down the hallway in search of a daytime Bogeyman. My attention was drawn to an open door that had up till that point remained closed.
Curiosity lured into the room and I saw a tangled skipping-rope lying on top of an old wooden chest in the far left corner of the room. To the right of this was a small table tennis table with a single threadbare paddle sitting on top of it.
On the opposite side of the room was a large walk-in-closet. In the middle of the adjacent wall was a large mahogany desk, upon which sat several colouring books a broken pencil, ruler and an old sketch pad.
The first few pages of the pad were full of vague childish doodles of cats, dogs and strange looking alien creatures but after them was a drawing that caught my eye, mainly because of the detail. Studying it carefully, I realised it was in fact a sketch of the room I was in, with a stick-figure standing by the desk looking at the pad.
As I continued to turn the pages, the stick-figure seemed to grow in size and slowly became a three-dimensional child. The arms and legs and even girth increased and all the time the image continued to expand. It was like a camera gradually zooming in on a faraway subject.
That same ominous presence slowly materialised again, and as before it felt some distance away, but for some reason drew closer with each turn of the page. I started believing that it was somehow connected to the pad; that the sketches were projections of what it was seeing and I was the child within those drawings.
I closed the pad and the presence abruptly ceased to exist, but I remained standing where I was, feeling unnerved. There was now no doubt in my mind that Aunt Gwendoline’s house or at least the upstairs part of it was being haunted by some sort of poltergeist.