I was in fifth grade when I experienced the most frightening night of my life. My mother, younger brother and I were heading three hours north to a family reunion. We were going to be staying at my Uncle Jack’s grandma’s house. Uncle Jack was married into our family, and I had never actually met any of his relatives. All I knew was that her house was very old and it was nearby the reunion location.
Due to several traffic hold ups we did not arrive until past dark. My aunt greeted us and said everyone else was asleep and showed us to our rooms. My mom and brother slept in the spare room downstairs. I was taken to a room upstairs.
I remember the stairs creaking as I followed my aunt up to my room. The hallway was dimly lit by a night light down at the far end. It looked like there were several bedrooms but all the doors were closed. My aunt wished me a good night and asked if I wanted the door open or closed. I said open.
I remember the bed being comfy. I remember the window opened a crack and hearing a chorus of frogs and crickets. It did not take me long to fall asleep after such a long drive. At what point in the night I suddenly awakened I do not remember. But I do remember hearing breathing.
It was very faint. So faint I don’t know how it could have woke me up. It sounded as if it were all the way at the other end of the hallway. I sat up to get a better listen. It was definitely breathing. Almost like wheezing.
It was getting closer. It was raspy. Long slow deep wheezing breaths. It seemed to be only one door down now. At this point I was scared. What if the house was haunted? My mom said it was a really old house. What if this was a ghost?
I laid back down and pulled the covers over my head. I remember thinking to myself how childish I was acting. But the breathing continued and it continued to get closer. And the closer it got to my doorway the more hideous it sounded. Now I knew whatever was taking those deep dark evil breaths of air was standing right inside the very doorway to my room.
I don’t know how I managed the courage… but I had to look. I slowly inched the covers down. The breathing continued. As my eyes peered into the darkness and towards the doorway I could see the outline of a figure. My eyes adjusted and I could see the silhouette of a frail old woman in a white night gown. Her gray hair glowing from the shine of the nightlight. It was just Uncle Jack’s grandma! I was so relieved. She stood there for only a moment longer and then continued down the hallway towards the stairs. The heavy breathing faded away. She must have been up using the bathroom I had figured. But my goodness what awful breathing she had. And soon after I drifted off to sleep again.
That morning I went downstairs to find mostly everyone in the dining area getting ready for breakfast. I said hello to my cousins who had already been sleeping upon our late arrival that night. My aunt asked me how I slept and I said just fine but Uncle Jack’s grandma gave me quite the scare when she got up in the middle of the night.
A strange look appeared on my Aunt’s face. My cousin Jason started laughing. He said mammaw died three years ago and I must have been dreaming. My aunt went on to say the house was now owned by Uncle Jack’s brother and confirmed that his grandma died of lung cancer several years ago. She said I must have been dreaming as there was no old woman living in the house.
To this day I still get goosebumps thinking of that night. I know I was awake. What I saw and heard was scarier than any horror movie I have ever seen, and more frightening than any nightmare I have ever had. I’ll never forget that breathing.