cariko
I'm 34. The dark circles under my eyes are a testament to my insomnia. Insomnia that has lasted decades.

Growing up, my Great Gramma watched me while my parents worked. Gramma lived in the country and we were up with the rooster and in the bed when the sun set. And I slept soundly. I stayed with her constancy until i was school age, and even then I'd throw a fit until I was taken back to my Gramma. Cancer had other ideas. At the age of 6, she was gone forever (kids dont understand what death is- I called her house for weeks until I realized she would never pick up again) and I stayed with my parents.

My Dad is a real stickler for rules. Light out by 9pm - no exceptions. There was a nightlight plugged into the socket in the hallway between my room and my little brothers. Other than that, lights and TV off.

I can't remember how it happened. But one night there was a man walking down the hallway. I heard him before I saw him. Growing up in the country, I was used to hearing sounds at night- dogs howling, tree frogs, bullfrogs, bobcats, cicadas, katydids- and I was a pretty brave (bullheaded as my dad preferred to call it) kid.  So  hear the soft tell-tell creaks of floorboards and then there he is. A lank tall man. Obscure looking, like when you look out of a cloudy piece of glass. Being a kid, i didn't know what a ghost was, but i knew the man should be there.



And he was there the next night and the next night, walking. Except sometimes he'd stop and turn and stand in my doorway. He seemed to be staring at me, but not staring at me at the same time.

When he started standing in my doorway, then I was afraid. I'd fuss and fuss with my Mom about leaving my lamp on. She got tired of my fussing and demanded to know why I needed it on at such an age. Being stubborn, it took a while, but one night i finally shouted, "Because the man won't stop staring at me and I'm scared!".

Of course her eyes got huge - she assumed it was a REAL man breaking into our house- until i described him. Still staring at me large-eyed, she stopped me mid-description by covering my mouth. "Don't say things like that! There are no such things as ghosts. If your brother hears you, he'll never sleep in his room again!"

Ghost? So that's what you call a person who is there but not really there...

My insistence wore her out, and probably afraid my brother would catch wind, she allowed me to keep my TV on with a shirt thrown over it to mute the light. (this was the 80s so the CRT and the TV just showed color bars or the american flag late night).

And that's how I grew up. My Dad got me a kitten, Mandie, when i was 11. The first few nights she was terrified. She'd see the man and arch her back, hair on end, and back into me hissing. I gave her the comfort my Mom refused me. And I grew used to the lank man, and his walking and his staring. So did Mandie. She'd lift her head up, stare then put her head back on her paws and sleep.

Eventually, during my freshman year in undergrad, my parents moved. I came home to help back my stuff and my mom hissed at me, "Not a single word about a ghost! Your aunt is going to rent this place and she'll back out if you mention a ghost!"

Fast forward over 20 years later. December 2016 to be exact. After church, we go eat at my Grandma's (my Mom's Mom - the great gramma i mentioned before was my maternal grandpa's mother). We had eaten and Mom and Gramma were in the living talking. I was cleaning washing and drying dishes.

I'm not sure how they got on the topic, but Mom told Granma "You know, when Carol was little she used to fuss about a ghost in our old house. She swore it was haunted. I had to fuss with her Dad to let her leave that TV on at night.. But Mom, one night I woke up with an urgent feeling I needed to check on Kevin (note: my little brother, he has asthma & it was pretty bad growing up). Even though he hadn't had an episode in a while, I forced myself up to check on him. Remember in the old house, Carol's room was on the right side of the hallway- I had to walk by  her room first. The TV had her room lit. Momma, I swear to you- I stuck my head into her room just to peep in on her...and all I saw was this dark silhouette of a man, leaned against her desk, staring down at my child sleeping. All I could do was run down the hall to Kevin's room and my legs gave out. I was so terrified. I've never been so scared. I knew I had to go back to my baby, make sure she was alright. It felt like it took forever until i could stand, I was shaking so badly. I had to lean against the walls for support but by the time I got back to her room- it was gone. All these years, she tried to tell me. I just thank God whatever he was never hurt her..."

I think back on it because I'm not sure which is more terrifying. The fact the man waited until I feel asleep and came that close to me for all those years we lived in that house. The fact my mom knew a long time ago I was telling the truth but continue to trivialize it to the point i stopped mentioning it and dealt with my fear alone. Or the fact my mother saw what i had to see every night since i was 6- and she ran and left me.

I'm not so sure why the paranormal fascinates people. Once you have been privy to it, you'll always have the question looming over your head: was that REALLY only a shadow I saw out the corner of my eye? Are those sounds just the house settling for the night". You cannot un-see or un-know it. I absolutely hate it....
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