The Curious Case of the Lunging Man

As I’m starting this, I’m realizing that I’m going to need to put a bit of a disclaimer on it.

If you’ve seen my work before, you know that I write horror stories.  I’ve been doing that seriously for about, oh, three to four years now.  There was a lot of time before that spent just jotting down stories for fun, but it’s been the last few years that I’ve really put my nose to the grindstone and started along the path of making a second career out of it.

Because of this, I’m worried that you’ll think that this is just another story being spun out of my imagination.  That is, after all, what I do.

What I need you to understand is that this isn’t a work of fiction.  This is an actual series of events that have happened in my life in particular and in the lives of my immediate family members as a whole.  It’s not a part of my Underlayers series, or some weirdly meta experimental horror.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive in, shall we?

Let’s start with the background information.  Two years ago this month, my wife and I purchased a house.  It was a long time coming.  We had suffered through the meat grinder known as the American apartment rental system, where every year the rent had continued to steadily increase and the benefits of being a renter continued to decrease.  I say ‘decrease’, but what I really mean is ‘go down the shitter’.  If you’ve been a renter in the last couple of decades you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Despite the punches to the face that our savings account took over and over again, we finally managed to scrape enough together to be able to get a house.  To say that we were ecstatic would be an understatement.  It was priced much lower than similar houses in the same area as it needed some work done, and since we didn’t mind pushing up our sleeves and putting in that needed work it was a perfect situation.  The house even managed to pass the FHA inspection so we were able to lock in a lower interest rate than we would typically have been approved for.

Lower per-month payment?  Check.  Family-friendly neighborhood?  Check.  More space and an actual honest-to-goodness yard?  Check and check.

If you’ve read my story A House, you’ve actually read the general layout for our house.  It’s a split-level home that was built in the 1950s.  Three bedrooms and a bathroom on the upstairs level, the living room and kitchen on the main level, and a basement that has been converted into a family room and a laundry room on the lower level.  It’s a pretty typical layout for that style of house.

Something that you need to know but will probably sound strange at first is that my wife and I don’t sleep in the same bedroom.  She is the absolute love of my life, and I can’t even imagine what things would be like without her, but holy shit does she snore.  It’s like the noise a train makes as it goes through a tunnel, except the train never seems to emerge from that tunnel in this case.  And me?  Good God.  Have you ever seen that movie Volcano with Tommy Lee Jones?  My snoring is right up there with the scene where the volcano begins erupting through the city streets.

We suffered through each other’s snoring for a while, but it became clear quickly that it wasn’t working.  After a long discussion, we came to the decision that we needed to have separate corners to retreat to when we wanted to pass out.  Every other possible moment is spent with each other.  During our unconscious periods, though, we stay the hell away from each other.  It’s worked out incredibly well, and as odd as it seems, it’s made our marriage even stronger.

This did, however, make it a bit tricky when it came to selecting bedrooms.  We have four kids, two teenagers, a five-year-old, and a three-year-old.  The two teenagers needed their own rooms as they were likely to murder each other if they were in the same enclosed space for long periods of time.  Our plan for the house is to create two additional bedrooms, a plan that we’re currently in the process of carrying out, but obviously that long term plan didn’t matter when we first moved in.  It was eventually decided that my wife would share a room with the two young ones for a while.  They can sleep through anything, so the snoring wasn’t an issue, and I also wouldn’t be waking anyone up when I had to get ready for work in the early hours of the morning.

I ended up choosing the family room to sleep in.  It had been so long since I had a bed that I could only sleep on a couch or in a chair, and that was the room that my personal chair had been put in.  I miss that chair.  It met an untimely end right around the time that we got a Great Dane named Agatha and she decided that she needed to sleep right on top of me at all times.  For the sake of our furniture and my spine I’m very glad that she eventually stopped doing that.

If you’re using the story A House as a guide, the room I sleep in is the one where the walls bled and is at the bottom of the steps that the girl dragged the father up by his mouth.  That never actually happened, obviously, but my youngest daughter is five and is in a temperamental phase so hey, you never know.

The major thing to take away from this is that the room that I sleep in is isolated from the bedrooms.  Just keep that information filed away for later.

During the first year we lived in the house, the same little girl I just mentioned insisted that she saw a man in the upstairs hallway.  Because of the layout of the house that hallway doesn’t get much natural light, so it’s perpetually filled with shadows.  Every so often she would just point up at it from the living room and ask who the man was or inform us that the man was there.  Each time that she did this there was, of course, no one in the hallway.

In case you’re curious, her insistence that she was seeing someone that wasn’t there was the inspiration for my story Nighty Night.

I honestly don’t know if I believe in ghosts.  Most of the time I don’t think about them at all, which now that I think about it is kind of strange given that I write horror-based fiction.  Although maybe it’s not that strange given that I don’t do much with spirits.  Whatever the case, I usually just dismiss reports of them as people’s imaginations running amok.

Still, there’s always that lingering doubt, you know?

Because of this, I did as much research as possible on our new house.  I looked into city records, I researched past residents,and I went through the paperwork we had received when we had purchased the property.  I found nothing.  No evidence of anyone having died in or around the house, nothing strange about the site itself, nothing.  Eventually our daughter stopped saying that she saw the man in the hallway, and the whole thing was forgotten about.

Fast forward to two weeks ago.  Suddenly both our daughter and our three-year-old son start saying that there is a ghost that hides under their beds. They don’t seem scared at all about it; it’s just something that they say is happening.  There isn’t anything under their beds except for roughly a gazillion stuffed animals.

Now we’re taking a smaller jump forward to two nights ago.  I spent most of the evening working on a particularly frustrating story that just wasn’t coming together for me.  I’m actually still working on that story at the time I’m writing this.  Sometimes stories fall into place quickly and easily for me, sometimes I have to really focus in on them to get them worked out, and on very rare occasions such as this one I have to fight the damn thing into submission over time.

I finally gave up for the night and got ready to go to sleep.  I knew from experience that if I tried to push the story too far I would just start to hate it and give up on it.  It was better to let it simmer for a while.

I laid down on my very comfortable new chair that I got right before Christmas.  It’s one of those chairs that has a permanent footrest so you can basically lay down across it with your upper body held up by the back cushion.  There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s the best chair that I’ve ever owned.  Since it’s also the biggest one I get into shoving matches with Agatha, who seems to believe that she’s entitled to it since she’s such a large dog.  On this particular night, though, she was already laying down on her designated leather chair so I didn’t have to get into a pre-sleep wrestling match with her.

I had Alexa turn off the lights, I turned on both my fan and the black-screen YouTube video of falling rain that I play each night, and I prepared for my long winter’s nap.

At the moment that I started drifting off, I saw something moving on the stairs leading up to the kitchen.  It all happened in a split second and I wasn’t able to get a good look at it before I was startled back to fully awake and it was gone.  The shape had been human-like but short.  I’m a terrible judge of both height and distance, but if I had to take a guess I’d say that it was around four feet tall.  I think that it had its arms extended outward, but I’m really not sure about that.

Just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.  My heart was racing due to me being startled, so I sat there for a moment while I waited for myself to calm down.  I had no doubt that my mind had played a trick on me as I was in the haze of pre-sleep.

Here’s the thing, though: Agatha had sat up in her chair.  She was staring directly at the stairs, and while she hadn’t barked or left her seat, there was no doubt that something had gotten her attention.  Instead of curling back up into what I’ve described in the past as a ‘puddle of dog’, she instead laid her head down on the chair’s armrest so that she was still pointed towards the stairs.

That would normally be the point in a horror movie where you’re yelling at the screen for the character to get the hell out of there.  This is, however, real life, so when something weird like this happens you can very easily convince yourself that of course you didn’t see anything, and of course it’s a coincidence that the dog got riled.  Normally I would have gone down that path, but instead I chose a more logical one.  The door at the top of the stairs leads into the kitchen.  The light in the kitchen is kept on overnight as a safety precaution.  I must have seen the shadow of someone walking through the kitchen as it passed under the door.

Unfortunately, I was pretty awake at that point.  I picked up my phone and checked my email and Twitter feed.  I had a new story scheduled to release on my website the next day, so I also went ahead and checked my website to make sure that it was set up properly.  I’m notorious for incorrectly setting up schedules for content.

I haven’t been able to connect what I found when I logged into my account, and I’m certain that it really doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of this story.  It’s just that it kind of feels connected because of the jump scare my mind had decided to give me and the fact that I write horror stories.  I dunno, you be the judge.

The first page that pops up on my screen when I log into my website is the analytics page, including a graph showing the number of visitors and views.  The numbers it was showing me were much, much higher than is typical.  I’m talking roughly six times the usual daily numbers.  Keep in mind that I had checked it less than an hour before I decided to go to sleep.  The numbers had skyrocketed during that short amount of time.  I’m really not sure what caused the jump, either, as I hadn’t released any new content that day.

Eventually I got tired enough to try going back to sleep.  I plugged my phone back into the charger and made sure to put it up out of reach of Agatha.  She’s mostly gotten past that annoying phase where Great Dane’s chew everything they can get their mouths around, but she had already crushed one phone in the past so I don’t take any chances.  I got comfortable in my chair again and closed my eyes.

A moment later I opened them again wearily, and I saw the figure again.  This time it was on the other side of the room from my chair, and it immediately came rushing towards me.  Its body was still blurry, but I got a better look at its face this time.  It had pupiless white eyes that were the size of softballs, and while I couldn’t make out the features the entire head had an angular look to it.  Its arms were outstretched as it lunged at me.

I know that I said something.  I can’t remember the exact word, but it was something along the lines of “Stop” or “Hey”.  Whatever the case, I woke up completely again.  The figure was once again gone, and Agatha was out of her chair and growling.

Using the ol’ logic again, this is the order of events that makes sense.  I start to fall asleep, and once again my mind plays tricks on me in my nearly-asleep state and I think I see a mystery figure coming towards me.  Startled, I exclaim something, which in turn sets off the dog.

Here’s the thing, though.  I’ve replayed this a thousand times in my head, and while I certainly can’t be sure, I would swear that I opened my eyes and saw the figure after I heard Agatha start to growl, not before.

To add one last wrinkle to all of this, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think that this wasn’t the first time that I’ve seen this particular figure.  I have a vague memory of waking up in the middle of the night and seeing it standing next to the bar that’s built into one wall of the family room.  I don’t recall what I did when I saw it, but I assume that I was still out of it and fell back asleep.

For me to have seen it from that point of view, it would have had to have been after we had gotten some new furniture in the family room but before we rearranged it.  That would put it sometime between seven and ten months ago, which was after my daughter had stopped saying that she saw a man in the upstairs hallway but before she and her brother began telling us that ghosts live under their beds.

In my head I’ve taken to calling the figure the Lunging Man.  What can I say?  I’m a writer, and that brings with it a flair for the dramatic.  Besides, it seems like a fitting name given all the rapid movement forward that I witnessed.  Or thought I witnessed.  Talking about possible (even probable) sleep hallucinations gets complicated to describe.

It’s probably a good argument to make that since I write horror stories, I’m likely more prone to my brain going rogue and doing this sort of thing to me.  When you spend so much time with a particular type of subject material, it’s bound to catch up with you from time to time.

That doesn’t explain my kids’ talking about invisible men and ghosts when my wife and I go out of our way not to expose them to that kind of thing at such a young age.  It also doesn’t explain Agatha’s reactions, either.  She isn’t what I would describe as a smart dog, but she’s also not prone to random responses like she displayed, either.

Nothing happened last night, and I was able to sleep through the night peacefully.  So who knows.  Perhaps it was what Scrooge declares Marley to be, an undigested bit of beef.  Maybe it’s just overthinking caused by exhaustion combined with the frustration of my lack of progress on a story.

Or maybe, just maybe, given that there are more things in heaven and Earth , Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy, my house is home to the Lunging Man.  There’s a certain Great Dane that seems to think so.

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