I remember the box was big. That meant that the present was something that I probably didn’t ask for, but one that my parents knew I would want. As the thin layer of wrapping paper was ripped away, I could feel the anticipation in the room. Walkie-talkies!
As an eight year old, just turning nine, I felt on top of the world. At that age, and the fact that it was the late 90’s, I wasn’t allowed to have a cell phone. So a set of walkie-talkies was the next best thing. I could give one to a friend, and we could have secret conversations from across the street. I say across the street because the box said they would only reach two miles, and only one of my friends lived that close to me.
So, one went to my friend Jake, and kept the other one for myself. Jake was my best friend at the time. Not just because we lived so close, but because we seemed to actually like to do the same things almost all of the time. That is a very odd thing to find in children. We had a lot of fun pretending to be secret agents and communicate at all hours of the day. Being homeschooled, I didn’t have much else to do. The street became our war zone, and our houses were our bases. A manhole in the middle of our street was a place that we always tried to enter, pretending it was full of secret treasures. To show how important it was to us, we painted an oversized orange X over it. An action for which we later were punished for by our parents.
There was one place that we called the “Evil HQ.” It was a large drain in the woods behind our street. We weren’t allowed to go there alone at that age, so we decided it should be the bad guy’s place. Due to the fact that if we beat them all too fast, the game would be over. As a side note, these bad guys only lived in our imaginations.
For the next month or so we were very content on playing this action packed game. We were the kings. But, as kids games go, we eventually knew that we “had” to kill the bad guys once and for all.
“It would be so cool.” Jake told me, as we sat on my front porch eating popsicles. “Haven’t you ever wondered what’s really in there?”
“Yeah, but our parents said that we aren’t supposed to go down there.” In our friendship, I was never the one to do the risky things. Jake bit off the last of his popsicle and stood up, throwing away the stick as he did so.
“They don’t have to know. Come on, we will just go in for a few minutes and be back before anyone knows we are gone.”
Like an idiot, I decided that Jake was probably right, and followed him to the drain. The whole way he kept trying to convince me that it was all going to be fine, and that we would have fun. I believed him, up until we got to the drain entrance. As I looked into that wide dark cave, I felt a sickness in my stomach.
Now, let it never be said that I wimped out on an adventure, when my friend needed me. But, for some odd reason, all I could think of was my parents warnings. As a nine year old, those words made sense to me, even if I didn’t know why they didn’t want me going in there. I knew my parents had some sort of reason, and that was good enough for me. That, plus the fact that I was deathly afraid of getting into trouble.
So I told Jake that if he wanted to go he would have to go by himself, and I walked back home, feeling a sense of relief. I also felt a little guilty for leaving Jake alone, but not guilty enough to go back. When I got to my room, I sat at my window looking at the tree line. They seemed a little more intimidating than usual. I expected Jake to come walking back triumphantly to tell me what a baby I was, and that there was nothing wrong with the place.
But he didn’t. I wasn’t aware that a drain could be so big that it would take him this long to explore it. I waited and looked back at my clock every now and then. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes! What was taking him so long? How big was this drain? I started to wish I had gone with him. If he was having so much fun that it kept him this long, I didn’t want to miss out on it. I stood up and, while I was walking out of my room, I realized Jake had left his walkie-talkie in his pocket. This thought struck me like lighting. Maybe I could find out what he was doing, or at least tell him to come back. Grabbing my walkie I called out to him. There was no answer. I tried again. Still nothing. What had happened? Maybe his walkie had died, or he had gone out of range. Or maybe he just didn’t want to talk to me because I left him to go on alone. That made me start to fell guilty, so I tried one more time.
That’s when I heard it. A sound coming through the walkie-talkie. It sounded like someone breathing very heavily, mixed with whispering. After about ten seconds of this, the person would scream as if they were in great pain. Then it would start all over again.
The first thing I thought, was that it was just Jake playing a stupid joke. He wasn’t above doing those things. I called him out on it, and told him that if he kept screaming into the mouth piece, he might damage the walkie-talkie. The voice stopped. Then it started laughing. A very high pitch laugh, so that I still couldn’t tell if it was Jake or someone else. Trying to talk over the laughing, proved pointless, so I gave up and walked to my bedroom window.
That was when I saw him. Jake was running down the sidewalk. Running, and glancing fearfully over his shoulder. He made it to the sidewalk in front of his house, and stopped. I would be lying if I said that there weren’t a few tears on his face. The laughing continued for a few more seconds, then it cut off. I looked back outside my window to see Jake, sitting on the ground, huffing and puffing.
I walked outside to talk to him, but it took me a few minutes to actually make him talk coherently. When he did finally gather himself, he told me what happened. Evidently, he too felt uneasy about climbing into the drain, especially alone. But he decided that if he didn’t follow through, I would never let him hear the end of it. So, he pushed past the idea of going back, and climbed in.
If you have never been in a drain, or sewer before, let me tell you that they are big, gross, full of mud, trash, water, and are straight up creepy. At least the one we had. Jake told me that he spent the first ten to fifteen minutes walking through all of the different twists and turns it led him through. All of the dark low ceiling halls, made him feel very closed in and far away from the world. He eventually hit a very narrow tunnel that would have never bought his eye if he hadn’t seen light coming from it. It wasn’t a fire light though. It was daylight. He decided that if he found another way out, it might be closer to our street, and we could use it in our games.
Bending down, he felt a slight breeze hit his face, which was a relief from the stuffy drain. He got into the narrow tunnel, which was still big to his small size, and crawled through. Eventually, after coming through on the other side, he found a small open area. It was a room, that was the best way he could describe it in his young mind. Roomy, empty expect for the trash littered across the floor. The light that he had seen was coming from a manhole in the ceiling. It covered the whole room in a pail light.
I asked him where he thought the manhole was, but he didn’t know. I asked him if it was the one in the middle of the street, with the orange X that we painted over it. He said he didn’t think so, and that he was pretty sure he had gone further that than. I was a little disappointed in that, because the closer to home the better. But of course we were still too small to lift a manhole, and we wouldn’t have been aloud even if we could.
I told Jake this, but he rebuked the idea, and told me to let him finish. He said that while he was looking around, he found odd carvings on the walls of the room. The carvings were in the format of words, but looked like gibberish. As Jake pondered over the “words” he heard something in the tunnel. It sounded like an animal or something squeezing through the narrow passage. He quickly hid himself on one side of the entrance, right as the thing came through. It was a man, and a very large one at that. He didn’t see Jake, and that gave him time to watch the man for a minute.
He moved like some sort of spider. This was probably because he lived in a room with such a narrow ceiling. He only had on a pair of baggy pants, and a tattered black coat. His hair was greasy, and long. It hung over his whole head, causing Jake to not be able to see his face. His skin was very white with splotches of pinkish areas, and very veiny. He seemed to be holding some sort of paper bag in his mouth.
I can’t say who this man was, or why he acted like this, because I had never seen or heard of him before. Neither had Jake, and that was what caused him to not let his presents to be known. The man sat down at the other side of the room and started to pull food out of his bag. He was making so much noise, that Jake started to slip away unnoticed. He was already in the tunnel, when his walkie-talkie came on and shattered the silence.
That was when he heard the man let out a loud piercing scream. He could hear the sound of hands and feet slapping across the floor as they chased after him. Jake was slower than this man, but the narrowness of the tunnel gave him the advantage he needed to get through first. When he emerged on the other side, he pulled the walkie-talkie out of his pocket, and threw it down one of the other tunnels, then ran in what was luckily the right direction to get out. He didn’t here anything behind him. Only the sound of his own feet hitting the ground. After that, he never heard the man again.
The story that I had just heard was so far fetched that I would never have believed him if I had not heard the noise on my walkie-talkie just a few minutes earlier. I wanted to tell my parents, but Jake reminded me that we weren’t even supposed to be in the drain in the first place. As children we all fear the punishment that our parents could bring over all else. It was that fear that made me not even go in the first place. And I was too loyal to my friend to sell him out. So, we made a promise, that we would never tell anyone about this.
Now, let’s skip ahead to a few weeks later when my parents got me a new babysitter. I always had one, so I wasn’t too worried about getting a new one. In fact I liked having a babysitter around. They were generally rather nice to me, but were always too old, and strict about things like bedtimes. This new babysitter was supposed to be younger than the others, so I was rather excited. Jake had told me stories about how younger babysitters always let the kid watch scary movies and not go to bed until right when the parents got home.
That stuff never ended up happening, and I told Jake that he didn’t know what he was talking about. But even though the new babysitter, who’s name was Olivia, wasn’t as loose on the rules as I had hoped she would be, she was still a lot more fun than the others I had. She was more in tune with the TV shows I liked, and she even played my video games with me. Even though she didn’t let me watch scary movies, the bed time was stretched another hour. All in all, she was pretty cool to have around.
I remember one time she was there, Jake stayed over because his parents had slo gone out. He told me how he wished that he could get another walkie-talkie, and this made Olivia ask why. I told her about the game that we used to play and how the man whole, was our meet up place, and the drain was where the bag guys lived. I was going to go on about the drain, but I could tell Jake was getting uneasy. Olivia pointed out the window to the manhole and asked if that was the one I had mentioned. Jake wouldn’t answer, so I walked to the window and looked at the manhole with the orange paint on it.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
That was when something caught my eye. The X that we had painted over it stretched all the way to the asphalt on either side. But the lines on the manhole, and the lines on the asphalt no longer lined up. It was as if someone had lifted it, turned it a few inches to the left, then set it back down. I brushed it off as if it was not important, due to the fact that over our course of trying to lift it, we ourselves could have budged it that far, over time. Reasoning this out in my mind caused the thought to fade away, and I ended up telling Jake a bit later, but he came to the same conclusion as I did.
The next day, Jake told me again that he really wished we had another walkie-talkie, for him to use. That was when I remembered that I had seen an older one in our basement a few months ago. My dad had put it down there with a box of his old things. I never thought it was important, since I already had two of my own. But it now seemed like a treasure.
I told Jake about it, and that we could probably use it if we wanted to. He said that if we asked, it would probably bring up the subject of how we lost the last one. I told him if I used this one, he could just have my other, and we wouldn’t have to tell anyone. Jake seemed to be ok with that, so we both made our journey to the basement and got the walkie-talkie.
We started our game again, but this time, we never once thought of going to the drain. We had a good time, and for a while things seemed to be back to normal again. Olivia came to babysit again while my parents where got for the evening, and while Jake and I were talking about cartoons and such, we heard it. The noises from the drain. Without a second thought I turned off the talkie.
Looking out my window I could see Jake in his room. He was looking at me, more confused than afraid. I mouthed the words “Hear it?” He nodded. He kept signaling for me to turn mine back on, and eventually I did. Nothing. Jake asked me if that was the sound that I had heard while he was in the drain. I nodded slowly.
Jake seemed to be holding it together, considering he was the one to experience it first hand. I on the other hand, he couldn’t take it. I turned off my walkie-talkie, and left my window, leaving Jake alone. I decided that I should at least tell Olivia about the noises. I wouldn’t have to tell her about the drain, or any of that. I would just have to tell her that I started hearing these sounds from my walkie-talkie.
I explained all of this to her, but when I tried to show her the noises, they wouldn’t come. As expected, she just thought that I was playing some sort of game. I knew that there was no way to convince her it was really, so I took the walkie-talkie back to the basement, and put it back in its box.But right before I put it away, I decided to try one last time. I turned the walkie-talkie back on, and whispered into it.
Then I heard it again. A bit lower than before, but I knew it was the voice. It was whispering to me something I couldn’t quit make out. Without a moment to spare, I shoved the walkie into its box, and ran upstairs, leaving it whispering to the darkness. For the rest of the day, I avoided the basement, and mostly stayed in my room. For the first time in my life, I felt I was personally in danger.
Another day went by. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I avoided Jake, and just stayed inside my house. My parents informed me that they were going out for the evening, and that Olivia was going to be staying with me.
We spent the most of the evening watching TV. At one point I had to go to the bathroom, When I go back I saw Olivia walking up of the basement. I asked her what she was doing.
“I thought I heard you down there. Were you in the bathroom the whole time?”
I told her I was, and that she probably heard the voice from the walkie-talkie. She said the she didn’t hear that, but I wasn’t sure. That was the only thing that could have made that sound down there, other than maybe a rat or something, and I don’t think we had rats.
She ended up telling me that I had to go to bed, but I wasn’t even close to tired. Eventually, while I was sitting in the dark of my room, I saw Jake’s light come on, and walked over to his window. He was standing with his walkie-talkie, looking at me. I shook my head at him. I wasn’t going to use it tonight. He seemed to be disappointed, but would not sway my decision this time.
Then I heard it. The crackly of static, then breathing, whispering, then a scream. I wheeled around and looked at my dresser, where the noise was coming from. Sitting on it-hiding behind my lamp-was the walkie-talkie. But that didn’t make any sense! I put it in the basement, and I—
That was when I heard the scream of my babysitter, and the drop of a body. Olivia was gone. I didn’t know if that thing of a man killed her or not, but I was alone in the house. Except for whatever was running up the stairs. Out of reaction I locked the door, and hid under the bed.
It was at the door now. I heard the familiar sounds that I only had heard from the walkie-talkie speakers. Then I heard something slam against my door. It left a large crack down the middle.
“Climb out the window!” It was Jakes voice. He was still watching from his room. “Climb out the window, quick!”
I rushed over to the window, and started to force it open, but it wouldn’t budge! It was the first time I had ever tried to open it, causing it to be stiff. Every time I pushed, the door cracked. I could only budge it about an inch every time. The door was about to be smashed down.
I had the window open just about a half a foot. Jake told me to just squeeze through. I tried, but even as skinny as I was, it was slow going. Then I heard the crash, and Jake’s voice.
“He just broke the door down!”
That was the last thing I heard before I fell out my window. When I hit the ground there was a loud crunch. When I tried to stand up I learned that it was my leg. The pain caused me to crumble to the ground and lose consciousness. As the darkness took me, I heard something slam against my window.
Nathan clenched his fingers tight around the brown leather couch he was laying on. Classical music filled his ears as he came back to reality. He was done telling the story, but he still felt the fear he felt when he was a little boy. That cringe worthy tale was as memorable as if it had happened last week.
“Is that it?” His therapist looked up from her clip board. “Is that all you remember?” Nathan sat up on the couch, struggling to release his grip.
“That is all I remember before waking up in an ambulance.”
“I assume it didn’t end there.”
“No. No, after that I was questioned by the police. I ended up telling them everything that had happened. They conducted a man hunt for this guy, but never found him. It was almost like he existed only for me and Jake.”
“Did he?” Jake looked up at his therapist.
“What do you mean? You think he was some kind of ghost? Some kind of creature that goes away as soon as the lights come on, and you grow up? No, he was a real man.” There was no answer. The silence in the room wasn’t even broken by the continues music, which had blended into the room. “You know what,” Nathan stood up and grabbed his coat. “I thought I was coming here to get some good advice that would help me, but I guess I was wrong. So, thanks for not believing me.” He was about to walk away when the music suddenly hit its end. The absence of the tune was now louder than the music itself.
“Nathan, when was the last time you saw your parents?” He had to think for a moment.
“I don’t know, maybe a few months.”
“And when was the last time you were in their house?” He paused for a moment.
“Not since I moved out.”
“And you told me earlier that they haven’t moved since they bought the house this happened in?” Nathan shook his head. “Then, my advice to you is to go back there.” Nathan was shocked by the statement. That was the place he had worked so hard all of his life to avoid.
“Why would I do that?”
“When was the last time you talked to Jake?”
“I haven’t seen him since his family moved away a few weeks after.”
“And you haven’t been back to that house in years. It seems to me like you are trying to run from this instead of ending it.” Nathan took a step towards the door.
“That’s because I don’t want to.” He grabbed the knob and twisted it.
“Have you ever heard it since?” The question froze him. He slowly turned and looked her dead in the eye. For a while neither moved or spoke. Then, just before Nathan turned and left, he said one last thing.
“Only after I moved out.”